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Just when you thought (and probably hoped) the sexual abuse and harassment allegations had pretty much run their course across this troubled nation, one of the most absurd examples appears not in the D.C. swamp or Hollywood but, of all places, Tennessee State University in Nashville.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve become hang-dog weary with all the accusations and politicizations of sexual harassment (many decade old) being eagerly pushed by the national media of late. And while I’ve never condoned any male forcing himself or expressing lurid thoughts upon any female, I also realize what a dangerous practice it is in our free and open society for people to be publicly accused of such things without due process, especially when the alleged transgression was never officially reported in the first place.

Just where does one draw a reasonable line when it comes to sexual abuse, harassment or mere irritation at having been propositioned (a regular occurrence across these united States)?

Is it harassment if a man asks for a woman’s telephone number? How about if he drops an off-color joke in her presence, or simply tells her she looks nice? Who defines it?

Chuckle if you will, but that’s exactly where we are thanks in large measure to such grossly publicized allegations made long after the fact only to be blown up and circulated, often in political attempts to ruin lives and careers by weaponizing a cooperative national mainstream media.

A friend named James in our coffee group (who’s nice to everyone he meets) tells of once being called on the carpet at the factory where he worked because he sincerely told a female office employee how nice she looked that day. That was it: “You really look nice today.” Any other rational adult think that’s as ridiculous and overboard as I do? Yet even that compliment proved enough to get him in trouble.

It is all a definite sign of the oppressive and dangerously restrictive climate we’re allowing to flourish. I’ll remind you I don’t encourage or approve of what I believe to be genuine sexual abuse or harassment, but being considered “genuine” involves my definition and clearly can be far different than the accusatory ugliness happening out there.

That brings me back to what I see as Tennessee State’s preposterous harassment policies that violates pure common sense. Yet these restrictions represent the degree to which our nation has declined in preserving basic freedoms thank to absurd political agendas.

The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, which combats corruption and full-blown idiocy in governmental activities, said Tennessee State has been cited by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for a number of its policies that allow free speech to be considered harassment.

“With an undergraduate enrollment of about 7,000, the school’s policy lists nearly two dozen ‘offenses’ that can constitute sexual harassment among students and employees. Cases are determined individually and the ‘totality of the circumstances’ will be considered before deciding if sexual harassment has been committed.” says Judicial Watch.

The university’s offenses can include “whistling in a suggestive manner.”

Judicial Watch states that the foundation’s attorney says the school’s actions are too ambiguous to meet legal requirements since extremely broad categories of speech “are banned as harassment simply because someone might find them suggestively offensive, and that’s something that courts have repeatedly held violates the First Amendment.

Prohibitions on humor are dangerous, she added, because they could be abused to suppress unpopular speech. The school’s policy of also banning any form of demonstration at university events restricts students’ rights to protest and thereby get their message across.

Moreover, this university requires gatherings involving dissent to be registered with the vice president of student affairs. That’s to ensure the event is held at an acceptable time and appropriate site, which creates prior restraint on speech, FIRE’s legal expert contends.

Tennessee State is not alone when it comes to flagrant overreactions. Judicial Watch also reports that, overall, “Taxpayer-funded schools and colleges have taken an extreme leftist turn on several issues over the years,” and that it has either reported on, or taken legal action, in several of those.

Its cases include revealing a Mexican separatist school advocating Marxism and anti-Americanism in Los Angeles, corruption in Chicago public schools (I’m shocked!) and an after-school Satan club in Washington state that interestingly enough received speedy tax-exempt approval from the Internal Revenue Service.

Any group fighting against anti-Americanism, Marxism, corruption in public schools and the glorification of Lucifer (not to mention the lunacy of flattering whistles considered as sexual harassment) sure sounds like my kind of group.

Spirit to sales

Sometimes Facebook has a thought-provoking message. Saw this the other day: Christmas in the U.S. is the sacred day originally devoted to spiritual gratitude and symbolism that somehow morphed into a celebration of materialism and gluttony. Exaggerated? Perhaps a tad. Yet not all that much, if we’re intellectually honest.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

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