August 23, 2002
Carolina in the News
Here is a sampling of links and notes about Carolina people
and programs cited recently in the international and national media:
The young and the rested
The Economist (U.K.)
Throughout its 104-year history, Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge has employed a lot of teenagers.
Each summer, around two-thirds of the 325 staff at the remote holiday resort are high-school
and college students... A 2001 study for the EPI by Thomas Mroz and Timothy Savage from
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill linked teen joblessness to lower lifetime
earnings, future unemployment and a variety of other social ills.
International News Note
The Agence France-Presse, a French news wire service, Thursday distributed a story about
the continued threat of legal action by the American Family Association Center for Law and
Policy about Carolina's summer reading program.
Current National Coverage
Instructed, Not Converted (Opinion-Editorial Column)
The Wall Street Journal
News flash: North Carolina failed this week to make Islam the official state religion. Nor did it
compel residents to profess that there is no God but Allah...
Education in context (Editorial)
The Record (Bergen County, NJ)
If there's one thing a university should strive to be, it is a place where there can be a free exchange
of ideas and students can learn to think on their own... The groups are protesting a decision by
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to have its freshman class read a book about the
Koran, saying the assignment promotes Islam and forces "Islamic indoctrination."
Promoting academic freedom (Editorial)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Every summer, universities and colleges assign a book to incoming freshmen. The idea is to
create a common intellectual experience, to challenge childhood assumptions and to provide an
activity more meaningful than beer parties and pledge meetings. This year's book choice at the
University of North Carolina was controversial...
Quran seminar doesn't amount to indoctrination (Opinion-Editorial Column)
Wichita Eagle (Kansas)
One word to parents who may have sent their youngsters off to college: ideas. They're lurking
everywhere. Your children may be introduced to ideas at unexpected moments, from unforeseen
sources. These ideas may be exotic, unvarnished, disturbing, comforting, unexpected, enticing,
repugnant, confounding, outlandish.
(Note: This column originally appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and was featured in the
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel earlier this week.)
Students should study sacred texts (Editorial)
Deseret News (Utah)
Once again, a sacred text is at the center an unholy controversy. At the University of North
Carolina, students have been asked to read part of the Quran ó the Islamic scripture ó as part
of their coursework. A Catholic, an evangelical Christian and a Jewish student sued the school for
"establishing a religion."
Widening horizons (Editorial)
The Journal News (White Plains, N.Y.)
Certainly, the nation's court system is slow enough. To slow down the system even further with a
lawsuit filed by a Virginia-based conservative Christian network seeking to stop the University of
North Carolina from assigning freshmen to read a book about the Koran made little sense...
Koran Studies: Inquiry Isn't Indoctrination (Letter to the Editor)
The Wall Street Journal
In regard to your Aug. 13 editorial "Mandating the Koran": The University of North Carolina is
requiring all incoming freshmen to read "Approaching the Quran" not to promote Islam but to
broaden adult students' understanding of Islam in this time of crisis.
(Note: John Boddie is president of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. The
Wall Street Journal published two letters to the editor about the summer reading program. To
read both, please scroll down to the bottom of today's Carolina in the News.)
Amid Koran Debate, Panel of U. of North Carolina Board Endorses Academic Freedom
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Three days after discussions of a controversial book about the Koran at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill, a committee of the university system's Board of Governors unanimously
passed a resolution on Thursday affirming academic freedom. The full board, which was widely
criticized for failing to pass a similar resolution earlier this month, is expected to approve the
resolution at its September 13 meeting.
(Note: The Chronicle of Higher Education requires a subscription to access articles.)
UM draws fire for requiring reading of play on gay man
The University of North Carolina and University of Maryland might have picked different books
for their campus wide reading programs, but they are running into similar opposition - including
the threat of court challenges.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Although their classes don't start until next week, freshmen at McKendree College already have
passed their first assignment. The college asked them to read over the summer and come to campus
prepared to talk about Elie Wiesel's "Night," an account of the Holocaust... The University of
North Carolina created a stir this summer by assigning "Approaching the Qur'an: the Early
Revelations" by Michael Sells.
Associated Press coverage on the reading program also has appeared in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
and Tulsa World (Oklahoma).
Survey raises issue of screening for flaw that causes retardation
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Katie Clapp knew something was wrong with her newborn son, but it took two years and dozens
of doctor visits before he was diagnosed with the most common inherited cause of mental retardation...
Don Bailey, who led the survey from the University of North Carolina, said the findings raised the
question of whether all babies should be screened for Fragile X.
(Note: This Associated Press story, originating from the Atlanta Bureau, is appearing in other
newspapers and media outlets including the Times-Picayune (Louisiana), the Canadian Press,
and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.)
Classroom freedoms can't be taken for granted (Editorial)
The Virginian-Pilot and Ledger-Star
Academic freedom at the University of North Carolina has dodged one bullet, but another is
whizzing toward its head...
Ignorance's challenge (Editorial)
The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.)
University of North Carolina officials surely thought they had hit upon a helpful idea four years ago:
The 3,500 incoming freshmen at the main Chapel Hill campus would be given a summer reading
State and Local Coverage
SENSIBLE: Judge opens the cover in book battle (Commentary)
Before he decided whether UNC Chapel Hill could go ahead with class discussions this week on a
book called Approaching the Quran, Judge Carlton Tilley sat down and read the book...
Editorial an attack on academic freedom (Letter to the Editor)
As an American citizen who grew up in the Middle East, teaches courses and gives presentations on
Islam, Africa, Human Rights and the Middle East, I would like to comment on the editorial, "UNC-
Chapel Hill off target," (AC-T, Aug 4)...
(Note: The Asheville Citizen-Times published two letters to the editor today. To read the other
letter to the editor, please go to http://cgi.citizen-times.com/cgi-bin/story/letters/18694.)
UNC board supports academic freedom
Chapel Hill Herald
Members of the state university systemís highest-ranking board began to right a perceived wrong
Thursday, approving a resolution supporting academic freedom. The educational planning, policies
and programs committee of UNCís Board of Governors endorsed the statement Thursday.
Academic freedom affirmed
After 45 minutes of citing free speech and the search for truth, a committee that helps oversee North
Carolina's public universities agreed to support academic freedom -- a principle it was already sworn
to uphold. Thursday's special meeting allowed a committee of the state university system's Board
of Governors to respond to national attention about a controversial UNC Chapel Hill reading
program that includes parts of the Quran.
UNC panel's resolution supports academic freedom
When the University of North Carolina board of governors failed to adopt a resolution supporting
academic freedom during the height of a debate over the summer reading program at the University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, members quickly found themselves targets of harsh criticism.
Peeling the Orange
Chapel Hill Herald
Several new buildings in the universityís current major construction program will be completed and
put to use within just a few days... Up to a third of the people participating in the Carolina Quran case
Monday were from the media....
Chapel Hill Homeowners Oppose New UNC Building
Homeowners in Elkin Hill are speaking out against The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's
plans to move into their back yards. Residents voiced their opposition Thursday in response to UNC's
plan for a new grounds keeping facility in a wooded area south of Horace Williams Airport.
Issues and Trends Affecting Carolina
Rating Is Bad News (Editorial)
Make no mistake about it. Moody's decision Monday to downgrade North Carolina's credit rating will
hurt both the state's pocketbook and its pride.
No push to resolve budget
News and Observer
Almost two months into a new fiscal year, state House and Senate negotiators show no signs of
progress toward working out their differences in a new $14 billion budget.
Few early votes
News and Observer
Voters straggled into polling locations across the Triangle on Thursday, this year's opening day and
just the second go-round for an early voting program that got its start with much fanfare two years
(Note: A related story was also in the Chapel Hill Herald
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The Wall Street Journal
August 23, 2002
Instructed, Not Converted
By TERRY EASTLAND
News flash: North Carolina failed this week to make Islam the official state religion. Nor did it compel
residents to profess that there is no God but Allah.
If you have a hard time believing that the Tar Heel state was threatening to do such a thing, you are not
alone. Earlier this week, a court rightly slapped down a lawsuit making the claim that the First Amendment
would be imperiled by the college classes that began in Chapel Hill on Monday.
How did this whole contretemps come about? Every year the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
requires new undergraduate students to participate in a summer reading program. The students read an
assigned book and write an essay. On the first day of school they divide up into discussion groups.
This year's text was "Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations" by Michael Sells of Haverford
College. The book is a translation of 35 suras from the Koran chosen by Mr. Sells on account of their
being, according to Muslims, the first revelations to Muhammad. These suras concern the nature of God
and man's duties. Mr. Sells adds brief commentaries.
University of North Carolina officials probably wouldn't have picked the book but for what happened
on Sept. 11. They wanted students matriculating this year -- says the school's Web site -- to understand
"the great traditions of Islam." By July, however, the charge was being made that the book treats much too
sympathetically a religion in whose name al Qaeda terrorists killed thousands of Americans.
This being America, someone had to sue, and they did. The Family Policy Network, a politically
conservative, Christian group, claimed that the reading program violates the First Amendment's ban on
establishing a religion and prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
Its lawsuit read like a parody of something the ACLU might file to further separate church and state. The
university endeavored to teach about Islam, selectively, yes, but not, as the Family Policy Network claimed,
to "proselytize" in its behalf. If assigning "Approaching the Qur'an" is unconstitutional, then so would be
assigning, say, a book presenting stories from the Bible. It is unfathomable that the Constitution would so
hamstring higher education.
Late last week U.S. District Judge Carlton Tilley (a Reagan appointee) declined to intervene. And then,
on Monday, mere hours before the freshmen met in discussion groups, the appeals court in Richmond,
Va. (routinely described by liberal interest groups as too conservative), turned down an appeal. And so
it was that the reading program went on that afternoon, apparently without any conversions to Islam.
The story is not over, however. Some state legislators want to impose on the university a requirement that
it give equal time to all religions. Imagine, should that dubious proposal become law, an assigned reading
next year on Scientology or Wicca.
Still, the legal battle is only part of the controversy, and it is true that the educators at Chapel Hill have gaps
to fill. Anyone reading Mr. Sells's book and then trying to relate its content to Sept. 11 is going to be confused.
"I see one thing [violence by Muslims] on TV," a student told the New York Times, "and another in the book.
I'm not sure what to think."
What the students need to know are the roots of Muslim rage, on which the estimable Bernard Lewis has
written cogently. More specifically, they need to know about Wahhabism, the strain of Islam, less than three
centuries old, that is the official religion of Saudi Arabia (no separation of mosque and state and thus no First
Amendment litigation there!). Osama bin Laden and company are Wahhabis. Wahhabism is violent, intolerant
and fanatical in the extreme -- with adherents even here in the U.S.
One of the first American scholars to identify the threat posed by Wahhabism before Sept. 11 was . . .
Michael Sells. He's visiting Chapel Hill next month. A lecture encompassing Wahhabism might help the
university rescue itself from a summer reading program that now deserves a grade of "incomplete."
Wall Street Journal
August 23, 2002
Letters to the Editor
Koran Studies: Inquiry Isn't Indoctrination
In regard to your Aug. 13 editorial "Mandating the Koran":
The University of North Carolina is requiring all incoming freshmen to read "Approaching the Quran" not to
promote Islam but to broaden adult students' understanding of Islam in this time of crisis. A lawsuit was filed
to stop the program, but the ACLU is not participating because we believe it is permissible and desirable for
a public university to teach objectively about the role of religion in the U.S. and other countries.
If a lawsuit had been filed to stop the teaching of the Bible, the Torah or the Bhagavad Gita to university -- or
even elementary school -- students in a course that meets the U.S. Supreme Court's requirement of being part
of a "secular program of education," the ACLU would have taken the same position. You may find it "hard to
imagine" this is true, but then again you are not able to cite even one example where the ACLU sought to
stop the teaching of any religion in a secular context.
It is unconstitutional for a public school to indoctrinate students in religion, and the ACLU has opposed and
will oppose prayers and religious instruction by government for the purpose of religious indoctrination. College
-level inquiry into the Koran and Islamic beliefs for the purpose of enriched understanding is just not the same
American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina
Islam in Practice
According to Mr. Moeser, chancellor of UNC at Chapel Hill, requiring the reading of parts of the Koran is
fulfilling the responsibility of the university is to provide students "with an atmosphere in which they can deepen
their sense of themselves and the complex, often contradictory world around them" (Letters to the Editor, Aug.
20). To that end, may I suggest that the program include a study of the genocide and forced slavery in Sudan,
or how Islam has brought its version of "peace" to Lebanon, Nigeria, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and
the Balkans, as well as a consideration of democracy and human rights in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Morocco,
Saudi Arabia, et al. Interviews with those attempting to practice a religion other than Islam in Islamic countries
would be enlightening, along with interviews of women, or family members of those who have disappeared at
the hands of these "enlightened" governments. Video clips of the numerous celebrations in various Muslim
countries at the destruction of the Twin Towers and the murder of 3,000 innocent Americans would also be