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CULTURE DIGEST: A gay comic character

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Archie Comics, one of the most successful and longest running brands in the history of the comic industry, will introduce its first homosexual character this fall.

Kevin Keller will be added to the “Veronica” storyline in September as a new student at Riverdale High, Archie Comics announced in April.

“The introduction of Kevin is just about keeping the world of Archie Comics current and inclusive,” Jon Goldwater, Archie’s CEO, said. “Archie’s hometown of Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone. It just makes sense to have an openly gay character in Archie comic books.”

In the full-issue story “Isn’t It Bromantic?” Kevin arrives as the new hunk in town, an Archie news release said, and Veronica immediately sets her sights on him.

“Mayhem and hilarity ensue as Kevin desperately attempts to let Veronica down easy and her flirtations only become increasingly persistent,” the news release said. Finally, Kevin tells Jughead, “It’s nothing against her. I’m gay.”

The Washington Post noted that with some comics, the introduction of a homosexual character would not qualify as news. “But in the less-diverse world of Riverdale — where everything but the sundaes has often been vanilla — this registers as a major shift,” The Post said.

Archie Comics, which include “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and “Josie and the Pussycats,” have sold 1.5 billion comics and are published in a dozen different languages and distributed worldwide, the company said. Over the years, the comics have become part of popular culture, with Archie Comics being the most downloaded comics on iTunes. The company also has achieved a No. 4 ranking among iPad book apps, the news release said.

“The introduction of Kevin as an openly gay character is part of the commitment to keep Archie properties reflective of the current world of teens and teen media,” the company said.

‘YEAR OF OUR LORD’ UNDER FIRE — Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, recently dealt with a flap over whether to continue printing the words “in the year of our Lord” on the school’s diplomas.

The controversy began when a Muslim student started a petition drive to have the words removed, citing the embarrassment she would endure if she displayed her diploma in her home or office. Not everyone believes in Jesus Christ, she said, and the words directly refer to Him.

Trinity was founded in 1869 by Presbyterians, and the board of trustees voted in April to continue the tradition of printing the words on diplomas, something the board said is appropriate given Trinity’s history and heritage.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said what happened at Trinity points to a loss of Christian conviction and identity among many church-related schools.

“These schools have been effectively secularized, moving from identity as Christian colleges with clear Christian convictions, to church-related schools with ambiguous convictions, to schools with some historic tie to Christianity, but no Christian convictions at all,” Mohler wrote on his blog April 21.

“At this last stage, Christianity is more of an embarrassment than anything else. It seems that all parties related to the controversy at Trinity University are agreed that Christianity plays no official role in the life and work of the school in the present.”

Trinity essentially holds a secular worldview, Mohler said, despite the language of the diploma, the Christian name of the school and the image of the Bible on the school’s seal. He also wondered how the words “in the year of our Lord” could offend the Muslim student while the name of the university apparently does not.

“Some have tried to explain the name in terms of the fact that the school had three predecessor institutions and was located in three Texas locations, but no one is denying the central fact that the word ‘Trinity’ is a direct reference to the central Christian belief about God — and about Jesus Christ,” Mohler wrote.

“… The controversy at Trinity University tells us so much about the loss of Christian conviction in colleges and universities, the insanity of secular revisionism, and the contradictions of Muslim students who are offended by the words, ‘the year of our Lord,’ but seem perfectly happy to have the name ‘Trinity University’ printed in bold on their diplomas.”

SCHOOL DISTRICT REVIVES PADDLING — While most school districts nationwide have banned paddling as a form of discipline, a unanimous vote by the Temple, Texas, school board a year ago brought it back to the town’s 14 schools.

“The discipline problem is much better than it’s been in years,” Steve Wright, Temple’s school board president, told The Washington Post.

Corporal punishment remains legal in 20 states, mostly in the South, but its use is diminishing, The Post said. Nearly a quarter of the estimated 225,000 students who received corporal punishment nationwide in 2006 were from Texas, the newspaper said.

Critics say paddling makes students lose respect for their teachers, but typically only administrators, not teachers, are allowed to paddle students, and the punishment is to be administered privately and with restrictions.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D.-N.Y., is leading a federal movement to ban paddling in schools. “When you look that the federal government has outlawed physical punishment in prisons, I think the time has come that we should do it in schools,” McCarthy said, according to The Post.

Behavior at Temple’s high school has changed dramatically since the reintroduction of paddling, the school board president said, and only one student in the school system has actually been paddled.

Temple brought back paddling at the request of parents who said they use the discipline method at home and want consistent discipline in the classroom, The Post said.

“We’re rural central Texas. We’re very well educated, but still there are those core values. Churches are full on Sundays,” John Hancock, assistant superintendent of administration for the Temple schools, who has been an educator for more than 40 years, told The Post. “This is a tool we’d like in the toolbox for responding to discipline issues.”

Supporters of paddling in Temple told the newspaper it’s less about the punishment and more about the threat. It’s the difference in being told the consequence for speeding is a warning or the consequence is a speeding ticket.
Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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