Is Intellectual Honesty Too Much to Expect?

Okay, that’s a rhetorical question.

After Governor Pence responded to the decision striking down DOMA, citizens who disagreed with him flooded his Facebook page. Their comments were removed; when asked about that, Pence said the comments had been “uncivil” and profane. As the media has reported, screenshots proved otherwise. Evidently, our governor is too thin-skinned to engage in good faith with those holding opinions different from his own, so his staff simply erased them.

That’s a relatively minor–and all too predictable– example, however. What really caught my eye was an Op-Ed penned by Curt Smith in yesterday’s Star–a counter to the Star’s surprisingly excellent editorial.

Curt Smith, for those who are unfamiliar with his background, is a longtime local culture warrior. I first met him when I was the ‘token heterosexual’ in a group that visited the offices of Senator Dan Coats to express concerns about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” This was during Coats’ first term, and Smith was his AA. Smith met with the group–Coats did not–and spent most of the uncomfortable half-hour telling us that God disapproved of homosexuality.

Let’s just stipulate that it wasn’t a productive meeting.

My other illuminating Curt Smith story occurred when the Jewish Community Relations Council convened a community-wide meeting at the Jewish Community Center, to determine whether the organization should take a formal position on the effort to place a ban on same-sex marriage in the Indiana Constitution. The session began with a panel discussion; David Orentleicher and I argued that a position opposing the Amendment and supporting same-sex marriage was consistent with Jewish values. Curt Smith and someone I don’t recall spoke in opposition. During the lively question and answer period that followed, Rabbi Dennis Sasso spoke eloquently about the importance of separation of church and state, and made several biblical references to justice and equality. Curt Smith responded by telling Rabbi Sasso that he had misunderstood the biblical text, and he offered to send the Rabbi “biblical scholarship” that would straighten him out.

I’ve never forgotten that exchange. It was one of the most arrogant and offensive things I’ve ever seen.

Arrogance is one thing, however, and dishonesty is another. In his column yesterday, Smith wrote the following:

A 2012 study published in a well-known academic journal, Social Science Research, showed children raised by lesbian or gay parents fared worse than children of straight parents when it came to education, mental health, criminal history and other measures. The study looked at a large, random sample of young adults over age 18.

Well, not exactly. If you consult the actual publication, you get a significantly different, and far more nuanced, set of conclusions. The study did find slight advantages enjoyed by children of  non-divorced heterosexual families over those of non-separated homosexual parents. However, this result was qualified because the researcher did not have a sufficient number of children from the latter group to allow her to draw statistically-significant conclusions.  She also did not control for adoption. (A number of studies find that adopted children and biological children have different experiences and thus outcomes that are statistically different.) Furthermore, several scholars commented with concerns about aspects of the study’s statistical methods, and the author readily conceded the legitimacy of those methodological concerns. The study’s basic conclusion? “This probability study suggests considerable diversity among same-sex parents.”
Well, yes.
Most research has found little or no difference between the children of gay and straight parents. Perhaps those studies are wrong. On the other hand, as more states recognize same-sex marriages, and those families have the same social supports that heterosexuals enjoy, such differences as exist may well disappear. I don’t know, and neither does Curt Smith.
But whatever the evidence ultimately shows, honest people will deal with it. Dishonest ideologues will lie about it.

9 thoughts on “Is Intellectual Honesty Too Much to Expect?

  1. For what it’s worth, Sheila was terrific in the JCRC community forum, the audience was outraged by Mr. Smith’s comments, and the JCRC went on to decide that the marriage amendment was a Jewish issue and that the community’s consensus was to oppose amending the Constitution to restrict, rather than enhance, rights.

  2. Always many more people who couldn’t critically interpret their way out of a wet paper bag, than those who can.
    Frankly, I doubt he even read the research. Probably was just regurgitating the talking points of someone with a similar agenda to him who also has critical thinking “issues”.

  3. I expected nothing else from Pence. I wonder if the research done on children of gay parents included effects of the frequent negative public opinion and possible bullying by anti-gays. The cruel misguided attitudes of peers, usually learned from parents, is damaging emotionally and is often accompanied by physical abuse. Was consideration of stability of straight parents part of the study or only their assumed sexual orientation?

  4. The Governor has no constitutional role in amending Indiana’s constitution. Obviously that doesn’t prevent him from taking sides, but when he does, and in his official capacity using a social media site, he has the First Amendment to consider when trying to control the message of those who respond.

  5. RE: the Pence/Facebook flap, and I have said this on FB, is that Pence established an OFFICIAL Facebook page as Indiana’s Governor, then designated OFFICIAL staff, paid with taxpayer dollars, to administer said page. Those PUBLIC EMPLOYEES censored dissenting comments in a PUBLIC FORUM that they established. Not only is that intellectually dishonest, to me it is a glaring example that Mike Pence cares not one iota for the Federal and State Constitutional guarantees of free speech, especially when it expresses an opinion he disagrees with. The REAL Mike Pence, the Tea Party darling, has shown his true colors.

  6. The story about the exchange at the JCC is stunning. Rabbi Sasso is one of the most scholarly and compassionate people in our community. Curt Smith likely regretted that his comments were less “Christian” than those of the Rabbi at that meeting and
    alienated those whose support he sought.

  7. What’s really interesting is not just the difference of opinions surrounding this issue, but how people communicate those differences. Mean-spirited and dishonest communication tends to muddy any argument, reveal the true characteristics of those people and end with unpleasant future consequences. In the case of our governor, he has apparently overcome his initial reluctance to reveal his true self. A couple more issues like this may seriously damage his second term opportunities as well as other aspirations, but it’s an ill wind that blows no good.

  8. Greg’s comment is particularly troubling. The governor’s site is “official”, the staff which maintains it is paid by taxpayer dollars who arbitrarily exclude comments shown only to disagree with official policy. Hmmm. Is this a 1st Amendment legal problem?

  9. Greg Purvis :
    RE: the Pence/Facebook flap, and I have said this on FB, is that Pence established an OFFICIAL Facebook page as Indiana’s Governor, then designated OFFICIAL staff, paid with taxpayer dollars, to administer said page. Those PUBLIC EMPLOYEES censored dissenting comments in a PUBLIC FORUM that they established. Not only is that intellectually dishonest, to me it is a glaring example that Mike Pence cares not one iota for the Federal and State Constitutional guarantees of free speech, especially when it expresses an opinion he disagrees with. The REAL Mike Pence, the Tea Party darling, has shown his true colors.

    You find this surprising ?
    It is all about controlling their message…delete dissenting opinions than they can come out and say…the people want WAR…or a recent trade agreement.
    I’ve been dealing with these PAID Internet trolls from Indiana gov for years. They have no concern for morality or law…if sued, the tax payers pay anyway.

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