An honorary Oscar statue for Ayaan Hirsi Ali?

submission01Speculation about who will receive what honor at the Academy Awards starts early and runs right through the ceremony itself. So let me openly campaign for a person who I believe should receive a major standing ovation that night. This has nothing to do with Whoopi or Mel.

No, I hope that Hollywood shines a spotlight, somehow, on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, once of Somalia and currently — in hiding — in the Netherlands. I will let a Dallas Morning News editorial from this week pick up the story:

In 2003, she was elected to the Dutch Parliament but has had to go into hiding on several occasions after receiving death threats. Her most recent retreat into the underground came after the Nov. 2 slaughter of filmmaker Theo van Gogh on the streets of Amsterdam. Police have charged a Muslim extremist with that murder. Ms. Hirsi Ali collaborated with the assassinated artist on Submission, an 11-minute film . . . protesting the condition of women under Islam. A note pinned to the dead man’s chest with a dagger said she would be next.

Hirsi Ali has vowed to carry on, including plans for a sequel to Submission (which is accessible at iFilm.com). The issue, according to the editorial, is what activists in the rest of the world can do to help protect her, especially “artists, writers, political activists and feminists.”

Maybe, maybe not. It’s been more than week since The Wall Street Journal ran a column by Catholic writer Bridget Johnson titled “Look Who Isn’t Talking: A filmmaker is murdered, and Hollywood loudmouths say nothing.” The topic is old, by now, but still timely — since little or nothing has appeared in the mainstream press or the entertainment press on the topic. Strange. Johnson notes:

There’ve been many films over the years that have taken potshots at Catholics, but I don’t remember any of us slaughtering filmmakers over the offense. You didn’t see the National Rifle Association order a hit on Michael Moore over “Bowling for Columbine.”

One would think that in the name of artistic freedom, the creative community would take a stand against filmmakers being sent into hiding à la Salman Rushdie, or left bleeding in the street. Yet we’ve heard nary a peep from Hollywood about the van Gogh slaying. Indeed Hollywood has long walked on eggshells regarding the topic of Islamic fundamentalism. The film version of Tom Clancy’s “The Sum of All Fears” changed Palestinian terrorists to neo-Nazis out a desire to avoid offending Arabs or Muslims. The war on terror is a Tinsel Town taboo, even though a Hollywood Reporter poll showed that roughly two-thirds of filmgoers surveyed would pay to see a film on the topic.

The conservative press has, of course, been all over this story.

Which is really strange if you stop and connect the dots between the issues raised in this murder. Tick them off again, with the Dallas Morning News editorial — women’s rights, artistic freedom, the right to offensive free speech. Sounds like a Frank Rich column to me.

Instead, it was the launching pad for a column in Human Events by that noted voice for human rights — wait for it — Pat Sajak. I have to hand it to him. In his “A Hush Over Hollywood” essay, Sajak has come up with a logical way to turn this story inside out and see it in a different light.

GetReligion readers on the left should take a deep breath and proceed. Is this fair, or what?

Somewhere in the world, a filmmaker creates a short documentary that chronicles what he perceives as the excesses of anti-abortion activists. An anti-abortion zealot reacts to the film by killing the filmmaker in broad daylight and stabbing anti-abortion tracts onto his body. How does the Hollywood community react to this atrocity? Would there be angry protests? Candlelight vigils? Outraged letters and columns and articles? Awards named in honor of their fallen comrade? Demands for justice? Calls for protection of artistic freedom? It’s a pretty safe bet that there would be all of the above and much more. And all of the anger would be absolutely justified.

So here is my appeal to the academy: Can you spare an honorary Oscar statue for Ayaan Hirsi Ali?

The Washington Post needs to listen to Dowd's brother

compcondoms 2A decade ago, a sharp Harvard-educated think tank wonk named Stephen Bates wrote an important book — praised by everyone from E.J. Dionne Jr. to Father Richard John Neuhaus — that I still hear quoted in Beltway discussions from time to time.

It was called Battleground: One Mother’s Crusade, the Religious Right, and the Struggle for Control of our Classrooms. Bates thought he would be on the side of the educational establishment. He ended up worried that American public schools are in danger — because educators cannot not get themselves to be fair to the religious conservatives in their desks. I cannot possibly do justice to the book in a few paragraphs. But here is a chunk of an interview I did with him at that time:

It speaks volumes, said Bates, that the educational establishment will accommodate so many other special interest groups, but not conservative Christians. Driving millions of people away from public schools will only increase support for the ultimate weapons in education battles — tax-funded tuition vouchers and school board takeovers, he said.

Thus, it undercuts education, and threatens religious liberty, when state officials attempt to woo children away from the religious beliefs of their parents.

“I’m afraid that public school leaders are cutting their own throats,” said Bates. “They are going to have to realize the importance of being sensitive to the beliefs of all kinds of faith groups — big, little or whatever — before it’s too late.”

I thought about Bates’ book while reading a Washington Post piece titled “Some Abstinence Programs Mistead Teens, Report Says.” Ceci Connolly’s report offers half of a very important story. I have no doubts whatsoever that this hit piece has unearthed some wonderfully wacky examples of religious-right influence in some abstinance-based sex education programs.

I also have no doubt that the conservatives behind some of the better programs have science that they can quote to back their arguments. This is another one of those reports in which it is assumed that every anecdote and statistic the progressives quote is accurate and every anecdote and statistic the traditionalists quote is wrong — with almost no details cited on the source of anything being quoted by anyone. The left could be using highly politicized studies funded by Planned Parenthood, for all we know. The right could be quoting Focus on the Family. Who knows?

You can read the details for yourself. Here is one of the key summaries, drawing on research pushed by the office of Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.):

Several million children ages 9 to 18 have participated in the more than 100 federal abstinence programs since the efforts began in 1999. Waxman’s staff reviewed the 13 most commonly used curricula — those used by at least five programs apiece.

The report concluded that two of the curricula were accurate but the 11 others, used by 69 organizations in 25 states, contain unproved claims, subjective conclusions or outright falsehoods regarding reproductive health, gender traits and when life begins. In some cases, Waxman said in an interview, the factual issues were limited to occasional misinterpretations of publicly available data; in others, the materials pervasively presented subjective opinions as scientific fact.

The story is simply loaded with statements sure to inspire hand-to-hand combat between apologists for the sexual revolution and apologists for, let’s say, Evangelical-Catholic-Muslim-Hindu traditions about the moral status of sex outside of marriage.

Back to Bates, for a moment. Here is the hard part of the issue the Post is trying to cover. How does an institution funded with tax dollars offer sex-education materials that say that sex outside of marriage is just peachy — or that it is sin, sin, sinful — without attacking the moral beliefs on one or the other side of this divide?

How do schools, and newspapers, treat both sides with respect? I would imagine that the progressives quoted in the Connolly piece would say she treated them fairly, while the conservatives scream bloody murder. If you want to hear what they would scream, you can read Maureen Dowd’s account of her Thanksgiving visit with the red-zone traditionalists in her family. At one point, she lets her brother Kevin — a salesman from Montgomery County, Md. — air some of his views about the 2004 election. He writes:

We do not live in a secular country. There are all sorts of people of faith that place moral values over personal freedoms. They are not all “wacky evangelicals.” . . . They don’t like being told that a young girl does not have to seek her mother’s counsel about an abortion. They don’t like seeing an eight-month-old fetus having his head punctured and his brains sucked out. They don’t like being told the Pledge of Allegiance, a moment of silent prayer and the words “under God” are offensive to an enlightened few so nobody should be allowed to use them. . . . My wife and I picked our sons’ schools based on three criteria: 1) moral values 2) discipline 3) religious maintenance — in that order. We have spent an obscene amount of money doing this and never regretted a penny. Last week on the news, I heard that the Montgomery County school board voted to include a class with a 10th-grade girl demonstrating how to put a
condom on a cucumber and a study of the homosexual lifestyle. The vote was 6-0. I feel better about the money all the time.

There you go. That’s the divide that Bates described so well in his book. It’s the divide that the Post failed to cover in its story on the Waxman report.

Yes, we read the Brooks column about Stott

All_souls_1As you would imagine, legions of readers from around the world saw fit to email us copies of David Brooks’ op-ed page tribute to the great evangelical Anglican apologist John Stott. Nothing causes evangelicals to cut and paste and then click send (or forward) as much as a kind word for traditional faith in the pages of the Bible of the blue zip-code elites.

Perhaps they were surprised that Brooks, who leans left on the hot social issues, was so kind to an intellectual who has for decades defended the concept of eternal moral absolutes. I was not surprised, in part because I have interviewed Brooks and knew of his interest in the ideas and influence of C.S. Lewis. If someone starts reading Lewis and then follows that side of the traditional Christian thought into modern evangelicalism, he will bump into Stott sooner rather than later.

Once upon a time, the New York Times used to admire the writings of Lewis and his ilk. Perhaps Brooks is the rare person at the TImes who still read serious books by traditional Judeo-Christian thinkers.

This was, in a way, the point of the column by Brooks. He was steamed (amen, brother) by the astonishingly stupid sight of Jerry Falwell and Al Sharpton sitting on "Meet the Press" trying to discuss religion and public life with Tim Russert.

Earth to Russert: What were you thinking? I realize that there were other people on the show, including some fairly logical usual suspects on the left and right. But anyone who still thinks that Sharpton and Falwell have anything insightful to say about the views of the religious left and right should go see a journalism doctor, quick. As Brooks said:

Inviting these two bozos onto "Meet the Press" to discuss that issue is like inviting Britney Spears and Larry Flynt to discuss D. H. Lawrence. Naturally, they got into a demeaning food fight that would have lowered the intellectual discourse of your average nursery school.

Thus, Brooks asked: Why do so many media people quote Falwell and Pat Robertson, people whose influence is long gone, instead of interviewing people such as Stott? The sermons and books from the legendary voice of All Souls, Langham Place, in London (shown in the picture) have influenced evangelicals around the world for decades and will continue to do so for years to come.

Brooks is asking a question that is at the very heart of the mainstream media’s problems with religion coverage — when dealing with the religious left as well as the right. Why not turn to the bright lights on the left and right, instead of merely seeking the familiar red faces that provide emotional heat?

It isn’t fair to have stupid conservatives paired off with smart liberals or, perhaps on Fox, the other way around. And it isn’t fair to contrast, in the name of diversity, a few smart evangelicals on the left with the old voices of the simplistic right. The reason Brooks saluted Stott was because the low-church Anglican priest is nuanced, sympathetic, quotable AND a traditionalist.

Stott is so embracing it’s always a bit of a shock — especially if you’re a Jew like me — when you come across something on which he will not compromise. It’s like being in "Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood," except he has a backbone of steel. He does not accept homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle, and of course he believes in evangelizing among nonbelievers. He is pro-life and pro-death penalty, even though he is not a political conservative on most issues.

Most important, he does not believe truth is plural. He does not believe in relativizing good and evil or that all faiths are independently valid, or that truth is something humans are working toward. Instead, Truth has been revealed.

As I said, this is a matter of how journalists do their homework and find sources. Another interesting article on this same subject — entitled "Faculty Clubs and Church Pews" — showed up at Tech Central Station, of all places. In it, Harvard Law School professor William J. Stuntz jumps behind the red and blue imagery to discuss what he has learned in the bluest of blue environments, the faculty club at Harvard, and what sounds like a pretty red environment, his own evangelical congregation.

Not surprisingly, each of these institutions is enemy territory to the other. But the enmity is needless. It may be a sign that I’m terminally weird, but I love them both, passionately. And I think that if my church friends and my university friends got to know each other, they’d find a lot to like and admire. More to the point, the representatives of each side would learn something important and useful from the other side. … You wouldn’t know it from talking to the people who populate universities or fill church pews.

Church people assume that universities are no longer interested in fair debates. You can see where I am going with this idea. Church people make precisely the same assumption about newsrooms. Thus, everything Stuntz writes about his university faculty club can also be applied to the need for newsrooms to be more open-minded in seeking diversity in sources about religion news. At one point in the article a professor friend turns to Stuntz and says: "You know, I think you’re the first Christian I’ve ever met who isn’t stupid." Traditional religious believers make the same kinds of snap judgments all the time about journalists and thinkers on the left.

The bottom line: Churches and faculty clubs are supposed to be places where people take ideas, doctrines, traditions and debates seriously. You could say the same thing about newsrooms.

In the end, America is failing to hear interesting and important viewpoints on a wide range of issues — from failing schools to abortion. Other issues seem to have vanished altogether from national policy debates. Take the issue of poverty and economic justice, for example. Stuntz believes this is tragic.

I don’t think my liberal Democratic professor friends like this state of affairs. And — here’s a news flash — neither do most evangelicals, who regard helping the poor as both a passion and a spiritual obligation, not just a political preference. (This may be even more true of theologically conservative Catholics.) These men and women vote Republican not because they like the party’s policy toward poverty — cut taxes and hope for the best — but because poverty isn’t on the table anymore.

So what is on the table? Whatever the likes of Sharpton and Falwell want to yell about — on cue. What journalists need is some new names and telephone numbers in their Rolodexes. They can start with the Rev. John Stott.

Desperate academics, red housewives and soaps, etc.

desRather than a series of separate blog items, here are three quick updates on recent items of interest (not including my finale — maybe — in the Incredibles paranoia trilogy).

First of all, Barnard College poli-sci professor Jeffrey Friedman has written a very level-headed essay in The New Republic responding to the “sneering” — that’s his word — New York Times piece about the hypocrisy of red-state voters who still like to watch trashy television shows, such as the neo-”City in the City” babes of Desperate Housewives.

Doug LeBlanc has already written on this Times piece, drawing some fine comments from readers. Still, Friedman updates the debate on several points. For starters, he really shows why it is time to drop all discussions of the red state-blue state divide, outside of specific issues linked to the Electoral College. You really have to talk about red counties and blue counties, or even zip codes. And the total number of “values voters” was actually rather small — even if strategic.

Enough already. Here is a major chunk of Friedman’s essay:

Pointing out instances of conservative hypocrisy has become something of a post-election pastime for liberals, and in this case, it might have some basis in fact, no matter how exaggerated the Times story made it seem — after all, there is surely at least some overlap between Bush values voters and Desperate Housewives fans. . . . Rather than attacking the specific policies promoted by values voters . . . the charge of hypocrisy attacks the voters themselves. But it’s an elementary point of logic that a claim’s validity is independent of the character of those who advocate it. A truth is a truth, no more or less true because of who believes it. The whole issue of hypocrisy, then, for all the importance it routinely assumes in political discourse, is a red herring.

If a professed atheist secretly worships God “just in case,” we’re entitled to say that he lacks the courage of his convictions. But we aren’t entitled to say that those convictions are false. God exists, or doesn’t exist, regardless of what any atheist secretly believes. The same goes for the beliefs of values voters: They are valid, or they aren’t, irrespective of whether a voter who believes in their validity succeeds in bringing them to bear when he turns on the TV set.

I think that is called “linear thought.” Bracing, isn’t it?

George F. Will has — surprise, surprise — weighed in on the issue of political liberalism on mainstream college and university campuses. Calling this revelation shocking is, he argues, a bit like a breaking news report with the headline: “Moon Implicated in Tides, Studies Find.” He also points toward information in a recent piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education that I will try to get my hands on (I do not have an online subscription). Meanwhile, here is a rather typically dry Will comment:

The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics reports that in 2004, of the top five institutions in terms of employee per capita contributions to presidential candidates, the third, fourth and fifth were Time Warner, Goldman Sachs and Microsoft. The top two were the University of California system and Harvard, both of which gave about 19 times more money to John Kerry than to George W. Bush.

But George Lakoff, a linguistics professor at Berkeley, denies that academic institutions are biased against conservatives. The disparity in hiring, he explains, occurs because conservatives are not as interested as liberals in academic careers. Why does he think liberals are like that? “Unlike conservatives, they believe in working for the public good and social justice.”

That clears that up.

I am fascinated by the surge of reporting on the fusion of Christmas and Hanukkah this year. As I mentioned earlier, I think there is more to this than timely public relations for online merchandise and a timely soap-opera news hook with The O.C.

Now, the topic has gone totally mainstream, with its own Associated Press report. How mainstream is this trend?

Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards Inc. says among its most popular categories of Hanukkah cards is the one that combines Jewish and Christian themes. The company tried the idea with just one card in the mid-90s; today they have four. . . .

American Greetings Corp. has also increased its Hanukkah-Christmas line offerings since its introduction eight years ago. There are around 10 this year. . . . Most of American Greetings’ Hanukkah-Christmas cards are humorous. . . . One shows three snowmen — two dressed in traditional winter hats and scarves, the third wearing a yarmulke and prayer shawl. Another features a list of Hanukkah songs that never caught on, including “Shlepping Through a Winter Wonderland,” “Bubbie Got Run Over by a Reindeer” and “Come On, Baby, Light My Menorah.”

“We don’t go over the line,” said Pam Fink, who works on Jewish-themed cards for American Greetings. “We’re careful to make sure it’s lighthearted funny, but not too far.”

Come On, Baby, Light My Menorah? I guess it depends on how one defines “baby.”

Religious left continues to mull over its future

Billclinton_bostonAnd this just in from the “values” wars. Sen. Edward Kennedy has asked member of his staff to investigate how liberals can talk about God. They may even need to do a better job of talking about God on television and the Internet, in order to compete with those mass-media superstars Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

Say what?

It is a bit hard to make sense out of the recent Boston Globe report by Glen Johnson, which ran under the rather weak headline, “From left, religious figures make a push.” The big news seems to be that (a) the religious left exists, (b) it believes that moral values affect topics other than gay rights and abortion, (c) that religious liberals are very, very mad about the outcome of the Nov. 2 elections and (d) they need another Bill Clinton who knows how to sin, confess and preach and sound like he knows what he’s doing.

Of course, regular readers of GetReligion, The Revealer or any major newspaper with a solid religion reporter already knew all of this. What is interesting about Johnson’s report is its clear assumption that the mainstream left is ready to get down to business and crack this God thing in time for the 2006 elections. I mean, brace yourself, they are holding conference calls about it.

It appears that the dreaded religious right is not going to quit on its own, even if its old guard has all but vanished from the national scene. The Globe report notes:

‘The religious right has been effectively organizing for 35 years, and as I always say, it took Moses 40 years to lead his people out of the wilderness, and it’s going to take us a few years more to catch up,” said the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA and a former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania.

Edgar is part of a group that holds a conference call each Thursday to discuss the liberal response to national and world affairs, a telephonic gathering convened last year in the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq. . . .

Among as many as 40 people on the line any Thursday are Jim Wallis, who convened Call to Renewal, a faith-based response to world poverty; the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance; the Rev. James A. Forbes Jr., pastor of the Riverside Church in New York; and Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund.

There’s a lot more to report, including the interesting details about Kennedy’s staff plunging into research into how Democrats can get religion. It also notes some complex poll results that show just how small the true “values vote” impact was in the election. It was strategic, but small.

Meanwhile, one of the most outspoken voices on the religious left openly asked — once again — if progressives would be willing to make any kind of compromises in order to walk their talk on cultural issues such as abortion.

Wallis, who edits Sojourners magazine in addition to leading Call to Renewal, said the most urgent challenge for Democrats is to open up about their moral values, as well as their faith, where appropriate. Wallis said abortion offers one such opportunity.

‘They say, ‘Keep abortion safe, legal, and rare,’ but they do nothing but try to keep it legal; they do nothing to make it rare,” he said. ‘The Democrats ought to say, ‘Let’s work on reducing abortion rates, adoption reform, helping low-income women.’ We could work on that together, prolife and prochoice, and reduce the abortion rate in the process.”

Here is the question that I have yet to see asked in one of these valid and timely reports on the religious left. How many of these clerics represent denominations, churches or movements that are growing? The whole oldline world represented by the National Council of Churches has lost about a third of its members in the past generation or so and its membership lists contain a high percentage of older Americans. Meanwhile, the churches on the moral right are either holding their own or continuing to grow, especially in all of those red zip codes.

Meanwhile, the number of secular or post-Judeo-Christian Christian believers is rising — the segment of the population that I like to refer to as the Da Vinci Vote. However, these voters will not be found in the facing sanctuaries of the oldline world. You are more likely to find them at the multiplex or at the mall.

The problem for the Democrats is trying to find a message that appeals to those who cherish traditional religious values, while appealing at the same time to those who sincerely hate traditional religious values. That will be hard to do. Where is Oprah when you need her?

Warning: Handle beeswax candles with care

_1105210_russgirls300apPlease understand that I realize that religious faith is quite controversial in Europe these days — especially anything that is highly symbolic of the ancient Christian past. I mean, this pope is currently all but leading a rebellion against the legal recognition of the post-Christian reality that is the European Union.

Meanwhile, the Dutch are still in shock from the Theo van Gogh murder and trying to wrestle with the reality that there are religious believers who simply do not want to embrace liberal Western values (Wait! Can we say that there are Western values that are worth protecting?) the way that they should. You know, values like free speech — even offensive free speech.

Perhaps religion is just bad — period.

Perhaps religious worship, or at least some of those ancient traditional forms, is even bad for people’s health. You think I am joking? Then you didn’t see one of the strangest stories of this week, which ran in the Los Angeles Times under the headline: “Church Candles Are Linked to Pollution.”

Sure enough, the reporter Miguel Bustillo’s news hook begins with Dutch researchers.

The candles and incense regularly burned during religious services emit high levels of particulate matter, tiny airborne flecks considered to be one of the most harmful forms of air pollution, according to a new study by scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

Researchers measured air quality at a small chapel and a large basilica in Maastricht and found that the air in both places contained particulate matter at levels up to 20 times higher than what is considered safe to breathe under European air pollution standards. … The researchers said that the pollutants should not affect the well-being of most churchgoers, but that priests and especially devout congregants who spend long periods inside poorly ventilated chapels could be endangering their health.

“It cannot be excluded that regular exposure to candle- or incense-derived particulate matter results in increased risk of lung cancer or other pulmonary diseases,” wrote Theo de Kok, leader of the Maastricht team. The paper, titled “Radicals in the Church,” also noted that the air monitoring detected high levels of free radicals, or molecules that can aggravate asthma or bronchitis conditions.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — in a 2001 report — has aired similar fears about other indoor spaces. It seems that studies of indoor polution are not as up to date as they should be. And interfaith leaders have been focusing on other environmental issues. Bustillo notes that the Los Angeles Interfaith Environmental Council has a “green sanctuary” program that has been working with 16 mosques, synagogues and churches to promote solar power and other alternative forms of energy.

So what next? Alternative forms of worship? Warning signs outside of Anglo-Catholic and traditionalist Roman Catholic sanctuaries? What about families with home icon corners and incense burners? Is it safe to raise children in these homes?

What is the cancer rate for priests in Eastern Orthodox Christianity? Please, somebody get me some more data. Until then, I am still going to go to church and light up, with prayers of thanksgiving.

Come to think of it, do all of those giant video screens in Protestant megachurches emit harmful rays?

The ghost in the regalia controversy

regaliaLet me open by getting a few comments out of the way, just to be careful.

I realize that the recent New York Times article titled “Republicans Outnumbered in Academia, Studies Find” contained few, if any, clear references to religious issues. Ditto for John Fund’s Wall Street Journal essay, “High Bias: It’s time to bring some intellectual diversity to America’s colleges and universities.”

Who cares? I still think there is a giant religion ghost hiding in the silence. Let me state, in anticipation of valid comments by some readers, that I would be the last person to automatically equate the word “Republican” with the word “Christian” or even “conservative.” I am well aware, as this blog constantly points out, that there are traditional religious believers — social-issue conservatives, even — who are political progressives and active in the Democratic Party (my new Democrats for Life T-shirt should arrive any day now). There are liberal believers and conservative believers in both major political parties.

Nevertheless, one would have to be blind not to see that there are more social-issues and religious conservatives among the Republicans these days than among the Democratics. It’s also hard not to notice — although many journalists continue to do so — the growing coalition of anti-fundamentalist voters that is throwing its weight around in Democratic Party. The Democrats are nervous about this.

In light of all of this, it’s easy to grasp the religious implications of new research about the ratio of Democrats/liberals to Republicans/conservatives on college and university campuses. This is one of those “Duh!” stories that has been rumbling around for decades. Writing in the Times, John Tierney offers this summary of some of the data:

One of the studies, a national survey of more than 1,000 academics, shows that Democratic professors outnumber Republicans by at least seven to one in the humanities and social sciences. That ratio is more than twice as lopsided as it was three decades ago, and it seems quite likely to keep  increasing, because the younger faculty members are more consistently Democratic than the ones nearing retirement, said Daniel Klein, an associate professor of economics at Santa Clara University and a co-author of the study.

In a separate study of voter registration records, Professor Klein found a nine-to-one ratio of Democrats to Republicans on the faculties of Berkeley and Stanford. That study, which included professors from the hard sciences, engineering and professional schools as well as the humanities and social sciences, also found the ratio especially lopsided among the younger professors of assistant or associate rank: 183 Democrats versus six Republicans.

There’s plenty of other amazing numbers where those came from.

Sure enough, this issue is serving as a rallying point for the right — with the omnipresent former leftist David Horowitz leading the charge on behalf of his new Students for Academic Freedom network. The goal is to find a way promote diversity, of all things, while stopping short of affirmative-action campaigns for political and moral conservatives. It’s especially interesting to note the number of conservative scholars who have eventually settled into jobs far from the bloody and political tenure wars.

While you’re at it, note the references to “conservative” scholars who quickly point out that they are Libertarian conservatives. This also points toward deep fears of being labeled as “religious conservatives” — the kiss of death. You also see this rush to embrace the Libertarian label among Republicans in Hollywood.

Actually, there is one clearly religious quotation in Tierney’s piece — which completely avoids any discussion of the hottest moral and cultural issues that divide America and the academic fields that relate to them. Is it possible that these academic kingdoms have now defined themselves in opposition to traditional religious beliefs? One scholar thinks so.

“Our colleges have become less marketplaces of ideas than churches in which you have to be a true believer to get a seat in the pews,” said Stephen H. Balch, a Republican and the president of the National Association of Scholars. “We’ve drifted to a secular version of 19th-century denominational colleges, in which the university’s mission is to crusade against sin and make the country a morally better place.”

Fund’s note covers a lot of the same territory, but goes on to note one or two religious issues that have obvious political implications. Thus, Jewish students at Columbia University claim that they are facing discrimination at the hands of anti-Israel professors. Students have reported professors making statements such as “the Palestinian is the new Jew, and the Jew is the new Nazi.”

Finally, Fund notes that there are leaders in the academic establishment — conservatives are the new rebels — who do not believe they are involved in “group think” or the crushing of free speech. Perhaps they believe they are merely engaged in quality control?

Robert Brandon, a Duke University philosophy professor, is one liberal who has at least made an effort to explain why conservatives are seldom seen in academia. “We try to hire the best, smartest people available. If, as John Stuart Mill said, stupid people are generally conservative, then there are lots of conservatives we will never hire. Mill’s analysis may go some way towards explaining the power of the Republican Party in our society and the relative scarcity of Republicans in academia.”

Then again, perhaps this another sign that the toughest issues in American life are linked to faith, salvation and the sexual revolution, although perhaps not in that order. Those seeking more information on these topics can dig into the files of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or read one of my Scripps Howard columns about these conflicts.

Mirror, mirror

Here’s another story from the tidal wave just after the election that has continued to bother me a bit. The headline was “G.O.P. Adviser Says Bush’s Evangelical Strategy Split Country” and the basic concept was that the Christian right has totally taken control of the Republican Party, according to veteran GOP consultant Arthur Finkelstein. It now has veto power over the party’s choice for president. (Hear that, Rudy?) Early on, he says: “From now on, anyone who belongs to the Republican Party will automatically find himself in the same group as the opponents of abortion, and anyone who supports abortion will automatically be labeled a Democrat.” Actually, if you read that statement in a mirror, you’d have a pretty good summary of the 2004 Democratic Party platform.