Perhaps because of the large number of outspoken and thoughtful people in our community, we have often found ourselves at ground zero in battles over civil liberties. In the 1980's Chapel Hill elected the first openly-gay elected official in the state, but Carrboro bested that by electing North Carolina’s first out mayor a decade later.
More recently, Chapel Hill grappled with free speech issues in the wake of 9/11, approved and then dismantled red light cameras in 2003-4, and was challenged by fundamentalists over support for gay marriage in 2005.
About a year ago, the Town of Chapel Hill amended its bus advertisement policy to spell out rules for ads with political messages. In August, the Church of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill placed an ad that shows a Jewish and a Palestinian grandfather each with a grandchild and reads “Join with us. Build peace with justice and equality. End U.S. military aid to Israel.” The ad stirred up a controversy and led to a petition from citizens to change the bus ad policy to disallow such ads. The current policy is available online at http://www.townofchapelhill.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=15328.
On Friday, the ACLU of North Carolina sent a letter to the Chapel Hill town manager and elected officials outlining why changing the bus ad policy would violate the free speech clause of the First Amendment. Below is the ACLU-NC press release. The full letter is available here.
A friend of mine who is a teacher at a local high school asked me to post the following story. My friend requested that I share this without any identifying information so as not to compromise student trust and confidentiality.
One of my students (a 16 year old) is on the email list for Expressions, the shop on Franklin Street. Over Labor Day Weekend, he received an email stating that if he came in to the store and said the words "purple bud" he would get a good sized free sample of some brand of Spice -- synthetic weed. He did. This particular brand of synthetic weed is "legal" only because the laws regulating most synthetic weed as a class one scheduled narcotic haven't quite caught up to the chemicals that are sprayed on the plants. Apparently, North Carolina has recently joined an initiative with 28 other states banning these forms of synthetic marijuana.
I hope someone somewhere is developing a plan to oust Chick-Fil-A from University Mall once and forever. Sure the company has a right to think whatever it wants, but it doesn't have a right to sit smack dab in the middle of our town in a perpetual contract with the mall owners.
Over the years, there have been countless boycotts and civil uprisings against dastardly corporate interests ... only a few of which have had any impact at all. So in the spirit of crowdsourcing, I'm throwing this question open to the community at large.
What can we do as a group of citizens to turn Chick-Fil-A's public positions on gay rights into a corporate liability and get the company out of our town? At a time when Christian homophobes are coming out of the woodwork to celebrate the company's discriminatory policies, is there not something we can do ...symbolic, practical, or otherwise ... to rise to this challenge?
I'd especiallywelcome input from the lawyers among you who might be able to think outside the box.
The Southern United States has long been known for hot weather, fried chicken, and the proliferation of churches on every street corner. But few people know that the area also suffers disproportionately from rates of HIV/AIDS infection and death. Almost half of new AIDS diagnoses and deaths occur in the South, often among sex workers, one of the groups most vulnerable to the disease.
Due to stigma, criminalization and lack of resources for people in the sex industry, sex workers in the South have few opportunities for economic liberation, a high incidence of violence, and greater risk for HIV/AIDS.
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