The New Fundamentalists
11:00 PM, Dec 18, 2007 • By JOSEPH LOCONTE
And on it went. To be sure, there are good reasons to challenge the presence in public schools of certain organizations, such as those linked to radical Islam. After all, a tolerant society need not condone intolerance. And the Unification Church is not without controversy; it has been accused of brainwashing and authoritarianism. Parents have a right to know the identity and values of groups influencing their kids (just as they're entitled to know the agenda of public educators). Tutoring and mentoring programs cannot be a device for proselytizing on school grounds.
Yet there was no evidence of this kind offered against Urban or his organization. Instead, he was declared guilty--of extremism, presumably--only by association. The attack on his faith looked very much like a proxy for an indictment of traditional views about sexuality and marriage.
I raised this issue in an email with WAMU's Kay Summers, director of public information. "Mr. Urban did not initially answer the question as it applied to ULTRA Teen Choice, which is why Mr. Fisher and then Mr. Nnamdi continued to ask for clarification," she insisted. "Mr. Fisher did not ask about Mr. Urban's personal religious beliefs " Well, if we're looking for an exercise in obfuscation and deception, we have it: There were no untoward insinuations about personal religious beliefs, claims WAMU--just gentle prodding for clarification.
The saturation of presidential politics with religion has surely heightened sensitivities on all sides. Politicians and activists have a constitutional right to bring their religious values into the public square--and can't cry foul when they're questioned about it. But when education and media elites use their position as a kind of Star Chamber to blacklist groups they don't like, then we've taken a step backward, a step away from pluralism.
And there's nothing enlightened or progressive or tolerant about it.
Joe Loconte is a senior fellow with Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy and a frequent contributor to THE DAILY STANDARD.