11 June 2003

Controversy at Princeton

This article in the National Review by Anne Morse, "They Call It Art: The last acceptable prejudice?", came to my attention through Charles Colson's daily Breakpoint commentaries. It seems that, despite a code of conduct "requiring respect for the rights and sensibilities of all members of the campus community," Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs is sponsoring an art exhibit containing works offensive to Roman Catholic sensibilities. In a forum with Catholic students, Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter all but admitted to a double standard when she acknowledged that they would not permit a similar exhibit offensive to Jewish or Muslim sensibilities. Writes Morse:

One of the canons of liberal orthodoxy is that the world is divided up between the powerful and the powerless, oppressor, and oppressed. Once assigned oppressor status, you're not allowed to claim oppression at someone else's hands. The Catholic Church has long been labeled an oppressor — which is why professors who would instantly notice and (rightly) condemn artistic prejudice against Muslims, Jews, gays, women, or blacks cannot see anti-Catholic bigotry even when egregious examples of it hang on the wall in front of them.

I would be inclined to change her use of the word liberal to post-modern, as the liberal label encompasses too much ground to be meaningful in such a context. Yet her point is well taken. Those speaking too glibly of oppressors and oppressed risk miscarrying justice by losing sight of its requirement of equitable treatment for all.

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