Protest: Martin misstates alumni request, blocks access

In the following letter, six Amherst College alumni tell Cullen Murphy, chair of the college board of trustees, how college President Carolyn Martin has misstated their request for action regarding Prof. Hadley Arkes and has simultaneously endorsed “the free exchange of ideas” and blocked their attempts to discuss the issue.

June 12, 2014

Dear Cullen Murphy,

Cullen Murphy (Gasper Tringale photo courtesy of Amherst College)

Amherst College board of trustees Chair Cullen Murphy (Gasper Tringale photo courtesy of Amherst College)

We are the six alumni who wrote to and later met with President Martin last September.  Subsequently, we sent you a petition which you shared with the other trustees, with over 100 co-signers, requesting that Amherst College dissociate itself from the homophobic pronouncements of Professor Hadley Arkes and from his intellectual dishonesty in supporting his positions.

We requested this because Professor Arkes almost unfailingly chooses to identify himself with his Amherst credentials while expressing opinions directly contravening stated college policies.  As you may know, the College has endorsed principles of academic freedom which require that professors “make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.” The same statement of principles requires that professors “at all times be accurate … [and] exercise appropriate restraint”, both of which Professor Arkes consistently honors in the breach. By equating sexual orientation with “pedophilia, zoophilia, and necrophilia,” he attacks the validity of the fundamental category of sexual orientation, which the College employs in its explicit guarantee of protection from discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in its official statement on non-discrimination. Can anyone truly suggest that comparing a loving, lasting marital relationship to sex with animals, underage children, or corpses is an exercise in “appropriate restraint?”  If so, exactly what would lack of restraint look like?

As you will know from the packet of materials we sent you along with the petition, our very first communication on this subject makes precisely the same request we’ve made consistently: “the Board and administration need to make it clear that Arkes is not speaking for Amherst College.” [Letter from Warren Mersereau and Tito Craige, April 6, 2013] It was followed by my own concluding remarks the next day: ‘I would think that any institution concerned about its reputation would therefore have no difficulty whatever in drawing a clear line which says that intellectual dishonesty can have no home here.” [Letter from John Greenberg, April 7, 2013]

Amherst College President Biddy Martin addresses alumni on May 31, 2014. (Click image for video)

Amherst College President Biddy Martin addresses alumni on May 31, 2014. (Click image for video)

Accordingly, we must vigorously protest several of the statements President Martin made in her presentation in Johnson Chapel on May 31 which we know to be false. [See video, from 0:49:25 through 1:01:00.]

First, her contention that our requests changed is a pure fabrication.  In speaking of the six of us, she said: “they wanted a number of things, the target moved over time. Initially, they wanted us to censure or even remove one of our faculty members because of his writings on gay marriage.”  (52:50)

None of us has ever asked for censure or removal.  When she suggested that we had made such demands during our meeting with her, one or more of us made it explicitly clear that was not the case

This is at least the second time she has misrepresented us. See “Amherst president misstates alumni petition about Arkes.” [Feb. 9, 2014] So, perhaps she may take comfort in the applause she received for her response, but the reaction would likely have been quite different if the audience knew that they were being misled.

Second, subsequent to our meeting with her, our complaint has been not just that she has not agreed with us — she has every right to disagree — but that she has effectively shut down every opportunity for dialogue, not only with you and her, but also with our fellow alumni. I transcribed her words starting at 59 minutes, because they are so startlingly different from her actions: “the most important thing we can do is something we just discussed in response to — or I just discussed in response to — the earlier question.  And that is to insure that the free exchange of ideas is protected, encouraged, promoted, enhanced ….”

Rob Yamins

Rob Yamins

But as Rob Yamins ‘72, the questioner in Johnson Chapel, pointed out, the College has done its level best to make sure that there is no free exchange of ideas, let alone promoting or enhancing such an exchange. (Ironically, such a forum was among the suggestions we made to President Martin during and before our meeting).

Specifically, we were denied access to email lists and listservs, to the letters-to-the-editor section of the alumni magazine [See “How Amherst College blocks dissenters,” March 17, 2014], to email blasts from class presidents or effectively to ANY other means of letting other alumni join our conversation.  I was also told that any generalized attempt to contact alumni by using the alumni directory would contravene the College’s rules for its use. President Martin’s blog, which you told me “speaks for the College,” allowed no comments, and hence neither its mischaracterizations of our positions nor its contradictions concerning principles of free speech and academic freedom (which we have repeatedly endorsed) could reach a public beyond you and her (and received no response from either). Hence, while we managed to contact a few members of classes other than our own, the College’s policy has actually ensured that there is NO exchange of ideas.

Finally, we were shocked to hear President Martin’s reference to “interaction after interaction after interaction.”  Several of us wrote her letters, to most of which she either did not respond or responded with the same bland general statements which did not address our concerns as her blog and her recitation in the Chapel.  Our idea of an “interaction” is an actual discussion in which ideas are articulated and then responded to.  Some of this happened at our meeting; virtually none in any of our correspondence and certainly none of it since.

As we have stated repeatedly, the principles of free speech guarantee that Prof. Arkes may state and publish what he wishes, but the College, particularly given its official policy of non-discrimination, has a profound responsibility to make it clear to the Amherst community and to the public at large that it does not accept his attempt to invalidate the term sexual orientation, because it is fundamental to the institution’s protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.  We are deeply shocked and insulted that someone in a position of academic administrative responsibility would publicly misrepresent the statements and questions of alumni as President Martin has chosen to do in this case.  Her lie requires public correction and apology.


John Greenberg for
Ronald Battocchi ‘70 (
Ernest Craige ‘70 (
John Greenberg ‘70 (
Warren Mersereau ‘70 (
Robert Nathan ‘70 (
Eric Patterson ‘70 (

P.S. We would appreciate your circulating this letter to the other members of the Board of Trustees.

Cc: Carolyn A. Martin

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Here’s why to sign our alumni petition about Arkes

Students and alumni of Amherst College are invited to sign a petition to the Board of Trustees, urging them to dissociate the college from Professor Hadley Arkes’s divisive and destructive views. Here’s the reason for that appeal:

Homophobia based at Amherst College

Professor Hadley Arkes compares homosexuality to sex with animals, pedophilia, and necrophilia. He also disputes the “notion” of sexual orientation, claiming that “people shift back and forth across a spectrum that may now include the bisexual, fetishistic, transvestic, zoophiliac.”

Beyond those homophobic comments, Arkes spreads misinformation, such as the discredited claim that the number of pregnancies from rape is “minuscule,” mentioned in 2012 by USA Today, which cited his connection to Amherst College.

As a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, National Review and other publications, Arkes influences decision-makers such as Justice Antonin Scalia, who has echoed his ideas. In the process, he typically describes himself (accurately) as the Edward N. Ney Professor of Jurisprudence and American Institutions at Amherst College, but does not say that his ideas differ from the official position of the college.

Arkes is one of a small number of anti-gay academics who lend an aura of respectability to homophobic tirades by politicians, especially those in Africa who use LGBT people as scapegoats to deflect attention from their failure to solve their countries’ serious problems. Arkes provides intellectual cover for leaders such as:

  • Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who this year enacted a law that provides life sentences for homosexual activity, claiming, “No study has shown you can be homosexual by nature.”
  • Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who said this year, “We will fight these vermin called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria‐causing mosquitoes.” He has previously threatened to decapitate any gay person he found in the country.
  • Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who said during his re-election campaign last year that homosexuals are “worse than pigs, goats and birds.” He threatened, “If you take men and lock them in a house for five years and tell them to come up with two children and they fail to do that, then we will chop off their heads.”

How to respond to homophobia

When a Johns Hopkins Medical School faculty member made statements similar to those of Arkes last year, the dean there reiterated the importance of the right of free expression but also said that the statements were “hurtful, offensive language” that was “inconsistent with the culture of our institution.” Similarly, this year, after a University of Texas at Austin associate sociology professor testified in court about his widely discredited study of children of same-sex parents, the College of Liberal Arts there declared that his opinions did not reflect the beliefs of the university and, in addition, his department noted that the American Sociological Association found his conclusions “fundamentally flawed.”

A group of alumni has asked President Biddy Martin to do what officials at Johns Hopkins and the University of Texas have done, but she has refused, writing in her blog that doing so would clash with her commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression.

Students and alumni from all classes are being urged to sign a petition to the trustees in hopes that our collective voices will persuade the college to take the issue of homophobia more seriously, as it eventually did with the Vietnam War and apartheid, after initially refusing to speak against them.

What you can do

If you are an Amherst College student, alumnus or alumna, please sign this petition:

“We request that the Trustees, acting for Amherst College, explicitly dissociate the institution itself from Professor Hadley Arkes’s divisive and destructive views and his intellectual dishonesty. Further, we request that Professor Arkes be asked either to refrain from citing his association with Amherst College in his extracurricular writings or that any such association be accompanied by a disclaimer stating that his views do not represent Amherst College.”

We make these requests of the Trustees because, in addition to violating Amherst College’s stated commitment to be an inclusive community, Professor Arkes’s public works expressly violate the Statement on Academic Freedom of the AAUP (American Association of University Professors), which Amherst College has endorsed and made into college policy. Amherst College President Martin herself quotes the AAUP policy, stating that “…faculty, when they speak or write as citizens, ‘should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.” [Emphasis added.]

To sign the petition, visit “Join Us: Oppose Amherst College’s Tacit Support of Hate Speech”  on The Petition Site.

[As of April 2014, the petition had been signed by more than 100 Amherst College alumni from 17 classes communicating by e-mail, in addition to dozens of signers on the online Petition Site.]


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How Amherst College blocks dissenters

In the following email correspondence, Rob Yamins ’72 protests the multiple ways that Amherst College blocks alumni attempts to communicate with the college community and other alumni about their petition asking the college to distance itself from the homophobic views of Prof. Hadley Arkes.

Dec. 4, 2013:  Why won’t Amherst magazine publish our letters?

Rob Yamins

Rob Yamins

Subject: URGENT request: please hold the presses!
Date: 12/04/13 04:35:25 PM
From: Robert Yamins [Class of 1972]
To: [Amherst magazine editor] Emily Boutilier

Dear Emily,

Please forgive any uncharacteristic bluntness on my part, but I write in haste due to what I imagine are imminent publication deadlines for the Magazine. I am not cc’ing anyone else (for the time being only) in the hope that we can work this out, but you are free to cc or forward this to anyone you wish.

I understand the Magazine has declined to publish Ron Battocchi’s (et al) letter to the Editor on the alleged grounds that it does not address the content of the Magazine. Based on that reason, I presume it has also declined to publish any other letters on the same subject that it may have received, so this decision is not merely an editorial choice of one letter over another.

With all due respect, that alleged reason is difficult to comprehend. The “More News” section clearly leads readers to Biddy’s blog with the obvious hope and expectation that they will read it. Presumably the Magazine took this approach because of limited space, thus that section is as good as publishing the blog itself and any distinction between appearing or not appearing in the magazine is meaningless in this context. The blog’s contents are indeed content of the Magazine and subject to commentary by readers.

You also mentioned that this letter is not the right fit for the letters section. Again, I vigorously assert that it is, but if not, for what section of what College publication or medium IS it a fit?

President Biddy Martin

President Biddy Martin

I don’t know if you are aware that the College has denied alumni every other avenue for disseminating an alternative point of view on this subject. It has refused to do an email blast of documents sent earlier to the President and Trustees, despite the fact that it did a College-wide email blast announcing Biddy’s blog (which many believe to be quite inaccurate). The blog itself does not allow commentary and requests that such replies be posted have not even received a response. Access to other listservs (which reach only a small fraction of alumni anyway) has been mostly denied. The Amherst Student, although it did publish one article earlier this fall, has suddenly stopped responding to requests to publish documents and analyses. [Editor’s note:  The Amherst Student later offered to cover the issue further, but when letters to the editor and documents were submitted, The Student declined to publish them, without explanation. The reason for that change of position was requested, but never provided.]

The denial to publish letters regarding Biddy’s blog, together with all the aforementioned, cannot possibly be what Biddy meant in her blog by “freedom of expression”, “fostering critical dialogue”, “more and better speech”, and “free exchange of different perspectives”.

Again, if there is another forum available to which the letter is better suited (and which reaches the AC community at large), please advise. And/or if you can explain why all this does not make a mockery of the alleged values of freedom of inquiry, I would be happy to hear it. If not, I implore the Magazine to reconsider its stance. At the very least, I hope you will hold up publication briefly until this most important matter can be resolved. Clearly there is far more at stake here than the inclusion or exclusion of a single letter.

Thank you for your understanding and attention.


Dec. 10, 2013: Please stop what appears to be censorship

From: Robert Yamins
Sent: Tuesday, December 10, 2013 9:58 PM
To: [Amherst College President] Biddy Martin; [Amherst College alumni secretary] Betsy Cannon Smith

Cc: [Amherst College board of trustees Chair] Cullen Murphy

Subject: FW: URGENT request: please hold the presses!

Dear all,

It is not my habit to write to Amherst with urgency and I am not certain to whom I should be writing, but it has been nearly a week since I sent the [above] to Emily Boutilier and I have received no reply of any kind. I understand there is still time before the magazine goes to press, although I don’t know how much.

Indeed all letters on the subject of Biddy’s blog that I’m aware of have received the same rejection as below. I also have no idea if you are aware of this matter and am writing in the hope that someone will stop what, in the absence of any explanation, appears to be a subterfuge for censorship, the ramifications of which will likely carry far. At the very least, I would hope to get a response from someone.

Feel free to forward this to anyone whom you see fit. Thank you for your attention and best wishes to all at Amherst.

Rob Yamins ’72

Reply of Dec. 17, 2013: This is an editorial decision

On Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 01:15 PM, Betsy Cannon Smith wrote:
To: Robert Yamins; Biddy Martin
Cc: Cullen Murphy; Emily Boutilier

Hi Rob, Thank you for reaching out for clarification on this, and my apologies for the delay in my reply—I’ve been out of town the last few days. You note in your message to Emily that Ron’s (and other) letters were not published as they did not directly address the content of the magazine—that is correct. And as you suggest, it is not a matter of choosing one letter over another. In fact, I know of others letters recently received, on other topics, which have not been published for the very same reason…that section of the magazine is specifically intended for comments on magazine content. The President’s commentary is not printed in the magazine, so letters referring to such would not be included either. There is no attempt at censorship, instead an editorial decision based on content. Emily did advise us of the decision and we agree with that decision.

As always, I send my warmest regards to your lovely family! I look forward to seeing the holiday photos– Peace and joy to you and yours this holiday season.


Dec. 17, 2013: How is this not censorship?

On Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 04:27 PM, Robert Yamins wrote:

To: Betsy Cannon Smith
Cc: Biddy Martin; Cullen Murphy; Emily Boutilier


Thank you very much indeed for your reply. I fully understand you are just doing your job, however I must point out several serious problems with the response:

1) It implies that the Magazine’s policy is never to print letters that do not address content. However the Magazine states on its web site only that (italics are mine) “priority is given to letters that address the content of the magazine.” As Warren Mersereau has already pointed out to Emily (I’m sure he won’t mind my repeating it here), the Magazine has indeed regularly published letters that do not do so:

“….In reviewing published letters to the editor from the past few years, there are letters that focus on other letters, class notes, memorial tributes, the design of and general writing in the magazine, and even a solicitation from a professor for research assistance.

If these other letters meet your criterion that letters must “address the specific content of the magazine” by virtue of referencing something in the magazine though not necessarily a feature article, than certainly my letter does the same.

Again, I appreciate that you responded. I wish your explanation rang true with demonstrated practices….”

2) More importantly, it ignores the thrust of the matter as per my 4th paragraph and 6th paragraph (1st sentence) to Emily. Once again, for what College publication or medium that can reach the AC community at large are these letters a fit? Without allowing any alternative mode of communication for alumni to dissent or even to correct inaccuracies, and with the College controlling all Amherst-community-wide communications on this matter, by what reasoning or definition of the word is that not censorship? I.e. addressing the matter of the letters to the Editor alone (and I continue to assert that the College hasn’t, as per my 3rd paragraph to Emily) doesn’t address the real point.

3) To elaborate on #2, it continues Amherst’s increasingly common and unfortunate habit, intentional or not, of picking and choosing what it wants to answer and ignoring the rest. I.e. subtly and not so subtly changing the issues and arguments and fashioning more facile and easily answerable ones rather than the real ones that were raised. I hate to digress to Prof. Arkes here because that is an entirely separate issue, but this is exactly the sort of thing he does. It is sad to see Amherst borrow from that playbook for whatever reason, again, intentional or not.

Cullen Murphy (Gasper Tringale photo courtesy of Amherst College)

Amherst College board of trustees Chair Cullen Murphy (Gasper Tringale photo courtesy of Amherst College)

From other private communications with Amherst officials which I pledged to keep confidential, I am well aware that Amherst is understandably fearful of loss of financial support over the issue raised by these letters. I also understand that, for institutions just as for individuals, it is a tremendous challenge to accept and allow public dissent. But what a tremendous opportunity it would be for the students as well as alumni to see and hear this debated openly, as we did on controversial matters during my student years, and what a stultifying (and maybe dangerous) effect there would be if it isn’t. Thomas Friedman points this out eloquently in his column in this past Sunday’s NY Times albeit in a very different context, but one can read between the lines and find much relevance to the situation here (Cullen, as a journalist by trade, I’m sure you can appreciate the significance of what he writes.)

Like Friedman with China, I want Amherst to succeed. But he also points out the dangers of the paths that both China and Amherst have chosen. I won’t attempt to predict the exact outcome or timing, but the odds are great that this will come back to haunt Amherst and that is what I fear more than the loss of dollars. If Amherst sacrifices its principles out of fear of what others will (falsely) allege and doesn’t practice what it preaches (i.e. “freedom of expression”), then what is Amherst at that point?

Betsy and all, likewise my best regards to you and yours for the holidays and the New Year.


Jan. 16, 2014: The College chooses to remain silent

Subject: RE: URGENT request: please hold the presses!
Date: 01/16/14 10:29:10 AM
From: Robert Yamins
To: Betsy Cannon Smith, Biddy Martin, Cullen Murphy
Cc: Emily Boutilier

Dear all,

Belated Happy New Year to you and everyone at the College.

Even though it’s been more than four weeks since I sent the [above] and I’m sure the magazine has long since been published, because the holidays intervened, I want to be sure this didn’t slip through the cracks and to give the College another opportunity for response. There are two explicit (and non-rhetorical) questions in item 2 and many obvious implicit ones throughout that remain unanswered. Again, feel free to forward this to whomever else you see fit.

If no response is forthcoming, then I must assume the College chooses to remain silent on these serious issues. From that and other observations, I will have to draw the fairly obvious conclusions on what is really going on at Amherst, conclusions which I’m still hoping against hope are unfounded.

Thank you and regards,

[Although Rob received read receipts to this last follow-up email, as of April 5 no further responses from Amherst College officials have been received.]

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Amherst president misstates alumni petition about Arkes

This is a letter to the editor of Amherst Magazine from Ron Battocchi, ’70. It was rejected for publication on the grounds that it responds to statements by Amherst College President Biddy Martin that did not appear in the magazine.

President Biddy Martin

President Biddy Martin

President Martin’s blog about Prof. Arkes’ homophobic writings and academic freedom (“More News” Fall 2013) mischaracterizes alumni concerns and leaves a false impression.  The original 60+ alumni petitioners (now  100+ from 17 classes) never disputed Arkes’ right to speak.  We did not “demand” that Arkes’ views be “condemned” or “denounced” or that his speech be “regulated.”

Rather, we requested a public statement by Amherst comparable to Johns Hopkins’ about Ben Carson who made similar homophobic comments,  which affirms Arkes’ freedom of expression, but makes clear publicly that his writings are inconsistent with the values of Amherst College.  While Martin says she values “reasoned debates,” she refuses to post John Greenberg’s  comments that challenged  her inaccurate blog.

The real issues behind the alumni requests include the College’s own right (and we would add, obligation) to speak publicly in defense of its values (which Amherst has a distinguished history of doing), violation of longstanding stated College policies, intellectual dishonesty (which no college or university should tolerate), “arguments” that would not pass peer review in a scholarly publication, and the abuse of academic freedom to further a personal and hateful agenda.

President Martin cursorily mentions some of these, but ignores the huge contradictions between Arkes’ writings and the explicit policies that the College has adopted.   She also fails to explain why the statement requested by graduates  is inappropriate for Amherst when she could cite no damage to John Hopkins from theirs.

Substituting a simplistic defense of academic freedom, about which all are in agreement, for a serious discussion of these issues does not, as she wrote, “foster critical dialogue”.  Instead it serves to shut it down.

What is Amherst really afraid of?

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Irony: College says its silence defends free speech

This is a response from John Greenberg ’70 to President Biddy Martin’s blog post in which she rejected the call for Amherst College to disassociate itself from the anti-gay writings of Prof. Hadley Arkes.

John Greenberg '70

John Greenberg ’70

With All Due Respect, President Martin is Wrong about Professor Hadley Arkes

Since President Martin has opted to conflate the complaints about Professor Hadley Arkes that she’s received from various alumni in her statement, it’s important to begin by noting that I speak for myself, not necessarily for any others who may have written the President.

I start with common ground I share with the President’s statement. In her words: “the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech protect Professor Arkes’ right to express his views, as an individual, even if the arguments or the manner in which they are made may offend.”  I am NOT trying to silence Professor Arkes. Neither the documents sent by the six members of the Class of 1970 in advance of our meeting, nor anything any of us said at the meeting suggest otherwise. Professor Arkes has a right to speak.

Rather, I assert that the College ALSO has free speech rights, and should use them to dissociate itself from intellectually untenable, hate speech.  I agree with Justice Brandeis: “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.” (Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, p. 377 (1927)  In short, I’m advocating — and trying to foster — “more speech” and to end the College’s “enforced silence.”

President Biddy Martin

President Biddy Martin

For that very reason, it is more than a tad ironic to see President Martin argue that “If there are inaccuracies in the work of scholars more and better speech will correct them,” in a statement whose entire purpose is to explain why she REFUSES to any effort to do so in this instance.

I also heartily endorse the principles of academic freedom, as articulated in the AAUP’s 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, to which Amherst College subscribes:  “As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.”

We reach the very crux of this discussion in this statement, which provides four criteria, defining a professor’s responsibilities. Professor Arkes has flagrantly violated three of them:

1) “Hence they should at all times be accurate …” My letters have shown in detail (Attachment #1) repeated and indisputable violations of this rule in the writings for which we requested a response.

2) Professors “should exercise appropriate restraint….”  Can anyone truly suggest that comparing a loving, lasting marital relationship to sex with animals, underage children, or corpses is an exercise in “appropriate restraint?”  If so, exactly what would LACK of restraint look like?

Prof. Hadley Arkes (Photo courtesy of Pew Forum)

Prof. Hadley Arkes (Photo courtesy of Pew Forum)

3) Professors “should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.”  As the six of us pointed out repeatedly, Professor Arkes NEVER does so, although he is surely aware that the opinions he expresses DIRECTLY contradict the stated INSTITUTIONAL posture of Amherst College.  Indeed, he always does precisely the opposite: he identifies himself with his institutional affiliation and makes no disclaimer.  It is worth noting that Professor Arkes COULD omit his affiliation to the College altogether (he has other affiliations), but I am not aware of any instance of his doing so.

It is unavailing to suggest, as President Martin claims, that Professor Arkes “has done what faculty all over the country do, which is to sign articles with their institutional affiliations, and otherwise to make no claims to represent the views of their colleges or universities.”  It is strikingly odd, to say the least, to see President Martin attempt to equate the phrase  “every effort” in the AAUP statement with NO effort.

Moreover, the professors to whom she refers are most often writing about issues which have no direct bearing on their institutions, or about which their institutions have expressed no positions. Indeed, as President Martin notes, most often “universities and colleges avoid taking institutional positions on controversial political matters.”

But that’s not the case here, as President Martin is also at pains to point out: “the College welcomes gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender students, staff, and faculty, supports a vibrant queer community on campus, and works actively to ensure that everyone here has an equal opportunity to learn and thrive in our community. We insist on what we call respect for persons and we proudly proclaim that, “Respect for the rights, dignity, and integrity of others is essential for the well-being of a community.”

Indeed, it is precisely this contradiction — between the way Professor Arkes acts through his writings and the way Amherst College positions itself — which lies at the heart of my request to the College.  When a professor repeatedly addresses a topic which is within his field of expertise, and therefore knows or SHOULD know that the positions he advocates are in stark distinction to those professed by his institution, the AAUP guideline clearly states that he should say so.  Professor Arkes never does.

Since Professor Arkes has failed to do so, the six of us requested that the College do what Johns Hopkins University did in a strikingly similar case: namely, to dissociate itself from his remarks.

There is yet another irony in the analogies that Professor Martin provides to our request: “This moment is like others on our own and other campuses—desegregation; the Vietnam War, women’s rights, and apartheid in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s; and now the extension of gay rights to include same-sex marriage.”

I attended Amherst College when the administration first refused to speak out about the Vietnam War, but later, under pressure, reversed itself and did so powerfully.  One of us noted (Attachment #6) that over the years, the College HAS, in fact, responded to  important social and moral issues that impact the College community (on and off campus) and society in general, including most of those on President Martin’s list.

I close with a last irony.  President Martin writes: “… it is also worth noting that references to sex with animals (and the rest) in a piece about same-sex marriage, whatever the intention, can easily have the effect of reinforcing negative stereotypes and feelings about homosexuality, as well as stirring hurt and anger.”  What OTHER effect could these references have?  In particular, is there ANY way that such references could contribute to “civil, intelligent, and carefully reasoned debates” or to “intellectual rigor?”

I think not, and therefore believe it is long past time for the College to use its OWN right of free speech to dissociate itself, as an institution, from the vicious and inaccurate statements of Professor Arkes.  That’s what six of us asked last spring.  That’s what I’m still demanding.

John Greenberg ’70 (
Marlboro, VT
October 8, 2013

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Letter: Does Arkes support college’s diversity policy?

As part of the campaign to have Amherst College disassociate itself from the anti-gay writings of Prof. Hadley Arkes, Warren Mersereau ’70 submitted this letter to the Amherst Student.

Warren Mersereau

Warren Mersereau

What do you make of Professor Hadley Arkes aligning members of the LGBT community with criminal predators: “The key abstraction, setting off ripples of self-deception, is that term ‘sexual orientation.’ The term is broad enough to encompass sex with animals, pedophilia, even necrophilia . . . The notion of ‘sexual orientation’ is quite unstable: Many people shift back and forth across a spectrum that may now include bisexual, fetishistic, transvestic, zoophiliac (sex with animals) . . . “ (Hadley Arkes, Ney Professor of Jurisprudence at Amherst College,

Addressing alumni during homecoming weekend, President Martin countered: “Amherst’s values are at odds with the positions that Professor Arkes took in that article.”

And, Amherst College policy is clear: “Amherst College does not discriminate in its admission or employment policies and practices on the basis of factors such as race, genetics, gender identity or gender expression, sex, sexual orientation, age, color, religion, national origin, disability, or status as a veteran of the Vietnam War era or as a disabled veteran.”  (Amherst College Faculty Handbook)

Which leads me to wonder:

  • Amherst College’s policies unequivocally support diversity: “Diversity, as defined in its broadest sense, is fundamental to Amherst’s mission.”  ( Does Arkes fully support Amherst College’s policies?

  • One student leader has urged fellow students not to take Arkes’s courses: “Don’t go. No, seriously. By enrolling (in) an Arkes class you are giving him the equivalent of your vote of approval.” ( Arkes publicly argues against equal rights for members of the LGBT community. Does he discriminate against them in his classroom and his grading?

  • The 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure assigns responsibilities to professors:  “As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.”  Arkes’s assessments of members of the LGBT community are not at all times accurate, appropriately restrained, or respectful. Can’t Arkes at least have the decency to make every effort to indicate he is not speaking for our College by leaving “Amherst College” out of the byline of his anti LGBT commentaries?

Learn more. Get involved. “Amherst Against Homophobia.”

Warren Mersereau ‘70

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Letter: How Arkes could destroy LGBT protections

This letter from alumnus Eric Patterson ’70 in response to President Biddy Martin’s blog post of Oct. 1 was published in the Amherst Student on Oct. 30:

Eric Patterson '70

Eric Patterson ’70

Several aspects of the continuing discussion of Prof. Hadley Arkes’s published contentions about the term “sexual orientation” deserve critical analysis. Of particular concern to me is Amherst’s response to his contention that the term supposedly is so “broad” as to “encompass sex with animals” (or “zoophilia,” to cite his language in another part of the same publication) as well as “pedophilia, even necrophilia,” and that therefore, according to his statement, there supposedly is serious doubt whether sexual orientation is a valid concept at all (March 26, 2013.)

In her statement of October 1, 2013, President Caroline Biddy Martin observed that contentions such as these made by Prof. Arkes are a form of “legal reasoning” directed toward “testing of claims.” Although she does not explain the implications of this point, I urge readers to recognize that such contentions about the term “sexual orientation” are not merely rhetorical gestures made simply for the sake of argument, as her statement might seem to suggest. Instead, these contentions must be recognized for what they are: part of an effort to discredit the concept of “sexual orientation” and to deny its validity by associating it with behavior which is repugnant, coercive, destructive, and rightly criminalized and punishable by law.

The term “sexual orientation” is fundamental to institutional and legal protections of LGBTQQIAA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, allies) people from discrimination, harassment, and violence. Amherst College, like many other colleges and universities, has an official institutional Non-discrimination Statement which explicitly rejects discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. An increasing number of local and state governments also now have laws preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Discrediting the meaning of the term “sexual orientation” is a step toward invalidating such institutional and legal protections, and there are many homophobic jurists, including members of the Supreme Court, who would endorse such contentions about sexual orientation. Amherst’s Non-discrimination Statement also guarantees protection from discrimination on the basis of “gender identity” and “gender expression”– will these categories be the next to be attacked as invalid, by being falsely associated with criminal actions?

I believe that the problem at Amherst is more than a question of “freedom of speech.” A faculty member at the institution is engaged in efforts to invalidate the meaning of a fundamental term used by the institution in official policy statements to identify a category of people which the institution explicitly guarantees that it will protect from abuse. I am a gay man, and I use the term “sexual orientation” in describing myself. Many other LGBTQQIAA people, including many at Amherst, also do, I am sure. LGBTQQIAA people rely on the term in their struggle to stop discrimination, harassment, and violence against them. Along with many other LGBTQQIAA people, I have actively supported the adoption of institutional and legal protections on the basis of sexual orientation. To witness this fundamental term being attacked by a member of an institution which explicitly claims to protect those who identify, and who are identified, by the use of this term is very troubling. I believe that such an attack urgently requires a public statement from leaders of the institution, explicitly addressing and rejecting arguments that seek to invalidate the term “sexual orientation.”

President Martin’s failure to explicitly reject the attempt to invalidate the term “sexual orientation” allowed the National Association of Scholars (N.A.S.), on October 8, 2013, to strongly endorse her statement regarding Prof. Arkes’s words (and reactions to them by others) under the guise of “defending freedom of speech.” Thus, by failing to disavow Prof. Arkes’s attack on the validity of the fundamental term “sexual orientation,” President Martin’s statement, whatever her intentions, has the effect of lending her name and words to the purposes of the N.A.S.

It is important to recognize what the N.A.S. is. A prominent member of the Board of Directors of the N.A.S., the wealthy financier, Thomas Klingenstein, also chairs the Claremont Institute, of which Prof. Arkes is a Senior Fellow. The N.A.S. both funded and conducted the recent attack on Bowdoin College’s curriculum and policies, presented in the N.A.S. report, “What Does Bowdoin Teach? How a Contemporary Liberal Arts College Shapes Students” (April 3, 2013.) The N.A.S. report particularly attacks Bowdoin’s emphasis on diversity, multiculturalism, and gender equality; its commitment to environmental sustainability; its concern about problems of sexual harassment and sexual assault; and, as President Barry Mills of Bowdoin especially emphasized in his statement refuting the N.A.S. attack on his institution (April 10, 2013), its courses in Lesbian and Gay Studies.

The N.A.S. report focuses extended ridicule on one literature course which had the word “Queer” in its title, dismissing the course as supposedly not teaching students “critical thinking,” and condemning it as “altogether trivial.” The report treats Bowdoin’s efforts to challenge the marginalization of LGBTQQIAA students, particularly efforts to affirm their open and safe participation in athletics, in a manner which clearly is dismissive and contemptuous. The word “marginalization” itself is targeted for ridicule in the report. As a gay man who has worked actively for LGBTQQIAA inclusion and equality, I would be acutely ashamed if I had made a public statement that an organization such as the N.A.S. could successfully exploit, as it has President Martin’s.

I hope very much that members of the Amherst community will discuss these issues, and that the leaders of the College will address them specifically. Attacking the identity category of “sexual orientation” is not merely an insult, and it is not merely a rhetorical gesture made for the sake of argument– it is part of an effort to destroy institutional and legal protections for LGBTQQIAA people against discrimination, harassment, and violence.

Eric Patterson, ’70

Eric Patterson, B.A. Amherst, summa cum laude; M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D. Yale,  teaches American literature, American cultural studies, and GLBTQ studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y.

Links to publications referred to above:

Prof. Hadley Arkes on the term “sexual orientation” and on “the zoophiliac,” “pedophilia,” and “necrophilia”

President Barry Mills of Bowdoin on the National Association of Scholars’ attack on Bowdoin College

The National Association of Scholars’ endorsement of President Martin

The National Association of Scholars’ report attacking the curriculum and policies of Bowdoin College

Posted in Arkes publications, Biddy Martin, Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

106 more alumni push back against Arkes’s views

The following letter was sent on Oct. 28, 2013, to Cullen Murphy, chairman of the Amherst College Board of Trustees, and to Biddy Martin, the college president.

Cullen Murphy (Gasper Tringale photo courtesy of Amherst College)

Cullen Murphy, chairman of the Amherst College Board of Trustees (Gasper Tringale photo courtesy of Amherst College)

Dear Cullen Murphy:

When we wrote you on September 28, we promised to send you a list of co-signers of our petition requesting that Amherst College “dissociate itself from Professor Hadley Arkes’s divisive and destructive views and his intellectual dishonesty” and our further request that “Professor Arkes be asked either to refrain from citing his association with Amherst College in his extracurricular writings or that any such association be accompanied by a disclaimer stating that his views do not represent Amherst College.”

Since then, 101 [now 106-plus] Amherst alums have joined us:

Doug Abernathy, physicist, Oak Ridge, TN, ’84

Elizabeth Hauser Abernathy, Oak Ridge, TN, ’83

Bud Alpert ’70

John Anderson, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, ’70

Elliott Arkin ’83

Mitch Ash ‘70

Jay Ashman, Senior Lecturer, Burlington, VT, ’70

Robert Bernstein, South Orange NJ, ’70

Chett Breed, Prof. Emeritus, Ph.D., AAUP 1981-2013, BA and PBK, ’69

Steve Cadwell, Ph.D. (Smith ’90), Boston, MA, ’72

David H. Cahan, M.D., ’70

Charlotte Canning ’86

Jerry Carl, Northbrook, Illinois, ’70

Robert Carlone ‘70

William Carter ’70

Carolyn Chernoff ’98

David Cichon ’70

Tim Clegg ‘70

Robert Collier, Berkeley, CA, ’83

Harold Dash ’70

Barry DeLapp, retired computer consultant, Hendersonville NC, ’70

Ron Dewdney, Waltham, MA, ’70

Dave Dorwart ’70

Rob Duboff ’70

M. James Egan, Professor Academy Arts University, ’72

Jon Einhorn ’70

Elisha M. Ignatoff Eli-Tables, Bronx NY, ’71

Paul Farrell ’70

Thomas P. Gilliss ’70

Joseph W. Gordon, Woodbridge, CT, ’70

Marvin M. Gross, Rabbi, Pasadena, CA, ‘70

Peter Hansen, M.D., ’83

Mark P Harris ’70

Richard P. Hauser ’56

Bill Hayes ’70

Mark A. Hoffman, M.D., Columbia University; J.D., University of Pennsylvania; LL.M., Temple University; M.Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania; M.B.A. Candidate (2014) Drexel University, ’72

Anthony J. Hom, NY, NY, ’71

Peter Howland, Portsmouth, RI, ’70

David Hunt ’70

James Andrew (Drew) Kalter, Teacher, NY, NY, ’70

Richard Kellogg ’70

Stephen Kent ’70

Doug Lane, Los Angeles, CA, ’70

Peter Livingston, attorney, Portland, OR, ’73.

Ron Marinucci ’71

Scott McGee ’70

Tom McKitterick, New York, NY, ’70

Richard Meeker, City of Roses Newspaper Company, Portland OR, ’70

Louis Miles, retired attorney, Portland, OR ’74

Dave Miner, Esq., Bradenton, FL, ’70

Paul Mintzer, M.D. Ph.D. ’70

Jennifer Moore, Prof. of Law, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, ’83

Michael Naughton, ’70

James Parakilas ’70

Rebecca Stewart Persson, graduate student, Arlington, MA, ’01

Brock Putnam, II, Litchfield, CT, ’70

Daniel Quinn, Colliers International, Boston, MA, ’70

Tom Reicher ’70

Bob Reichert, London, UK, ’70

Ian Reichert, London, UK, ’12

David Rimmer ’71

Whit Rutter, Newport News, VA, ’70

David Sanger, Photographer, ’70

Peter M. Sarafan, Acton, MA, ’70

Ken Sayle, real estate broker (retired), Rye, NY, ‘70 (deceased)

Fritz Schwentker ‘84

Michael Secondo, Santa Monica, CA, ’83

Steve Seward, Scarsdale, NY, ’70

David L Silverman, St John, USVI, ’70

Wylie Smith ’70

Bob Spielman, Retired, ’70

Colin Stewart, Editor/publisher Erasing 76 Crimes blog, Laguna Niguel, CA, ’70

Matthew Stewart, Fall River, MA, ‘96

Robert G. Sweeney ’96

Doug Swift, M.D., ’70

Steve Swigert, West Hartford, CT, ’70

Rebeca Torres-Rose, farmer, Cambridge, NY, ’97

Esther S. Trakinski ‘83

George Triano, Danville, CA, ’70

Jocelyn K. Vande Berg ‘83

Rasheda J. Vereen ’10

Thomas Radford Viall, Assistant Attorney General, Vermont (Ret.), ’70

Tina Villadolid, artist, educator, Santa Barbara, CA, ’83

Philip Ward ’70

Patricia Ware, Juneau, Alaska, Co-Vice President, Class of ’83,

David Wase, Arlington, VA ’70

David Watkins ’84

Alan Webber, Santa Fe, NM, ’70

Eric Weber ’70

Richard Weinhaus, M.D., Watertown, MA, ’70

Claude R. Williams, Jr., D.D.S., Dallas,Texas, ‘78

Russell Wise ’70

Ronald Wold, Retired, Eugene, OR, ’70

Ping Chang Wood, Glastonbury, CT, ’86

Stephen Wood, Glastonbury, CT, ’86

Burt Woolf, Ed. D., ’70

Robert J. Yamins, Great Neck, NY, ’72

Amy Ziering, Filmmaker, Los Angeles, CA, ’83

Jeff Zimmerman, lawyer, Washington DC, ’70

George Zoulalian, Trial Court of the Commonwealth (retired), Boston, MA, ’70

Lanny M. Zuckerman, Pittsfield, MA, ’70

[See below for additional names, added later.]

As you will see, only a few classes are represented here because we were able to access only a small portion of the College’s alumni/ae despite our best efforts. We continue to have little doubt that if more alums knew about this issue, far more would sign up.

We have recently created a website and a Facebook page, and when we get more co-signers, we will forward their names to you.


John Greenberg for

Ronald Battocchi ‘70 (
Ernest Craige ‘70 (
John Greenberg ‘70 (
Warren Mersereau ‘70 (
Robert Nathan ‘70 (
Eric Patterson ‘70 (

P.S. On October 11, I sent you and Biddy Martin a detailed analysis of the statement which you told me “speaks for the College.” In it, I note that Professor Arkes violates 3 of the 4 specific criteria of the rules for academic freedom to which the College subscribes, the last one of which requires that professors “should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution,” which is precisely what our second request demands.

I have received no response, but I assume that both of you got the email. If not, please let me know.

The following 5 alums signed after this letter was sent:

Amanda Bass ’10

Doug Clark ’70

Miles Herkenham ’70

Matt Rawdon ’79

Jeff Southworth ’70

See also the names of those who signed the related online petition “Oppose Amherst College’s Tacit Support of Hate Speech.”

Posted in Biddy Martin, Petition to trustees | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Q&A with college president on anti-gay professor

Amherst College President Biddy Martin in Q&A session. (Click image for video of the Martin's remarks and Q&A session. The Yamins-Martin exchange is from 25:00  to 32:00.

Amherst College President Biddy Martin speaks to alumni. (Click image for video of her full remarks and the Q&A session. The Yamins-Martin exchange is from 25:00 to 32:00.)

In an question-and-answer session on Oct. 19, Amherst College alumnus Rob Yamins ’72 challenged President Biddy Martin’s position on the anti-gay writings of Prof. Hadley Arkes.

Yamins noted that several alumni have asked for a public statement from the college that Arkes’s views “are inconsistent with the values and stated policies of Amherst College.”

Martin replied, referring to a blog post that she wrote, “I think my statement does that. … It makes it explicit that Amherst’s values are at odds with the positions that Prof. Arkes took.”

Yamins called for a more public statement than a personal blog, to which Martin replied, in part: “It’s not appropriate for a president to go public with some kind of debate with one of the faculty members.”

Here is a transcript of the questions from Yamins and the answers from Martin:

YAMINS: Biddy, thank you for your remarks and also for your blog of a couple of weeks ago which attempts to respond to the controversy surrounding Prof. Arkes.  However it seems to me … your blog was principally a defense of the important value of academic freedom, which I think everybody agrees with.

However, as I understand it, it didn’t address the issues that were actually put to you by the alumni in question.  Those alumni did not ask that he not be allowed to express his views or that the College condemn or denounce those views.  They asked for a statement along the lines of what Johns Hopkins made with regard to Ben Carson, a statement which, on the contrary, affirms his academic freedom to express himself however he wishes and whatever his views are, but asked [sic] for a public statement that those views are inconsistent with the values and stated policies of Amherst College.

Those policies require the “respect for all the rights, dignity, and integrity of others” and states that the lack of such respect “is damaging to Amherst College.”

Can you explain precisely  how such a statement would impinge on Prof. Arkes’ academic freedom in the slightest?

MARTIN: Thank you. Thank you, Rob. This is a difficult issue. I have a pretty brief answer and that is that I think my statement does that. I think my statement makes it very clear. It makes it explicit that Amherst’s values are at odds with the positions that Prof. Arkes took in that article.

I talk about the college’s commitment to respect for persons. I talk about the support of our queer community, which is strong.
I talk about, in my earlier responses to the Class of ’70 — a group of members of the Class of ’70’s requests for such a statement about having talked with our students to make sure that those students who would be most affected feel the way that I felt about defending academic freedom.

So I perhaps did not succeed, which is always the risk in doing anything, I suppose. But I thought the piece I wrote showed balance, that is that Amherst College stands for respect for persons, it opposes homophobia, it supports a vibrant queer community on campus. And I think my reputation precedes and follows me, one could even say on these issues.

My wording was not the same as the wording in the Johns Hopkins statement, but that statement was also released at a different point in the history of that incident.

It’s also true, I think, that the faculty member at Hopkins who made those comments was a public figure of a different sort, but I don’t want to get into all the contextual issues. I really feel strongly that the college has taken a position that is the right position to have taken, and that our support for our gay and lesbian, transgender students, faculty and staff is established, well established, on the campus and beyond. If I didn’t think that, I would be even more aggressive in my pronouncements.

Rob Yamins '72 questions President Biddy Martin at Q&A session. (Click image for a video of just the Yamins-Martin exchange.)

Rob Yamins ’72 questions President Biddy Martin at Q&A session. (Click image for a video of just the Yamins-Martin exchange.)

YAMINS: May I have just one quick follow-up? We’re all happy to hear about the support for gay and lesbian students here.  We applaud that.  But again, that also is not really  the issue. The issue that brought this on was his effect beyond the campus.   Among other things … just to keep this brief … one difference between your statement and theirs is, their statement was public and Amherst’s was not.  This was your personal blog, which really is not going to reach the larger community that Prof. Arkes affects. He is read nationally, he has provided intellectual fodder for some very hateful and damaging things.  So that’s one major difference between your blog and their statement. [a few inaudible words here]

I would hope at least … if we can find some common ground that … you ended your blog with:   we need to foster critical dialogue about the difficult issues in our society.   I hope we can agree that this is one of those critical issues, both for Amherst and for society, and that this dialogue needs continue, and not be kind of “OK, we’re done, let’s move on,” which is the impression that some people have gotten from your blog.

MARTIN: The issues are extraordinarily important. It’s good that they have been raised. Neither the issue of academic freedom nor of homophobia and advocacy for gay rights are going to go away as issues. And, again, I have a long history of advocacy on these issues.

As president of this institution, I think that the statement I made is the right position for the institution, and I’m sticking with it. That doesn’t mean that I will never again speak about gay rights publicly. I’ve done it most of my life, actually, over many decades, and taken quite a few risks to do so.

So I don’t think anyone needs to worry that I’m (A) afraid or (B) reluctant to advocate for the rights not only of our students, staff and faculty here on campus but for the rights of people everywhere. I think I have a strong record there.

But it’s not appropriate for a president to go public with some kind of debate with one of the faculty members. I don’t think that’s appropriate and I won’t do it.


Posted in Arkes publications, Biddy Martin | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

New commentary by Arkes, new criticism by alumni

Prof. Hadley Arkes (Photo courtesy of Pew Forum)

Prof. Hadley Arkes (Photo courtesy of Pew Forum)

The latest commentary  by Prof. Hadley Arkes of Amherst College, published in The Catholic Thing, has provoked a new round of criticism from Amherst alumni who say that Arkes continues to use his affiliation with the college to help spread distorted views about homosexuality and same-sex issues.

In his commentary, Arkes described a New Mexico court ruling against a photographer who refused to work at a same-sex commitment ceremony as an example of fanatical demands that religious people renounce their principles.

To that, alumnus Robert Nathan ’70 replied, “No one any longer has the right in this country to tell anyone that they can’t shop where everyone else shops. Thank god for that.” Nathan also said that Arkes’s earlier writings about homosexuality qualify as hate speech:

“Hate speech is speech that has as it sole purpose the incitement of violence against a class of people. Comparing an entire class of people to “pedophiles” is, whether [one] likes it or not, not an opinion. It’s first of all, a lie, and second it’s hate speech designed to incite violence. …

If I were Matthew Shepard’s parents, I’d sue Hadey Arkes for damages just to get the hate speech question in front of a judge.”

The latest writing from Arkes also attracted some support, such as the comment from James Cabot ’70 that “One person’s hate speech is another person’s ‘affirmation of a deeply held belief.’ ”

New Mexico Court of Appeals sealArkes commented on action last May by the New Mexico Court of Appeals, which upheld a ruling that the refusal to take photos at a same-sex ceremony was a violation of the state’s  Human Rights Act, which requires that companies serving the public not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

In his Catholic Thing commentary titled “Compelling the Faithful to Recant,” Arkes stated:

In the case of Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin in New Mexico, there was no need to punish them for declining to take photographs of two women arranging what they regarded as their wedding. There was no want of photographers willing to have that business.

But it turns out that the people who have been arguing for years that there are no moral truths have absorbed the “logic of morals,” along with everyone else, and apply it now with a vengeance: The good is that which should be commended, encouraged, rewarded; the bad and wrongful is that which should be condemned, discouraged, punished.

Elaine Huguenin (Photo courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom)

Elaine Huguenin (Photo courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom)

It was critical to stamp the Huguenins as “wrongdoers.” Lincoln remarked on the partisans of slavery in his age that silent acquiescence would not be enough. One had to be “avowedly with them,” he said.  For “this, and this only [would assure them]: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right.”

The activists for abortion and same-sex marriage have identified their adversaries as the religious, and they will not feel unthreatened until the teaching that animates the religious is renounced at the core. The Huguenins … must be compelled to confess … the rightness of same-sex marriage.

The libertarian professor of law, Eugene Volokh, likened this case of the Huguenins to the case on compelled speech under the First Amendment. Professor Volokh surely appreciated that the Huguenins were not strictly being required to speak words, say as the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses were once compelled to speak and perform the pledge to the flag.  But what Volokh apparently noticed here was that the moral insistence on punishing could be explained mainly by the desire to humble these people before a new orthodoxy, demanding now its place as a principle commanding reverence.

But the religious, with a certain sympathy and humility, steer away from demanding that their adversaries abase themselves in this way. The passion to demand that abasement marks an unlovely expression of fanaticism in our law.

And for the judges, it should mark a telling sign of the intemperate passion that the Founders were seeking to avert on either side – on the side of irreligious no less than the side of the religious – as they became untethered from an anchoring prudence.

What was working among the Founders was a religious and constitutional temperance as they sought to put the levers of official power at a more salutary distance from our religious life.

The full commentary is available on the Web site of The Catholic Thing.

Below are excerpts from the recent comments of alumni from the Class of 1970 about Arkes’s latest commentary and about his earlier writings, especially his remarks in March 2013 about sexual orientation, pedophilia, necrophilia and bestiality:

‘Bizarre and loathsome’ but ‘only opinions’


Actually, I half agree with Arkes on this one.  While I agree with the court’s ruling, I still think that any one has a right to think what they think, teach what they teach, love or hate whomever they wish, and announce that love or hate to the world.  That announcement —”hate speech”  it’s sometimes called — might cause people deep distress, and influence them to do things we’d rather they didn’t do, but if we value freedom of speech and freedom of thought, we have to put up with this as the cost of living in a free society.  One person’s hate speech is another person’s “affirmation of a deeply held belief”.

And this is true about just about everything I’ve read from Arkes.  As bizarre and loathsome as his opinions are, they are, first and last, only opinions.  Even when they are all tarted up in the language of “first principles” and “natural law” and backed with quotes from extremely old and famous people, they are only exercises in nomenclature.  Equating homosexuality with bestiality, necrophilia, pederasty, or what have you, is only one man’s opinion, no matter who else might share that opinion and what kind of robes they wear. Arkes’ saying it (or the Pope, for that matter) doesn’t somehow make it empirically true.

As the old song says, “Brother you can’t go to jail for what you’re thinkin’.”  On the other hand, you can and should go to jail for what you do.  If someone spouts hate, we have the perfect right to disagree with them and denounce their opinions, oppose them politically, and even shun them.  But the penalty of the law (“punishment”) needs to be reserved for what people do (or don’t do).  And the court’s ruling against the photographers wasn’t about what they believed or said, it was about what they did, which was to refuse a service that they had implicitly promised by putting out a shingle — i.e., they discriminated.

‘It’s an incitement to violence and Mr. Arkes knows it is’


We have laws in the Unites States that define certain things as “public accommodations.” There’s a reason that grocery stores can’t tell black people that they can’t shop there. This is the price we pay for democracy. Everybody gets access to whatever is deemed to be a public accommodation — basically meaning anywhere the public shops. No one any longer has the right in this country to tell anyone that they can’t shop where everyone else shops. Thank god for that.

Jamie accepts that the photographers went beyond speech. It could just as easily be argued — and it has — that all they did was speak and say, “No.” Why should they be punished for hurting someone’s feelings? Go find another photographer. We punish them as a society because we no longer tolerate that kind of speech. Arkes isn’t half-right. He’s just plain wrong, Jamie, and you can half-agree with him all you want. He’s still wrong.

2. It is more than disingenuous to say that “hate speech” is about distasteful opinions. Hate speech is speech that has as it sole purpose the incitement of violence against a class of people.

Comparing an entire class of people to “pedophiles” is, whether Jamie likes it or not, not an opinion. It’s first of all, a lie, and second it’s hate speech designed to incite violence.

3 Saying that all gay men are “diseased” and “will live foreshortened lives” (I may have the quote wrong, it’s from memory) isn’t an opinion. It’s a lie. Unless by foreshortened Mr. Arkes means 65, and I’m already past that. Mr. Arkes lies. Mr. Arkes argued that all high school students should be taught this “fact,” which isn’t a fact but a lie. Would Jamie prefer that high school students be taught creationism? Teaching high school students that gay men are disease-carriers is guaranteed to inflame students to beat up gay kids, It’s an incitement to violence and Mr. Arles knows it is. He’s nobody’s fool. SPEECH IS AN ACT. Words are not spoken in a vacuum. If you stand in front a crowd with ropes in their hands and say “lynch them” you can be arrested. Thank god for that.

Now here’s where the pedal hits the metal, and so turn your dials because here comes the moment when everyone says, “How dare you speak to Jamie like that? This is a civil discussion among classmates.”

No, it ain’t. It stopped being truly civil a long time ago, and not just because of me.

There is a famous Nora Ephron essay about her breasts. Everyone tries to convince her that having small breasts isn’t a big deal. At the end of the essay she says something like, “I’m here to tell them they’re all full of shit.” Jamie, if you insist on calling lies opinions, if you insist on this preposterous notion that equating homosexuality to three heinous crimes is not an incitement to violence, if you insist that saying “Lynch them” or “fire” in a crowded theater fall within the parameters of acceptable speech that cannot be punished, then I have a Nora Ephron message for you. To quote Nora, I’m here to tell you that you’re full of shit. And by the way, the courts agree with me a lot of the time. If I were Matthew Shepard’s parents, I’d sue Hadley Arkes for damages just to get the hate speech question in front of a judge.

‘The court was right and Arkes is dead wrong’


As for me, I entirely DIS-agree with Arkes on this one (and on a multitude of others).  In the not-too-far-distant past, it was quite common to see public facilities with signs pronouncing “No Jews Allowed”, or signs which pointed people of color to entrances in the rear.  This was wrong then, and it is wrong now.  If a private individual wants not to attend a homosexual wedding, it is their loss, and their right.  However no public enterprise has such a right, to serve only those they please, or to offer different services to different classes of individuals based solely on their race, religion, gender, or sexual preferences.  This is the law, and the court was right and Arkes is dead wrong.

‘Laws hate speech put us on a slippery slope’


On this point, David, I completely agree with you, as I stated in my previous posting. On the point that Arkes wrongly sets up as his justification, that people should not be punished for what they believe — or what they express — I tend to agree with him.  But, as you and other rightly point out, this is not what the court’s decision was based on.

And on Bob’s point, that we have laws in this country against “hate speech”, he may be right, but in my opinion, it puts us on a slippery slope.  Indeed, when he says that speech is an act, he is giving voice to a half-truth that much of the world believes, insofar as in many cultures, if a person insults you, you are honor-bound to exact blood-vengeance.  But if we in this country are going to value and protect free speech and still hold the line against anarchy, we’re going to have to maintain a pretty strict distinction between speech and action, assigning legal and moral responsibility to the latter, and making individuals answerable for their own actions, whatever vile and provocative inducements are thrown their way.  Because once you accept the actionability of “inciting to violence”, you open a whole can of worms, encapsulated by the question, “Sez who?”

Because “incitement” is very open to interpretation, and the interpretation that matters will be the one holding the political reins, be it a dictator, a mob, or a court.  Indeed, it’s basically the same justification that dictatorships all over the world habitually use to muzzle speech and peaceful political action.  Of course, they might call it something else, like upsetting social peace, or subverting the rightful order.  But once you start punishing statements the might cause some undesirable outcome, rather than or equally with actions that concretely lead to that outcome, you’re opening the door to censorship and killing free speech.

So let’s hate the speaker if we want to, oppose his ideas, shun and boycott him, and if we’re an employer who doesn’t have to maintain principles of academic freedom, fire his sorry ass (though this is a gray area I would approach cautiously).  But let’s punish (as in, use the coercive power of the state) the perpetrator — the one who acts.  And let’s teach our children to know right from wrong, distinguish truth from garbage, and be responsible for their actions, no matter what kind of vile noise they’re being subjected to.

‘It isn’t his right to hide behind the college’s name’


Jamie, I fear that you have gotten yourself trapped in Arkes honeypot trap, or his muddled thinking.

There is no evidence that the photographers were constrained from  “a right to think what they think.” There is no evidence provided by Arkes that the individuals committing had any alternative available to them. The photographers were merely prevented from acting in a way that discriminated against others, in a public enterprise. Is that wrong?

It was their actions that were found illegal. Arkes is arguing that their actions should not have been affirmed to be illegal.

As for the rest of Arkes piece, he was so busy setting up straw men about us “moral relativists” and equating homophobia with Lincoln’s (well-intentioned but failed) attempt to hold together the union before the civil war (WTF, should we go back to being silent about slavery?), that I merely shut him off. It is his right to be as much of an ass as he wishes, as long as he doest shout fire in a crowded theater, but it isn’t his right, imho, to hide behind the college’s name while doing it. That remains my objection regarding the lack of action by the college.

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