Michael Ross
via Alliance Defending Freedom

Michael Ross is a lawyer with Alliance Defending Freedom. At Vanderbilt Law (2016 graduate) Ross was president of the Christian Legal Society. Ross also writes for the Washington Examiner every now and then. Monday’s spew bore the headline: Hypocrisy: College administrators celebrate ‘diversity’ but punish professors who dissent. The word diversity in quotes is a tell. It unfailingly refers to the acceptance or rejection of LGBTQ people.

Ross’ headline is the equivalent of “College administrators support integration but punish professors who dissent.” Dissent refers to holding opinions at variance from others. However, not all dissent is legitimate or even acceptable when holding those views becomes airing those views. Dissent might be even less legitimate or unacceptable when one acts on those views.

According to Michael Ross:

… universities, dominated by leftist professors and even more radical college administrators, are increasingly suppressing any nonconforming views. This thinking is wrongheaded and ignores the purpose of both the university and the First Amendment.

Academics do tend to be left-of-center. The reason for that might be that they have a habit of being more intellectually curious than the average creature and they are critical thinkers. One contrast to academics are people who are bound by religious doctrine. Sometimes those folks allow their faith-based beliefs to prevail over evidence to the contrary. It has been my experience that religious conservatives are often less curious than their secular peers.

Mr. Ross writes of the First Amendment which does not apply. Private colleges and universities are not bound to the First Amendment. For that matter neither are public universities. That issue was settled by the Supreme Court in 2006 with the ruling in Garcetti v. Ceballos. Government employers have a right to control speech made by employees in the performance of their duties.

This is especially important to remember during Free Speech Week, which begins today and celebrates our First Amendment protections of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Both liberties are foundational to our republic because they ensure that we can have open and honest discussions on important social and political issues that affect each and every one of us.

See the above. Presumably Mr. Ross has never been an employer. Moreover, not everything should be subjected to open and honest discussions. Who decides what it important?

In the workplace, employers make the decisions over what is appropriate for “open and honest discussions” and what is important. The choice for employees in that regard is for whom they will accept or continue employment.

In other words a professor of ancient history might provoke a discussion regarding the virtues of the Roman Empire. However, that same professor would be ill-advised to engender a debate over whether or not I, as a Jew, am morally responsible for Christ’s crucifixion.

…the Ohio-based public university Shawnee State punished professor Nicholas Meriwether for declining to refer to a male student as a woman. The transgender student was upset after being referred to as “sir” instead of “ma’am” by the professor. Yet addressing the student that way would violate Meriwether’s sincerely-held Christian convictions.

“Male student?” Begging the question is an indication of intellectual mediocrity. Meriwether refused to address a transgender woman as she chooses to be addressed. Just because someone has a “sincerely-held™” religious belief does not mean that that they are entitled to act on that belief.

My view is that the conservative Christian conviction involved in misgendering people is really an irrepressible need to demonstrate disapproval. It is the act of shaming as a religious duty. In polite society we address people as they choose to be addressed. Religion is not an excuse for boorishness. Misgendering a transgender person does violence to that individual. It is no different than calling me “kike.” In fact it is worse because transgender people are already marginalized and vulnerable.

But let’s step back a moment. Some conservative Christians cannot accept the existence of transgender people because of what they perceive to be a conflict with Genesis 1:27. The dogma is supported by faith. Science, however, is supported by evidence. No one ever volunteered to have severe gender dysphoria for which there is no known treatment. The only means of mitigating the distress is through gender affirmation.

Gender affirmation might relieve the anxiety and depression associated with gender dysphoria but transgender people live with the reality that they are different from others. Our civilized society is not always kind to people who are different. A conservative Christian can conform to kindness and use preferred pronouns — and no one dies. On the other hand, misgendering does harm to a transgender person. Where is the balance?

Ross cannot write a paragraph without some bullshit:

Administrators formally charged the professor, saying that “he effectively created a hostile environment” for the student. The university then placed a written warning in Meriwether’s personnel file and threatened “further corrective actions” unless he agreed to articulate the university’s preferred ideological message.

Politeness is not an ideology

Treating students fairly is an obligation. Requiring faculty to do so is not requiring the conveyance of a “preferred ideological message.” In fact, there is no message involved in correctly addressing someone.

Imagine if that same student insisted on referring to the professor as Schmuck Meriwether. When the administration tells the student that she must refer to Meriwether as “Professor Meriwether” the university is not requiring the student to articulate a preferred ideological message.

Similarly, the University of Louisville demoted and fired its longtime division chief of child psychiatry and psychology for criticizing the push for radical, life-altering treatments for children with gender dysphoria. In the fall of 2017, Dr. Allan Josephson participated in a panel at the Heritage Foundation discussing treatment approaches for youth experiencing gender dysphoria. His remarks angered a few of his colleagues, who demanded that the university punish him.

First let’s get the facts straight. The university did demote Josephson but they did not fire him. They refused to renew his contract. What Josephson did was to demonstrate a desire to substitute faith-based dogma for evidence-based medical science. That makes Josephson dangerous.

It is the consensus of medical science that persistently gender diverse children should receive medical support. Those interventions may include puberty blockers at Tanner stage two or three (about 13-years-of-age) and cross-sex hormones in their late teens. The reason is that a transgender person’s quality of life often parallels the quality of their presentation as their gender.

Let us further recognize that the proper medical treatment of transgender kids might be a life or death issue.

Josephson was espousing a form of talk therapy that does not exist to treat gender dysphoria. Josephson’s lawyers in the civil suit (ADF) were very careful not to present this as an issue of religious freedom. They did concede that Josephson is interested in the intersection of psychiatry and religion.

I do not know about you but I do not think that medical treatment should be governed by pronouncements in ancient texts of questionable provenance. Those same chronicles are what I think governs Josephson’s behavior.

This kind of intolerance is suffocating the free exchange of ideas on college campuses across the country.

Many professors are afraid to express views that go against the oppressive, politically correct culture target=”_blank”— a culture that directly stifles student speech as well. A recent survey found that 68% of students say their the atmosphere on campus leaves people too intimidated to share unpopular views. This is up from 54% only three years ago.

Expecting a medical doctor to conform to medical science is not intolerance. Furthermore, this has nothing to do with the exchange of ideas. Josephson did not convene an assembly of colleagues to exchange ideas and debate. Josephson appeared on a panel at a conservative Christian organization (Heritage) to confirm religious views of gender dysphoria.

Ross is assigning beliefs to professors based upon a survey of students. Moreover, he is mischaracterizing the survey finding which is based on the following:

Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with the following
statement? The climate on my campus prevents some people from saying things they believe because others
might find them offensive.

That does not speak to intimidation and Ross has substituted unpopular views for offensive views. Those are two different things.

There simply aren’t that many transgender people around. They amount to about 0.5% of the population but you would think that a horde was descending upon Christendom to challenge scripture. What the religious set wants amounts to Christian privilege. In this case that means a right to be insulting and abusive or a particularly vulnerable slice of society.

Denied that self-manufactured right and they become victims. I would remind them that the overwhelming majority of those university administrators who are trampling on their God-given rights are also Christians. They just have a better understanding of the difference between religious freedom and religious imposition.

Note: Alliance Defending Freedom is designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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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.