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College makes federal case out of praying in faculty office

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POSTED April 13, 2009 3:31 a.m.

Want to make educarts  - those educators who morph into bureaucrats - squirm?

Forget aggressive public signs of affection that are supposed to be taboo at public schools. Such acts won’t raise a yawn in some quarters. Do something apparently that is disruptive and obscene as praying and get prepared to be suspended.

That is what happened to two community college students - Kandy Kyriacou and Ojoma Omaga - when they had the audacity to pray on the campus of the College of Alameda. They were initially told they were going to be suspended for “disruptive behavior.” That led to disciplinary hearings and the formal warning that they would be punished if they prayed in a faculty member’s office again.

The two ran into trouble when they were praying for a teacher who was ill in her office when another instructor walked in and blurted out, “You can’t be doing that in here.” The two women ceased praying and left the office. Note the “offensive” act – praying – didn’t occur in a classroom or during structured instruction.

The two students on March 31 secured a ruling from San Francisco-based U.S. District Judge Susan Illston that said they can sue. The judge said a college student has the right to pray in private outside the classroom.

The students obviously were trying to thumb their noses at the administration as they often took breaks from class to pray with each other and – in an act of gross disobedience – other students.

What are the two women suing for? They simply want something money can’t buy - an acknowledgment of their rights, an apology and the removal of all disciplinary action. The only monetary damages they are seeking are for their legal fees. The two women say they’re being punished not because of disruptive speech but because of its content

The Peralta Community College District contend they were entitled to designate faculty offices as “places for teaching and learning and working,” and not for “protests, demonstrations, prayer or other activities” that would be disruptive.

There’s a new one. Prayer is disruptive. One can only imagine what educrats would think of someone meditating in a faculty member’s office. Are they just mediating or – heaven forbid (or should that be “secular forbid”) – thinking disruptive Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or some other religious thoughts?

The act of disobedience occurred in the fall of 2007 just about the time the tree sitters took over a segment of the Cal Berkeley campus. People who were trespassing – many weren’t even enrolled in Berkeley – are treated with kid gloves and allowed to stay at great public expense while those who dare pray on a California college campus are shooed away as if they are lepers.

It’s OK to pursue free speech that blocks traffic, stops construction projects, and disrupts speech you disagree with at campus assemblies but pray quietly at a college and you’ve committed a constitutional blasphemy.

You’ve got to love free speech, California college campus style.

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