marriage equality in the midwest…

I came across this gem of a guest column on Facebook earlier today (it can be found on the Indy Star website here).  The writer takes issue with IU’s president, Michael McRobbie, declaring the university’s intention to join the Indiana Freedom coalition, in opposition to the proposed gay-marriage ban now before the stage legislature:

Higher education once involved the pursuit of truth. Our universities (uni– meaning “one” and veritas – meaning “truth”) were concerned with creating an educational environment where the greatest questions of life could be pursued in an open environment where critical thinking and honest debate were an integral part of the process. And while the outcome might result in a difference of perspective, students were encouraged to demonstrate a healthy dose of tolerance for others who may see things differently. Back then, tolerance meant the ability to respectfully disagree.

It seems those days are long gone. Consider the recent actions of Michael McRobbie, president of Indiana University. McRobbie publicly declared IU’s opposition to the state’s proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as one man and one woman. Why would the president of one of our leading universities unilaterally express opposition to an institution that has served us well for several millennia? It seems “the lack of tolerance implicit in the proposed amendment runs counter to IU’s deeply held values.” McRobbie says the amendment would “codify an intolerance.”

Welcome to the political left’s new definition of tolerance. Instead of embracing the opportunity to engage the university in a healthy dialogue on this important issue, we simply receive an edict from the emperor. So much for an open-minded discussion and critical thinking about marriage and its vital role in a free society. Forget the invitations to leaders on both sides of the issue who could have been invited to campus to share their unique perspective on the future of marriage and the family. No chance for public policy debates, term papers submitted by students, speeches offered in class and a host of other meaningful educational opportunities that could have been seized. All we get is an edict. Anyone who disagrees is obviously a homophobic, bigoted, mean-spirited moron. End of discussion.

McRobbie’s actions are a disgrace to higher education and an insult to Indiana University’s faculty and student body. We don’t send our sons and daughters to our state universities to be told what to believe, let alone to be insulted by the president for not sharing the same beliefs about marriage. It’s a crime that the many strong arguments for protecting the institution of marriage will never be heard simply because of the intolerance and bigotry of our university thought police. This is not higher education. It’s indoctrination and bullying. Our students and taxpayers deserve better.

Ron Johnson Jr.

Executive Director

Indiana Pastors Alliance

Did you catch all that?  Because that was a lot of idiotic ruminating crowded into four short paragraphs.

To begin — and given that he’s criticizing the quality of the educational environment here at IU, I don’t consider it pedantic at all to nitpick this — he gets the etymology of “university” wrong.  While veritas is indeed part of IU’s motto (Lux et veritas, if you were wondering), it is not, in fact, a root of the word university.  That word comes instead directly from the Latin universitas, which translates roughly to “all turned into one.”  That is, a group of individuals joined into a single body.  It shares the same spirit as the United States’ former, unofficial motto, e pluribus unum — “from many, one.”

Aside from this stylistic quibble, there are several issues with the substance of his overall argument, all of which stem from this rhetorical question in paragraph two:

“Why would the president of one of our leading universities unilaterally express opposition to an institution that has served us well for several millennia?”

Let’s first consider the notion that marriage — as he defines and defends it — “has served us well for several millennia.”  I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that when he says “us”, he means… well… men.  Because to my knowledge, the institution of marriage has historically served to treat woman as property, keep them subjugated to male authority, make them ashamed of their bodies and inherent sexuality, and turn them into little more than live-in housekeepers and incubators of offspring.  Then there’s his — and so much of the Christian community’s — convenient omission of the fact that “biblical marriage” is much more complicated and sordid than they’d have us believe.

Next, there’s the intriguing assertion that support for expanding the legal definition of marriage is necessarily equivalent to antipathy towards his “biblical” definition.  Which is just nonsense.

Further, Johnson clearly believes that by announcing the University’s opposition to HRJ6, McRobbie has effectively shut down any debate on the subject here at IU.  Which is even greater nonsense.  McRobbie’s announcement has absolutely zero impact on discussions, debates, class assignments or any other learning activities regarding this — or any — public policy issue.  He simply does not have that power.  Really, all McRobbie has done is reflect, and reaffirm, the University’s non-discrimation policy.  IU has a vested interest in promoting and defending an environment in which a multitude of backgrounds and identities are not only welcomed, but treated equally under the law.  McRobbie knows this, and it would be irresponsible of him not to voice opposition to this bill.

Finally — and this is the part I love best — Johnson complains that McRobbie has made this proclamation “unilaterally”.  That the rest of us have simply received and “edict from the emperor.”  As if he awoke one morning and decided to announce the university’s position without telling anyone.  As if the board of trustees would not have been consulted.  I guess it would be appropriate to point out that the University’s faculty council voted unanimously to support Freedom Indiana, and that McRobbie wants the staff and student councils to consider similar resolutions as well.  That hardly sounds like a dictator seeking to cut off debate.

*****

It isn’t news to anyone paying attention that people like Pastor Johnson are on the wrong side of history.  Columns like these — in all their “look at us, we’re victims of a terrible secular world out to destroy people of faith” glory — are little more than the desperate cries of an ideology on the losing end of cultural evolution.

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