Durham's county manager is a conservative Christian? Off with his head!
Mike Ruffin, the new county manager for Durham, North Carolina, also runs Devotions.com, a Web site featuring his weekly commentaries "to help Christians who struggle with everyday living." This week, Independent Weekly, a local alternative paper, ran an "expose" on Ruffin's site and views. Among the terrible findings? Ruffin says he puts "God first in my life, my family second, and my job third." (How horrible for the citizens of Durham!) He believes "there isn't a better place for a Christian to put his faith into practice than politics." (But what about the Constitution, which clearly bans believers from public office!) He also once wrote that "evolution is politically correct thinking and creationism is not." And—worst of all for the manager in a city voted one of the most gay-friendly in America by Out magazine and one of the "most enlightened towns" by Utne Reader—he has called his readers to "reach out to the homosexual, just like we reach out to the adulterer, the alcoholic, or the drug addict." The horror! The horror! Upon being asked by the Independent Weekly about his views, Ruffin immediately took them off his Web site. He swears that he's "not a fundamentalist" and "not here to push my personal beliefs on anyone." "I'm just trying to live a decent life, and my faith gives me the strength to do that," he tells The News & Observer. "My faith is a very personal matter. I'm not an evangelist." The county board says they were concerned enough about his views to question him very carefully on them and to call county officials where he used to work to see if he ever let his views known there. "They told us that had never been an issue," says MaryAnn Black, chair of the Durham Board of Commissioners. "Mike said he would be able to keep those things separate—that his religion was his private life." Wow. Could you imagine what would happen if he brought some intolerance to this perfectly tolerant town? Most enlightened, indeed.

Former community college dean says he was fired for being religious
Bryan O'Neil was an academic dean at Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts. He was also an elder at his Presbyterian church, and regularly spent lunch reading the Bible and talking about faith with Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, and Jehovah's Witness colleagues. The four of them decided to try to broaden their lunchtime meeting (though Weblog must note that it was a pretty broad group already!) and create a religious discussion group for students—including Hindus and Muslims. Administrators pressured him to back off the plan, saying it would violate the separation of church and state. Eventually he was fired. (He had also complained that female administrators without doctorates were making more than he was, even though he has an Ed.D.) He's now suing the school for $1.25 million and his old job back.

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How fast does it take for a sitcom to make a sex joke?
The Minneapolis Star Tribune timed this year's new sitcoms to see how long they could last without making a crass sexual joke. If you've been watching TV at all, you won't be surprised by the results. The quickest came in at one second. In a related story, the paper analyses the trend—and notes that TV folks think all this sex talk is a great thing. Cindy Chupack, executive producer of Madigan Men and former writer for Everybody Loves Raymond and Sex and the City, tells the paper, "The less taboo about TV, the better. I'm not one of those people who are afraid that it'll be the downfall of us that we're talking about sex. I think if it can be demystified and romanticized it's a good thing." Star Tribune writer Noel Houston responds, "Just for the record, one of the demystifying jokes in the Madigan Men pilot was a character's explanation that he stared at women's 'asses' because it's 'rude to stare at their breasts.'" Touche.

Santa and the nativity aren't real. Which is the more distressing?
A vicar out in England has been forced to apologize after telling 200 children at the Long Buckby school in Northamptonshire that Santa (pardon me, Anglophiles: Father Christmas) doesn't exist. But the article noting the horrible comment notes in a passing comment, "The vicar went on to say the Nativity was also a story, with no manger and no kings with presents." Apparently he wasn't forced to apologize for that comment. Merry Christmas, Father Scrooge.

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