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CULTURE DIGEST: Carols sung after religion banned from parade; UCC sees rise in sales ; liberals dominating colleges

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Organizers of Denver’s annual holiday parade refused to allow Faith Bible Chapel to enter a float that would have included carolers and a “Merry Christmas” sign, so as many as 1,000 people protested by quietly singing Christmas carols as they walked along the sidewalk on the parade route, passing out hot chocolate and a list of Christmas services at community churches.

The Parade of Lights, a two-day event which began in 1974 and drew an estimated 375,000 people this December, is sponsored by a group of businesses called the Downtown Denver Partnership. Jim Basey, the partnership’s president, told The New York Times the parade was meant to be “cutesy” for kids as a way to get bodies downtown.

But after hundreds of complaints about the parade’s “no religion” policy, the partnership may have gotten the message that multitudes of people still believe Christmas is about more than Santa and candy canes.

Basey said the group always conducts a post-parade evaluation, but this year the analysis will go deeper, with a discussion about what the community wants the event to be, according to The Times.

George Morrison, pastor of the 4,000-member Faith Bible Chapel, said the church has received nearly 500 e-mails and phone calls in support of the group’s peaceful protest and he has given two dozen media interviews — including one on Fox’s “The O’Reilly Factor.”

“It tells me there are a lot of people out there who are saying, ‘Enough is enough,'” Morrison told the Rocky Mountain News. “I don’t have capability to take this as far as it’s gone. This is being carried by the masses. This is the people speaking.”

What further irritated some Christians is that parade officials allowed a float sponsored by Two Spirits, an American Indian group that considers homosexuality to be holy.

And the Denver parade controversy ran parallel to a dispute over the mayor’s decision to change the traditional banner on the roof of the City and County Building from “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays,” The Times said.

SCHOOL DISTRICT BANS CHRISTMAS CAROLS — An example of a trend spreading throughout the country comes from a school district in Maplewood, N.J., where students were told one month before their scheduled Christmas concert that all songs representing any religion were banned — songs like “O Come all Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night” — since the words about the baby Jesus or angels could make non-Christians feel left out, Fox News reported.

“To ban music a month before a scheduled concert is hostile to all who have been preparing and probably would be inspired and supportive to our students,” parent Claire Simon told Fox. “To think you can remove all references to the sacred and still present an experience of beauty in this season is to be intolerant.”

At a school board meeting, parents who objected to the ban said the school policy permits “the inclusion of religious literature, music, drama, [etc.] provided … it neither inhibits nor advances any religious point of view.” But the school board will not decide whether to reverse the ban until their meeting in January, which will be too late for Christmas carols this year, Fox said.

UCC REPORTS RISE IN MERCHANDISE SALES — Following the launch of a national ad campaign to promote their universal inclusiveness, the United Church of Christ is reporting an increase in demand for merchandise sporting the church’s name or its use of the phrase, “God is still speaking.”

“… UCC members and congregations are gobbling up every item they can find to proclaim their proud affiliation,” the 1.3-million-member denomination said in a news release Dec. 3.

Items in demand include shirts, mugs, decals, lapel pins, buttons, stickers and baseball caps. Workers at the Berea, Ohio, warehouse reported the four telephone operators were taking dozens of orders each hour compared to the five or six identity-related orders placed on a typical day before the controversial commercial aired.

The 30-second ad, which first ran on several cable channels Dec. 1, depicts a pair of bouncers standing behind a set of velvet ropes as a long line of people attempt to enter a church. The bouncers stop a same-sex couple, two black children and a Hispanic girl, but allow a well-dressed white family to pass. The written content reads, “Jesus didn’t turn people away … Neither do we,” and the voiceover says, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.”

In a Dec. 4 news release, the president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy condemned the ad as offensive to other denominations.

“We defend the right of the UCC to communicate its message in mainstream media,” Diane Knippers said. “But we believe that this ad is dishonest and insulting to other Christian churches. It violates the UCC’s stated commitment to respectful ecumenical dialogue. The UCC should voluntarily pull this ad.”

The IRD release also noted a recent study by the Hartford Institute for Religious Research which said only 2 or 3 percent of mainline church congregations (including the UCC) could be considered racially integrated, compared to 8 percent of conservative Protestant churches and 20 percent of Roman Catholic parishes nationwide. The release also mentioned that despite outreach attempts, the UCC has lost more than 32 percent of its total membership since 1967.

LIBERALS DOMINATE COLLEGE CAMPUSES — Two recent studies that reiterate what many have considered obvious say the nation’s universities are dominated by liberal professors. The studies, released in mid-November, note the imbalance in personal contributions professors made to this year’s presidential campaigns.

A study of more than 1,000 academic leaders found that Democratic professors outnumber Republicans by at least seven to one in the humanities and social sciences, according to The New York Times. The study noted the ratio is more than twice as lopsided as it was 30 years ago and posited that it will keep increasing as younger, more consistently Democratic professors fill the shoes of those reaching retirement.

The other study, which included professors from the hard sciences, engineering and professional schools in addition to humanities and social sciences, examined voter registration records and found there are nine Democrats for every Republican on the faculties at Berkeley and Stanford, The Times reported.

George Will, in his syndicated column Nov. 28, noted a report from 2002 by The American Enterprise magazine that broke professors down by political affiliation. Some examples include Cornell, 166 liberals and 6 conservatives; Stanford, 151 liberals and 17 conservatives; Colorado, 116 liberals and 5 conservatives; and UCLA, 141 liberals and 9 conservatives.

American campuses, Will said, have become more intellectually monochrome even as they proclaim a commitment to diversity.

“They do indeed cultivate diversity — in race, skin color, ethnicity, sexual preference. In everything but thought,” Will wrote.

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  • Erin Curry