Signs and Wonders
Cranston High School West student Jessica Ahlquist
Associated Press/Photo by Steven Senne, File
Cranston High School West student Jessica Ahlquist

Signs and Wonders: Since when do secularists need safe zones at college?

Newsworthy

Now that’s ironic. If you think that most college campuses are already virtually religion-free zones, consider this story from Religion News Service: “So far, there are Secular Safe Zone allies at 26 college and high school campuses in 14 states, including California, Nevada, Ohio, Utah, Illinois, Florida, and New York.” The story cites the case of Jessica Ahlquist, “a Rhode Island student who faced death threats and public ridicule after asking that a prayer banner be removed from her public high school in 2010.” However, the example is problematic. Ahlquist is both anti-religion and an activist for homosexual causes who has resorted to controversial and inflammatory techniques to generate responses from her opponents. I’m not saying that hateful speech is ever excusable. I am saying there are two sides to this story and Religion News Service is telling only one.

Pet crazy. Officials in upstate New York recently found, more than 850 snakes in the home of an animal control officer, who was running a snake-selling business. Back in August, two boys (ages 5 and 7), died when snakes that apparently escaped from a pet store strangled them. Almost weekly I hear crazy stories of humans and their pets. According to ABC News, pet owners spend millions to give their pets pierced ears, blueberry facials, and even elaborate plastic surgeries. Then, of course, there are the pet funerals, pet clothes, and doggie strollers. Americans spend more than $50 billion per year on their pets. And at the risk of piling on, I would add that we do this while aborting nearly a million babies a year. Has America gone pet-crazy? What does all this say about the way we value humans vs. pets?

Movie blahs continue. Prisoners led another lackluster movie weekend at the box office. The R-rated thriller starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal brought in a little more than $21 million, against a $46 million production budget. The movie, which premiered over Labor Day at the Telluride Film Festival, is getting good reviews, though, so expect it to hang around in theaters for a while and eventually turn profitable. Jackman and Gyllenhall are already being discussed as potential Oscar nominees. The Ultimate Life, the sequel to The Ultimate Gift, continues to fade at the box office. In its third week of release, it is now in less than 200 theaters and has grossed only $1.2 million. However, the real market for this movie is TV and DVD, so the producers tell me they are already looking forward to producing the third movie in the series, The Ultimate Legacy.

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White rose. Yesterday was the birthday of Hans Scholl. He is an almost forgotten figure outside of Germany, but he deserves to be remembered. Scholl, a devout Lutheran born in 1918, led the White Rose resistance movement against Nazis. As a boy, he joined the Hitler Youth, but quickly understood what the group was all about and even as a teenager began to resist the Nazi regime. He studied medicine at university, which helped him avoid military service. He and his sister Sophie authored anti-Nazi tracts and distributed them at their college and all around Germany. On Feb. 18, 1943, the Gestapo arrested Hans and Sophie while distributing the tracts. They were tried for treason four days later, convicted, and executed by beheading within hours. Hans Scholl’s last words were “Es lebe die Freiheit”: “Long Live Freedom.”

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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