Sam Clovis

Employed by hate group Family Research Council, Peter Sprigg knows everything there is to know about the gay. Sprigg’s banalities are often so spectacularly stupid that you have to wonder if he is idiotic enough to believe that anyone else is idiotic enough to believe  him. In that regard, Sprigg does not disappoint when it comes to commentary regarding Trump’s controversial nomination of Sam Clovis to be chief scientist for the USDA.

Monday evening Sprigg penned: “Science vs. Science on USDA Nominee’s Views of ‘LGBT Behavior’ and ‘Choice’.” I’ll get to the homophobic tripe but first:

When his nomination was announced last month, the chief focus of the administration’s critics was that Mr. Clovis is “not a scientist,” yet is being nominated to be the Department of Agriculture’s “chief scientist.” He was also attacked for being a “skeptic” on the issue of “climate change” science.

Critics focused on Clovis’ background as a radio talk show host and an unsuccessful political candidate—glossing over the fact that he has both an MBA and a Ph.D. in Public Administration, and had been a professor of economics at two different colleges (thus checking off both the “Education” and “Economics” parts of the job for which he has been nominated).

Paraphrasing: Critics charge that Clovis is not a scientist but, as you can clearly see, he is an economist after all. Economics? What on earth does that have to do with being the chief scientist at the USDA and how does that satisfy critics who claim that Clovis has no background in science? I am not making this stuff up. Incredulously, Sprigg really did write that. Is he trying to pass off economics as science or did he just confuse himself? Catherine Woteki, President Obama’s appointee to the same position, holds a PhD in nutrition; the background we expect for the chief scientist at USDA.

Sprigg goes on to write:

Recently, however, Mr. Clovis came under further attack for something seemingly unrelated to agriculture—namely, his position on homosexuality. Critics mined his radio commentaries for remarks they considered controversial—such as slippery slope arguments regarding the consequences of redefining “marriage” to include same-sex unions.

Untangling the Sprigg is so damned easy, and so damned tedious. Suppose it was discovered that Clovis made anti-Semitic remarks. Would that disqualify him for a presidential appointment? If the answer to that question is “yes” then why are anti-gay remarks any more permissible than anti-Semitic remarks? Moreover, there is no respectable “position” on homosexuality any more than there is a respectable position on Judaism.

However, one critique caught my eye in particular. Writer Gary Legum, in an opinion piece in the Independent Journal Review, said the following (quoting in turn a CNN article about Clovis):

On the other hand, while Clovis might not believe the issue of a biological basis for sexual attraction is settled, people with scientific and medical training are fairly sure about it:

[Quote] Clovis has repeatedly argued that the science on homosexuality is unsettled and that “LGBT behavior” is a choice. The American Psychological Association has said that while there is no scientific consensus on the causes of sexual orientation, “most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.” [End quote]

Sprigg shows both of the paragraphs from CNN as quoted material. I have no idea why the second paragraph is surrounded by quote—end-quote. He continues:

Let’s first look at the CNN quote. Although presented in such a way as to imply that there is a contradiction between Clovis’ view and the ostensibly “expert” opinion of the APA, there is actually no difference between them. Clovis’ view that “the science on homosexuality is unsettled” and the APA’s view that “there is no scientific consensus on the causes of sexual orientation” are different ways of saying the exact same thing.

In reality, it is Mr. Legum’s declaration that “people with scientific and medical training are fairly sure about” there being “a biological basis for sexual attraction” that is directly contradicted by the APA’s statement that “there is no scientific consensus on the causes of sexual orientation.”

That constitutes an example of rather sophomoric redirection. What remains unsettled is the degree to which sexual orientation is developed by genetic or environmental factors, or both (“environmental” means anything that is not genetic). However, overwhelming consensus exists that sexual orientation is innate. An overwhelming scientific consensus exists that sexual orientation cannot be altered through so-called reparative therapy and that efforts to do so are potentially harmful.

The reason Clovis posited (and the reason that Sprigg posits) that sexual orientation is a choice is to support their view that gay people do not deserve protection under the 14th Amendment. Clovis has been quite specific in that regard having argued that if LGBT people got such protections, pastors wouldn’t be allowed to preach against the “aberration” that “alternative lifestyles” were to church doctrine. No scientist refers to a sexual orientation as a “lifestyle.” Moreover, Mr. Clovis could use a brush-up on the First Amendment.

The “choice” issue requires a more careful examination. The APA is quoted as saying that “most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.” This is entirely true—if you use the first definition of “sexual orientation” that is offered in the APA document being quoted: “Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions [emphasis added] to men, women or both sexes.”

Mr. Clovis, however, did not refer to LGBT “attractions”—he referred quite explicitly to “LGBT behavior.” “Attractions” are internal, subjective, and psychological; “behavior” is external, objective, and physical. They are not the same thing at all.

Making that distinction creates a rather imbecilic argument. What Clovis said somewhat mirrors what the Catholic Church teaches (Clovis is a Catholic). What it ultimately means is that a gay person can choose to be celibate. To do so in order to conform to religious doctrine is nothing more than acting out of superstition. Healthy gay relationships include a sexual component. Most of us choose not to be neurotic for the faith.

Aside from the claim that the science is unsettled, Clovis asserted that if being gay was genetic, then other people genetically-disposed like left-handed people should receive constitutional protections as well. That, too, is an idiotic proposition that should exclude Clovis from any serious government job due to the absence of critical thinking skills.

Left-handed people do not require protections. They are not disapproved of. They are not discriminated against or refused service in public accommodations. They are not the routine objects of ridicule and are not denied jobs and promotions because of their left-handed lifestyle. And while I am at it, left-handed people could choose to be right-handed. They could favor their right hand despite the fact that doing so is awkward and difficult. That makes no more sense than gays choosing not to be gay.

Even for Sprigg … :

And one’s sexual behaviors—outside of a context of sexual abuse or exploitation—must be considered almost entirely a matter of “choice.” To say otherwise would be to imply that those with same-sex attractions are in the grip of an irresistible compulsion—which would be far more insulting than to say that they (like all of us) are capable of choosing their sexual behavior.

If homosexual sex is a choice than so is heterosexual sex. What it comes down to is that, sure, having or not having sex is a choice. However, it is not a rational choice. The sole reason that anyone would choose not to be sexual is religious belief and that is not a good enough reason for most sane, rational people.

The applicable statement by Clovis reads:

Today, there are six protected classes of American citizens who benefit from the history of legal precedents associated with American traditions and the 14th Amendment. Two of these classes—religion and military—have long been established in the traditions of the nation. The other four—race, gender, disability and age—are based on primary characteristics. Primary characteristics are those human features we can generally discern by visual examination—something we can see. Following this logic, the only way to extend 14th Amendment protections to those in the LGBT lifestyles is if these behaviors are genetically mapped or otherwise discernible. The science on this issue seems to be uncertain, and if one followed the arguments from plaintiffs, the issue argued was that these individuals, because of ‘love,’ should be allowed to ‘marry just like opposite-sex couples.’ What is it really? Is this about genetics or about emotions? The stronger case is genetics, but that is not the argument being advanced. If LGBT adherents were genetically predisposed, then one must ask why a segment of the population that constitutes numbers less than one third of those who might be left-handed or one fourth the number who might be blue-eyed or one eighth the number who might be genetically predisposed to obesity should receive 14th Amendment protections when others are not even considered. Certainly left-handers have more to bark about than most. Thus, the argument must be about something other than genetic predisposition.

“Adherents?” Clovis has confused religious doctrine with scientific principles for dogmatic convenience. He doesn’t get to do that as a government official in any, let alone scientific, position in government. His history of having done so is disqualifying.

Mr. Sprigg is just being the inane and intellectually dishonest Sprigg that we are accustomed to.

Finally, Clovis claimed that the sanctioning of same-sex marriage could lead to the legalization of pedophilia, a claim that Sprigg does not address. To the best of my knowledge that has not occurred. A rational connection between the two does not exist. An irrational point of view was expressed by Clovis. Starting with Trump, we have more than enough irrational people in this supremely fucked-up administration.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.