We're All Racists Now
By: Amy Lutz

Recently, Hayley White, a 29-year-old mother in the UK rushed to her son, Elliot’s, school in the middle of the day only to find him confused and in tears. Most would assume that Elliot had gotten into a fight at school, had been caught cheating, or engaged in some other cliché’-worthy schoolboy activity. Well, the majority is wrong.

On that cold February day, Hayley learned that her son had been labeled a “racist” by school administrators. Earlier that day, the inquisitive boy asked a fellow classmate, “Are you brown because you come from Africa?” Now, had Elliot been a 19-year-old high school student, the school might have a case for racism. However, Elliot White is a mere 7-years-old. Instead of taking the child’s age into account, the school instead forced him to sign a document acknowledging that he had “made a racist remark.” I doubt that Elliot will want to ask another question in class anytime soon. For him, intellectual curiosity and punishment now go hand in hand.

Please read more at The College Conservative
Since When is Religion a Pre-Existing Condition?
By: Amy Lutz

While surfing through The University News online last week, I stumbled upon an opinion piece titled “Catholic Church Receives Federal Funds but Refuses Laws.” The piece is based upon the Federal Government’s recent contraception mandate and the subsequent outcry from various religious organizations, primarily the Catholic Church. At first glance, the article appears to be well researched and air tight. However, as I delved into the author’s argument even more, I found it to be simplistic and idealistic. He argues that the Catholic Church does not have a place to argue with the mandate because they receive federal funds in the form of Medicare and Medicaid payments. If only it were that simple. However, all government funds come with strings attached and refusing to accept the funds makes business difficult, if not impossible. Catholic hospitals are now faced with a classic Catch 22 situation.

If we accept the author’s premise, Catholic Hospitals will be placed in an impossible situation. If they choose their conscience and refuse federal funds (which I doubt is very feasible anyway), their health care services will either go downhill rapidly, skyrocket in price, or both. In any case, it will be the patients who are hurt the most. Should the hospitals choose to comply with the mandate, they will be forced to go against their religious beliefs. Isn’t this what the separation of church and state is for? It is not the Catholics who are wrong, it’s (somewhat unsurprisingly) the federal government. Since when is ok for the government to force, or at least strongly push, a religious institution to disregard their own doctrine? Perhaps I could see the logic in an argument supporting the mandate of life saving care for a child whose parents disagree with invasive surgery on religious grounds, but this is a different case. What we have here is not a case of “life-saving treatment.” We’re talking about contraception for crying out loud!

Despite Obama’s supposed “exemption,” Catholic and other religious hospitals are still stuck in a difficult situation. Under the revised mandate, faith-based organizations will not be directly forced to provide contraceptives to patients. Instead, the institutions’ insurance providers will have to provide birth control free of charge. However, this means that the faith-based organizations will still have to subsidize the insurance companies to ensure that free birth control is available. According to Tony Perkins, the Family Research Council President, “However, it won’t be free, because the insurance companies will increase the premium and administrative costs to the employer.” Higher administrative costs means higher costs for patients. Because 1 in 6 patients in the United States are treated in a Catholic hospital, this mandate has potential to do quite a bit of far-reaching damage. Also, higher hospital costs make it difficult for hospital administration to pay employees; thus, layoffs are likely (Note: Catholic hospitals employ 530,673 full time and 235,221 part time employees). And I thought that the President was actually attempting to combat unemployment. Silly me.

I doubt that President Obama expected the intensity of the outcry against this mandate when he announced it earlier this year, but it is far from undeserved. This overt attack on personal conscience and religious liberty is insulting at best. The government needs to get out of our churches and protect the rights of conscience, not trample them. 
Sugar Taxation: A Philosophical Perspective
By: Amy Lutz

“A little is not a problem, but a lot kills— slowly,” claimed a recent opinion piece in the journal Nature. What could possibly be the harmful substance to which they are referring?  Marijuana?  Alcohol?  Nope, sugar.  According to recent studies the sweet granules that we bake into cookies and sprinkle over grapefruit might actually be more toxic than originally believed.  Additionally, as obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease become more prominent, so does the amount of sugar in our diets.  For an increasingly health-conscious populace, this is certainly of great concern.

To combat this rising health epidemic, many scientists and left-leaning politicians have suggested taxing sugar like we tax alcohol and tobacco.  In other words, they’re advocating for a “sin tax.”  A sin tax is “a state-sponsored tax that is added to products or services that are seen as vices, such as alcohol, tobacco and gambling.”  This kind of taxation is designed to alter consumer buying habits. A tax on added sugars will directly increase the price of products containing sugar.  Based on a simple supply and demand equation, if the price of sugary foods is higher, the demand for them will go down.  Therefore, if fewer people buy sugar-laden goods, our nation’s collective health will improve, right?  Philosophically speaking, it will take a lot more than higher taxes to lessen the toxic effects of sugar consumption.

Please read more at The College Conservative
Behind Enemy Lines: How the SLU College Republicans Occupied Occupy DC
By: Amy Lutz

          While in Washington DC for CPAC 2012, Brandon, Kelsey and I decided to take a walking tour of our nation’s capital in the frigid February weather. As we strolled down K Street, we (somewhat intentionally) stumbled upon Occupy DC’s encampment at McPherson Park. While Kelsey and I at first kept a safe distance by taking pictures of the movement’s signs from across the street, Brandon marched boldly into the center of the camp. After several minutes, Brandon was nowhere to be found, so Kelsey and I decided to search for our fellow CR. Considering the environment, we had no idea what kind of trouble he could have gotten into.

            Soon, we spotted Brandon in the middle of the camp speaking with none other than the leaders of Occupy DC in all of their unwashed glory. Cautiously, Kelsey and I crept up behind Brandon and inserted ourselves into the conversation. We did not, however, give any indication of our conservatism. In fact, we posed as Occupy sympathizers and questioned the leaders about the aims of the movement, nodding in agreement at each reference of the “evil 1%.”

As “Occupy’s most famous protesters,” (giant rats) scurried around our feet, the Occupiers weaved a tale of income inequality, conservative bigotry, and free speech infringement. When we inquired about their plan to occupy a conservative conference[O1]  (which we happened to be attending) taking place in the nation’s capital, they freely handed over literature describing their plan to “Occupy CPAC.” According to the DC protesters, CPAC is one of the country’s biggest gatherings of “racist, extreme, bigoted, right wing” conservatives. I nodded in fervent agreement, making sure not to let my CPAC agenda slip out of my pocket and reveal our undercover operation. One of the flyers we received claimed that the movement aims to “respect others’ rights to have different opinions.” It also stated that “different points of view encourage discussion, growth and further understanding.” However, on the Occupy flyer advertising Occupy CPAC included a statement that read “We’ve heard enough from the 1%!” Hypocrisy anyone? One of the Occupiers also expressed disgust and outrage that conservatives were being given an opportunity to express their disappointment in our nation’s movement towards extreme multiculturalism. Apparently the only free speech rights Occupiers value are their own.

            At one point, one of us praised Occupy for remaining a “peaceful movement,” and it took everything in me not to burst out laughing at the irony. One of the leaders hesitated, claiming that Occupy DC is NOT a peaceful movement. He even acknowledged that many of the Occupiers’ actions are, in fact, illegal. There’s a reason why the flag of the movement is a fist, not a peace sign, he explained. The same Occupier did claim, however, that his movement is one of nonviolence. Sort of. While the movement itself does not condone violence, they “stood in solidarity” with anyone who acted out violently in the name of Occupy DC. Not only were the Occupiers comfortable with violence, they seemed to be open to it. When they spoke of their plans to Occupy CPAC, one of the protesters claimed that “there will be shield and batons” when they go “toe to toe” with the one-percent supporting CPAC attendees. Thankfully, in the end that was a bust. On Friday afternoon, after 300-400 Occupiers stormed the Marriot Wardman Park Hotel, they were pushed back by the police. Additionally, dozens of CPAC attendees confronted them, chanting “get a job” over and over again.

            Half an hour into our conversation with the Occupiers, one of the leaders elaborated more fully on the nature of the movement. He claimed that, although he was a facilitator of Occupy DC, he was not the “face of the movement.” In fact, he quickly proclaimed that for a movement like his to become successful, he and all Occupiers had to “suppress their egos” in favor of Occupy’s collectivist nature. The Occupier acknowledged that the movement is not about certain individuals. It’s about the larger movement itself. “You’re the face of the movement,” he claimed while pointing a gloved hand at me. Little did he know that this face of the movement is a card carrying Republican.

            Though the aforementioned occupier insisted that humility was a vital part of maintaining the movement’s purity, the arrogance of these people was truly astounding. As Kelsey, Brandon and I spoke to the Occupiers, they consistantly put themselves on par with heroes like our Founding Fathers, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. Right, holing up in a decrepit encampment surrounded by misspelled protest signs is certainly analogous with the actions of such historical giants. Not. In addition to aligning themselves with America’s heroes, they also claimed affinity with some of the world’s largest villains. At one point, one of the Occupiers stated that although he “disagreed with their politics,” he supported Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in the Cuban Revolution because they “f****** did something.” I found it unsurprising that the same Occupier who hesitated to label his movement “peaceful” would not be uncomfortable with the violence exemplified by Castro and Guevara.

            In addition to witnessing the collectivist, turbulent nature of Occupy DC, we also got a glimpse into its future. They claimed that the movement has slowed in intensity, but at the same time is also garnering financial support. Often, “uptight looking white people” will stop by their tent and quietly drop a few dollars into their collection bucket. One man even donated over $600 worth of food for the campers at McPherson Park. The movement thrives on these “grassroots” contributions and shies away from large donors because, as one Occupier claimed, “large amounts of money f*** up occupations.” (Please ignore the fact that the CPAC Occupiers were paid to stand outside the hotel and protest on Friday afternoon). Additionally, the Occupiers strongly declared that they would not be leaving anytime soon, as their Occupation was “indefinite.” Although they might appear to be dying out, I got the impression from the Occupiers we spoke to that this was desired, if not intentional. If we all believe that they are fading away, we’ll “never see them coming” when they emerge stronger than ever.

            As I became more uncomfortable with the environment, I nudged Brandon, silently letting him know that we needed to escape as soon as possible. Although the Occupiers talked our ears off for several more minutes, we eventually slipped out of the rat-infested, unsanitary, unsettling epicenter of DC’s Occupy movement. Was it the wisest idea to march into Occupy DC’s camp and pose as sympathizers, exposing ourselves to the most unsettling, unsafe aspects of the movement? Probably not. However, as we stepped across enemy lines, we got a new understanding of the movement. We now more clearly understand their motivations and goals. And, if nothing else, it sure makes one hell of a story.
Live Everyday Like It's Superbowl Sunday

By: Amy Lutz

Right now, all over the county, people are waking up to start one of the greatest days of the year: Super Bowl Sunday. Though baseball might be "America's favorite pastime," football takes center stage every February and keeps millions of Americans glued to their television sets. Sure, some people just watch the event for the commercials, but most Americans are enthralled by the spirited competition that exists between the two remaining teams. Touchdowns, tackles, first downs, and field goals make up the glorious event that is the Super Bowl. As long as the competition remains close and one team doesn't run away with the game (here's to you Super Bowl XXIV), we're on the edge of our seats for the duration of the event. 

Why is America so facinated with the Super Bowl? Sure, there's the halftime show, the multi-million dollar commercials, and calorie-laden party buffets, but I believe that the facination with the biggest game of the year goes even deeper. The Super Bowl is the pinnacle of all sports games. Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, almost all Americans can unite on a love of sports. The Super Bowl exemplifies some of the best aspect of this national obession: suspense, excitement, and most importantly...competition. Americans thrive on competition and few events exempify healthy competition more than the Super Bowl.

The teams that compete in the Super Bowl are supposed to be the best of the best (at least theoretically). Through hard work, perseverence, and a little bit of luck, this year the New York Giants and New England Patriots find themselves on the brink of victory. However, that victory is not easily gained. It takes a mixture of strategy, talent, and teamwork to win the Lombardi trophy ever year. No one gets to the Super Bowl by just participating. Do you think Tom Brady got 3 Super Bowl rings by sittng on the sideline while victory was handed to him? Not even a chance. It took years of hard work and many failures to get the New England quarterback to where he is today.

Perhaps this displays the underlying reason Americans are so facinated with the Super Bowl. Seeing talented athletes battle for victory, often having to bounce back from defeat in the process, reminds us that hard work and talent go a long way towards claiming victory. Deep down, we're reminded that competition is a part of life, but we all have the chance to win. Sure we'll lose some battles in our lives, but with a little hard work and perseverence, victory is attainable. 

It's impossible to get anywhere in life by simply participating. Like the Super Bowl, life's a competition; one we must constantly be engaged in. Sometimes we wil, sometimes we lose. Standing on the sidelines keeps us out of the roller coaster game of life. So, as you're watching the Giants take down the Patriots this Super Bowl Sunday (hopefully), reflect on the fact that we live in a country where competition is still prized; at least for now. Remember to live life like you're on the field. Bounce back from failure, work hard for success, and know your talents and use them. Remain tenacious when faced with defeat and humble when achieving victory...but don't forget to throw in a good deal of smack talk for the fun of it.