The Latest Targets of Sexual Radicalism

Two incidents involving basic constitutional freedoms—not closely associated with one another in the media or by those involved—highlight the growing power of sexual radicalism in our society. Radical sexual ideology in a broad sense has not generally been recognized as a political phenomenon worthy of attention. But we can see in these developments—both of which are eliciting outrage from different defenders of the Bill of Rights—that politicized sexuality transcends particular controversies such as same-sex marriage or abortion. It can be seen as a true political ideology, akin to earlier radicalisms like socialism and nationalism and equally threatening to freedom.

In Houston, the lesbian mayor recently demanded that pastors opposed to the city’s “bathroom bill”—an “anti-discrimination” ordinance that would allow people to choose public washrooms according to “gender identity”—surrender their sermons and other documents to city officials. The subpoenas have been withdrawn following public outrage, but the very idea that government officials should claim the power to examine—and therefore pass judgement upon—expressions of political opinion by any citizens, religious or secular, is disturbing in a free society.

“If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game,” declared Mayor Annise Parker, as if speech about “politics” is not protected by the First Amendment. Indeed, that is precisely what City Attorney Dave Feldman stated: If pastors discuss what he judges to be “political speech,” then their First Amendment right to freedom of expression “is not going to be protected.”

“It’s a shocking thing,” declares author Eric Metaxas, adding that “everyone in America should be freaking out.”

 

If we tolerate this kind of abrogation of religious freedom in this nation, all of our liberties will be unraveled. … It is that serious. America needs to wake up. The church, especially, needs to know that this is a huge trampling of something that the Founders said was at the heart of all of our liberties.

Yet the same people who express shock about this intimidation ignore equally, if not more, dangerous measures against innocent citizens, also promoted by sexual radicals.

Throughout American universities and beyond, we are told that an apparent “epidemic” of rape and various ill-defined forms of “sexual misconduct” justify suspending due process protections for accused students. Yet no statistics support this claim, and reputable journalists and scholars deny it categorically. Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute calls the claim “preposterous.” “There is no such epidemic,” she states flatly. “There is, however, a squalid hook-up scene, the result of jettisoning all normative checks on promiscuous behavior. … There is simply no reason to concede any factual legitimacy to the rape hysterics.” Caroline Kitchens of the American Enterprise Institute has also written that, “The rape ‘epidemic’ doesn’t actually exist.” Kitchens and other scholars show how the much-touted figure claiming “one in five” female students is raped is not only wildly exaggerated but impossible.

It is not necessary to marshal particular cases to show that the campus rape adjudications are unjust; the measures demanded by the rape adjudicators themselves make it very clear, as they seek every means to expand the definition of rape to ever more behavior and to curtail due process protections for the accused.

Accusations of “rape,” “sexual assault,” “sexual harassment,” and “sexual misconduct” (no strong distinction separates these terms, each of which is ill-defined) on university campuses are “tried” not by criminal courts but by an archipelago of campus pseudo-courts staffed by students and faculty. “Across the country, students accused of sexual assault are regularly tried before inadequate and unjust campus judiciaries,” writes Kitchens. “Cases of sexual misconduct are decided by a committee of as few as three students, faculty members, or administrators.” One attorney describes

a disciplinary procedure where students nearly always lack lawyers, no legally trained judge oversees the process, testimony is not under oath, hearsay is freely considered, relevant evidence or even proper notice of the charges may not be given to both parties, students may be forced to incriminate themselves, and whatever “jury” is empaneled may not be of one’s peers.

The latest twist is California’s new “Affirmative Consent” law that would turn virtually all consensual sex into rape. To avoid a conviction, men must, at each “stage” of a sexual encounter, “demonstrate they obtained verbal ‘affirmative consent’ before engaging in sexual activity.” “Since most couples have engaged in sex without ‘verbal’ consent,” writes attorney Hans Bader, “supporters of the bill are effectively redefining most people, and most happily-married couples, as rapists.”

What is the connection between the pastors and the students? They both involve violations of fundamental civil liberties in the name of sexual liberation, and they both result from pressure by the same coalition of feminist and homosexual activists.

Though prominent in the news now, these two issues are far from being the only instances of sexual ideologues seeking power by curtailing basic constitutional protections. “Today’s college rape panic is an eerie recapitulation of the daycare abuse panic,” observes Christina Hoff Sommers. “Just as the mythical ‘50,000 abducted children’ fueled paranoia about child safety in the 1980s, so today’s hysteria is incited by the constantly repeated, equally fictitious ‘one-in-five women on campus is a victim of rape.’” The common denominator is radical sexual ideology:

Once again, conspiracy feminists are at the forefront of this movement. Just as feminist psychologists persuaded children that they had been abused, so women’s activists have persuaded many young women that what they might have dismissed as a foolish drunken hookup was actually a felony rape. “Believe the children,” said the ritual abuse experts during the day care scare. “Believe the survivors,” say today’s rape culturalists. To not believe an alleged victim is to risk being called a rape apologist.

There are other parallels. In the developed nations, almost all the threats to religious freedom today come from demands for sexual liberation.

Some severe violations receive almost no scrutiny. The feminist-driven divorce apparat may be the most repressive government machinery ever created in the United States. Legally unimpeachable citizens endure official controls on associating with their own children as well as on their movements and finances. Involuntarily divorced parents are routinely incarcerated without trial for such matters as unauthorized meetings with their children or sending unauthorized birthday cards. Forcibly divorced parents allegedly abandoning their children and refusing to pay child support (“deadbeat dads”) is another hysteria that that has been repeatedly demonstrated to be a hoax, though the summary incarcerations continue.

Failure to see the larger picture is what allows this authoritarianism to expand. Christian activists who term Houston’s subpoenas “totalitarian” refuse to defend the university students for fear of being labelled as “apologists for rape” and other “sex crimes.” Secular conservatives and moderate liberals use the same “totalitarian” label to characterize trumped-up accusations against university students, but they refuse to defend pastors for fear of being labelled as anti-homosexual “haters” and “bigots.” And no one wants to defend accused (but never tried) “child abusers” or “deadbeat dads.” With some accusations, innocence is no excuse.

Metaxas is a biographer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and all this would seem to be tailor-made for the famous words attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoeller describing the intellectuals’ cowardice during the era of true totalitarianism: “First they came for the socialists….”

Stephen Baskerville

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Stephen Baskerville is Professor of Government at Patrick Henry College and Research Fellow at the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society, the Independent Institute, and the Inter-American Institute. He holds a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and attends an Anglican parish in Virginia. His most recent book The New Politics of Sex: Civil Liberties and the Growth of Governmental Power is published by Angelico Press.

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