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CULTURE DIGEST: Some criticize Boeing’s handling of affair; Colson addresses Martha Stewart; AmeriCorps wins case

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The ousting of Boeing’s CEO over an adulterous affair has brought both criticism and praise while simultaneously drawing a sharp contrast over the outcome of President’s Clinton’s infamous affair.

Boeing’s board of directors asked for and received the resignation of CEO Harry Stoneciper March 6 after it was discovered he had been involved in an affair with another company female executive. Stonecipher, 68, is married and a grandfather.

A statement from the company said the relationship was consensual and that the other executive did not report directly to Stonecipher.

“The board concluded that the facts reflected poorly on Harry’s judgment and would impair his ability to lead the company,” board Chairman Lew Platt said in a statement.

“The resignation was in no way related to the company’s operational performance or financial condition, both of which remain strong. However, the CEO must set the standard for unimpeachable professional and personal behavior, and the board determined that this was the right and necessary decision under the circumstances.”

In the wake of Stonecipher’s resignation, some are drawing comparisons to Clinton, who survived a scandal in the late 1990s following an affair with an intern.

“Who would have thought it would be easier to survive a sex scandal in politics than in business,” The Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote in a March 8 editorial.

NBC also mentioned the Clinton-Stonecipher contrast.

“[T]hough some may wonder how a president of the United States could survive a sex scandal, but not the CEO of a major corporation, the answer is [that] the rules have changed,” NBC’s Anne Thompson said in a March 8 report.

Stonecipher was hired in 2003 following another Boeing ethics scandal. He set up a series of new ethics rules — rules ultimately that caused his demise.

“I violated my own standards,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “I used poor judgment.”

Some, though, are questioning the necessity of his resignation.

“In the broadest cultural sense, it’s almost quaint in this sex-addled age that the 68-year-old Mr. Stonecipher could lose his job over a consenting extramarital affair with a female company executive,” The Journal’s editorial board wrote.

Danny Westneat, a columnist with The Seattle Times, criticized Boeing for the move.

“Maybe the company known as Lazy B or Sleazy B has become so puritanical it deserves a new name: the Church of B,” Westneat wrote in a March 9 column.

Westneat, though, asserted that there is more to the resignation and that Boeing isn’t telling the “full story.”

“If they ousted him for adultery, or a workplace affair, then employees ought to know what the new rules are,” Westneat wrote. “If it was something else, then everyone can breathe a sigh of relief and go back to being human.”

Others, though, are applauding Boeing’s move.

“This is sophomoric behavior that, granted, five years ago, would have been tolerated if some of these numbers were up, if shareholder value had increased, but right now everyone is being held to a higher level of scrutiny,” executive recruiter Brian Sullivan told NBC.

CHUCK COLSON ADDRESSES MARTHA STEWART — Martha Stewart, in completing her time in federal prison March 4, evidenced a hopeful sign, in the eyes of Charles Colson, who was imprisoned for obstruction of justice in the Watergate-related Daniel Ellsberg Case. He founded Prison Fellowship after his release from Alabama’s Maxwell Prison in 1976.

In a New York Times op-ed piece March 6, Colson wrote, “I was pleased to learn of one of Ms. Stewart’s first statements upon her release from prison: ‘I will never forget the friends that I met here.’

“This is the same promise I made 30 years ago,” Colson recounted. “I hope that Ms. Stewart, who is a remarkable influence on women of all walks of life, uses her talents to reach out to the 100,000-plus women who are still behind bars. If Martha Stewart does this, I am certain she will find the same paradoxical happy ending to her prison journey that I have.”

Colson noted: “There is one lesson that you get nowhere but in prison: Instead of seeing the world from the top down, you see it from the bottom up, the way God sees it. The change in perspective is forever, and provides a new compassion for the poorest of the poor. And because of my conversion to Jesus Christ, I sensed a call to help those I was leaving behind.

“So for the past 30 years I have been going back to prisons regularly — more than 600 prisons in more than 40 countries. My life’s goal is to share my story and my discovery that prison can be a redemptive experience for inmates and their families. I thank God for Watergate and prison because through these experiences, I have a new and better life.”

TACO BELL, NO ES PERSONA NON GRATA — The National Council of Churches has ended a three-year boycott of Taco Bell after the fast-food restaurant and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which had called for the boycott, reached an agreement to work together on wages and working conditions of farm workers in the Florida tomato industry.

According to the agreement, Taco Bell will pay a penny per pound surcharge to Florida tomato-grower suppliers that agree to pass it directly on to their farm workers.

Jonathan Blum, senior vice president of Taco Bell’s parent company, Yum! Brands, additionally stated, “… we pledge to aid in efforts at the state level to seek new laws that better protect all Florida tomato farm workers.” Taco Bell President Emil Brolick stated, “We hope others in the restaurant industry and supermarket retail trade will follow our leadership.”

The Atlanta-based Carter Center was credited in a joint statement by Taco Bell and the farm workers’ organization, based in Immokalee, Fla., for helping end the boycott.

AMERICORPS AFFIRMED IN CATHOLIC SCHOOLS — The federal program AmeriCorps can subsidize volunteer teachers in Catholic schools without violating the Constitution, according to a 3-0 ruling by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia March 8.

AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs involving more than 50,000 Americans each year in education, public safety, health and environmental needs through 2,100-plus nonprofits, public agencies and faith-based organizations. AmeriCorps is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service, now under the umbrella of the USA Freedom Corps created by President Bush.

The appeals court ruling permits payments to AmeriCorps volunteers in Catholic schools ($4,725 in financial aid for college tuition and student loan repayment for at least 1,700 hours in an AmeriCorps-approved position). The decision reverses a lower court’s ruling in favor of a suit waged by the American Jewish Congress and supported in a friend of the court brief by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The appeals court panel relied on the 2002 Zelman v. Simmons-Harris Supreme Court decision that upheld a school vouchers program in Cleveland.

David Eisner, CEO of the Corporation for National Service, said the decision helps ensure “that AmeriCorps members don’t lose their right to religious expression on their own time because they answer the call to serve their country. This decision is a big victory for disadvantaged schoolchildren and for idealistic Americans who choose to serve them.”

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  • Michael Foust & Art Toalston