Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Frank Turek and Michael Shermer defend their debate to gay activists

Michael Shermer debates Frank Turek: atheism and morality

Michael Shermer debates Frank Turek: atheism and morality

Remember how I blogged on the debate between Frank Turek and Michael Shermer a few days ago?

Well, apparently, a group of gay activists did not like the debate, and they complained – presumably in order to punish the debate organizers and shut down future debates.

Turek and Shermer have responded to their challenge, though, in this letter to the editor. And Shermer will even be on Turek’s radio show at 10 AM Eastern to discuss their joint response.

The show can be heard here on the Cross Examined web site.

CrossExamined Radio Program and Podcast

Listen to CrossExamined with Frank Turek on American Family Radio network

Saturday, 10-11 am Eastern on AFR network streaming audio and FM radio

Tune in to our weekly call-in radio program hosted by Frank Turek on American Family Radio network. Join Frank as he discusses challenging topics, takes calls from listeners, and interviews dynamic Christian apologists. Sponsored by CrossExamined.org, this apologetics program is both informative and entertaining!

If you miss the show, the podcast archive is here.

And here’s part of the joint letter:

It’s not often that an atheist and a Christian, who have just had a debate on campus, can be brought into agreement by a group in the audience. But the Graduate Queer Alliance (GQA) at Stony Brook University has managed to do that. Their letter to the editor on April 30 was so full of false assertions and totalitarian demands that we, Dr. Michael Shermer (an atheist) and Dr. Frank Turek (a Christian), felt compelled to write this letter together in response.

The central assertion of the GQA is that anyone who expresses a negative opinion of same sex marriage or homosexual behavior is guilty of “hate speech” and should be barred from speaking at Stony Brook University. The GQA says this while also claiming to believe “that a university should provide an open forum for controversial ideas to be discussed and debated.” We both wonder how the GQA can hold these two contradictory opinions at the same time. After all, they say they are for the debate of controversial issues, but apparently only if both debaters hold the same position and that position agrees with the GQA. Some debate!

How is disagreement over controversial moral and political issues “hate speech?” If it is then GQA’s position is “hate speech” because it disagrees with people who believe marriage should be defined in other ways. Calling people names or characterizing their arguments as “hate speech” is not good public discourse designed to discover the truth; it is bullying—the very thing GQA should be against.

If you remember my post, the clip I played had some back and forth on gay rights in it. I guess the GQA didn’t like hearing any ideas contrary to their own.

More:

The true motives of the GQA are revealed by what is not in the letter: the arguments made by Dr. Shermer in support of same sex marriage, arguments he made with great passion that elicited equal passion—on both sides of the issue—from the audience. If those in the GQA are so interested in advancing their position through sound reason and science—which was Dr. Shermer’s point—why would they not highlight the arguments offered in support of it? Instead, the GQA seems to think they have a right not to hear an opposing opinion lest they be challenged!

It’s a shame that those in GQA appear so uninterested in evidence.

Well, read the whole thing.

I think the letter from the gay activists and the response are particularly interesting, especially given what Dr. George Yancey said in his essay on educational dogma, which I talked about yesterday.

This:

For the dogmatic, ideas that violate the notions defended by education dogma are deemed “dangerous” and too much for the tender ears of our students. So in additional to shouting down speakers there have been calls for “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” so that individuals do not have to listen to dangerous ideas. The true danger of these ideas is their threat to certain dogmatic beliefs of our students. These students are unwilling to consider the possibly that they are wrong, or perhaps not as right as they might believe. .

And:

For all practical purposes the students saw the speaker as a heretic. The use of the term heretic can bring up images of torturing, imprisoning and killing of those who disagree. This is not occurring. However, it is reasonable to ask whether the seemingly restraint of the students from such drastic actions is due to their moral compass or to the fact that they do not have the social power to engage in such actions. Education dogma has led to attempting to kick offending businesses off campus, attempts to fire professors, and the official “shunning” of students who hold the “wrong ideas.” Those with education dogma do punish those who violate their beliefs to the highest extent possible given their current level of institutional powers.

Dr. Yancey was talking about a different group of college leftists, but I think that’s exactly what’s going on here, too. For now, it’s shouting down and writing letters and getting people fired (which actually happened to Turek, before). But will they stop there?

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Must you agree with a person who threatens to kill himself if you don’t?

The latest from Life Site News about Stanford’s University’s attempt to suppress a pro-natural-marriage group’s campus event.

Excerpt:

At a recent GSC meeting, SAS co-president Judy Romea reminded student leaders that not only is the SAS not “anti-gay,” it stood “in solidarity” with homosexual groups against the controversial Westboro Baptist Church when it held a protest on campus.

But that wasn’t enough for campus gay activist groups, who turned out en masse for the same GSC meeting to demand that funding for the event be pulled.

“Their viewpoint kills people,” Jeffrey Cohen, vice president of GradQ, a homosexual advocacy group for graduate students, told the GSC.  “There’s a lot of research published in top psychology journals that have looked at university environments, both positive and negative. An event such as this would be a negative event, [and] in schools that have negative events there is a statistically significant increase in suicide.”  He said the last time a pro-marriage speaker visited the campus, someone told him “they wanted to kill themselves.”

Cohen said he was especially “bothered by the idea that their conference is trying to create better ways to deliver [the pro-marriage] message. … The idea that they are learning how to deliver their message scares [me].”  Cohen suggested SAS cancel its conference and instead hold a joint event with GradQ in which gay activists would have a chance to promote their message too.

Ben Holston, chair of the undergraduate senate, also threw his weight behind the gay groups. “This is an event that hurts the Stanford community,” Holston said. “To express a belief that, for some reason this event is not discriminatory, is completely off-base. This event as it stands, given the speakers, and given that they have said the event is supposed to ‘promote one-man one-woman [marriage],’ which promotes stripping away rights of people in this room, is unacceptable on Stanford’s campus.”  He urged the GSC to withdraw its funding for the conference.

Now I’m chaste, and a virgin, so I was just imagining what it would be like for me at Yale during Sex Week, when my student fees (hypothetically) would be used to bring in sex addicts to instruct college students that my view is sick and twisted and that binge drinking and premarital promiscuity is morally praiseworthy. Does anyone here seriously think that I would threaten to commit suicide unless people who disagreed with my chastity and virginity stopped disagreeing with me? No. A sex addict’s disapproval of my chastity and virginity doesn’t make me want to commit suicide, because I am not insane. I’m also not engaged in immoral behavior by being chaste and remaining a virgin. Criticism of me for being moral doesn’t bother me – that’s your problem if you disagree with morality.

If you tell me that what I’m doing is wrong, I’ve got piles of papers in peer-reviewed journals showing me that for my plans – life-long married love and influential Christian children raised by a stay-at-home mom – chastity is the best plan. But it doesn’t bother me if you disagree with me, and I’m not going to attack your place of work with guns, vandalize your church, or force you to lose your job – because I’m not a gay activist. I don’t care that you disagree with me, because I believe that there is a right to free speech and no right to force you to celebrate and fund my sexual orientation.

That gay activist sounded insane, but I don’t think that most gay people agree with him.

Look:

Ben, a graduate student in neuroscience, told the GSC that even though he is homosexual, he believes the SAS should be able to access the same student funding as any other group.

“What bothers [me] the most is that in the name of tolerance, we are silencing and taking away support from a view that we don’t agree with,” Ben said. “These views are out there, we should listen to them. I totally disagree with these people, but we need to hear what they have to say.  We need to hear SAS.”

Now there is a gay person I can tolerate – because he tolerates me.

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Psychological Society of Ireland: disagreement with same-sex marriage is harmful

This is from Spiked Online.

It says:

To see how straitjacketed the debate about gay marriage has become, look no further than Ireland.

There, on 22 May, there will be a referendum, with voters asked to say Yes or No to amending the Irish Constitution so that marriage will be redefined as a union between ‘two persons without distinction as to their sex’. Sounds good, right? An opportunity for an actual electorate to have a debate and have its say on the future of marriage? Not so fast.

The run-up to the referendum has been about as far from a fair or open debate as it’s possible to get. One side in the debate – the side that is critical of gay marriage – is demonised daily, treated virtually as heretics, almost as criminals. It’s accused of causing psychological harm, branded as ‘hate speakers’, and frequently forced to make public apologies simply for expressing its belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman. And as a writer for the Irish Independent says, ‘It’s not a debate if one side can’t speak’. The public discussion before the Irish referendum has not been a debate, she says – it’s been ‘a Two Minutes Hate’ against anyone who doesn’t think gay marriage is the greatest idea ever.

Pretty much the entire establishment in Ireland, aside from the increasingly uninfluential bishops and priests, backs gay marriage (giving the lie to the gay-marriage movement’s depiction of itself as a beleaguered minority bravely battling The Man for its civil rights). From the prime minister, Enda Kenny, to the vast majority of Dail Eireann, to pretty much the whole media – most notably the Irish Times, voice of the minuscule cultural elite in Dublin that sets the moral and political agenda in Ireland – every person with power is rallying for gay marriage. And barely a week passes when they don’t demonise the other side, the smaller, less powerful side, the side which, in opposing gay marriage, is apparently harming citizens, causing violence and, worst of all, jeopardising Ireland’s political future.

As with all heretics in history, Ireland’s opponents of gay marriage stand accused of directly harming the public. So last month, the Psychological Society of Ireland issued a dire warning that the propaganda of the anti-gay marriage camp could ‘impact detrimentally on people’. PSI said it is ‘seriously concerned’ that this lobby’s claim that traditional marriage is better than gay marriage, on the grounds that a mother and father make better parents than two people of the same sex, could have ‘far-reaching implications’. It chastised opponents of gay marriage for promoting ideas that ‘run contrary to the positions of professional bodies’ – that is, for daring to defy the new priests: the expert class – and said their words could wreak mental and moral havoc.

As one news report summed it up, PSI thinks that ‘the debate itself [my italics] carrie[s] the potential to have detrimental effects, both psychological and emotional, on adults and children’. So discussion is dangerous; positing a view that runs counter to the elite’s outlook could cause emotional damage. It’s remarkable how much the authoritarian boot has shifted: once it was those who denied Biblical truths who were accused of doing moral harm to citizens; now it is those who cleave to Christian views and doubt gay marriage whose words, whose desire to have a debate, are depicted as dangerous, warping things.

Rod Dreher is following the religious liberty issue pretty closely, and he wrote this recently:

I had a 30-minute phone conversation today with a prominent Christian physician who works at one of the great medical institutions in the world, here in the US. He reached out to me through a mutual friend to say to me how important it is to raise the alarm about what’s happening on this front, and to start networking and building institutions to help us get through what is to come.

“This is what I think you mean with the Benedict Option,” he said, correctly. “You need to write that book so somebody can give the public a clear understanding of where we are, how we got here, and what we’re going to have to do to get through what’s coming.”

We were talking on background, so I don’t feel comfortable relating specific details of our discussion here. He gave me a lot of deeply concerning information about what’s happening in the medical world around this and related culture-war issues. He said he’s been watching it unfold for some time now, and he’s been trying to make people understand that Christians in this country are facing something unprecedented in US history.

One of the things he sees coming, and coming fast: the inability of many professionals, and not only in the medical field, to work unless they sign off on things they cannot in good conscience accept. “We’re going to see jobs lost and retirements lost,” he said.

In his institution, said the doctor, every single one of his colleagues believes that on LGBT issues, Christians who hold to the orthodox view are no better than segregationists. This cultural attitude is sooner or later going to be absorbed into the law.

To just to let you know how this has affected me personally – on Thursday afternoon, my entire Facebook account with 1103 friends and 933 people who liked this blog’s page were shut down for “abusive” speech. We will never know who exactly was responsible for the charges, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was more of what’s going on in Ireland right now. What does the secular left know about free speech? Nothing. I would sooner hope for mercy from a lion than hope for tolerance from the secular left. They are fascists.

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Hillary Clinton attacks Indiana’s religious liberty law

First, let’s take a look at what Jesus says about same-sex marriage.

Matthew 19:1-6:

1 Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.

2 And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”

4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,

5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?

6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Now, let’s see some reactions to the Indiana law, which I explained in a previous blog post, from people on the secular left.

Hillary Clinton thinks that any arrangement of people who love each other is as good as any other:

Hillary Clinton opposes religious liberty

Hillary Clinton opposes religious liberty

Her tweet implies support for incestuous relationships being “marriage” as well as polygamy. That is a direct logical implication of calling an arrangement of people who love each other “marriage”.

But she’s not the only one.

Marriage defender Ryan T. Anderson responds to Apple CEO Tim Cook in the Daily Signal.

He writes:

Apple CEO Tim Cook has taken to The Washington Post to tell the nation that, in the words of the headline, “Pro-discrimination ‘religious freedom’ laws are dangerous.”

Notice the scare quotes around “religious freedom.” But the reality is that the only person in favor of discrimination in this debate is Tim Cook.

It is Tim Cook who favors laws that discriminate against people of faith who simply ask to be left alone by government to run their businesses and their schools and their charities in accordance with their reasonable belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. It is Tim Cook who would have the government discriminate against these citizens, have the government coerce them into helping to celebrate a same-sex wedding and penalize them if they try to lead their lives in accordance with their faith.

[…]As Sarah Torre and I explained last week, Indiana’s religious freedom law protects citizens from government coercion—it places the burden of proof on the government if it is going to violate liberty. For over 20 years, the federal government has lived by this standard—the Religious Freedom Restoration Act  passed unanimously in the House, with 97 votes in the Senate, and was signed into law by Bill Clinton. Twenty states have passed this law. And 11 additional states have religious liberty protections that state courts have interpreted to provide a similar level of protection.

So, in total, the federal court system and 31 state court systems enforce this level of protection. Why is Tim Cook suddenly opposed to it?

The answer is simple: This isn’t a debate about Religious Freedom Restoration Acts. This is a debate about whether Americans should remain free to live in accordance with the truth about marriage in their public lives. This is a debate about whether or not the government should be able to coerce people into violating their belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.

This is what the Indiana law is suppose to defend against:

Again, it’s not a slam dunk – all it says is that when a secular big government sues a person of any religion to force them to deny their faith, then religious liberty can be brought in as part of their defense during their day in court. By the way, always vote for smaller government, then these things don’t even happen because marriage, family and private businesses are less regulated.

How is the law applied?

This article from The Federalist lists 10 examples of how religious freedom laws have been applied.

Here’s one:

7) Muslim prisoner fights to wear short beard: Abdul Muhammad
Abdul Muhammad is a Muslim incarcerated in Arkansas. He was not allowed to grow the 1/2 inch beard his religion commands even though Arkansas permits beards for other reasons. And the same beard would have been allowed in 44 state and federal prison systems in the country. In 2011, he filed suit. He won the suit using the “RFRA for prisoners” — the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. That bill was also signed by Bill Clinton.Earlier this year, Muhammad won his case unanimously at the United States Supreme Court. They held that he’d shown the restriction was a substantial burden on his religious exercise.

And:

9) Florida denies prisoners kosher meals: Bruce Rich

Bruce Rich is an Orthodox Jewish prisoner in Florida, one of the last remaining states in the country that doesn’t provide kosher food for Jewish prisoners. He argued this violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, RFRA for prisoners.

Florida claimed it limited food options to control costs and maintain security. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which took Rich’s case, noted that 35 states and the federal government provided kosher meals without it posing a problem.

[…]Rich withdrew his case once Florida began providing the necessary meals.

Does this law sound like a free pass to discriminate against gays to you? It goes to trial, and religious liberty is part of the defense that the judge considers.

Look at this opinion from another Indiana law professor:

I should stress–and this point was totally lost in the Indiana debate–that RFRA does not provide immunity. It only allows a defendant to raise a defense, which a finder of fact must consider, like any other defense that can be raised under Title VII or the ADA. RFRA is *not* a blank check to discriminate.

Here’s another defense of the Indiana law by an Indiana University law professor who supports same-sex marriage.

You can read another analysis of the religious liberty law from Gabriel Malor, a gay conservative. Actually, I re-tweeted THREE gay conservatives who were in favor of the law yesterday (Gabriel Malor, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Gay Patriot).  This is not what you are hearing in the mainstream media, but is being used as a club to beat Christians into silence. And sadly, many younger evangelicals will respond to this and vote Democrat out of a lack of understanding of the issues.

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How to respond to complaints about Indiana’s new religious freedom law

Good news to start your day!

Good news to start your day!

First, the story, from the Daily Signal:

A bill known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been signed into law by the governor.

Supporters of Indiana Senate Bill 101 say that the law protects the free practice of religion, and opponents say the law will allow gay and lesbian individuals to be discriminated against.

For example, the law could permit business owners who felt that being forced to serve a certain customer in a particular case violated their religious beliefs to appeal to a judge. The courts would then decide if their objection was valid or not.

The bill was passed by the House 63-31 on Monday, and was approved by the Senate 40-10.

Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind.,  approved the legislation today.

“Indiana is rightly celebrated for the hospitality, generosity, tolerance and values of our people, and that will never change,” Pence said in a statement. “Faith and religion are important values to millions of Hoosiers and with the passage of this legislation, we ensure that Indiana will continue to be a place where we respect freedom of religion and make certain that government action will always be subject to the highest level of scrutiny that respects the religious beliefs of every Hoosier of every faith.”

This is the key part:

Sarah Torre, a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal that the bill is modeled off of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which passed with bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

The federal law “prohibits substantial burdens on religious exercise unless the government can show a compelling interest in burdening religious liberty and does so through the least restrictive way possible,” said Torre. “Protections for religious freedom, like the one passed in Indiana, provide a commonsense way to balance the fundamental right to religious liberty with compelling government interests.”

Torre said that it’s important to note that the law “doesn’t allow individuals to do whatever they wish in the name of religion:”

“The law is simply a commonsense way of balancing government interests with the fundamental freedom of individuals to live out their faith. There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression—to ensure public safety, for instance. But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Such legislation at the state and federal level merely protects First Amendment rights, according to Torre.

“A robust conception of religious liberty provides every person the freedom to seek the truth, form beliefs, and live according to the dictates of his or her conscience—whether at home, in worship, or at work,” said Torre.

Torre added that 19 other states have similar laws.

And if that were not enough, here is an Indianapolis Star editorial from law professor at Indiana University School of Law – who supports same-sex marriage – who is in favor of Indiana passing the bill.

He writes:

I am a supporter of gay rights, including same-sex marriage. But as an informed legal scholar, I also support the proposed Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

[…]The bill would establish a general legal standard, the “compelling interest” test, for evaluating laws and governmental practices that impose substantial burdens on the exercise of religion. This same test already governs federal law under the federal RFRA, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. And some 30 states have adopted the same standard, either under state-law RFRAs or as a matter of state constitutional law.

[…]But granting religious believers legal consideration does not mean that their religious objections will always be upheld. And this brings us to the issue of same-sex marriage.

Under the Indiana RFRA, those who provide creative services for weddings, such as photographers, florists or bakers, could claim that religious freedom protects them from local nondiscrimination laws. Like other religious objectors, they would have their day in court, as they should, permitting them to argue that the government is improperly requiring them to violate their religion by participating (in their view) in a celebration that their religion does not allow.

But courts generally have ruled that the government has a compelling interest in preventing discrimination and that this interest precludes the recognition of religious exceptions. Even in the narrow setting of wedding-service providers, claims for religious exemptions recently have been rejected in various states, including states that have adopted the RFRA test. A court could rule otherwise, protecting religious freedom in this distinctive context. But to date, none has.

In any event, most religious freedom claims have nothing to do with same-sex marriage or discrimination. The proposed Indiana RFRA would provide valuable guidance to Indiana courts, directing them to balance religious freedom against competing interests under the same legal standard that applies throughout most of the land. It is anything but a “license to discriminate,” and it should not be mischaracterized or dismissed on that basis.

What the secular leftists in the media are saying is that the law gives religious people the right to reject any customer for any reason. Big businesses, which are overwhelmingly leftist, are also reacting the same way. The truth – as we saw above – is nothing like what the secular leftists are saying. The law is simply an echo of a federal law that already exists and was signed by Bill Clinton. Well done, Indiana. Well done, Republican legislators. Well done, Governor Mike Pence.

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