Gay issues

“End of discussion” won’t occur if Centennial Institute can help it

As chairman of the annual Western Conservative Summit, I was pleased to invite back for this year's edition our longtime friends and political allies, Mary Katharine Ham and Guy Benson, to talk about their important new book, End of Discussion: How the Left’s Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free. Both have spoken at several previous Summits, and Guy has road-tripped to places like Grand Junction CO and Scottsdale AZ on behalf of the Institute’s freedom message. Why the invitation? Because I see timeliness and urgency in Ham and Benson’s defense of the American ideal of open, spirited, civil debate in the public square, and in their case studies of assaults on that ideal by progressives. Their book valuably reinforces our mission at Centennial Institute, as Colorado Christian University’s think tank, to equip citizens "to be seekers of truth [and] to debunk spent ideas” (quoting from the CCU Strategic Objectives).

It is precisely for that reason, because America needs better citizenship and lots of it, that any good citizen with a thoughtful message is always welcome on our speaker platform. We’ve had Marxists, Darwinists, Freudians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, and gays, not in most cases to present a worldview we reject, but to further the discussion on great issues of the day, worldview aside. That open forum, all comers given a hearing, has been and will remain our policy.

Thus when Guy Benson recently stated he is gay — putting it on record for intellectual honesty and putting it in perspective as a mere footnote at the back of his and Mary Katharine Ham’s book — we viewed the disclosure as immaterial to our reasons for having invited the two authors months before. Neither is coming to the Summit to speak on gay marriage or on gayness in any way. They are coming to speak on keeping the public square open. What a surrender if Centennial Institute moved for its closure by suddenly declaring them unwelcome.

We program the Western Conservative Summit by weighing our invited speakers’ capability as advocates and the merits of their civic vision, not by appraising their personal lives. We’re not confident how well any of us could stand such an appraisal ourselves, if the secrets of all hearts were known. Rather, as followers of Jesus and servants of a Christian university, in our dealings with every individual, we want to live out what St. Paul called “the Gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).

Benson and Ham’s book title calls out one side of the political divide, the Left, for trying to shut down debate and thus make America less free. But neither side is guiltless. Centennial Institute, committed as we are to freedom, faith, and family, will not waver on those core truths as biblically proclaimed. Nor will we yield to anyone’s ad hominem call to end discussion, be it from Left or Right. Let the discussion flourish unafraid, we say. Let truth and error freely contend. We’re certain the truth will prevail.

end discussion book cover

"Ad hate-a-man" argumentation

Nothing is more vital to a healthy body politic than reasoned debate. But that hardly means it is very welcome, as the side with the least defensible argument has the most to lose. The fallacious argument known as "to the man," or "ad hominem," is the most common weapon resorted to when an advocate can’t win an argument on the merits. It attacks a person rather than his argument. In this era of unprincipled politics, ad hominem argument has long since morphed into what I’m calling "ad hate-a-man," or the claim that arguments disliked are really based on hatred of members of groups rather than on any legitimate points. Since races, genders, "lifestyles" and religions distinct from the presumed white, male, Christian majority in America have become privileged, minions of the far left castigate their critics as racist, sexist, homophobic bigots.

Criticism of racial preference schemes, such as affirmative action or racial diversity, in which members of minority races are given the edge in hiring, college admission and contracting, is invariably put down to racism. The initial and wholly defensible goal of the civil rights movement half a century ago was a color-blind society in which merit rather than race was the basis for distributing jobs, schooling and business. But that was abandoned before the ink was dry on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and honored today only by those who oppose racial preference.

Similarly, if anyone suggests that the natural differences between men and women are of more than passing significance, especially where strength, endurance and decency are relevant, they are dismissed as sexists wanting to keep women "barefoot and pregnant." Nor do the interests of women themselves matter very much to advocates of "liberation" if they are so benighted as to prefer marriage and family to a lifelong career in the marketplace.

The most potent form of "ad hate-a-man" currently concerns the homosexual agenda. Routinely, whenever anyone argues that the natural division of the human race into men and women indicates that homosexuality, lesbianism, etc. are not a basis for marriage, it is often the occasion for screaming and, at times, violence. Homosexuals who keep their relations private but do not support "gay marriage" are not uncommonly "outed" for their apostasy.

There was a time, not long ago, when the Judaeo-Christian tradition in America, which combined government neutrality regarding religious denominations with robust Biblical faith among our people, was a solid basis for both good government and good citizenship. As statesmen from George Washington to George Bush emphasized, morality does not exist in a vacuum and, for us, is the beneficent contribution of Biblical faiths.

Nothing symbolized this tradition more than public ceremonies, such as graduations, where pastors, priests and rabbis alternated in the offering of invocations and benedictions. That this is not unconstitutional is attested to by the fact that our Declaration of Independence teaches that our rights as human beings derive from our Creator, Who is referred to as lawgiver, Divine Providence and Supreme Judge of the World.

The Old and New testaments teach a morality based on piety and emphasizing reverence for parents, self control and respect for the rights of others. The American founders did not need to conjure up some "new morality" that was appropriate to life in the new republic. The morality of the Bible was more than sufficient.

Nothing is more central to the practice of that morality than love. Believers are taught that sin, or falling short of the glory of God, is to be avoided and certainly not to be loved. But nothing in that teaching prescribes or even implies hatred for the sinner. Those who insist otherwise are mistaken.

There is much concern about torture, or alleged torture, these days, which may be seen by some as simply being subjected to something they dislike. Would it be torture for those who believe that Christians and Jews are hateful, particularly those who reject abortion and same-sex marriage, to sit through a service and be subjected to all that alleged hatred?

Or would they be shocked to find out that believers are admonished to "judge not, lest [they] be judged?" Indeed, past critics of Christianity feared that its "nonjudgmental" attitude was inconsistent with the requirements of citizenship. But believers have long appreciated the fact that greater freedom of religion exists in this country than in any other and their patriotism runs deep.

All that "hatred" which some profess to see in those who disagree with them exists only in their imaginations.

GOP must keep defending marriage

Standing up for your principles is as important as knowing what they are. That's a key post-election lesson for Republicans. After 2008 we’ve learned that we need to know who we are and then not betray the party faithful. But that also means we must be careful to choose wisely the principles we adhere to and defend. For political expediency, and to increase the size of the tent, our political leaders condone, and some even advocate, abandoning some long-standing social principles (i.e. Log Cabin Republicans). We should take pause and carefully consider our individual action or abstaining in this area. We must be thoughtful when we stand up and take ownership of this party.

Bending with the gale of social passions is something the left is comfortable doing. Power is their only purpose and the fuel with which to feed itself more power. They abandon any principle they feel will hamper their drive for complete social power. For example, in Ben Smith’s recent blog on civil unions and marriage, he writes how in a few short years, the political correctness of gay rights has moved dramatically ‘pro’ and become more socially acceptable. He writes:

“Here's a marker of the warp-speed change in the politics of same-sex marriage: Back in 2000, Howard Dean was a gay rights hero for signing a civil union measure -- forced on him by the courts -- into law. Four years later, civil unions are the fallback for the center-right, and Vermont is considering same-sex marriage, and Dean was campaigning for it in Burlington last weekend.”

Those who are agnostic with their social principles will continue to hammer on those who are not. Why should anyone take a stand and go against the tide of social convenience? Because it matters.

Murder motivations don’t matter much

Lately the media have been filled with news of particularly heinous crimes, such as the recent mass murders in Alabama and North Carolina. We should be neither jaded nor hysterical about these horrible events but I confess that the crime reported Monday about the young man in Milton, Massachusetts, who stabbed his 17-year-old sister to death and decapitated his five-year-old sister, nearly moved me to tears. The only good thing that occurred–or didn’t occur–was that he was prevented from killing his nine-year-old sister by a timely bullet fired by a police officer, whose chief described the situation as "a killing field."

In what has become routine in these cases, the writer of the AP story said that "There was no clear motive" for the crime, which occurred at the five-year-old’s birthday party "in a tony Boston suburb that also is home to Gov. Deval Patrick."

Doubtless readers wonder what difference the neighborhood or the residents make, but I question the sense in inquiring about the motive. Let’s be clear on this: murder is a heinous crime whatever the motive is.

The unstated assumption behind examining the shooter’s motive is that multiple murders require an explanation. Who in his right mind would do such a thing, right? Why, he must have been crazy. And once we establish that about the killer, you know what’s coming next. That’s right, the insanity defense.

Has there ever been a more useful way of dodging a murder charge, or at least of avoiding the death penalty? If 23-year-old Kerby Revelus had not been killed, he would have been judged insane, pitied more than condemned and sent away for "treatment" at a facility that provides room and board and three meals a day, and recreation too. Fortunately, justice was done on the spot.

The truth is, the motive, or lack of motive, doesn’t matter. A young man killed two of his sisters and he got what he deserved. Thank God we’ve been spared the charade provided by defense lawyers who specialize in diverting attention from the crime and concentrating on the perpetrator's alleged lack of deliberate motive.

The motive does not count so that we might "understand" why a murder was committed, but it does count when the police investigators or the district attorneys don’t not have solid proof. That is, when they are trying to link a suspect or a defendant with a crime, motive (along with time and opportunity) may be part of the web of circumstances which prove guilt.

Although motive is irrelevant except for proving guilt, it is relevant in determining the seriousness of the crime. Crimes of passion draw lesser penalities than those committed with malice aforethought. Deliberate, cold-blooded murder draws worse penalties than accessory to murder or manslaughter (or at least it should).

But there has been some equivocation in recent years. Those who drive drunk and cause fatal accidents are being treated like murderers in our courts. I’m not so sure this represents the exercise of judicial equity in supplying defects in legislative intent or is in response to understandable public outrage. But legislatures should make clear in well-framed statutes that repeat drunken drivers who leave death in their wake do in fact merit trial as murderers and not leave it up to the varying determinations of local judges.

It is in the area of racially or sexually related crimes where motives have caused the most confusion. Crimes with this link are judged as more serious than otherwise. But when victims become privileged by their identities, we are entering a thicket of moral pretentiousness. How is it worse when the victim is black or homosexual and (a necessary corollary to this politically correct indulgence) the suspect or defendant is white or heterosexual? Does this imply that when white kills white or black kills black, the crime, other things being equal, should be deemed less serious?

And this is not merely academic. There is a lot more black on black crime than white on black. Law-abiding blacks unfortunate enough to be living in high crime areas are forgotten victims to our major media. That, after all, doesn’t support the well-worn liberal thesis that America is a racist country. And we’re supposed to believe we’re a homophobic country too when straight men murder gay men.

Motivation matters most to authorities trying to solve crimes or convict defendants, but it is hardly an excuse for crime. Degrees of culpability or responsibility are certainly relevant in fixing penalties, but they matter not at all just because crimes are committed across racial or sexual lines.

What rule by Democrats brings

It has often been said that, as California goes, so goes the nation. And for good reason. With the largest population and so many talented and influential people, the Golden State has long set the standard, for good or for ill, in both the public and private sector. It is the public sector that concerns us now. Long before Democrats took control of our national government, they had effective control over California government, whether or not there were Republican governors. Democrat control of Congress for half a century limited what Republican could presidents do, too.

Some have likened California government to a kind of social experiment in which every political, economic, social or pseudo-scientific nostrum gets free play because of the iron lock Democrats have on the legislature. As long as redistricting has been in the hands of the legislature, district lines have been drawn to freeze the political advantage of the permanent Democrat majority and Republican minority.

Even term limits have done nothing to change this. Time will tell whether the measure enacted by California voters last year to put the redistricting power in a commission will make any difference either.

In any event, because of their dominance–and more important, because of their "progressive" (i.e., interventionist, latitudinarian) principles–Democrats now threaten to enfeeble commerce, drive away entrepreneurs, curtail government by consent and, as practically everyone knows, bankrupt the state's government.

Surely the most useless comment that is made about politics is that party labels don’t matter, that one should vote for the person and not for the party, that there’s no difference between the parties, that we can all get along if we just put aside partisan differences, ad nauseam.

California Republicans are pretty disappointed in Gov. Schwarzenegger because he wants to balance the budget with a combination of spending cuts, tax increases and borrowing (not to mention kicking the fiscal can further down the road to the "out years"), and they are right to be. A more principled man, like Tom McClintock, for instance, who also ran in the recall election that dispatched Gov. Gray Davis, would be standing firm.

However, since Californians have who they have, and especially since there are lopsided Democrat majorities in both the Assembly and the Senate, a "solution" will ultimately be found that is fiscally irresponsible. What is needed is not only need a staunch Republican governor, but also a Republican legislature.

Democrats on principle oppose tax cuts and spending cuts because they want a big, intrusive government that overrides free citizens in a free marketplace. They believe that markets are incapable of allocating resources fairly, because they believe "fair" means equal conditions rather than equal rights. They are oblivious to the fact that unrestrained government spending, with its corollary of high taxes on incomes, sales and properties, is lowering the standard of living and diminishing economic opportunities.

The flip side of government micro managing commerce is moral latitudinarianism for the populace. Sexuality freed from moral or legal constraints is consistent with the short-sighted, present-oriented perspective that the government has aided and abetted via the credit crisis in which many people, rich and poor and in between, have gotten in way over their heads.

Consistent with this pernicious policy is the virtual conspiracy by all three branches of state government to challenge the right of the people to determine what their constitution shall protect or secure. Together Democrat Attorney General Jerry Brown, Democrats in the legislature and, of course, a majority of the State Supreme Court seek to set aside the clear decision of Californians last fall to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The Court’s ruling last May that homosexual and lesbian couples have a "right" to marriage, which not only the current common sense limitation but even civil unions evidently cannot adequately satisfy, might have provoked a constitutional crisis from an attorney general who is required to uphold the law in court or a state legislature which is authorized to legislate, but in fact all three branches are in cahoots.

The shocking thing about the California government’s movement to shut down Proposition 8 is that it’s no secret and therefore it is not, strictly speaking, a conspiracy. Considering the fact that it is aimed at the right of self government, the foundation for our republic, it is deserving of the massive public outrage that an offense of this magnitude should generate. It must not be allowed to stand. Only Republicans can be counted upon to perform this necessary work.