Everett Piper, the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University with a national platform for his conservative views, capitalized on that platform earlier this month with an op-ed comparing LGBTQ people to ISIS.
In his opinion piece published in the Washington Times, Piper argues that moral approval of same-sex relations constitutes a slippery slope (a common logical fallacy) that leads to approval for pederasty, adultery and incest. He proposes an exercise to help those who don’t share his irrational fear:
Go to any article in any magazine or website that argues for “conversations” about sexual morality and simply replace the acronym of the day with another set of letters. For example, every time you see LGBTQ in an article, simply replace those letters with ISIS. Change nothing else. Do this throughout the entire column in question.
In doing this, something will quickly become quite obvious. Sentences will emerge such as these: “Love is love and ISIS has the right to love who they want to love.” “The ISIS community simply wants to be accepted and affirmed.” “What right does anyone have to refuse to bake a cake for an ISIS wedding?” As such absurdities jump off the page, hopefully it becomes clear how absolutely ridiculous our culture’s game of sexual politics has become.
If people deserve respect just because of how they identify, Piper has no idea how to distinguish one identity from another. “In this brave new world of hyphens and acronyms, we paint ourselves into a corner of ‘tolerance’ where we must affirm the proclivities of anyone who ‘identifies’ as ISIS just as much as we do all who identify as LGBTQ,” he writes.
Piper truly doesn’t know how to morally distinguish between someone who might be gay and someone with hateful views. “What is the difference between affirming one sinful inclination and affirming another?” he asks. “In other words, why is an inclination toward anti-Semitism something we all assume we can and should condemn, control and change, but an inclination toward a given sexual act is not? Why do we ‘normalize’ one sinful predisposition but condemn another?”
Piper never tries to answer these questions (personal incredulity is another logical fallacy). To him, sin is sin, and the sinful nature of LGBTQ identities is a moral absolute. The lives of LGBTQ people are of no concern to him, including their ability to form families, find jobs or housing, or participate in public life.
This is apparent in his efforts to advocate for the “religious freedom” bill introduced in the Oklahoma state legislature. The “Oklahoma Right of Conscience Act,” SB 197, would explicitly license discrimination against LGBTQ people by allowing service to be refused if the provider felt it might support “a specific marriage, lifestyle, or behavior.”
Piper recently wrote to every Oklahoma state senator, imploring them to support the bill. Warning that a Catholic florist might have to sell flowers to a same-sex couple, he deployed a series of strawmen (yet another logical fallacy), examples of oppression that neither have happened nor could happen under U.S. law:
Should the government, for example, have the power to “establish” that a Jewish owner of a meat processing business be legally forced to butcher pigs and, thus, provide ham for an anti-Semite’ s wedding? Should the government have the power to “establish” that the Muslim owner of the local newspaper be forced to print Charlie Hebdo cartoons? Should the government have the power to “establish” that the Anglican owner of a convenience store must sell bread and wine to a Satanist church for a mock Eucharist? Should the government have the power to “establish” that PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) be forced to advertise for the NCBA’s (National Cattlemen’s Beef Association) annual convention?
Similar to the examples conservatives posited in defense of the anti-gay baker in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, these hypotheticals are false parallels to discrimination against women or LGBTQ people. Stores can choose the menu of products they sell so long as they sell the same menu to all customers. Likewise, the freedoms of speech and press guarantee that newspapers and organizations can establish their own editorial policies.
Last week, Republican leadership in the Oklahoma Senate killed the bill for political reasons. A similar “freedom of conscience” bill modeled after the federal First Amendment Defense Act (SB1250) is still pending.
Piper also recently came to the defense of a University of Pittsburgh student who objected to being taught about transgender people in one of his classes. Piper invited the student free tuition to complete his education at Oklahoma Wesleyan, where he has boasted of the institution’s intention to discriminate against trans students.
Piper’s megaphone has grown to such an extent that he even recently participated in the Department of Health and Human Services’ announcement of its new anti-LGBTQ “religious freedom” rule. Given his willingness to demonize LGBTQ people and advocate discrimination against them, affiliation with him is now tantamount to support for such bigotry.