Thursday, December 01, 2005


It's About to Get Ugly in Kansas

The furor over an e-mail posted on a Yahoo listserve by KU religious studies professor Paul Mirecki is not going to blow over anytime soon. Mirecki, who plans to teach a class called "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design and Creationism," has been attacked for writing:

"The fundies want it all taught in a science class," Mirecki wrote in an e-mail that was released to the news media last week. "But this will be a nice slap in their big, fat face by teaching it as a religious studies class under the category `mythology.'''

Now, Chris Moon of the Topeka Capitol Journal (reg. req.) is reporting that more of Mirecki's e-mails to the Yahoo listserve have been made public. Undoubtedly, these new e-mails will be used by ultra-conservative legislators to hammer KU and higher education in the state.

To give RSR readers a flavor of what's been released, here's an example from Moon's article:

In one message, Mirecki agreed to a description of Pope John Paul II as "a corpse in a funny hat wearing a dress."

"I refer to him as J2P2 (John Paul II), like the Star Wars robot R2D2,"Mirecki wrote.

More ominous, University officials are now distancing themselves from Mirecki:
"The additional e-mail comments of professor Mirecki that have come to light are offensive, ill-considered and do not represent the values of this university, its administration, or its faculty or staff," university spokeswoman Lynn Bretz said in a tatement Wednesday night. "Our university stands for respect for people of all religions, races and creeds."

According to Moon, Bretz refused to say whether or not Mirecki should be removed from his job.

As was to be expected, ultra-right Kansas legislators are all over this one. State Sen. Karin Brownlee is demanding swift action from KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway who, she says, is not moving quickly enough.

Mirecki has already apologized for his comments, but this story will continue to unfold no matter what he, Chancellor Hemenway, or others, do or say. The right is waging a war on public education here, and they will be satisfied with nothing less than unconditional surrender.

The plain fact is, as ill advised as Mirecki's e-mail comments were, they are no different from what the fundamentalists say about their main-stream religious and secular opponents every day.

Recall that Kansas State Board of Education member Carol Rupe, a good church-going Episcopalian, along with other moderates who oppose introducing intelligent design into the state science curriculum have time and again been branded as somehow anti-God or atheists by the religious right and their attorneys in intelligent design crowd. Here's Rupe's response to those charges:
"There has been the implication that those of us who want the true science standards taught must be atheists, because otherwise we wouldn't want that," she said. "But the whole idea that you can't be a person of faith and want good science is just ridiculous."

The fact is, the pack of wolves now nipping at Mirecki's heels are not demanding respect or tolerance for everyone -- just for themselves.

As we have pointed out before, religious fundamentalist invite -- and they must expect -- that when they enter the political arena, as they so plainly have in Kansas, they open themselves to criticism, and that sort of criticism can be rough.

But, that's a good thing. We can't suddenly have a class of politicians in this country who are somehow exempt from criticism. If you want to play the political game, you have to play by political rules. If you are too sensitive to take the criticism, stay out of politics.


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