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Witherspoon Institute: LGBT Equality Is Creating An "Intolerant, Secular State"

August 05, 2013 12:39 pm ET by Luke Brinker

The right-wing Witherspoon Institute bills itself as the sophisticated, "intellectual" face of social conservatism, but that didn't stop it from running an apocalyptic column warning that marriage equality will imperil "personal liberty and freedom" and jeopardize the constitutional rights of marriage equality opponents.

In an August 5 piece posted on the Witherspoon Institute blog, British lawyer and anti-gay activist Paul Diamond asserted that the advance of gay rights in the United Kingdom had led to a decline in "truly liberal rights," particularly for religious Britons. Similarly, Diamond claimed that gay rights supporters could soon run roughshod over religious Americans' constitutional rights:

Could the same thing happen in the United States? The First Amendment does stand as a bulwark against the erosion of liberal freedoms to speak, to assemble, and to act out of conscience; but for how long? Alluding to that amendment, Thomas Jefferson wrote in his correspondence of a "wall of separation between church and state"; but it is not hard to see how some cracks could appear in that wall.

What, for example, might a hostile US court make of a commercial photographer who refused to accept an assignment to photograph a same-sex marriage? Or how would federal employers react to employees who do not actively endorse homosexual activity or seek a conscientious objection to facilitating a same-sex marriage?

These cases are already pending in lower US courts. If they were to come before a British court, the decision would be entirely predictable, and conscience would be no defense.

How will the United States deal with Catholic adoption agencies that do not wish to place a child with a same-sex couple? To guess at the answer, we need only reflect on the fact that Catholic adoption agencies in the UK (and three US jurisdictions: Massachusetts, Illinois, and the District of Columbia) have felt that they have no choice but to close.

None of Diamond's horror stories withstand serious scrutiny.  The New Mexico photographer he alluded to was sued for violating the state's ant-discrimination Human Rights Act, not under a same-sex marriage law. The federal employee case Diamond referred to involved a supervisor at the Library of Congress creating a hostile work environment by sending harassing and judgmental emails to an auditor after discovering he was gay. Finally, Catholic adoption agencies have freely chosen to cease their services rather than provide children to same-sex couples.

For all Diamond's hand-wringing over the impending loss of "personal liberty and freedom," he doesn't seem too concerned about protecting one of the most fundamental freedoms of a truly democratic society: freedom from unjust and arbitrary discrimination. Diamond is the standing counsel to Christian Concern, a right-wing British organization that spearheaded the unsuccessful 2007 campaign to defeat British legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.

A look at Diamond's public career reveals that it's anti-gay animus - not a desire to guard cherished liberties - that motivates his work. At an anti-gay student conference put on by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) last year, Diamond blasted former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair for sending the UK to "the dark side" with his pro-gay policies. He has championed discredited "ex-gay" therapy, stated that gay rights activists lack "any moral background," and once spoke at an anti-gay conference titled "The Lepers Among Us: Homosexuality and the Life of the Church." It is unsurprising, then, that he casts the battle over marriage equality in decidedly apocalyptic terms in his Witherspoon Institute column:

The battle lines for these principles are now being drawn. All those who care about the personal liberties enshrined in the spirit and the letter of the First Amendment will need to fight to preserve America's truly liberal rights. The alternative is an intolerant, secular state that will impose its will on the lives of its citizens. We need only look to the horrors of the last century to know how important the battle for liberty and freedom of conscience will be.

For the ostensibly highbrow Witherspoon Institute, the rabidly anti-gay Diamond is no aberration. Witherspoon paid a researcher to produce a widely derided study claiming that same-sex parenting is a disaster for children. The group even grants a platform to the anti-gay activist Robert Oscar Lopez - you may have heard of his bizarre series of novels titled "Mean Gays" - who wrote a May column for Witherspoon in which he condemned same-sex adoption as "racist and condescending."


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