The crowd they can't control?

Calvin College may not have such a warm welcome for President Bush at its commencement festivities.

By Page Rockwell
Published May 20, 2005 11:16PM (EDT)

The Bush administration's deep ties to the religious right get most of the press these days, but there are lots of Americans -- including some who consider themselves good Christians -- who are less supportive of the President's policies. This week's case in point: Calvin College, a Christian and predominantly Republican liberal arts institution in Grand Rapid, Michigan, whose students and faculty plan to protest President Bush's commencement address on Saturday. Protesters will don buttons and armbands reading "God is not a Republican or Democrat" along with their caps and gowns.

Eight hundred Calvin students collected almost $10,000 to place a full-page ad in Friday's Grand Rapids Press objecting to Bush getting the commencement gig. "We are alumni, students, faculty and friends of Calvin College who are deeply troubled that you will be the commencement speaker at Calvin," the letter reads. "In our view, the policies and actions of your administration, both domestically and internationally over the past four years, violate many deeply held principles of Calvin College."

In addition, more than 130 members of the college's faculty and staff put up $2,600 to run their own letter of protest in Saturday's paper, which objects to the president's visit on Christian grounds. "As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers and to initiate war only as a last resort," the professors' letter states. "We believe your administration has launched an unjust and unjustified war in Iraq."

The White House isn't used to receiving this kind of reception -- in fact, as Friday's Los Angeles Times reported, a recently leaked memo from the conservative group Women Impacting Public Policy demonstrates the administration's strict criteria for weeding out dissenters at the president's "public" appearances. Since the administration can't guarantee that Bush will get the usual softball questions at Calvin, DailyKos speculates that Karl Rove -- who apparently arranged for the event with the expectation that it would be a pro-Bush no-brainer -- will manufacture some kind of "national emergency" to excuse the president from Saturday's speech. Tom Ridge may still be on standby yet!

Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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