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CULTURE DIGEST: John McCain gives Liberty graduation speech; stations air homosexuality-affirming ads for free; ….

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Sen. John McCain took a step toward public reconciliation with Jerry Falwell and the religious right when he agreed to deliver the commencement address at Liberty University May 13. During his efforts to win the Republican nomination for president in 2000, McCain had referred to Falwell and others as “agents of intolerance.”

The Arizona senator dodged divisive social issues during his speech on the Lynchburg, Va., campus, opting instead to focus on the idea of respecting all viewpoints, particularly those related to the war in Iraq.

“Americans should argue about this war,” McCain said. “… I believe the benefits of success will justify the costs and risks we have incurred. But if an American feels the decision was unwise, then they should state their opposition and argue for another course. It is your right and your obligation. I respect you for it. I would not respect you if you chose to ignore such an important responsibility.

“… Americans deserve more than tolerance for one another, we deserve each other’s respect, whether we think each other right or wrong in our views, as long as our character and our sincerity merit respect, and as long as we share, for all our differences, for all the noisy debates that enliven our politics, a mutual devotion to the sublime idea that this nation was conceived in — that freedom is the inalienable right of mankind, and in accord with the laws of nature and nature’s Creator,” McCain said.

As he urged the graduates to exercise their responsibilities as free people, McCain also warned them to remember Americans of differing viewpoints are not enemies but friends arguing their own cases for the best way to “secure our freedom, promote the general welfare and defend our ideals.”

A hint of McCain’s rift with Falwell surfaced in the address when he said, “It should remain an argument among friends; each of us struggling to hear our conscience and heed its demands; each of us, despite our differences, united in our great cause, and respectful of the goodness in each other. I have not always heeded this injunction myself, and I regret it very much.”

Falwell awarded McCain an honorary doctorate of humanities and commended him for his service to the United States as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, according to the Associated Press.

“The ilk of John McCain is very scarce, very small,” Falwell told the capacity crowd of 10,000.

Falwell had said in his Internet newsletter that he could support a McCain presidential bid, though it’s too early for endorsements.

“The senator’s speech does not symbolize an endorsement of an unannounced candidacy on my part, and it does not mark the quest for such an endorsement on his part,” Falwell wrote in Falwell Confidential. “Mr. McCain has never sought such an endorsement, and I have not offered one.

“Part of our tradition is to expose students to outstanding leaders from all walks of life, including some who may not completely agree with Liberty’s philosophy. Our commencement exercises present an opportunity to do this,” Falwell wrote.

HOMOSEXUALITY-AFFIRMING ADS AIR FOR FREE — Homosexual activists are intent upon promoting their agenda in the mass media while squelching opposing viewpoints, according to the Traditional Values Coalition, which has sounded the alarm on a particular group that collaborated with CBS and ABC to air ads affirming homosexuality — for free.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has developed a series of public service announcements, one of which ran May 9 during a soap opera in which a teenager told his parents he was a homosexual, TVC said. The public service announcement, which ran at the end of CBS’ “As the World Turns,” told viewers to take a stand against the discrimination and prejudice faced by homosexuals, bisexuals and transgendered people.

The spots are part of GLAAD’s campaign called “Be an Ally and a Friend,” and they began in January with ads during ABC’s “General Hospital,” according to Mediaweek.com.

“GLAAD is one of the most dangerous organizations in America,” TVC said in a statement. “It has a powerful influence over Hollywood and the print media. The group has published its seventh edition of a ‘Media Guide’ that tells journalists what terms they should use in describing homosexuality. It also tells them to avoid giving fair treatment to organizations that are critical of homosexual behavior.”

TVC added that “GLAAD also meets with script writers, directors and other powerful Hollywood executives to shape the kinds of messages Americans receive in TV programming and in movies about homosexuality.”

Randy Thomas, membership director for Exodus International, a Focus on the Family-affiliated group that helps people leave the homosexual lifestyle, said the spots ignore the truth that homosexuals can change their behavior.

“This is catering to one ideological viewpoint that we deem is damaging to young people,” Thomas said, according to CitizenLink May 12. “Young people need to know that there are people who have same-sex attraction, who do not identify as gay and can change and will change.”

PRO-FAMILY GROUPS APPLAUD .XXX REJECTION — The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a private agency that oversees Internet operation, reversed course May 10 and rejected the implementation of a domain for pornographic websites, dubbed .xxx.

“This vote [9-5] proves the power of regular folks when they raise their voices against the power-brokers who think they can run the universe without opposition,” Jan LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women for America, said. “This is a win against a multi-million dollar, six-year effort on behalf of the porn industry.”

CWA and other pro-family groups vigorously sought to block the pornography industry’s attempt at securing their own domain because they did not believe it would help curb children’s access to sexually graphic materials.

“We objected for many reasons, but the most obvious was that porn sites would be free to keep all of their current domains, such as .com, and add the .xxx domain,” LaRue said. “Anybody who thinks that would help parents protect kids from porn on the Internet has crashed in the cranium.”

Charmaine Yoest, vice president for communications at the Family Research Council, told The Wall Street Journal her group objected to the domain.

“The porn industry is constantly preying on the eyes of our children,” she said. “This would only double porn holdings on the Internet.”

Last June, ICANN preliminarily approved the creation of a domain name for voluntary use by the adult entertainment industry.

CASINOS INCREASE CRIME, STUDY SAYS — The Washington Post took note May 11 of a study by Earl L. Grinols of Baylor University and David B. Mustard of the University of Georgia that said casinos lead to significant increases in crime in communities where gambling is legalized.

The researchers analyzed crime data collected from all 3,165 counties in the United States from 1977 to 1996 and examined local crime rates before and after casinos opened, The Post said.

“Crime began to rise after the first year, slowly at first and then more quickly, until it had far surpassed what it would have been if the casino had never opened,” The Post explained. “By the fifth year of operation, robberies were up 136 percent; aggravated assaults, 91 percent; auto theft, 78 percent; burglary, 50 percent; larceny, 38 percent; and rape, 21 percent. Controlling for other factors, 8.6 percent of property crimes and 12.6 percent of violent crimes were attributed to casinos.”

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  • Erin Roach