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What does academic intolerance of real debate mean for free speech?


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ACADEMIC INTOLERANCE OF DEBATE 

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, today I’d like to take you to an op-ed piece written by George Will. It has to do with a situation that took place back in 2014 at Marquette University, which is a Jesuit school in Milwaukee. On October 28th of that year, an undergraduate course that Cheryl Abbate was teaching on ethics, when the subject of same-sex marriage arose, there was no debate because the students said the graduate student teacher insisted that there could be no defensible opposition to same-sex marriage.

This particular situation was recorded by this student and it was elevated to a gentleman named John McAdams, who was head over the department.  He encouraged that there be debate on this issue. Although he, himself, took no particular position, his comments were then labeled as “hate speech” and then he was told he would be suspended for two semesters without pay.

COURT CASE: DEFERENCE OR DERELICTION?

DR. REEDER: He went to the court system. First of all, his contract on academic freedom which, by the way, included a statement by the university that no professor could have their constitutional rights abridged which is, by the way, freedom of speech and the free practice of religion.

The appeals court punted because they said, “Well, this is a private school so an academic institution can determine its own interpretation of its contract.” Well, certainly, elements of that are true, but you cannot abandon a contract and that’s why the court system is there to see have they abandoned their contract, not can they interpret it so that it becomes meaningless. And so they then deferred any consideration of the case.

Well, George Will did an editorial on it, Tom, and he made the point, “This was not judicial deference; this was judicial dereliction of duty.” That this is the kind of thing the court exists to do and his appeal was that the Wisconsin Supreme Court will not let this go unaddressed and that the appeal to the Supreme Court will be heard.

WHAT THIS MEAN FOR CHRISTIANS

What we want to do, of course, is take a look at this news event from a Christian world and life view which, first of all, this graduate student tells this tenured professor that he is a right-wing homophobe because he believes the issue of same-sex marriage ought to be debated. Basically, what you’re saying is anyone who has held to traditional marriage – which, by the way, for thousands of years, is what western civilization has built its entire civilization upon, a monogamous, covenantal, heterosexual marital foundation from which families are established and from which culture is upheld and culture is nurtured from generation to generation – so her position is that’s thousands of years of right-wing homophobic bigotry. That’s her position.

This professor is simply saying, “Wait just a minute. This is worthy of debate. Free speech ought to debate these things in a free society where sexual ethics are now being revolutionized to allow what would once have been unthinkable and declare it not only thinkable, but doable and normal, acceptable, and affirmed.

And now, anyone who opposes it can no longer be tolerated in the public square and so that certainly ought to be a matter of debate. And the court did not address the freedoms that would support that debate within this institution.

Now, let me first of all just say that this is a private institution. If they do not want anyone in their institution who represents traditional marriage, that’s their business.

I would only point out to people that Marquette is a Jesuit school which historically, by the way, was the most conservative order among the Roman Catholic priests and that the Jesuit school, by the dogma of the church, affirms marriage as one man, one woman for one life.

Therefore, it’s simply a university in which a professor is at least asking for a debate concerning the opposition to the Church’s position so you have both the freedom of speech and the free practice of religion at stake in this situation.

What we need to see is the sexual revolution is not going to take any prisoners. Even in a “religious” institution, they are demanding that anyone who holds to the historic Christian view of marriage – that is, again, covenantal, monogamous, heterosexual, conjugal relationship –  is now not to be tolerated. Their view, it’s not that it is destroyed in debate – it is it can’t be a part of the debate.

CHRISTIANS, PREPARE TO DEBATE, NOT HIDE

Now what does that reveal? Well, that reveals that, folks, you’re not going to be able to hide in this sexual revolution – nobody is – and you’re going to have to make a determination if you are going to have a world and life view imposed upon you that is irrational and nonsensical or will you call for at least the debate of this sexual revolution in the public square and insist on the debate in the public square?

And the alternative is that we will return to the anarchy of pagan sexuality, which is what the same-sex marriage proposal is built upon and that is a society that recognizes no God-ordained distinctions in the society of male and female that is accommodated and embraced in the very definition of marriage.

ARE INSTITUTIONS UPHOLDING THEIR FOUNDATIONAL STANDARDS?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, yesterday, we talked about the need for the federal government to bring together a Blue-Ribbon Panel to make wise financial decisions. What does this situation say about the Catholic Church and Marquette University hiring people to lead classes on ethics that totally go against the foundational mandates of the Catholic Church?

DR. REEDER: Should Marquette University, if they embrace the dogma of the Roman Catholic Church concerning marriage, should they hire people that support that or should they hire people that do not support that? Well, it’s clear that they ought to be hiring people that support that.

Can they have forums to debate their position? Yes. Can they invite people to debate it? Yes. But they ought to hire according to the framework of their world and life view.

Do you think Green Peace is going to hire people who believe that climate change is a hoax? Of course they’re not. Green Peace is not going to hire people who believe that climate change is a hoax – they’re going to hire people that believe climate change is a reality and that’s part of what we’re laboring for.

Well, part of Marquette, if it’s a Roman Catholic institution, should be to affirm its position on marriage. For instance, the PCA has a college, Covenant College, and I would expect them to hire people in that college that support our confessional standards.

And I also expect them to have people in to debate those things, but I would expect our faculty and administration to be able to uphold it in the debate and, of course, hire toward those standards. I would not expect us to hire an atheist. I would not expect us to hire a Mormon. I would expect us to hire within our standards that we have established the university to uphold and to propagate. That’s where Marquette is: They have hired outside of their standards and now they’re paying the price.

However, the point is the government ought to uphold the Constitutional standards that would protect this professor who is attempting, with freedom of speech and freedom of religion, to uphold the very standards of the university where he teaches.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin. Jessica is editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

7 hours ago

The surprising link between Alabama seafood, timber and U.S. national security, and how Shelby is leading the way

There are plenty of areas of debate over exactly how and where the U.S. should spend its foreign aid dollars. But for Alabamians in particular — and the entire Gulf Coast region more broadly — the international assistance that flows into cracking down on illegal wildlife trafficking is paying massive dividends, both economically and, perhaps more surprisingly, in terms of national security.

A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates Americans grossly overestimate the amount the federal government spends on foreign aid.  The average answer was foreign aid accounts for a whopping 31 percent of spending. Fifteen percent of respondents actually thought it represented over half of the U.S. budget.

In reality, according to the Congressional Research Service, it accounts for about 1 percent total when military, economic development and humanitarian efforts are combined.  And it is paying massive dividends for Alabama.

Here’s how:

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First, foreign aid dollars fund multi-nation efforts to combat illegal trade in timber and fish. These illicit practices cost U.S. foresters and fishers billions of dollars in lost revenue every single year by flooding the market and driving down prices.

According to the Alabama Department of Commerce, “Alabama has the second largest commercial timberland base in the U.S., with 23 million acres. Forestry is the state’s second largest manufacturing industry, producing an estimated $14.8 billion worth of products in 2013, the latest data available.” Alabama also ranked second in the country in fish production. By cracking down on the black-market trading of timber and fish, our foreign aid dollars are protecting Alabama jobs.

Second, foreign aid that flows into international conservation efforts, which has enjoyed bipartisan support for decades, helps countries manage their natural resources sustainably. This prevents the scarcity of water, food or forests that often contributes to instability and sparks regional conflicts.

Third, cracking down on illegal wildlife trafficking cuts off a major source of income for armed groups and organizations with terrorist ties throughout the world, many of which pose a direct threat to American interests.

A report by the United Nations and Interpol found that the “illegal wildlife trade worth up to $213 billion a year is funding organized crime, including global terror groups and militias.” Additionally, “the annual trade of up to $100 billion in illegal logging is helping line the pockets of mafia, Islamist extremists and rebel movements, including Somalia’s Al-Qaeda linked terror group al-Shabaab.”

Fortunately, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who recently rose to the powerful post of Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, has remained a staunch supporter of ensuring that resources continue to flow into efforts to combat the illegal trade in timber and fish.

“The Committee has worked together to strike the appropriate balance between the competing priorities of law enforcement, national security, scientific advancement, and economic development,” Shelby said after announcing critical funding for Fiscal Year 2018. “Additionally, the measure includes necessary oversight provisions to fight waste, fraud, and abuse. This is a step forward in maintaining critical funding for core programs and addressing the needs of our nation while staying within our spending boundaries.”

The move did not go unnoticed by leaders in the seafood industry, a major source of economic activity in all Gulf States, including Alabama.

“We cannot thank Senator Shelby enough,” said Southern Shrimp Alliance Executive Director John Williams after fiscal year 2018 appropriation. “Their extraordinary efforts ensure the survival of the domestic shrimp fishery in the face of what has been an endless stream of illegal shrimp imports.”

Support for foreign assistance and international conservation is smart domestic policy. It protects our economy and cuts off the flow of cash to criminals and terrorists. Sen. Shelby and the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from whom he has helped rally support deserve recognition and praise for their leadership.

Allison Ross is the owner of Yellowhammer News.

 

 

8 hours ago

What’s wrong with Calhoun County’s economy?

Earlier this week, Zippia, one of the many job search websites out there, released its list of 2018’s 50 worst job markets in America. Only one in Alabama made the list: Anniston-Jacksonville, AL, which came in at number 43.

That’s not bad given what we’re told about Alabama and poverty. But it does raise one question: Why are Anniston and its surrounding areas struggling compared to other similar places in the state?

Although unemployment in Calhoun County is not nearly as high as counties in the Black Belt, compared to other quasi-urban areas of Alabama, Calhoun has the highest unemployment rate, coming in at 5.9 percent according to data posted recently on the Alabama Department of Labor’s website.

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That far exceeds the seasonally adjusted numbers for the state of Alabama, at 4.1 percent, and nationally, at 4 percent.

So, what gives? Why does Calhoun County struggle economically?

“It’s a good question,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks) said in response to that in an interview with Yellowhammer News back in April. “I saw those numbers come out for my congressional district and Calhoun County had the highest unemployment rate, still. It is better than it has been, but I don’t know the answer to that question.”

Rogers said part of the answer to that question may be tied to military spending during the Obama administration and its impact on the nearby Anniston Army Depot.

“[T]here was a real downsizing at the Depot,” he added. “They had had a couple more thousand employees than they have now at the height of the war and there had been a downsizing since the drawback from Iraq and Afghanistan. You don’t need to refurbish as much equipment. But now they’re trying to ramp back up as we try to rebuild our military.”

He credited the potential for a turnaround in that trend to President Donald Trump’s commitment to the military.

Beyond that, why isn’t Calhoun County booming? It seems like every other day, Gov. Kay Ivey is announcing a new addition or manufacturing facility in the Huntsville area that includes a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Let’s compare the Anniston-Oxford area to another economic hot spot in Rogers district, the Auburn-Opelika area.  Although Lee County isn’t quite enjoying the successes of Madison and Limestone Counties, it seems to be growing. Its unemployment rate is 4.7 percent – a little higher. But when you look around Auburn and Opelika, there are all kinds of new commercial and residential construction projects.

That doesn’t seem to be a trend in Anniston and Oxford.

Both Lee and Calhoun Counties have some similarities. Having Auburn University in Lee County is a big difference. Besides that, the two approximately the same distance from Atlanta and its international airport. The two are served by the Interstate Highway System – I-20 in Calhoun County and I-85 in Lee County.

If Lee County can make it work, then why not Calhoun County?

Getting to the bottom of determining what is ailing Calhoun County is not an easy chore. Although reading the pages of The Anniston Star is not quite the adventures of “Alice in Wonderland” it was when H. Brandt Ayers was in charge, under Josephine Ayers and Anthony Cook, it still tends to dwell in the politics outside of Calhoun County.

Addressing Calhoun County’s struggles is a politically worthwhile endeavor. While Kay Ivey is patting herself on the back for economic prosperity in north Alabama at plant-opening ceremony number 105, and Walt Maddox is championing his heroics in Tuscaloosa post-2011 tornado devastation, what about Anniston? What about Oxford? What about Jacksonville?

From an outsider’s perspective, there seems to be a presentable case for manufacturing to make Calhoun County a home given its infrastructure and proximities it Atlanta and Birmingham. But first, we need to determine what’s behind its current struggles.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

8 hours ago

Six vote difference: Republicans Todd Rauch and Debbie Wood in tight race for House District 38

Todd Rauch and Debbie Wood are in a tight race to become the Republican nominee for House District 38, where only six votes separate the two candidates. Wood has 2,165 votes to Rauch’s 2,159 votes.

The number is well within Rauch’s reach considering there are still votes to be counted.

A winner won’t be declared until at least next Tuesday, July 24, when provisional ballots are officially counted and even then, it could take longer for Secretary of State John Merrill to certify the results officially declaring a winner.

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“There’s never a winner until everything is certified,” Secretary of State John Merrill told Yellowhammer News.

Even in the case of such a wide margin as Attorney General Steve Marshall has over Troy King – 62 to 38 percent – there is still no official winner because it hasn’t been certified, Merrill said.

Provisional ballots are provided to those whose names do not appear on the voter roles when they show up to vote but who insist they belong, and still want to vote.

In order to have their votes counted, those who participate in the provisional process must prove to the board of registrar’s office that they ought to be on the roles.

@jeremywbeaman is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News

9 hours ago

Alabamians less likely to be understood by ‘Alexa’ and other ‘smart’ tech because of southern accents

The remarkable drawl that embodies Southern culture may be responsible for the frustration many Alabamians feel when trying to get their smart tech to answer a question. The repeated “Sorry, I didn’t get that” can lead people with accents to underutilize voice-activated devices such as Alexa and Google Home that are rapidly growing in popularity.

study conducted by the Washington Post and two research groups revealed people with Southern accents were three percent less likely to get accurate responses from a Google Home device than those with Western accents.  Foreign accents face the largest challenge with 30 percent more inaccuracies.

But, help is on the way.

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According to the study, the artificial intelligence used in programming the technology is taught to comprehend different accents by processing data from a variety of voices.  The more it learns, the more accurate the programming will become.  Even though these tools may be more useful for some people at the moment, Amazon, the maker of the smart home product Alexa, says to keep trying.

“The more we hear voices that follow certain speech patterns or have certain accents, the easier we find it to understand them.  For Alexa, this no different,” Amazon said in a statement.  “As more people speak to Alexa, and with various accents, Alexa’s understanding will improve.”

Over 20 percent of U.S. households with WiFi utilize smart speakers, and the number of users is growing.  Hopefully, for the benefit of Alabamians, that growth will happen in the South.

Allison Ross is the owner of Yellowhammer News.

Learning from President Trump: Words matter

“I don’t see any reason why it would be”.

Those words, voiced by President Trump when asked whether he believed it was true that Russia interfered with the 2016 election, set off a media firestorm early this week.

Trump, of course, is used to media criticism, but this time was different. Joining the normal critics were a multitude of Fox News hosts including Neil Cavuto, Bret Baier, Brit Hume, Dana Perino, and even Brian Kilmeade of the oft-lauded by Trump Fox and Friends.

The morning after Trump’s press conference with President Putin, Kilmeade spoke in second person “you” language and pleaded for President Trump to clarify his statement and his belief in our intelligence agencies over Russians who, as Kilmeade said “hate democracy.”

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To his credit, Trump – who had previously agreed that Russian meddling existed – corrected his statement within twenty-four hours.

Regardless of whether his clarification was believable or timely, this episode reminds us that in politics and government – and in everyday life – words matter.

19thcentury German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche recognized the power of words. Nietzsche wrote, “All I need is a sheet of paper, and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down”.

Nietzsche’s statement wasn’t merely hypothetical. His declaration that “God is dead” shattered worldviews across western civilization into pieces that PureFlix (the movie company behind God’s Not Dead and its sequels) is still trying to pick up.

Even so, it seems that many have forgotten the power of words and have embraced the idea that simply being heard, regardless of content, is of utmost importance.

In NBC’s hit show The Office, Michael Scott tells viewers, “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.” I think a lot of us are more like Michael Scott than we’d like to admit.

We might do well to envision more intentional dialogue from ourselves and from our elected officials, especially our state and local representatives.

In an environment where soundbites are everything, Trump’s statements in Helsinki and the backlash that ensued ought to prompt Alabama officials and candidates to rethink any “wing it” sympathies they may have towards public statements, press conferences, or tweets.

This is even more important in the post-primary period of our election cycle.

Now that the nominees are chosen, we must remind each of their responsibility as leaders to use words, strategies, and express differences in a way that is less divisive and more unifying, less bombastic and more genuine. Our officials and candidates should think twice before resorting to name-calling or vilifying their opponents, as doing so endorses that type of behavior and lowers the standard of Alabamians for those who represent them.

We should also expect, now that the in-fighting of our primary process is over, nominees to run thoughtful campaigns where issues, not personalities, are articulately debated.

Candidates and regular Alabamians alike must remember that words yield tremendous power. Therefore, as Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the BFG, and Matilda, suggests, “Don’t gobblefunk around with words”.

Parker Snider is Manager of Policy Relations for the Alabama Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to strengthening free enterprise, defending limited government, and championing strong families.