Chris Powell: Students lose a chance to learn about a huge religion

This is the Peaceable Oak, on Route 69 in Bristol,  where Indians met to barter goods and colonists held town meetings when the nearby tavern proved too stuffy in summer. 

This is the Peaceable Oak, on Route 69 in Bristol,  where Indians met to barter goods and colonists held town meetings when the nearby tavern proved too stuffy in summer. 

Last week's hostility in Bristol, Conn., to a middle school teacher's plan to have a Muslim woman visit a world history class to discuss her religion and experiences, evoked the bigoted ignorance satirized in Woody Allen's movie Love and Death.

Child: What's a Jew?

Russian Orthodox priest: You never saw a Jew? Here -- I have some sketches. There are Jews.

Child: No kidding? They all have these horns?

Priest: No, this is the Russian Jew. The German Jew has these stripes.

The school superintendent canceled the Muslim woman's visit out of concern about security, since some of the hostility was threatening. Now there is talk about calling a townwide assembly on religious diversity. But as some Islamic leaders protested, the cancellation rewarded the threats. Surely Bristol's police could have stood by during the presentation -- and the need for security would have been a good lesson in itself.

Some people in Bristol said the public schools are not the proper place for religion. But religion is a huge part of history, and no one was to have been indoctrinated by the Muslim woman's presentation. For many students her visit might have been the first time they saw a Muslim in person rather than one on television being described as a terrorist. That too would have been a good lesson.

Yes, people are committing terrorism in the name of Islam, just as people have committed terrorism in the name of most other religions. Kids need to be shown the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. 

Unfortunately many adults need to be shown too.


First Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and the General Assembly's Democratic majority approved a new contract with the state employee unions that prevents state government from economizing with labor costs as much as it should.

Then a bipartisan majority of the legislature passed a state budget that, while not increasing taxes as much as Democrats wanted, directed the governor to find hundreds of millions of dollars in spending cuts that the legislature failed to specify.

So last week the governor did the specifying, and his cuts included social services and town aid, whereupon Democratic and Republican legislative leaders alike exploded in indignation.

A spokesman for the governor, Kelly Donnelly, shot back at the Senate Republican leader, Len Fasano, with criticism that could have been aimed at the Democratic leaders too.

"If the senator wanted to direct where these savings should come from," Donnelly said, "he could have passed statutory language with those details. He didn't do that. Rather, he took the much easier -- and much more politically safe -- route of accounting for the savings but leaving it to the governor to allocate them. ... He can still work with his colleagues to amend the budget, making specific cuts or perhaps raise taxes to avoid making these tough decisions. Until then he's just trying to have his cake and eat it too."

In fact, everybody at the Capitol is trying to have it both ways. The Democrats took care of the unions at the expense of everyone else, and then Republican and Democratic legislators alike posed as the friends of the taxpayer without taking responsibility for the cuts they required the governor to make.

Since the governor isn't seeking re-election next year, all the blame is being assigned to him when he deserves only half of it.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.