Friday, September 29, 2006


Unagile Minds

David French is a senior legal counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, which describes itself as a "legal ministry" that

... provides regular, extensive, and top-level training through an accredited academy program to help practicing attorneys successfully defend and reclaim religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, and traditional family values.
Mr. French has an article at National Review Online that reveals a mode of thought so endemic to the religious right as to possibly represent a reliable diagnostic of the mental processes of those people who will be attracted to conservative theism.

According to Mr. French, the "campus Left" is violating the separation of church and state by taking sides in "religious" questions "over the Left’s currently fashionable civil-rights issue -- homosexuality." I don't want to get into the larger issues of church-state separation in this context, since I'm not familiar with the specifics of the case Mr. French is involved in. Suffice it to say that the courts recognize that schools have more leeway on content with older students not attending mandatory classes.

French complains about statements on homosexuality at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Texas but his complaint about this from the University of Michigan caught my eye:

Some texts of the Old Testament are used to condemn homosexuality. Taken literally and out of context, Biblical passages can be used to justify slavery, prohibit the wearing of red dresses, and eating of shrimp and shellfish, and to reinforce the inferiority of women.
French grouses:

So there you have it. At Michigan, religious conservatives are not only like slaveowners and misogynists, they also are as contemptible as those philistines who dislike Benetton’s fall line.
Now, try as I might, I don't see where the above statement says or even implies that present day religious conservatives are like slaveowners and misogynists. It is a simple historical fact that the Bible has been used to justify slavery and misogyny. Presumably, Mr. French would agree that such uses were an abuse of the Bible. When addressing the question of a student's attitude, while attending a pluralistic institution, towards homosexual faculty and fellow students, is it amiss to inform young adults of the fact that the interpretations some people have given to the Bible in the past have been abusive and, therefore, perhaps should be taken with a grain of salt?

It is this confusion of mere association with cause and effect that makes some people accept the Looney-Tunes conspiracy theories of the likes of D. James Kennedy that would blame "Darwinism" for Nazism, Communism and the heartbreak of psoriasis. Simply noting the past use of the Bible to bad ends does not make it or its present adherents bad, anymore than the misuse of the language of science by someone like Hitler makes science the cause of the Holocaust. Thinking adults can look at the university's statement and realize that it is a caution against facile readings of the Bible, not against any particular group.

French then compares these statements to:

... the most famous leftist establishment-clause case of this decade: The Dover, Pennsylvania, Intelligent Design litigation. In that case, the national media and the campus Left fretted over the coming dark night of theocracy because a school board required science teachers to read a brief statement that said “Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view.” Oh, and the nefarious statement also said, “With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind.” The horror.

So, with respect to a debate over the origins of life, a statement asking students to “keep an open mind” and noting the existence of an alternative view is just too coercive. But when the debate involves sexual morality, it is just fine to compare conservative Christianity to the theology of slavers and to pontificate on the nature of the “God they truly believe in.” Censorship is now acceptable to the free-speech champions of the Sixties, so it only makes sense that those who drove God from the public square are setting up state-run Sunday schools.
Now, let's not forget the very statement of purpose of the ID advocates and the justifiable concern that the "brief statement" (which also recommended reference to a religious tome that was to be kept in a science classroom) was intended as the narrow edge of a Wedge for forcing theological instruction into public schools. But more importantly, are any of the statements on homosexuality being required to be taught as theological truth in sectarian religious classes? As has been pointed out time and time again, ID can be offered as an issue of philosophy or sociology in public K-12 schools. But religious statements, no matter how disguised, cannot be forced into science classes without turning them into sectarian exercises only appropriate for seminaries.

French accuses this "campus Left" of "mental agility" because he sees its attitudes as contradictory. When you are ossified, pretty much everything is going to look agile.

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