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So Much for Academic Freedom:

Inside Higher Ed has a story about the ongoing controversy over Thio Li-ann of the National University of Singapore, who will be teaching International Human Rights at NYU as a visitor this Fall. As IHE report, she is an "outspoken opponent of gay rights. Thio has argued repeatedly and graphically that her country should continue to criminalize gay sexual acts."

Cary Nelson, national president of the American Association of University Professors, said that he would not advise NYU to rescind the invitation to Thio to teach there. But he said that it would be legitimate to raise questions about whether she should be teaching human rights.

"Academic freedom protects you from retaliation for your extramural remarks, but it does not protect you from being prohibited from teaching in an area where you are not professionally competent, and there are doubts on whether she has the competency in human rights," Nelson said. He said that there is in fact an "international consensus, save a few countries like Iran" that gay people should not be treated as criminals.

What a bizarre and disturbing comment to come from the AAUP president, whose professional obligation is to be a spokesperson for academic freedom! He's suggesting that if a professor disagrees with the "international consensus" on a particular narrow issue within a much broader field, that professor should be deemed incompetent to teach in that field.

By this logic, just for example, a professor who has that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are legal under international (such as the late Yale Law School professor Eugene Rostow) law would not be permitted to teach international law; a professor who doubts that human activities are playing a significant role in global climate change would not be permitted to teach international environmental law, among other things; and a professor who disagrees with various national constitutions and international conventions guaranteeing "positive rights" (to shelter, food, jobs, etc.) could be deemed on that basis incompetent to teach a range of related subjects. This principle would extend beyond international law. Perhaps feminist professors who think that all heterosexual sex amounts to rape should be banned from teaching classes on gender-related issues, given that this is strongly contrary to international consensus. And all this regardless, apparently, of how these issues are treated in the classroom, including whether the professor acknowledges that his positions are a minority in the field, or, for that matter, whether the professor discusses his own positions in class at all, or just teaches the current status of the debate and the law.

Most likely, what Nelson is really thinking is that Thio is a bigot, but since he can't come out and say that bigots shouldn't be allowed to teach (because the next thing you know, the logic will be extended to Communists and other left-wing radicals), he instead pretends that the argument is over Thio's "competency." But surely it can't be the case that only people who agree with the current "international consensus" on one particular issue in the human rights field are competent to teach about human rights law (she is not, after all, being hired as an advocate for modern human rights law).

I think it much more honest and appropriate to keep the debate honest: is the fact that someone thinks that homosexual acts are immoral and perverse, and should be illegal (at least in her home country) sufficient grounds to disinvite her (or not invite her to begin with) to teach in her subject area, assuming she otherwise has the relevant expertise?* (Note, however, that most critics of NYU's decision to invite Thio are not requesting that the invitation be revoked).

UPDATE: I should have including more of Nelson's remarks, which make his views sound even worse:

Nelson also said that in a tenure decision, he would judge a candidate — however offensive his or her views on unrelated subjects — only on a question of whether the person's scholarship and teaching in his or her discipline met appropriate standards. But in a hiring decision (whether for a visiting or permanent position), he said, it is appropriate to consider other factors, and the reality is that it's impossible to know what professors are really thinking when they vote one way or another. Professors can appropriately ask prior to appointments, he said, whether hiring someone whose views on certain subjects are "poisonous" could limit "the department's ability to do its business."
Next up: The AAUP defends loyalty oaths, and, in a retrospective on its fight to protect radical leftists with "poisonous" pro-Soviet views in the 1950s admits, "we were just kidding."

*To be clear, I haven't investigated Thio's background, and therefore have no opinion on whether she seems otherwise qualified to teach human rights law. To the extent folks want to argue that her work is weak and she shouldn't have been invited on those grounds, that's an entirely different point.

FURTHER UPDATE: Let me reiterate that I don't know anything about Thio, and have no opinion on whether she is in fact someone who, putting aside her views on gay rights, should be teaching human rights law at NYU.

And I think that her critics are correct to point out that NYU would never hire someone with analogous views about African Americans or other historically unpopular minorities, no matter how competent they were in their subject matter, and these critics can reasonably argue that NYU should treat gays with equal respect without taking a position on academic freedom more generally.

But Mr. Stanley didn't claim that Thio lacks relevant expertise or qualifications or smarts in general to teach human rights law, but that Thio's views on the legality of homosexual sex in Singapore are contrary to a purported international consensus, and therefore she may lack competence, which is nonsense. Let's say a prominent professor of human rights law in the U.S. suddenly announced that he thought gay sex should be criminalized, but his class changed not a whit from his previous classes. On what basis would we suddenly challenge his competence in the subject area?

And the AAUP, dedicated as it is institutionally to academic freedom and the right of professors with unpopular or outrageous views to be free from mistreatment, simply can't properly make the second argument, that because, e.g., racists are poorly treated, people who oppose gay rights should also be poorly treated. One can't imagine, for example, the AAUP arguing that because as a practical matter a known Nazi would never get hired by NYU, that NYU should not hire known Communist, or because few universities would hire known Al Qaeda sympathizers, they should also refuse hire someone who has written nice things about the Irish Republican Army, or the PLO, or Che Guevera, etc.

But Stanley actually made a much worse argument, that universities can properly exclude any ideas deemed sufficiently poisonous to interfere with departmental activities. In other words, universities should, on principle, allow a hecklers' veto. This position undermines the longstanding AAUP position over the decades that pacifists, or Communists, or anti-War protestors, or critics of the U.S. post-9/11, should not be mistreated in any way because of their political views, no matter how great the public outcry, and no matter how unpopular their perspective. E.g., after 9/11:

In recognizing that now is not the first time that our institutions have been tested by the demands of national security, the committee reaffirms the position taken during World War II by the Association's Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure:
"Academic freedom is one facet of intellectual freedom; other aspects of that larger concept—freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion—are among the avowed objects for which this war is being fought. It would be folly to draw a boundary line across the area of freedom."
Let's say Bill Ayers was suddenly up for an appointment in his field at NYU for which he was duly qualified. Does anyone believe that the AAUP position would be, or should be, that his views are so "poisonous" that NYU should decline to consider him for that position?

levisbaby:
First they came for the people who wanted to criminalize loving consensual relationships between adults, and I did nothing ....
7.13.2009 4:34pm
ruuffles (mail) (www):

He's suggesting that if a professor disagrees with the "international consensus" on a particular narrow issue within a much broader field, that professor should be deemed incompetent to teach in that field.

Yeah! Creationists should absolutely be granted tenure in biology! Palin/Perry 2012!
7.13.2009 4:36pm
DangerMouse:
Why is this so surprising? Academic freedom doesn't apply to people outside the lib mainstream. Period.
7.13.2009 4:38pm
Tennessean (mail):
As a further note, Nelson seems to be muddying exactly what is at stake in academic freedom cases. This is not a case where NYU is considering revoking tenure on the basis of ideas developed in the course of academic research. Rather, the key question here (and in similar cases) is whether a university may consider a scholar's research positions in deciding whether or not to invite that scholar to the university. In that case, academic freedom does not weigh nearly as strongly in favor of shielding the scholar from critique.
7.13.2009 4:38pm
Danny (mail):
My heart bleeds for the poor lady, she must suffer so much, being contradicted over advocating imprisoning all members of select minority groups.. much more than said minority people losing their freedom or becoming refugees..
7.13.2009 4:39pm
AF:
It's not that she has a minority viewpoint. It's that (1) her reasons for having the viewpoint are unsound and uninteresting, and (2) the viewpoint is relevant to her field of teaching and research.

If bad reasoning in one's chosen field doesn't disqualify someone from an academic post, what does?
7.13.2009 4:39pm
Tatil:
Should we also invite holocaust deniers to teach History of Israel as well? There is gotta be a line between outliers and complete lunatics. It is one thing to argue about the appropriateness of using the name "marriage" for SSM, but something altogether different to argue that being gay is a criminal act while teaching human rights. The whole thing sounds like Soviet style euphemism. Maybe the lunatic line should be like porn, I know it when I see it.
7.13.2009 4:40pm
Anderson (mail):
I thought I had seen posts from DB criticizing hiring/tenure decisions where a candidate had been critical of Israel or downright anti-semitic, but I see now that I must have misremembered those posts. Glad to see DB strongly in favor of academic liberty.
7.13.2009 4:41pm
Guest poster (mail):
In your view, would an individual who supported the imprisonment of any people who entered into interracial marriages be competent to teach human rights? How about someone who advocated the death penalty for such relationships? Would you appoint someone militantly pro-Dred Scott to teach Civil Rights and the Constitution at your law school? Would you appoint Ward Churchill to your faculty? Would the failure to do so constitute a "denial of academic freedom"? Come on.

And I do think it's a competence issue. I realize that there are a lot of reasonable disagreements in society, but that is no excuse for moral nihilism. Some things are simply a matter of right and wrong. Someone who approves imprisoning people for interracial marriages is simply WRONG, and someone wrong about such a basic moral issue just as incompetent to teach civil rights as someone who makes factual errors in their analysis.

In my view, the same applies to Ms. Thio. She advocates imprisoning gay people. Do you realize how offensive that is? She has the first amendment right to say what she wants (in the United States), but that doesn't mean it's an infringement on her rights to conclude that her views are so misguided that she shouldn't be teaching human rights.
7.13.2009 4:44pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Tatil,

Let's say a particular professor is a complete moral skeptic, and doesn't believe in human rights at all. I don't see what that has to do with his or her competency to teach human rights law, assuming he has the relevant background and experience. And if someone who doesn't believe in human rights law at all can be competent to teach human rights law, surely someone who disagrees that certain actions should be recognized as human rights can be competent.

Now if you want to argue that she's a bigot, or that her views are ill-reasoned, or that's she's known to suppress dissenting views in class, or that she'll be intolerant of gay students, those are all plausible reasons to deny her a visitorship, though I'm not taking a position on any of these here. But let's not pretend that it's an issue of "competency to teach human rights law" because she opposes gay rights.
7.13.2009 4:46pm
Anderson (mail):
Should we also invite holocaust deniers to teach History of Israel as well?

Well, except for some of the background re: the foundation of Israel, holocaust denial isn't directly relevant to Israeli history, if we're talking 1948-present, right?

... That reminds me of a book on ancient history which I picked up at the library, not realizing until I got a few pages in that it apparently was written with Christian fundamentalist homeschoolers in mind. I was taking it as a straight survey until she started writing about the Flood. Probably how Prof. Holocaust Denial's students would feel on the first day of History of Israel.
7.13.2009 4:47pm
HSAHM:
I find this post particularly interesting in light of your commentary on Columbia's decision to grant tenure to Joseph Massad. I agree with your analysis on Cary Nelson's unfortunate articulation of the problem with hiring Thio Li-ann. However, I think Thio Li-ann's scholarship seems intellectually dishonest and feel NYU would be best served by revoking her invitation on these grounds. That Thio Li-ann opposes gay rights should not disqualify her from a teaching post. However, the absolutely appalling rhetoric and misinformation she has employed in advancing her agenda bears on her abilities as an academic.
7.13.2009 4:48pm
Calderon:
Anderson said


I thought I had seen posts from DB criticizing hiring/tenure decisions where a candidate had been critical of Israel or downright anti-semitic, but I see now that I must have misremembered those posts. Glad to see DB strongly in favor of academic liberty.


This would be a good point if DB claimed that those candidates were not competent to teach their chosen subjects because they were critical of Israel, but otherwise not so much. Was that the basis of DB's argument in those prior posts?

As DB made clear in the last paragraph of his original post (before the addition), his problem is with claiming a person who holds a particular position is incompetent rather than saying they shouldn't be hired (regardless of how competent they are) because of their positions.
7.13.2009 4:48pm
Danny (mail):
Also let's remember that this is not a hypothetical or imaginary political position. During the 20th century lots of gay men and lesbians were subjected to intense violence from their governments, and were imprisoned, or even tortured or subjected to medical experimentation in prison, in various countries around the world. Let's remember those persecuted and murdered people when we think about Ms. Thio's academic freedom.
7.13.2009 4:49pm
Seamus (mail):

By this logic, just for example, a professor who has that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are legal under international (such as the late Yale Law School professor Eugene Rostow) law would not be permitted to teach international law



It certainly wouldn't surpise me if the AARP would be perfectly OK with that outcome.
7.13.2009 4:49pm
AndrewK (mail):
Guest poster: Thio may advocate imprisoning gay people (I don't know), but the only question is whether or not she is equipped to present the arguments on both sides, not which side she takes.

I don't care if she teaches that homosexuality is wrong in the classroom. As long as she has empathy while she does that---- well that's all we can ask, right?
7.13.2009 4:49pm
Anderson (mail):
But let's not pretend that it's an issue of "competency to teach human rights law" because she opposes gay rights.

Take a liberal law prof teaching Bowers v. Hardwick in the years before it was overruled by Lawrence. Would that law prof, who believed in gay rights and considered Bowers both mistaken and immoral, be unable to teach Bowers?
7.13.2009 4:50pm
Patent Lawyer:
Guest poster, and all others who are thinking this way:

She advocates imprisoning gay people. Do you realize how offensive that is? She has the first amendment right to say what she wants (in the United States), but that doesn't mean it's an infringement on her rights to conclude that her views are so misguided that she shouldn't be teaching human rights.

Until 2003, the United States did not consider homosexual sex a "right", and 3 justices dissented from the view that it was (granted, only 1 of those justices indicated that he might agree with the law prohibiting gay sex). That would weigh pretty strongly in favor of Ms. Thio's view being a legitimate minority viewpoint, not beyond the pale.

It seems bizarre to say that when 3 U.S. Supreme Court Justices would hold that states have the power to prohibit gay sex, someone who advocates prohibiting gay sex is automatically disqualified from teaching at an American law school.
7.13.2009 4:51pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
In your view, would an individual who supported the imprisonment of any people who entered into interracial marriages be competent to teach human rights?
Let's say a prominent professor of human rights law in the U.S. suddenly announced that position. But his class changed not a whit from his previous classes. On what basis would we say he's "incompetent?" Morally unfit, perhaps. Too racist to teach ethnically diverse students, perhaps. But not "incompetent" in the subject matter.
7.13.2009 4:52pm
AndrewK (mail):
All joking aside, though, I am not sure if a member of the Singaporean parliament is equipped to teach human rights law at all. However, NYU has recently started a Singapore program, and I do not doubt for an instant that the political connections of Ms. Thio are a contributing factor here.

If we are going to object to Thio's substantive views, let us at least be consistent and object on the grounds that human rights are ridiculous, theological posits in the first place--- linguistic proxies for "natural rights", rather than taking the absurd position that human rights extend to gays.
7.13.2009 4:53pm
AF:
Now if you want to argue that she's a bigot, or that her views are ill-reasoned, or that's she's known to suppress dissenting views in class, or that she'll be intolerant of gay students, those are all plausible reasons to deny her a visitorship, though I'm not taking a position on any of these here. But let's not pretend that it's an issue of "competency to teach human rights law" because she opposes gay rights.

I don't understand the distinction between bigotry and poor reasoning on the one hand, and Li-Ann's manifestly bigoted, poorly-reasoned opposition to gay rights on the other. I suppose you could imagine, or at least hypothesize, someone whose opposition to gay rights was not bigoted and ill-reasoned. But that's not Li-Ann.
7.13.2009 4:53pm
Anderson (mail):
This would be a good point if DB claimed that those candidates were not competent to teach their chosen subjects because they were critical of Israel, but otherwise not so much

I'm sorry; what "point" did you think I was making?
7.13.2009 4:53pm
Seamus (mail):

It is one thing to argue about the appropriateness of using the name "marriage" for SSM, but something altogether different to argue that being gay is a criminal act while teaching human rights.


The linked article does not indicate that Thio argues that "being gay" should be a criminal act. It instead says that she argues that "her country should continue to criminalize gay sexual acts." This may strike you as an inconsequential difference, but the difference between "being gay" and "gay sexual acts" is as substantial as the difference between kleptomania and theft, or the difference between alcoholism and public drunkenness. In none of these three cases does criminalizing the latter entail criminalizing the former.
7.13.2009 4:56pm
Danny (mail):
Seamus, if you say that then you are being disingenous, or you know nothing about the real history of how gay people have historically been treated by the gov't
7.13.2009 4:59pm
drunkdriver:
When can we open an investigation of her for violation of international criminal law?
7.13.2009 4:59pm
AndrewK (mail):
Seamus: Confound your logic!
7.13.2009 4:59pm
Adam J:
Seriously, why would anyone the international human rights has anything to do with morality?
7.13.2009 5:00pm
Gabriel McCall (mail):
I don't see this as an academic freedom problem at all. Or rather, the academic freedom in question is the freedom of NYU to select the best possible teachers by whatever criteria it thinks appropriate. Just because you're allowed to say what you think doesn't mean you have a right to get paid for it.

It is an act of base cowardice, however, to explain that decision in terms of "competence" rather than just coming right and and saying they don't want to support that sort of bigotry.
7.13.2009 5:02pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Just four days ago, Professor Bernstein argued that Columbia University should not have granted tenure to Joseph Massad based largely upon Massad's "hostility to the international gay rights and feminist movements". Given the way Bernstein criticized Columbia's decision, how can he attack Cary Nelson for criticizing NYU's?
7.13.2009 5:03pm
dr:

This may strike you as an inconsequential difference, but the difference between "being gay" and "gay sexual acts" is as substantial as the difference between kleptomania and theft, or the difference between alcoholism and public drunkenness. In none of these three cases does criminalizing the latter entail criminalizing the former.



How about "being Christian" and "praying"? Same logic, right? Not a problem then to outlaw praying while allowing someone to be Christian?
7.13.2009 5:04pm
autolykos:
Seamus -


It certainly wouldn't surpise me if the AARP would be perfectly OK with that outcome.


That's because old people are notoriously anti-semetic.
7.13.2009 5:12pm
troll_dc2 (mail):
Well, this is a most interesting development. I am both gay and an NYU graduate. Even if political considerations lay behind the visiting professorship, it will be good for students, especially gay students, to be exposed to a viewpoint that they otherwise would not be confronted with up close.

I assume that the law school knows what it is doing. If Li-ann is able to teach the course adequately and does not impose her personal beliefs into her classroom discussions or her grading standards, what is there to object to? I grant that she would regard me as a criminal, but if there is sufficient interchange in the classroom, who knows? Maybe even she would find herself reconsidering her views.
7.13.2009 5:13pm
CJColucci:
Cary Nelson, national president of the American Association of University Professors, said that he would not advise NYU to rescind the invitation to Thio to teach there. But he said that it would be legitimate to raise questions about whether she should be teaching human rights.

And the academic freedom problem is....?
7.13.2009 5:14pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
He said that there is in fact an "international consensus, save a few countries like Iran" that gay people should not be treated as criminals.
Is that even true?
7.13.2009 5:15pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Just four days ago, Professor Bernstein argued that Columbia University should not have granted tenure to Joseph Massad based largely upon Massad's "hostility to the international gay rights and feminist movements".
Actually, I specifically wrote, "that shouldn't matter for tenure purposes." I did point out, however, that Massad's views on these issues would in practice have harmed his tenure prospects but for the fact that he is anti-Israel and therefore poses as a Progressive.
7.13.2009 5:16pm
Fugle:

How about "being Christian" and "praying"? Same logic, right? Not a problem then to outlaw praying while allowing someone to be Christian?

Like in the public schools?
7.13.2009 5:17pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
(It should go without saying that pointing out the reality of a situation, while disagreeing with that reality, is hardly an endorsement of that reality.)
7.13.2009 5:17pm
Anderson (mail):
Ah, Massad's the fellow re: whom I was thinking above I was mistaken about DB's posts.

DB does write that "it's hard to imagine a university like Columbia tenuring him if he wasn't a leading Israel-basher," which clearly distinguishes his own attitude from Columbia's.

DB adds that "I think it's regrettable from the standpoint of academic integrity that Massad received tenure." So perhaps Nelson should've couched his comments in terms of "academic integrity," whatever that is in this context -- lack of quality in his publications and research, I suppose.
7.13.2009 5:20pm
Pro Natura (mail):
How about "being Christian" and "praying"? Same logic, right?
Actually no. Praying is not associated with public health threats like the spread of MDR syphilis and gonorrhea, AIDS, drunk driving deaths, etc., etc.
7.13.2009 5:20pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Prof. Bernstein -
Actually, I specifically wrote, "that shouldn't matter for tenure purposes."
Indeed you did. My mistake.
7.13.2009 5:20pm
dr:
Fugle, I spent 17 years in public schools and never saw anyone arrested for praying. But maybe that's because I'm from librul California.
7.13.2009 5:20pm
troll_dc2 (mail):

(It should go without saying that pointing out the reality of a situation, while disagreeing with that reality, is hardly an endorsement of that reality.)



But a lot of commenters here are advocates, and they are not all that good at stepping back from one-sidedness.
7.13.2009 5:21pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Now if you want to argue that she's a bigot, or that her views are ill-reasoned, or that's she's known to suppress dissenting views in class, or that she'll be intolerant of gay students, those are all plausible reasons to deny her a visitorship, though I'm not taking a position on any of these here. But let's not pretend that it's an issue of "competency to teach human rights law" because she opposes gay rights.

I don't understand the distinction between bigotry and poor reasoning on the one hand, and Li-Ann's manifestly bigoted, poorly-reasoned opposition to gay rights on the other. I suppose you could imagine, or at least hypothesize, someone whose opposition to gay rights was not bigoted and ill-reasoned. But that's not Li-Ann.
That's not what he said. What he said was that there's a difference between, "We won't hire her because she's a bigot" and "Because she's a bigot, we won't hire her, but we'll pretend that 'competency' is the reason why."
7.13.2009 5:23pm
dr:

Praying is not associated with public health threats like the spread of MDR syphilis and gonorrhea, AIDS, drunk driving deaths, etc., etc.


Gay sex is associated with drunk driving deaths? Really?

Straight sex is not associated with gonorrhea? Really?
7.13.2009 5:23pm
Owen H. (mail):
When did "academic freedom" come to mean that criticism of positions isn't allowed?
7.13.2009 5:26pm
troll_dc2 (mail):

When did "academic freedom" come to mean that criticism of positions isn't allowed?



Of course it is allowed. But since when is the head of AAUP a human-rights expert? And what is he doing suggesting that NYU's decision to hire her was misguided? What does he know about Li-ann other than what she has said about gay sex?

He is the president of AAUP. He is speaking in his capacity as AAUP president. He seems to be suggesting that he is stating the position of AAUP on this matter. Even if he uttered a disclaimer, would anyone believe it?

He is fair game for criticism.
7.13.2009 5:32pm
Anderson (mail):
Praying is not associated with public health threats like the spread of MDR syphilis and gonorrhea, AIDS, drunk driving deaths, etc., etc.

The practice of Christianity has been associated with public health threats like crusades and pogroms. Good heavens!
7.13.2009 5:32pm
AF:
David Nieporent --

Poor reasoning in an area relevant to one's field of study is academic incompetence. Thio Li-ann's bigotry is poorly reasoned and is relevant to her field of study. Ergo, Thio Li-ann's bigotry is academic incompetence.
7.13.2009 5:33pm
troll_dc2 (mail):

Poor reasoning in an area relevant to one's field of study is academic incompetence. Thio Li-ann's bigotry is poorly reasoned and is relevant to her field of study. Ergo, Thio Li-ann's bigotry is academic incompetence.



How do you know that she would be a poor teacher? How do you know that her students would learn less than they otherwise would if someone else had filled the slot?

You don't.
7.13.2009 5:36pm
Volokh Groupie:
@David Nieporent

Homosexuality is illegal mostly only in countries in Africa and the Middle East (and a handful of countries in Southeast Asia) and is legal in just about every other country around the world. Nelson's remark does ring a bit lik picking one's friends in a crowded party but I'm pretty certain the majority of countries don't criminalize homosexuality.


@ruffles

What a moronic analogy---ostensibly all the things DB mentioned as well as Tho's positions are couched in research conducted using the fundamental tenets of the subject itself. The same isn't true of creationism/ID which isn't based on empiricism or science of any kind. If you want to argue Tho's research was of poor quality that's understandable, but as DB said that's a separate issue. Additionally, even if your analogy was apt, it seems to me that it is far more healthy for academia to allow for the outlier/ridiculous seeming theories/researchers than to close the door shut on such research/researchers (regardless of how offensive they may be).
7.13.2009 5:36pm
Perseus (mail):
It's not that she has a minority viewpoint. It's that (1) her reasons for having the viewpoint are unsound and uninteresting, and (2) the viewpoint is relevant to her field of teaching and research.

So I take it that the AAUP and Brian Leiter would refuse to invite Immanuel Kant (whom Thio Li-ann cites at 5:32) to teach a course on morality and virtue. "Beware of the scholars...for they are sterile."
7.13.2009 5:38pm
AF:
How do you know that she would be a poor teacher? How do you know that her students would learn less than they otherwise would if someone else had filled the slot?

You don't.


No, I don't. All I know is that she makes terrible arguments about gay rights. That makes her unqualified to teach human rights at a top law school.
7.13.2009 5:39pm
Volokh Groupie:
And Anderson isn't even touching upon the practice of other religions (and he didn't really give Christianity a thorough treatment) and all the crazy things we can associate with them! I really hope Pro Natura's comment was tongue in cheek.
7.13.2009 5:40pm
q:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thio_Li-ann

How many commenters have actually read any of her writings on international law? For those who have, a summary would be of great service to us, especially in light of sinuations that her "poorly-reasoned" bigotry somehow means she uses poor reasoning in her works.
7.13.2009 5:42pm
Anderson (mail):
Haven't seen a response to my Bowers hypo.

If the liberal prof could teach human rights law under Bowers, then I'm not clear why Thio can't teach it. He might do so badly, as might the liberal prof.
7.13.2009 5:42pm
anonymoose (mail):
Leiter would be much more sympathetic if her anti-gay views were couched in leftist terms, and he could cite Foucault.
7.13.2009 5:43pm
AndrewL:
AndrewK: You apparently object to the idea of human rights as essentially fantasies (I agree) and hint that there is a quid pro quo or some kind of clandestine arrangement involving "connections" that led to her being hired (insufficient information for me to agree or disagree). These are two indictments of having her teach Human Rights at NYU.

Yet you are led to the conclusion that she *must* be allowed to do so, apparently because you disagree with alternative reasons held by other people with whom your disagreement appears to be primarily aesthetic. This seems impractical and a bit, to quote the good professor, "emotive."
7.13.2009 5:43pm
Volokh Groupie:
@AF

Making terrible arguments hasn't prevented dozens of 'scholars' from teaching at top law schools or even serving on our nations' highest courts.


I will say though, that 3 minutes in that clip by Perseus is cringeworthy though.
7.13.2009 5:44pm
wfjag:
I'm a bit curious about Nelson's proof of there being the "international consensus" he alleges exists:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Iran

LGBT rights in Iran


LGBT rights in Iran since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 have come under governmental persecution, with international human rights groups reporting public floggings and executions of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals. Transsexuality in Iran is legal if accompanied by a sex change operation; however, transsexuals still report societal intolerance.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Zambia

LGBT rights in Zambia


Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in Zambia face legal challenges not faced by non-LGBT citizens. Same-sex sexual activity is illegal for both males and females in Zambia.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Cuba

LGBT rights in Cuba


Sexual relations between same-sex consenting adults 16 and over have been legal in Cuba since 1979, although same-sex relationships are not presently recognised by the state. In Cuba, people's organizations and public assembly must be state-approved, and LGBT associations and events were previously not permitted[citation needed], however, Havana now has a lively and vibrant gay scene.

Public antipathy towards LGBT people is high, reflecting regional norms.

It looks more like Nelson's argument is that since he (&likely many of his friends) disagree with Ms. Thio's position, that there must be an international consensus that she is wrong, so her work is discredited. However, there does not appear to be an any consensus. Rather, the prohibition goes from out-right de jure prohibition (Zambia) to de jure prohibition but sex change operation allowed (Iran) to de facto prejudice (Cuba). That's hardly support for Nelson's assertion.

IMO, this is quite different from the Holocaust Denial situation in which a fair review of the evidence leaves no doubt that it occurred.

If Nelson believes that Thio is wrong, he (and others) should argue the point with her -- meaning, giving her the chance to argue for her point of view -- instead of falsely claiming there is a consensus as a basis for silencing Thio and others who disagree with him.
7.13.2009 5:47pm
Federal Dog:
"If bad reasoning in one's chosen field doesn't disqualify someone from an academic post, what does?"

Given the cognitive disarray that has infected many once respected parts of the academy, bad reasoning is not a disqualification at all anymore.
7.13.2009 5:58pm
Seamus (mail):

Seamus -


It certainly wouldn't surpise me if the AARP would be perfectly OK with that outcome.



That's because old people are notoriously anti-semetic.



Oops. I guess all left-wing interest groups look alike to me.
7.13.2009 6:01pm
darcdante (mail):
Obviously you should have to agree with something in order to teach it. What'll they think of next? Letting atheists teach Christian theology?
7.13.2009 6:03pm
Fub:
Nelson also said that in a tenure decision, he would judge a candidate — however offensive his or her views on unrelated subjects — only on a question of whether the person's scholarship and teaching in his or her discipline met appropriate standards. But in a hiring decision (whether for a visiting or permanent position), he said, ...
Objection. Hearsay.

The quoted article only quotes Nelson in a few short snippets, but does not quote his exact words explaining his position in full.

That said, I think that if Thio has the academic credentials to teach, she should be invited to teach. But she should not be shielded from criticism on campus, especially if her substantive views are supported by tendentious or otherwise faulty "research". That is, if her views of gays are based upon religious sources (as distinct from academic research on rights, duties and government policies), and she cites such sources in her "research", she should not be shielded from criticism for that by either fellow academics or students.
7.13.2009 6:06pm
Seamus (mail):

Seamus, if you say that then you are being disingenous, or you know nothing about the real history of how gay people have historically been treated by the gov't



I was responding to a statement about Thio, not to one about "how gay people have historically been treated by the gov't." If you've got evidence that Thio's advocacy of criminalization of gay sexual acts in fact means that she wants to criminalize the status of "being gay," I'd be delighted to see it.
7.13.2009 6:07pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
The idea of putting someone in jail for homosexuality is an absolute abomination. This is what they do in those horrible anti-American countries like Cuba and Iran. Even if Thio Li-ann is somehow a competent teacher, her appointment would carry an expressive element that NYU should avoid. This is not a matter of academic freedom.

Lest anyone flirt with the idea jailing homosexuals, I would recommend reading the biography of Alan Turing. Turing was a key player at Bletchley Park and his efforts contributed to the defeat of Germany in WWII. Not only that, his contribution to mathematics, and computer science makes him one of the giants of the 20th Century. Yet the British government forced chemical castration on him, because he committed "gross indecency" in violation of Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. Those responsible should burn in hell because this might have brought on his suicide. Of course today the British shower honors on him, but that's a day late and a dollar short.
7.13.2009 6:08pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
A. Zarkov:

The idea of putting someone in jail for homosexuality is an absolute abomination.


We may not agree on everything (or even most political matters) but I am with you entirely here.
7.13.2009 6:15pm
troll_dc2 (mail):

The idea of putting someone in jail for homosexuality is an absolute abomination. This is what they do in those horrible anti-American countries like Cuba and Iran. Even if Thio Li-ann is somehow a competent teacher, her appointment would carry an expressive element that NYU should avoid. This is not a matter of academic freedom.




Why is it not a matter of academic freedom for both the individual in question and the institution?
7.13.2009 6:16pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
BTW, one of the big issues here isn't just the gay rights issue but how her statements advocate arbitrary arrest in general. It would be one thing if she advocated throwing every person engaging in homosexual sex in jail every time and that would be controversial enough. But that isn't what she advocated.

She advocated leaving the law on the books and rarely enforcing it. In other words, she advocated having crimes which could be enforced at will but most times wouldn't be. IMO this is an even larger black mark on her human rights views than the criminalization issue itself.

The fact is that I think that due process is a more important right than the right to sexual activity of one's choosing (even though I am in favor of gay rights). And I think that her unwillingness to support a real rule of law and due process protection in this case is extremely troubling and does call into question her ability to teach the subject.

However, I do think she should be allowed to teach because we should be exposing students to challenging or even incorrect viewpoints in areas like this.
7.13.2009 6:23pm
Perseus (mail):
The idea of putting someone in jail for homosexuality is an absolute abomination.

Where does she say that? In the video, she makes a clear distinction between "the actor and the act."
7.13.2009 6:33pm
Patent Lawyer (mail):
einhverfr-

She advocated leaving the law on the books and rarely enforcing it. In other words, she advocated having crimes which could be enforced at will but most times wouldn't be. IMO this is an even larger black mark on her human rights views than the criminalization issue itself.

Law schools would become very empty places if all professors who supported prosecutorial discretion were fired. While you may think that's a good thing, it's probably bad for the law schools.
7.13.2009 6:35pm
Patent Lawyer (mail):
Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for a coherent answer for why a professor who advocates a position that was Texas state law 6 years ago, that law being upheld by 3 Supreme Court Justices, should not be allowed to teach at a law school because of that position. Lots of angry rhetoric, but no answer. And I note for einhverfr, the Texas sodomy law was also enforced very rarely.
7.13.2009 6:43pm
yankev (mail):

First they came for the people who wanted to criminalize loving consensual relationships between adults, and I did nothing



First they came for the people who reacted to the trite ad nauseam overuse of Reinhold Niebur quotes by getting nauseated, and I said HEY -- I'M ONE OF THEM! ENOGU already. As the man said in Moon is a Harsh Mistress, tell it once, you're a wit, tell it twice you're a half ---, well, you get the idea. Can't we find another quotation to beat to death for a while?
7.13.2009 6:52pm
yankev (mail):
please make that ENOUGH instead of ENOGU.
7.13.2009 6:52pm
troll_dc2 (mail):

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for a coherent answer for why a professor who advocates a position that was Texas state law 6 years ago, that law being upheld by 3 Supreme Court Justices, should not be allowed to teach at a law school because of that position. Lots of angry rhetoric, but no answer. And I note for einhverfr, the Texas sodomy law was also enforced very rarely.



The answer has to be that the professor's position offends the people who do not want her there. In other words, politics.
7.13.2009 6:59pm
JPG:
Anderson, I wonder if I am the only one to see an irony as "Bowers v. Hardwick" is brought up in a thread regarding homosexuality...
7.13.2009 7:02pm
Bonze Saunders (mail):
Thio is quite the whiner: "While I am disappointed at the intolerant animosity directed at me by strangers who do not know me and have decided to act on their own prejudices, forged from whatever sources..."

Well, perhaps they read some of her arguments to keep HOMOSEXUAL sodomy illegal in Singapore and came to the conclusion that she is arrogant, ignorant, and uh... not very smart:


"We should reject the ‘argument from consent’ as its philosophy is intellectually deficient and morally bankrupt."

"Science has become so politicized that the issue of whether gays are ‘born that way’ depends on which scientist you ask. You cannot base sound public philosophy on poor politicized pseudo ‘science’.

Homosexuality is a gender identity disorder..." [SRSLY!]

"Heterosexual sodomy unlike homosexual sodomy does not undermine the understanding of heterosexuality as the preferred social norm."

"The onus rests on opponents of 377A to negate every conceivable basis for treating homosexual and heterosexual sodomy differently."

"Sir, the power to legislate morality is not limited to preventing demonstrable harm. The Penal Code now criminalizes the wounding of both religious and racial feelings (s498)."

"It was only when marriage was invented by the Jewish Torah..." [SRSLY!]

"Where certain liberals accuse their opponents of being intolerant, they demonstrate their own intolerance towards their opponents! They are hoist on their own petard, guilty of everything they accuse their detractors of!" [LOGIC FAIL!]

[Goes on and on and on...]



To summarize:

Victimless crimes: No such thing! U R RTARD!

Hetero sodomy: A-OK! Homo sodomy: BAD!

Wounding feelings: BAD! (Especially Thio's feelings!)

Legislating morality: Anything goes! "Demonstrable harm?" FIE ON YOUR LIBERAL SHIBBOLETHS!

Thio is unfit for any role besides serving as a target of mockery... as for teaching "human rights"... she clearly believes only in the rights of the state.
7.13.2009 7:11pm
EricH (mail):
I guess Professor Thio is to gay people what Professor Peter Singer is to newborn infants. Consensus views?

Strained analogy but not that strained...
7.13.2009 7:53pm
Danny (mail):
It's no surprise, she comes from an authoritarian country where they cane people for spitting on the street and censor the media


Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for a coherent answer for why a professor who advocates a position that was Texas state law 6 years ago,



Since when is Texas a model of civilization... ?
7.13.2009 8:14pm
Patent Lawyer (mail):
@Danny:

Whether Texas is a model of civilization, it's one of the United States and some NYU Law students will practice there. In fact, because NYU styles itself as a "national" school, the argument that Texas is irrelevant is even less persuasive.
7.13.2009 8:26pm
Patent Lawyer (mail):
Also @Danny: You left out the second part, which is that 3 Supreme Court Justices voted to uphold that law. Clearly the view that there should be no right to gay sex is one within the mainstream minority of legal scholarship.
7.13.2009 8:28pm
Perseus (mail):
He said that there is in fact an "international consensus, save a few countries like Iran" that gay people should not be treated as criminals.

So I take it that since there is an international consensus, save a few countries like the Netherlands, that drug users/sellers should be treated as criminals that advocates of drug legalization would not be competent to teach international drug law at NYU.


Since when is Texas a model of civilization... ?

This week.
7.13.2009 8:30pm
there is no consensus, get over it:
Ironic that Thio, whom Leiter accuses of intellectual vacuity, has better credentials than Leiter, who is such a fan of credentialism. And of course Leiter's own bigotry towards conservatives and Christians (the "American Taliban"!) is well known. Two peas in a pod, but Leiter edges it because he has the personality of a petulant child.
7.13.2009 8:53pm
Malvolio:
First they came for the people who reacted to the trite ad nauseam overuse of Reinhold Niebur quotes by getting nauseated
That's pretty funny but the quotation was from Martin Niemöller.
7.13.2009 9:02pm
Malvolio:
I think it's kind of funny how a good half of the people on this thread equate "coming to a conclusion I disagree with" and "stupid, boring, bigot, and/or incompetent". Thio Li-ann is is none of those (well, maybe a little boring) but merely holds an anti-libertarian value system; to wit, if the majority of people believe something "should" be outlawed, it should, in fact, be outlawed.

Yes, laws against homosexual acts do have horrendous consequences for those who would like to engage in those acts.

Consider some other anti-libertarian position currently enshrined in US law, say the minimum wage or the ban of paying for organs. The people negatively affected by those laws are horrendously affected (you may not enjoy having to indulge in sodomy only surreptitiously, but compare that to the 4,000 or so kidney patients killed annually by organ-donation laws). Should the defenders of those laws be banned from public life?

Much as I would enjoy it if they were, I can't help thinking that such a result would be ironically anti-libertarian.
7.13.2009 9:14pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Homosexuality is illegal mostly only in countries in Africa and the Middle East (and a handful of countries in Southeast Asia) and is legal in just about every other country around the world. Nelson's remark does ring a bit lik picking one's friends in a crowded party but I'm pretty certain the majority of countries don't criminalize homosexuality.
I'm too lazy to count, but eyeballing this chart, it seems like a relatively even split.
7.13.2009 9:23pm
Rhymes With Right (mail) (www):
I'm certain those opposing allowing Tho to teach would be equally supportive of this hypothetical comment from centuries past:

Since there is a consensus on the geocentric model of the universe, it is clear that Professors Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo are clearly unfit to teach astronomy due to their advocacy of the heliocentric theory.

What should be obvious about such standards is that they serve to freeze the consensus and block innovation. And while Nelson says such views should not impact tenure decisions, it is unclear to me how they could not. After all, if someone is unfit to be hired for a teaching post because of their views on an issue, how can one legitimately argue that they are somehow fit for a permanent position in such a teaching post. And if the presence of such an individual as a visiting professor is somehow problematic, how much more would the permanent presence be a disruption?
7.13.2009 9:28pm
Anderson (mail):
Where does she say that? In the video, she makes a clear distinction between "the actor and the act

Oh, Perseus -- I saw somebody make that argument, but I thought you were too smart for that one. I hope you're just being polemical.

What is left of "homosexuality" absent homosexual acts? Velleity? The analogy above to Christianity without Christian practice is not a bad one.

There is no reason to whitewash Thio's opinions any more than to draw unwarranted conclusions from them.
7.13.2009 9:44pm
BooBerry (mail):
Anderson/Patent Lawyer:

Your Bowers hypo is not analogous whatsoever. A liberal law prof (and pretty much most law profs, I'm assuming) would be able to teach the procedural posture, facts, holding and rationale of any Supreme Court case with which they disagree. They will probably be able to probe the tensions pretty well because they so strongly disagree with the reasoning and the classroom discussion on such a case will likely be lively.

Now, with regards to the point that because Scalia, Rehnquist and Thomas held in dissent in Lawrence that it is constitutionally permissible for a state to criminalize homosexual sodomy, it is a legitimate minority viewpoint, your argument is a bit stronger. I'm not sure what that proves, however, because Thio's argument in FAVOR of the criminalization of homosexual sodomy is differently different than an argument that homosexual sodomy is not a fundamental right within the meaning of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Apples and oranges, my friend.
7.13.2009 9:45pm
BooBerry (mail):
*completely different, rather.
7.13.2009 9:46pm
mcbain:

I'm too lazy to count, but eyeballing this chart, it seems like a relatively even split.


That chart is misleading. For instance even though neither US nor Russia recognize same sex couples (and thus are the same color on the chart), i assure you that you would rather be a same sex couple in the most intolerant part of the US than the most tolerant part of Russia.

The consensus about homosexuality is not mixed in the world, the world is decidedly anti-homosexual. That is very unfortunate, but there is no use in denying that fact.
7.13.2009 9:46pm
learned intermediary:
It's like saying that there's a worldwide "consensus" on the death penalty when there plainly isn't.
7.13.2009 9:51pm
ReaderY:
Polls indicate that most physicists and biologists have views inconsistent with the current international consensus about physics and biology. It used to be thought the job of academics to inform public opinion rather than to follow it.
7.13.2009 10:00pm
Patent Lawyer (mail):
@BooBerry:

When it comes to the question of human rights, there's no difference. She may have a view on the proper policy, but she's teaching international human rights law. The view that there's no right to gay sex is what the Lawrence dissenters believed, and that's the part that reflects on her teaching. Her view on whether a prohibition on gay sex is a good thing is largely extraneous to her teaching.

Though it's not just the fact that there was a minority dissent in favor of keeping the law, but that the law was still on the books and enforced in Texas. There are certainly still U.S. states where a majority, or at least a large minority, would agree with Dr. Li-Ann that homosexual sodomy should be criminalized. Her views are neither provably false (like creationism or Holocaust denial) nor are they uniformly considered evil within the U.S. (like Nazism). Academic freedom should cover her beliefs regarding homosexuality.
7.13.2009 10:02pm
ReaderY:
That said, let me make clear that my arguments are in favor of robust discourse. Leaving political decisions to be made by the political branches, which I favor, is impossible unless the issues can be openly discussed.
7.13.2009 10:06pm
learned intermediary:
The difference is that public policy is based on public opinion, whereas science isn't. Comparing physics or biology to social policy is therefore inapposite.
7.13.2009 10:07pm
learned intermediary:
And for the record, her surname is Thio, not Li-ann. Many Asian naming conventions place surname first, and "first" names last.
7.13.2009 10:10pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Patent Lawyer:

Law schools would become very empty places if all professors who supported prosecutorial discretion were fired. While you may think that's a good thing, it's probably bad for the law schools.


Um.... You are missing the point. She advocated having a law on the books that would be rarely enforced because it might be useful at some point in the future.

Prosecutorial discretion is one thing. In modest quantities it is a good thing. But if you keep a law on the books with no intention of enforcing it most of the time just because it might be good to enforce in some unforeseen case, you create due process issues.

Prosecutorial discretion assumes that there is an active and normal effort to prosecute crimes. This is quite distinct from what was advocated regarding Singapore law and homosexual sex. There the idea was to keep largely ignored laws on the books just because at some point they might be useful to prosecute someone presumably when other grounds couldn't be found. I don't like laws that are just kept on the books to allow for politically expedient prosecutions. That is a bigger issue and entirely separate from the ability of a prosecutor to decide that a law shouldn't be enforced in some reasonable percentage of cases either because of jury or justice considerations.
7.13.2009 10:13pm
Danny (mail):
Perseus, thanks for the interesting read. Maybe I have been a little unfair toward Texas.


You left out the second part, which is that 3 Supreme Court Justices voted to uphold that law.


Yes, and it is a dishonor to them. But as I have said repeatedly, US nationalism aside the USA has a shoddy record on treatment of minorities. Americans have often been followers, not leaders, on human rights. The USA has only been a leader in specific areas (religious freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, gun ownership, capitalism), but legal equality for all citizens certainly not.
7.13.2009 10:13pm
BooBerry (mail):
@Patent Lawyer:

The subject of Thio's course is not relevant to the hypo (or to my rebuttal, which you seem to disregard). As to the Lawrence dissenters, only Thomas expressly criticized the law at issue, so let's remove Thomas, leaving Scalia and Rehnquist. Would Scalia and Rehnquist characterize homosexual sodomy as a "human wrong"? Would they characterize homosexuality as a "gender identity disorder"?
(for more of Thio's "argument," see here: Thio's speech to Parliament

Neither Rehnquist nor Scalia would make such arguments. Nothing they have said or written suggests so.
7.13.2009 10:20pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
I also find this comment interesting. Presumably Prof. Bernstein would like to see this sort of "Human Right" defended more in academia too?

"Sir, the power to legislate morality is not limited to preventing demonstrable harm. The Penal Code now criminalizes the wounding of both religious and racial feelings (s498)."


Isn't there a strong international concensus that groups have a right not to have their feelings hurt regarding their religious views?
7.13.2009 10:20pm
learned intermediary:
"What is left of "homosexuality" absent homosexual acts?"

What is left of "heterosexuality" absent heterosexual acts? Virgins can't be heterosexual? Under your (absurd) rejoinder, that would be the case.

Thio may be repeating an oft-heard Christian refrain, but you're equally repeating a logically defective talking point in response.
7.13.2009 10:21pm
Patent Lawyer (mail):
@einhverfr

You may not like it, but there are rarely enforced laws on the books in probably every U.S. state, and probably every nation with a rule of law for that matter. The obvious one is prohibition on the use of marijuana, which is almost never enforced on its own (but is often pled down to). You're creating a very strange situation if you're torpedoing a professor who advocates something procedurally equivalent to the status quo, based on your unusual definition of due process.

@Danny-

So because U.S. law is backwards, U.S. law schools should not have professors who agree with U.S. law where it is backwards? I'm very glad the best law schools in the country disagree with your strange educational methods.

I still haven't seen an attack on Dr. Li-Ann that consists of anything more than, "I think her views are awful, so she shouldn't teach." Which really isn't a compatible opinion with academic freedom.
7.13.2009 10:26pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
troll_dc2:

FWIW, I do agree with your logic that she should be allowed to teach the class. Specifically, I think that exposing students to very different viewpoints in fields like the humanities is extremely important.

However, I wonder if Bernstein would feel differently if the issue was someone arguing that suicide bombings against Israeli settlers was legal under international law....
7.13.2009 10:29pm
Patent Lawyer (mail):
@BooBerry

The question is whether NYU should let Dr. Li-Ann teach international human rights at their school (which was my law school, incidentally). Why would her views matter where they don't relate to the subject she's teaching?

If I believe that Brown v. Board was decided incorrectly, how is that relevant to, say, a committee's decision to hire me to teach IP law courses?
7.13.2009 10:30pm
BooBerry (mail):
Professor Bernstein,

You're largely missing the point here. It's not that Dr. Thio "disagrees with the 'international consensus' on a particular narrow issue within a much broader field," it's that she is teaching an international human rights course. Why is that an issue? Well, she has vigorously demeaned a class of people based on their sexual orientation and has vigorously advocated that they be branded as criminals for engaging in the expressive sexual conduct which defines their class.

Let's imagine that NYU hired as an international human rights scholar an Iranian or Saudi or Egyptian law professor who vigorously advocated in his respective parliament for the criminalization of the wearing of yarmulkes, for the lighting of the Shabbos candles, and for the reading of the Torah (I could go on and on). Is this a legitimate view for an international human rights scholar at a prestigious American law school? How is the advocacy of the criminalization of the conduct which (partially) defines a non-immutable class any different than Dr. Thio's stance? Is it because we respect the freedom of religion more than the freedom of consensual sexual conduct between adults? Obviously. But it goes to the heart of the issue, which is that Dr. Thio's advocacy and views are not legitimate for a law professor at NYU (or any American law school) to have.
7.13.2009 10:33pm
Danny (mail):

nor are they uniformly considered evil within the U.S. (like Nazism). Academic freedom should cover her beliefs regarding homosexuality.


I regard her views as morally evil (like Nazism). But I am one of the ones who would have been rounded up with laws like that on the books, so you must allow me to be more severe in my judgments than a privileged straight person.

Academic success is a question of social endorsement and censure (hiring, firing, publishing decisions), like any other job. They are coveted positions, acquired often through networking, and it is easy to make a social faux pas. In some places you are unlikely to be hired in a department merely for using a theoretical framework or experimental approach which is disfavored by the department head, forget even hot-button political issues. They want to know if you "fit" with what they are looking for, and don't cross whatever their red lines are. Once you have actually been hired somewhere (though these mysterious processes) then the 1st amendment protects you legally, you can advocate for the return of slavery if you want to. But there will always be social censure if you are affect the reputation of the institution in a way they don't like. It would be the same if you are gay teaching at Pat Robertson's law school. Academia is not a free opinion board - that's why the Internet is for.
7.13.2009 10:33pm
learned intermediary:
Or a French professor who has vigorously argued for the banning of burqas in public schools.

I guess such views are "illegitimate" -- i.e., not politically correct from your point of view.
7.13.2009 10:37pm
learned intermediary:
And BooBerry, can you cite a case for the proposition that consensual private sexual relations between adults is "expressive conduct"? Thanks.
7.13.2009 10:41pm
learned intermediary:
Sarcasm is not an argument.
7.13.2009 10:50pm
Perseus (mail):
What is left of "homosexuality" absent homosexual acts?

Celibacy or Homoromantic asexuality.
7.13.2009 10:51pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Patent Lawyer:

Re-read my posts again carefully. I am saying that Li-Ann's points are big issues, but I don't think she should be prevented from teaching. Human rights is not an exact field, like mathematics and physics, and truth is often arrived at faster by error than by omission.

Having a diverse group of people teach-- even when their viewpoints are dangerous-- is the best way to advance the field.

Let me take an extreme example: Suppose Harvard Law School were to have a guest professor who taught a course on international law, and argued that suicide bombings against IDF and settlers in the Occupied Territories was permitted under international law and made a colorable argument to this case. Any reason that should not be allowed?

One obvious element is that exposure to these ideas even if most folk think that they are wrong may force folk to be challenged by them and create better arguments to the contrary. I think this would thus be a GOOD thing.

Heck, I wouldn't even object to "What the Nazis did right" courses.
7.13.2009 10:52pm
Patent Lawyer (mail):
In that case, einhverfr, I agree with you.
7.13.2009 11:00pm
BooBerry (mail):
learned intermediary:

"When sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring." Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 567; see also James Allon Garland, Sex As a Form of Gender and Expression After Lawrence v. Texas, 15 COLUM. J. GENDER &L. 297 (2006).
7.13.2009 11:07pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
which is that Dr. Thio's advocacy and views are not legitimate for a law professor at NYU (or any American law school) to have.
That's fine if you want to argue that, but that's not the argument Mr. Nelson made. Mr. Nelson made the argument that her views on ihrl lead him to question her "competence" teach international law. As the AAUP prez, he can't say "some views are beyond the pale," because that's contrary to the AAUP's stand on academic freedom. But the competence argument is completely bogus. I haven't expressed an opinion on whether Thio's opinions are beyond the pale, but if they are, it's because they are so morally repugnant that they disqualify her from an academic job, not because believing homosexual acts should be criminalized makes her "incompetent" to teach human rights law if she otherwise had the credentials etc.

And here's the question for those who think her views are beyond the pale: what about, say, Ward (little Eichmanns) Churchill, Angela (Communist Apparatchik) Davis, our old friend Bill "I sorry didn't do enough when I was a terrorist" Ayers, and so on? Is there some principled way of explaining why people who strongly think their views are beyond the pale shouldn't be listened to, but people who think Thio's views are beyond the pale should be?
7.13.2009 11:12pm
Danny (mail):
Regarding what is "mainstream" concerning persecution of gays and lesbians:

Decriminalization of homosexual acts
1791 - France
1795 - Luxemburg
1811 - Netherlands
1830 - Brazil
1852 - Portugal
1858 - Ottoman Empire
1880 - Japan
1889 - Italy
1930s-1950s - various European, African, Asian countries

2003 - United States (nationally)

To further add to our national shame, when a couple of years ago the United Nations opened discussions on worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality as a global human rights standard, the breakdown was:
In favor: Western countries in the broadest sense: Western and Eastern Europe, Canada, Mexico, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel (which basically has gay marriage and adoption)
Against: Vatican, Organization of the Islamic Conference, United States

The USA under Obama has since signed up with the civilized world and its allies rather than the Islamic dictatorships
7.13.2009 11:17pm
Bonze Saunders (mail):


Malvolio:
I think it's kind of funny how a good half of the people on this thread equate "coming to a conclusion I disagree with" and "stupid, boring, bigot, and/or incompetent". Thio Li-ann is is none of those (well, maybe a little boring) but merely holds an anti-libertarian value system; to wit, if the majority of people believe something "should" be outlawed, it should, in fact, be outlawed.



Well, I don't know exactly what to call someone who thinks homosexuality is a "Gender Identity Disorder." Ignorant? At best. The argument I quoted above that where she pulls the "I am a victim! Of intolerance! Because--liberals call me--intolerant!" stunt is... what? Incoherent? Ridiculous? Pathetic?

How can you describe someone who follows an attack such as "Diversity is not license for perversity. This radical liberal argument is pernicious, a leftist philosophy based on radical individualism and radical egalitarianism." ... with the plea: "Let us have rational debate, not diatribe, free from abusive rhetoric and tantrum-throwing." Inconsistent? (Yes... if you're committed to being polite!)

But it seems it's worse than that: she is not even a statist who believes in majority rule (and thinks it will all work out for the best). She's a dominionist: she wants a Godly society.

From the product description of her book Mind the Gap - Contending for Righteousness in an Age of Lawlessness on Amazon: "She examines how the spirit of the anti-Christ, the spirit of lawlessness, manifests in the philosophy, morality and politics that shape our laws, systems and mindsets."

The sole review, written by "a personal friend," states in part: "'Mind the Gap' is a profession that 'Heaven on Earth' is not a far-fetched Pollyannaish ideology but a distinct possibility if we seek to be imitators of Christ."

Yikes!
7.13.2009 11:26pm
Randy R. (mail):
Perseus: ""What is left of "homosexuality" absent homosexual acts?"

What is left of "heterosexuality" absent heterosexual acts? Virgins can't be heterosexual? Under your (absurd) rejoinder, that would be the case. "

You miss the point. When a gay person is persecuted, almost never are they asked if they have had specific gay acts. Rather, the authorities assume that they are gay, then they must have had gay sex, and so they throw them in jail.

For instance, a few years ago, a boat was rented and some men partied on the Nile in Egypt. The police raided the boat and arrested everyone on board as being gay. Most were beaten and sodomized with sticks and brooms while being held in jail. The sham trials were about whether they were actually homosexuals, not whether they engaged in homosexual acts. Many were convicted and served lengthy terms in jail.

Even in the US, the anti-sodomy laws were used against gays to deny them jobs, custody rights and so on. For instance, a woman in Virginia was denied
the position of a judge because she was a lesbian. the state politicians said that as a lesbian, she would be violating the state's sodomy laws, and therefore can't uphold the law when she is obviously violating it. They never once asked her whether she engaged in homosexual acts; rather, they just assumed it.

What this all means is that although while the laws that Thio and others of her ilk purport to prosecute just homosexual acts, the reality is that they are used to oppress an entire despised minority. If a person in Singapore were to publicly declare themselves gay, they would simply be arrested and sentenced under the law. These prosecutors almost never have to produce actual evidence of a sex act -- an admission from the defendent that they are gay is deemed sufficient enough.

And those laws are used to black mail gays who remain closeted, and are used to deny them basic other rights as well.

So no, it isn't just a matter of sexual acts vs. sexual orientation. And the fact that Thio is completely ignorant of all this goes to her competence as a human rights advocate.
7.13.2009 11:47pm
Randy R. (mail):
"The sole review, written by "a personal friend," states in part: "'Mind the Gap' is a profession that 'Heaven on Earth' is not a far-fetched Pollyannaish ideology but a distinct possibility if we seek to be imitators of Christ."


Please. This is not a debate about academic freedom at all, and if this is best that she has, then David Bernstein should be ashamed of himself to even bring up this incident. There are plenty of other good cases of liberal faculty dissing the ones they disagree with without raising this idiot's profile.

It's like the people who keep insisting that Sarah Palin is smart, logical, charismatic, and a brilliant politician who will lead the Republican party out of the wilderness. The more the defend her, they more they look like fools.
7.13.2009 11:51pm
Cornellian (mail):
Check our her "I'm the real victim!" screed at Above the Law. Suffice to say, if that's what she considers cogent reasoning, it's a wonder anyone at NYU thought to hire her in the first place.

I especially like the part where she claims that people in Singapore don't really care if you're gay. Presumably except for the part where they try to prosecute you for it. Or another classic she steals from the anti-Jewish playbook - the gays are affluent and educated, so it's OK to kick them around.

I'll bet the NYU faculty members responsible for this appointment are keeping a pretty low profile right about now.
7.13.2009 11:52pm
Randy R. (mail):
IT gets worse. Go read a glowing review of her book Mind the Gap in the Christian Post.

Her book includes this gem: "“It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith,” she wrote, quoting GK Chesterton. “Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.

"If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, ‘Why should anything go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic?...’ The young sceptic says, ‘I have a right to think for myself.’ But the old sceptic, the complete sceptic, says, ‘I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all.’”
7.14.2009 12:01am
Randy R. (mail):
""Academic freedom protects you from retaliation for your extramural remarks, but it does not protect you from being prohibited from teaching in an area where you are not professionally competent, and there are doubts on whether she has the competency in human rights," Nelson said. "

David Bernstein says this is a bizarre statement that Nelson said. But the fact is that she simply isn't professionally competent, and there are certainly doubts about her competency in human rights, based on her published writings and statements. Nelson is correct.

The academic freedom is Bernstein's red herring. This is a question of competency at bottom, and this woman is rather off, despite her many degrees. No university worth it's salt would hire such an idiot.

Nonetheless, I look forward to her backers on this thread contend that she is nonetheless a brilliant new voice from the right that must be heard, and she is drowned out by the evil elitist libruls.....
7.14.2009 12:14am
Volokh Groupie:
Actually I think her response at Above the Law is well worth reading, especially considering the bankrupt summary cornellian just gave (and I say this as someone who thinks her view of homosexual sodomy law is appalling): Li-ann's response

Here are the relevant bits which Cornellian so aptly summarizes:


I am tired of the insinuations that I am in favour of oppressing any community in Singapore or elsewhere. I think an appreciation of the context of Singapore and of the truth of things is needed. The law on sodomy is a law on the books and was kept on the books after full free and very robust democratic debate. It has since been exercised a few times, to my knowledge. The government applies it with restraint and has adhered to its policy that it will not be pro-active (for example, in the 1980s there used to be police operations in public places where homosex activities were known to be taking place). In Singapore, people do not really care whether someone is homosexual or not, as we tend to look at the merit of a person, for example, in the workplace. I would be the first to oppose discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or ideological persuasion in the my own academic environment. It is the truth or strength of an idea that counts in scholarship and teaching,
and we teach, we do not propagate one ideology. Perhaps things are done differently in a foreign land. My own view, and the way I conduct my classes, is to subject any topic to scrutiny, presented as an object of analysis rather than one of allegiance or affection. People will have their own opinions as opinions are cheap and easy to have. But my task as a professor is to subject things to academic interrogation and let people draw their own conclusions.



8. Homosexuals in Singapore are by and large affluent and literate; building developers target high quality residences for their consumption. They have space to lead quiet lives which is what most of us want. They are basically left alone in practice. However, when you enter the public arena and demand to change social norms, which others resist, do you expect a walkover? When reasoned arguments are presented against the homosexualism agenda, which any citizen in a democracy is entitled to do, what happens? Homosex activists hurl abuse, death threats. They have demonstrated nothing but abuse towards their detractors. This is not the way to win respect. This is not conducive to sustainable democracy in the long-term. I argue it is a horizontal chilling of speech by the most malicious of methods. Homosex activists may see it as a "rights" issues (and I have academic friends and feminists who disagree "sharply" with my viewpoints but refuse to vilify me because they know who I
am and respect me as a scholar), others see it as a matter of a "goods" issue, about the nature of public morality and social norms. And these debates are played out on a global basis.




I have problems with a number of these arguments, but from a cursory reading it looks like that Dr. Thio definitely has the ability to at least present the arguments at NYU so that they can be dissected by her colleagues (teaching is completely separate for reasons addressed here).
7.14.2009 12:28am
Cornellian (mail):
I like this line from her self-pitying whinefest:

"But just reflect on how this makes me feel. I do not feel welcomed as a person; I feel unfairly treated and greatly disrespected. "

Yeah, but at least no one's calling for you to be criminally prosecuted.
7.14.2009 12:33am
Volokh Groupie:
@Randy R.


So selecting a couple quotes from her writings (you haven't yet examined any work/research wholesale) and cribbing about her recurring appeals to deontological ethics is a sufficient examination to claim she is intellectually inept? (Mind you you haven't even really chosen a number of quotes and are currently relying on an amazon review of her work)

Wow.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised by lawyers who've never heard of the specialty of philosophy of the law/jurisprudence---an area that NYU Law is coincidentally very strong in.
7.14.2009 12:40am
Volokh Groupie:
@Cornellian

I agree that whether she feels comfortable is completely irrelevant. She knew she was walking into a hornet's nest and while collegiality is to be expected from those who invited her and those who will inevitably debate her, she should have forseen the tone of the protest she would engender.
7.14.2009 12:43am
Cornellian (mail):
Frankly I think VG's lengthier cut and paste makes her look worse, rather than better.

Some other gems:

"What I object to is the colouring of any principled moral opposition to homosexuality as "bigoted" and ignorance or "hatred". "

In other words, critics can't be mean to her. That wouldn't be nice.

"Most MPs who spoke to it supported the retention of the law. They recognise Singapore is a socially conservative society and were faithfully expressing the views of their constituents, to rebut the homosex activist campaigners who also had their mouthpiece in Parliament. "

She on the other hand, is free to refer to "homosex activist campaigners who also had their mouthpiece in Parliament." But other people need to be nice to her.

Naturally, so-called "ex-gays" make an appearance as the group that's really being oppressed.

"I have friends who identify as ex-gay. They point out to me that the homosexual community is the most vicious when they try to speak out. What about this oppressed minority group?"

Oppressed by who, exactly? Critics who mock them for pretending to be what they're not? Sorry but that's free speech and nothing at all like the government arresting you and throwing you in prison.
7.14.2009 12:49am
Perseus (mail):
Perseus: ""What is left of "homosexuality" absent homosexual acts?"

What is left of "heterosexuality" absent heterosexual acts? Virgins can't be heterosexual? Under your (absurd) rejoinder, that would be the case. "


The reply you quote was made by Learned Intermediary, not me.

If a person in Singapore were to publicly declare themselves gay, they would simply be arrested and sentenced under the law. These prosecutors almost never have to produce actual evidence of a sex act -- an admission from the defendent that they are gay is deemed sufficient enough.

Whether that happens is distinct from the analytic and legal argument being made (and in Singapore, I suspect that prosecutors have a lot of leeway in having to produce actual evidence for all sorts of crimes).

And the fact that Thio is completely ignorant of all this goes to her competence as a human rights advocate.

You haven't established that Thio Li-ann is in fact "completely ignorant" of what may happen (I'm surprised you didn't accuse her of knowing that it does but feigning ignorance while you were at it). In any event, you're merely reiterating the argument that because she doesn't subscribe to the dominant view of human rights, then she is incompetent to teach international human rights law. That doesn't necessarily follow.

I'll bet the NYU faculty members responsible for this appointment are keeping a pretty low profile right about now.

Where are all the multiculturalists and feminists on the faculty vigorously defending her against neo-colonial moral imperialism and misogyny?
7.14.2009 12:50am
Perseus (mail):
IT gets worse. Go read a glowing review of her book Mind the Gap in the Christian Post.

Her book includes this gem: "“It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith,” she wrote, quoting GK Chesterton. “Reason is itself a matter of faith.


I could think of any number of philosophers who would more or less agree with this assertion. Would you care to explain why you find it so ridiculous, Randy R? Perhaps you could cite your long list of scholarly publications in the field of philosophy while you're at it.
7.14.2009 1:03am
Cornellian (mail):

Where are all the multiculturalists and feminists on the faculty vigorously defending her against neo-colonial moral imperialism and misogyny?


They're all too busy listening to the resounding cheers of conservatives for taking a stand against cultural relativism?
7.14.2009 1:08am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Cornellian:

Note however, that she admits that the Singapore law isn't really enforced much if at all, and no special effort is made to enforce it.

Nor has she actually advocated enforcing it. She just wants to keep the law on the books in case it might be useful to enforce at some point down the road.
7.14.2009 1:11am
DavidBernstein (mail):
One last time: I'm not defending Thio. I haven't read her stuff. I'm not interested in reading her stuff. But I am criticizing Cary Stanley for arguing, that (1) if the story of IHE is correct, that her opinion on the legality of homosexual conduct in Singapore, as such, may make her "incompetent" to teach human rights, because, apparently, only those whose views are within the alleged international consensus on this issue are competent; and (2) that it's proper for university officials to make hiring decisions based on whether a candidate's political views are deemed "poisonous" or not.
7.14.2009 1:19am
Cornellian (mail):
I am tired of the insinuations that I am in favour of oppressing any community in Singapore or elsewhere.

Far be it from me to suggest that imprisoning people constitutes oppressing them.

In Singapore, people do not really care whether someone is homosexual or not, as we tend to look at the merit of a person, for example, in the workplace.

Yep we don't care at all, except for the part about prosecuting them.

I would be the first to oppose discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or ideological persuasion in the my own academic environment.

Of course I oppose discrimination - we don't need to discriminate when the people we would have discriminated against are already conveniently removed from the workplace by the police and imprisoned.

Homosexuals in Singapore are by and large affluent and literate

So of course that makes prosecuting them more acceptable.

They are basically left alone in practice.

Except, of course, when they're prosecuted and thrown in prison.

What I object to is the colouring of any principled moral opposition to homosexuality as "bigoted" and ignorance or "hatred".

Absolutely - we should have only calm, reasoned, high minded debates - after which I will go home and you will get your prison sentence.

Frankly, professor Thio, if you were calling for me to be imprisoned because of my love life, I wouldn't be pulling any rhetorical punches either. If you don't like that, go somewhere that doesn't have a First Amendment.
7.14.2009 1:19am
DavidBernstein (mail):
[(2) happens all the time, of course, but there's a difference between acknowledging that it happens and having the head of the freakin' AAUP endorse it]
7.14.2009 1:21am
Cornellian (mail):

Note however, that she admits that the Singapore law isn't really enforced much if at all, and no special effort is made to enforce it.

Nor has she actually advocated enforcing it. She just wants to keep the law on the books in case it might be useful to enforce at some point down the road.


Which actually makes things worse - you keep the law on the books in order to threaten and stigmatize gay people in general but carefully restrict actual prosecutions to a few isolated cases of poor uneducated people who are unlikely to have the resources to fight back.
7.14.2009 1:22am
Volokh Groupie:
@Cornellian

Well I'll let your initial comment about her response speak for itself in terms of how you feel this makes her look (I'm sure that will vary for others depending on where they fall on the spectrum of homosexual rights AND ideas of academic freedom). Like I said before, while she claims to recognize the controversy of the issue I do think she's somewhat thin skinned with respect to criticism (though this may be because she wasn't anticipating this much attention outside academia). Still I don't think focusing on her character is the most meritorious attack on her response especially considering she did articulate arguments that one can pick apart (maybe I'll try this tomorrow morning after some z's). I think many of the personal critiques you make have pretty viable responses Cornellian:


"What I object to is the colouring of any principled moral opposition to homosexuality as "bigoted" and ignorance or "hatred". "

In other words, critics can't be mean to her. That wouldn't be nice.


I don't know if that this is a fair interpretation of here remarks. 'Principled' moral opposition to homosexuality to her probably means the legal/ethical arguments that one encounters in academia which extend past simple emotive digust/hatred of the obviously bigoted anti-gay rabble. Again, this may be here inability to anticipate the opposition she would engender outside academia---its the equivalent of the President's economic advisors arguing that the top marginal tax rate upto 90% doesn't effect revenue and expecting informed academic debate on the issue as opposed to a bunch of random joe's shouting 'socialist'. (clearly criminalizing homosexual acts should prompt much more visceral reactions)


"Most MPs who spoke to it supported the retention of the law. They recognise Singapore is a socially conservative society and were faithfully expressing the views of their constituents, to rebut the homosex activist campaigners who also had their mouthpiece in Parliament. "

She on the other hand, is free to refer to "homosex activist campaigners who also had their mouthpiece in Parliament." But other people need to be nice to her.


I'm confused at what you take offense to here. Homosex activist campaigner isn't really a slur. The equivalent Anti-Homosex activist campaigner is alluded to in her statement when she mention that the former ALSO had their mouthpiece. She presumably is one of those Anti-Homosex activist campaigners.




Naturally, so-called "ex-gays" make an appearance as the group that's really being oppressed.

"I have friends who identify as ex-gay. They point out to me that the homosexual community is the most vicious when they try to speak out. What about this oppressed minority group?"

Oppressed by who, exactly? Critics who mock them for pretending to be what they're not? Sorry but that's free speech and nothing at all like the government arresting you and throwing you in prison.


I'm guessing she's trying to simply state the 'viciousness' (which should frankly be understandable considering what they can be locked away for) of the homosexual community with this bit. It's unnecessary/somewhat irrelevant to her point and as you mentioned isn't particularly analogous (even if it may have its own merit).

Her 7/8/10 points are the most substantive and the most interesting to pick apart.
7.14.2009 1:23am
Cornellian (mail):
'Principled' moral opposition to homosexuality to her probably means the legal/ethical arguments that one encounters in academia which extend past simple emotive digust/hatred of the obviously bigoted anti-gay rabble.

Except that in her speech to the Singapore parliament she compared same sex relations to shoving a straw up your nose to drink. Not exactly Immanuel Kant.
7.14.2009 1:36am
Danny (mail):

'Principled' moral opposition to homosexuality to her probably means the legal/ethical arguments that one encounters in academia which extend past simple emotive digust/hatred of the obviously bigoted anti-gay rabble.


To even posit principled "arguments" against homosexuality is to cast heterosexuality/homosexuality as a moral choice. To do this you must not only make a value judgment about the two, but deny the concept of sexual orientation. For men, being attracted to men is simply a form of rebellion, while being attracted to women is simply a shallow traditionalism. Some people will still do this but it is really a rejection of reality, like creationism. On the other hand, some religious texts written by straight people thousands of years ago do ignore the concept of sexual orientation, so (like with creationism) there is considerable cultural intertia behind such denialism.

The other possibility is that the "arguments" are pseudoscientific or pseudophilosophical but reflective of an a priori animus at their core. Either way, we are not talking about top-quality academic thought.

People have posited "principled arguments" against certain ethnic features such as skin color or nose shape, but it remains that you can't make an "argument" against a biological feature. There are simply people with the feature and without it. You can merely express a judgment or desire to hide/destroy people with the feature.
7.14.2009 1:47am
Perseus (mail):
They're all too busy listening to the resounding cheers of conservatives for taking a stand against cultural relativism?

There are enough conservatives on the faculty of NYU to generate resounding cheers?

Which actually makes things worse - you keep the law on the books in order to threaten and stigmatize gay people in general

You keep the law on the books in order to avoid sliding down the 5-step slippery slope to criminalizing criticism of homosexuality and legalizing same-sex marriage. On that point, her argument is sound (Eugene Volokh makes a similar argument here).
7.14.2009 1:53am
Kovarsky (mail):
"Where are all the multiculturalists and feminists on the faculty vigorously defending her against neo-colonial moral imperialism and misogyny?"

I am on the NYU law faculty, and will gladly answer this question if you can clarify its content. I'm not clear why a feminist would have much to say on her behalf, or what you mean by "moral imperialism."

The academic freedom angle has certainly been discussed privately, but publicly taking her side seems unnecessary in light of the the Law School's official response. Dean Revesz's email to faculty and students is quoted in relevant part:

The Hauser Program grew out of our early recognition that the practice of law has escaped the bounds of any particular jurisdiction, and that legal education must take account of the intertwined nature of legal systems. As with our institutional stand on LGBT rights, the program has made us a leader in legal education. At heart, the program seeks to expose our community to legal scholars who come from and have been shaped by their experiences in different countries, regions, and cultures. Needless to say, the value of the program would be seriously diminished if the visiting scholars all thought of legal issues in the same way. Much of the benefit of engaging with the world lies in confronting profound differences in viewpoint and experience. We can learn from these visitors, and–we hope–they can learn from us. ...

To be clear, the Law School categorically rejects the point of view expressed in Professor Thio’s speech, as evidenced by our early and longstanding commitment to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Yet we believe academic freedom requires that this disagreement express itself through vigorous, civil debate, rather than an attempt to suppress those views. We fully expect that Professor Thio will embrace the values of academic freedom as well, and be open to the kind of respectful conversation that marks a great institution of higher learning.
7.14.2009 1:57am
Danny (mail):
If you find her views and general body of work to be so enriching that it is worth the controversy, then by all means invite her. But don't pretend to be committed to LGBT equality. This invitation would not be extended to someone who advocated criminalizing Judaism or blackness (and you can find plenty of academics who endorsed these positions). These are not abstract concepts, they are real people who have been persecuted by their governments especially in the 20th century.
7.14.2009 2:09am
Kovarsky (mail):
Danny,

I am not sure whether you are referencing my prior post. I am not taking any position on this thread, save to make the point that the argument that the NYU community has "suppressed" anything is silly. In the interest of a professionalism that I perceive (perhaps incorrectly), my private feelings on the rest of the matter will remain that way.

I probably should have posted the whole email from Dean Revesz, so here it is:

A number of students, alumni, and faculty have contacted me about the appointment of Li-Ann Thio as a visiting professor in our Hauser Global Law School program this fall. I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm the School of Law’s commitment to our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and to our longstanding policy of non-discrimination, and to share with the Law School community some thoughts about the appointment.



We are rightly proud that NYU and the School of Law extended partner benefits to gay couples long before New York law mandated such benefits. We are rightly proud that in 1978 NYU Law School became the first law school in the United States to deny its career services to employers that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and that in 1990 the Association of American Law Schools required accredited law schools in the U.S. to follow our practice. We are rightly proud that NYU Law School students and faculty were leaders in the suit by the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR) to challenge the Solomon Amendment, and that NYU Law School was one of the first law schools to join the FAIR litigation, and to do so publicly. We took these positions because as an institution we believe that a society that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, or that tolerates such discrimination against qualified people, is not just.



We are also proud that we took these actions despite the fact that many individuals and institutions, at home and abroad, disagree with them. This point brings us to the appointment of Professor Li-Ann Thio under the auspices of the Hauser Global Law School Program.



The Hauser Program grew out of our early recognition that the practice of law has escaped the bounds of any particular jurisdiction, and that legal education must take account of the intertwined nature of legal systems. As with our institutional stand on LGBT rights, the program has made us a leader in legal education. At heart, the program seeks to expose our community to legal scholars who come from and have been shaped by their experiences in different countries, regions, and cultures. Needless to say, the value of the program would be seriously diminished if the visiting scholars all thought of legal issues in the same way. Much of the benefit of engaging with the world lies in confronting profound differences in viewpoint and experience. We can learn from these visitors, and–we hope–they can learn from us.



Whatever their areas of expertise or views, Global Professors’ appointments are decided on their record of distinguished scholarship and teaching and their ability to contribute to intellectual exchange within our community. So, while many in our community sharply disagree with, or are offended by, Professor Thio’s 2007 remarks to the Singaporean Parliament, it is important to bear in mind that she was appointed as a visiting professor based on her published scholarship, not on views she expressed as a legislator.



To be clear, the Law School categorically rejects the point of view expressed in Professor Thio’s speech, as evidenced by our early and longstanding commitment to end discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Yet we believe academic freedom requires that this disagreement express itself through vigorous, civil debate, rather than an attempt to suppress those views. We fully expect that Professor Thio will embrace the values of academic freedom as well, and be open to the kind of respectful conversation that marks a great institution of higher learning.
7.14.2009 2:22am
Danny (mail):
NYU's position is that we "vehently disagree with her" but "we are inviting her to express views which we will then harshly criticize her for expressing". That doesn't sound very hospitable, or consistent. Rather than throwing out these pieties like "we will learn from each other" and "engage in debate" (what on earth is there to debate, or learn or have a conversation about, when she is advocating persecuting people?), NYU would have sounded better if they had just said "we disagree with her idea that gays and lesbians should be criminally prosecuted for their identities, but the rest of her work is so compelling that it outweighs that one position, which we will ignore". They would still have offended and alienated the LGBT community and their allies (no way out of that one) but it would have sounded more consistent.
7.14.2009 2:41am
Shalom Beck (www):
It's total war: breeders vs. faggots, them or us
(v. Andrew Sullivan vs. Sarah Palin).
7.14.2009 2:44am
Drewp:
I wish internet message boards existed sixty years ago, because i'm pretty sure the discourse about miscegenation or segregation laws would be the same in terms of tone and tenor as this discussion is in relation to gay people.

The worst, most disingenuous position is "we're not criminalizing the people, just the act." By clinging to a seemingly-reasonable sentence, this then feeds people's persecution complexes when the gays "force their lifestyle on us" by having parties or gay TV characters or wearing tight-fitting designer outfits.

If you criminalize people have sexual relations with the people they love, it may not be a status crime, because it's focused on an act, but it's surely condemning them to a living death.
7.14.2009 4:06am
Drewp:
I'm a big fan of academic freedom. I think there's a meaningful distinction between maintaining protection for someone with tenure and choosing not to hire someone in the first place. The issue here isn't that Thio is being hounded off of NYU's faculty for having these views, it's that people are upset she was hired in the first place when NYU knew what she thought.

I wish internet message boards existed sixty years ago, because i'm pretty sure the discourse about miscegenation or segregation laws would be the same in terms of tone and tenor as this discussion is in relation to gay people.

The worst, most disingenuous position is "we're not criminalizing the people, just the act." By clinging to a seemingly-reasonable sentence, this then feeds people's persecution complexes when the gays "force their lifestyle on us" by having parties or gay TV characters or wearing tight-fitting designer outfits.

If you criminalize people have sexual relations with the people they love, it may not be a status crime, because it's focused on an act, but it's surely condemning them to a living death.
7.14.2009 4:08am
Perseus (mail):
I'm not clear why a feminist would have much to say on her behalf, or what you mean by "moral imperialism."

I lifted the phrase "neo-colonial moral imperialism" from the speech of Thio Li-Ann, who used it (perhaps somewhat cynically) to defend her nation's right of self-determination on the matter. If we're supposed to studiously avoid ethnocentrism and celebrate cultural diversity as the multiculturalists insist that we do, why aren't they loudly denouncing such arrogantly hegemonic discourse as "we believe that a society that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, or that tolerates such discrimination against qualified people, is not just"? Just who do you think you are declaring Singapore an unjust society? My point, of course, is to highlight the fundamental contradiction between human rights and multiculturalism. One could also construct a feminist narrative of a patriarchal white male (notwithstanding Nelson's leftist bona fides) questioning the competence of a woman of color (that is, were she not defending an uncongenial opinion).


NYU's position is that we "vehently disagree with her" but "we are inviting her to express views which we will then harshly criticize her for expressing".

NYU is apparently taking a page from Lee Bollinger's treatment of President Ahmadinejad during his visit to Columbia University.
7.14.2009 4:19am
badlaw (mail):
It never ceases to amaze me that liberals actually have more rules about what people can and should say, how they should feel (even if they've spent countless hours researching their position), and have little to no problem penalizing people for dissent.

But it's conservatives who need to be more tolerant?

It boggles my mind.
7.14.2009 4:49am
Kovarsky (mail):
"My point, of course, is to highlight the fundamental contradiction between human rights and multiculturalism."

I don't understand what is inconsistent with, on the one hand, encouraging students to analyze identity and tolerate difference and, on the other hand, condemn political regimes that fail to do those things. You are somewhat lazily equating "multiculturalism" (I confess to not really konwing what that buzzword means anymore; it's just an epithet) and "relativism." I suppose if you derived a tolerance principle from some sort of relativistic paradigm, then you would be acting inconsistently by condemning any other cultural practice. But sensitivity to difference does not derive from any principle that requires tolerance of intolerance.

As for why nobody is making the feminist argument - well, I don't think too many self-identified feminists who decide what the "feminist" position should be based exclusively on the gender of the party to the specific dispute. See, e.g., feminists and Sarah Palin.
7.14.2009 5:27am
The River Temoc (mail):
she comes from an authoritarian country where they cane people for spitting on the street and censor the media

Singapore does not cane people for spitting on the street, and while the media is not 100% open, it is much more so than in countries like Russia. Where are you getting this tripe from? Have you ever even BEEN to Singapore or looked at the Straits Times?

I am not sure if a member of the Singaporean parliament is equipped to teach human rights law at all.

Why not? Why are you so prejudiced against people from Singapore?
7.14.2009 5:34am
Owen H. (mail):

Note however, that she admits that the Singapore law isn't really enforced much if at all, and no special effort is made to enforce it.

Nor has she actually advocated enforcing it. She just wants to keep the law on the books in case it might be useful to enforce at some point down the road.



Just in case they get too uppity, I guess.
7.14.2009 7:15am
Boblipton:
Danny, I disagree with at least two of your positions. You offer a chart of dates for various nations legalizing homosexual acts. Is not this contrary to the "international consensus" arguemnt? The principle of 'international consensus' runs contrary to the nations of sovereignty and to the issues of morality in law. Would France have been morally correct to have not legalized homosexual acts because of international consensus? As everyone's mother has said "If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do too?"

The other point I disagree with is your apparent attempt to shift the terms of debate from 'homosexual acts" to homosexuality itself. To equate the two is a logical fallacy, as if stating that I am heterosexual only when having sex with a woman.

Bob
7.14.2009 9:22am
yankev (mail):

That's pretty funny but the quotation was from Martin Niemöller.
Thank you. I stand corrected or at least reminded, but the sentiment still stands.
7.14.2009 9:39am
Cornellian (mail):

The other point I disagree with is your apparent attempt to shift the terms of debate from 'homosexual acts" to homosexuality itself. To equate the two is a logical fallacy, as if stating that I am heterosexual only when having sex with a woman.


Saying "we have no problem with your being heterosexual as long as you never actually have sex with a woman" is another way of saying "we actually do have a problem with your being heterosexual but we're trying to maintain a paper-thin veneer of plausible deniability about it." Then to add insult in injury we'll throw in a few lines about "heterosex activists" seeking to impose a "heterosex agenda" and try to defend prosecuting you by pointing out how affluent and educated you are.
7.14.2009 9:41am
Widmerpool:
Well, as long as communists fellow-travelers with a power fixation and inept interpersonal skills who nevertheless become the chancellor of a mediocre university continue to have their academic freedom protected, I'm happy.
7.14.2009 10:04am
there is no consensus, get over it:
Randy R:

"If a person in Singapore were to publicly declare themselves gay, they would simply be arrested and sentenced under the law."

Utterly false. No one has been arrested simply for saying "I'm gay." There are gay bars here. People know where they are; the state turns a blind eye. Too bad for you there are people reading VC who actually live here. Your bs won't pass the bs filter.
7.14.2009 10:29am
Danny (mail):

Danny, I disagree with at least two of your positions. You offer a chart of dates for various nations legalizing homosexual acts. Is not this contrary to the "international consensus" arguemnt?


France decriminalized homosexuality in the 18th century based on Enlightenment principles of autonomy and freedom from government tyranny and theocracy. The group consensus argument (as all our mothers know) is only of limited value. For example, I think the US is correct to reject the international consensus in favor of criminalizing some opinions (hate speech, blasphemy) which is the rule abroad. I was merely reminding readers of how much the USA's situation at the beginning of the 21st century was not "mainstream" for a Western country, and that Thio's position is not compatible with mainstream human rights concepts (although she would have the support of the Islamic Declaration of Human Rights which was a response to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
7.14.2009 11:11am
Randy R. (mail):
There is no consensus: " No one has been arrested simply for saying "I'm gay." There are gay bars here. People know where they are; the state turns a blind eye. Too bad for you there are people reading VC who actually live here. Your bs won't pass the bs filter."

Actually, I was in Singapore, and attended several gay bars. And the gay people there told me that yes, the state allows gay bars to exist, but you cannot be open about your homosexuality at work or in other areas. In other words, it must be confined to the bars. If you go home with a guy, you must be very careful that no one sees you then or in the morning, as you may be reported and arrested.

I understand things have gotten better recently, so perhaps you are correct that now one can be openly gay. From Queerty: "Is this reason to smile? Not quite. While an assurance from Singapore's legal chief that state attorneys won't busy themselves with prosecuting gays for getting it on is good news, these anti-sex laws were never about putting people in prison. They were about state-sanctioned intimidation and harassment, giving police carte blanche to harass and detain gays for any reason they see fit."
7.14.2009 11:29am
Randy R. (mail):
Perseus: "You haven't established that Thio Li-ann is in fact "completely ignorant" of what may happen (I'm surprised you didn't accuse her of knowing that it does but feigning ignorance while you were at it)"

Then by all means, please show us her great intellect. I notice not one person has been able to show how her reasoning is so superior or her efforts in human rights laws qualify her for anything.

Bob: "The other point I disagree with is your apparent attempt to shift the terms of debate from 'homosexual acts" to homosexuality itself. To equate the two is a logical fallacy, as if stating that I am heterosexual only when having sex with a woman.

No, the logical fallacy would be as if stating that you are a heterosexual even when you are NOT having sex with a woman. That's exactly what we are aruging -- we are gay even when not having sex of any kind. IF you actaully read Thio's comments, they are not directed at gay sex, but at homosexuality as an orientation. Ex: "Homosexuality is a gender identity disorder..."

Anyone who actually believes things that have been proven false really are not competent to speak on the matter. Just we do not give quarter to Holocaust deniers, we should not give quarter who people who cling to the false view that homosexuality is a disorder.

Perseus: I have no problem with the Chesterton comment. I DO have a problem with what follows from her book : ""If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, ‘Why should anything go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic?...’ The young sceptic says, ‘I have a right to think for myself.’ But the old sceptic, the complete sceptic, says, ‘I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all.’”

Please, since you are the philosophical master among us, go ahead and unravel that and explain why she is correct. If observation and deduction are not necessarily 'right', then surely the Holocaust deniers deserve their positions in the university, right?
7.14.2009 11:38am
Danny (mail):
Well I know that historically in the USA, laws against gay sex were used mostly as a latent threat to repress political activity by gays and lesbians, and to get an upper hand against individual gays and lesbians in a legal dispute (for example, an otherwise unqualified man could win custody of the children in a divorce by showing that his otherwise qualified ex-wife had begun a lesbian relationship and was therefore in principle a felon). Or gays and lesbians could not become police officers, hold certain jobs, complain about discrimination at work, etc. The identity brought about a presumption of the "crime", even though depending on the definition in that jurisdiction of "sodomy" or "sex against nature" many lesbian and gay couples might not even have technically fallen under it. It was a means of keeping gay folk down, as an underclass. Even an 80 year old lesbian couple who no longer had sex would have been threatened with prosecution if they tried to resist too much
7.14.2009 11:40am
Randy R. (mail):
VG: "(Mind you you haven't even really chosen a number of quotes and are currently relying on an amazon review of her work) "

No, I pulled those quotes from her actual book. And I linked to a complete review by the Christian Quarterly so that you could read it yourself. Please don't just rely upon what I say, but I encourage you to do your own research on her writings.

And if you find anything at all that supports the notion that she is a competent and reasoned human rights advocate, then by all means share it. Otherwise, her published writings and speeches are sufficient to show that she is not.
7.14.2009 11:40am
whit:

Wounding feelings: BAD! (Especially Thio's feelings!)


this logic is consistent with many european countries, not to mention canada. criminalizing speech that degrades an "identifiable group" for example is illegal in canada.
7.14.2009 12:25pm
yankee (mail):
You miss the point. When a gay person is persecuted, almost never are they asked if they have had specific gay acts. Rather, the authorities assume that they are gay, then they must have had gay sex, and so they throw them in jail.


Under Don't Ask, Don't Tell, someone can be discharged for stating that they're gay (and this is quite routine). The fiction is that they're being discharged for having gay sex rather than for being gay, and that a declaration of gayness raises a presumption of having had gay sex. But given the practical impossibility of proving that you're a virgin, it is a distinction without a difference.

Obviously this is not as bad since DADT just results in a discharge rather than imprisonment, but the general principle is the same.
7.14.2009 1:55pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):

Singapore does not cane people for spitting on the street, and while the media is not 100% open, it is much more so than in countries like Russia. Where are you getting this tripe from? Have you ever even BEEN to Singapore or looked at the Straits Times?


Correct. It is a fine though (iirc $500 Singapore Dollars, about $300 US?). So is drinking soda pop on the subway.

In defence of Singapore's draconian laws regarding public facilities and cleanliness, they are surrounded by countries where there is little emphasis on cleanliness of public facilities at all (Indonesia, Malaysia), so I think they feel they have to get folks' attention.
7.14.2009 2:55pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
I have the simple solution: No one should sign up for her class. Therefore, there is no one to teach to. Problem solved.
7.14.2009 3:24pm
Perseus (mail):
I don't understand what is inconsistent with, on the one hand, encouraging students to analyze identity and tolerate difference and, on the other hand, condemn political regimes that fail to do those things.

Then encouraging students to analyze "identity" and tolerate "difference" doesn't amount to very much since real differences are about fundamental or first things. Were all political regimes to do that, then they would to that extent all be the same. Cultures would thus be drained of the animating principles that cause substantial diversity, leaving only the sort of pallid multiculturalism advocated by people like Charles Taylor. But even then, the inherent tensions between the universal and the particular ("difference") cannot be resolved so easily. (BTW, it's news to me that the term "multiculturalism" is just an epithet. It can be used that way, like neo-conservative frequently is, but that does not exhaust its meaning.)


Then by all means, please show us her great intellect. I notice not one person has been able to show how her reasoning is so superior or her efforts in human rights laws qualify her for anything.

I made no such sweeping claims about her intellect or scholarship since I haven't examined all of her work. You, on the other hand, asserted that she was "completely ignorant" of something based on little more than idle speculation, and then used that assertion to question her competence to teach international human rights law. It is your competence at evaluation that seems questionable.

I have no problem with the Chesterton comment. I DO have a problem with what follows from her book : ""If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, ‘Why should anything go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic?...’ The young sceptic says, ‘I have a right to think for myself.’ But the old sceptic, the complete sceptic, says, ‘I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all.’”

Please, since you are the philosophical master among us, go ahead and unravel that and explain why she is correct.


I don't regard myself as a philosophical master, but that quote from Chesterton deals with fundamental metaphysical skepticism and the limits of naturalism. A wikipedia discussion of the matter can be found here (see especially the discussion under the heading "Views by philosophers and scientists").
7.14.2009 4:50pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Perseus:

Agree with you to a point. However to my mind the key issue is that humanities subjects (including philosophy and questions of natural rights) are not fields which admit of verifiable or even falsifiable answers. One cannot FALSIFY the idea that the holocaust was a positive force in history, for example as troubling as such a viewpoint would be for most people.

One of the key issues here is what "tolerating differences" means. One of the difficulties is that many of the humanities are slowly being turned into self esteem boosters rather than subjects of serious study.

I think that one of the most important areas in these topics (and that includes history, politics, philosophy), is to expose students to ideas and theories which they find uncomfortable and challenging.

Even though I find what Li-Ann said to be deeply problematic on a number of levels, and even though I think that her defence of her comments calls into question her competence, I think that one should teach the controversy in these issues and that the proper response of the school is to have her teach the lecture in that spirit. This allows them to avoid the expressive element which A. Zarkov rightly fears. I.e. the attitude should be:

"We do not condone or support Li-Ann's position in this area. However in the interest of expanding the exposure of our students to other perspectives, we have invited her to teach this course."
7.14.2009 5:08pm
Randy R. (mail):
Perseus: "I don't regard myself as a philosophical master, but that quote from Chesterton deals with fundamental metaphysical skepticism and the limits of naturalism."

So in other words, you can't or won't explain what she meant by the quote.

"You, on the other hand, asserted that she was "completely ignorant" of something based on little more than idle speculation, and then used that assertion to question her competence to teach international human rights law."

If person claims to be an expert on WWII history and then states the Holocaust never happened, I would not have to read her entire oeuvre to determine that she is not competent to teach history. Thio has stated that homosexuality is a gender disorder and that it can be 'cured' through an ex-gay program, among other things. These sorts of statements have no basis whatsoever in reality, which indicates that she doesn't understand even basic facts about human sexuality. Whether that reaches the level of incompetence, I will leave to you, if you prefer. Me, it's pretty clear she doesn't know what she is talking about.
7.14.2009 6:13pm
Perseus (mail):
Perseus: "I don't regard myself as a philosophical master, but that quote from Chesterton deals with fundamental metaphysical skepticism and the limits of naturalism."

So in other words, you can't or won't explain what she meant by the quote.


It is you who drew the silly inference from the Chesterton quote that "If observation and deduction are not necessarily 'right', surely the Holocaust deniers deserve their positions in the university, right?" And you apparently can't or won't bother to read the article that I cited to help you understand it (and it's pretty clear from the review that Thio Li-Ann agrees with Chesterton's criticism of fundamental skepticism and naturalism contained in that quote.). As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water...
7.14.2009 7:44pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Randy R:

If person claims to be an expert on WWII history and then states the Holocaust never happened, I would not have to read her entire oeuvre to determine that she is not competent to teach history.


Let's stick with close analogies.... The holocaust is a question of fact. Whether gay rights are human rights is a matter of social construct.

A better parallel would be for someone to claim to be an expert on WWII history and then claim that the Holocaust was the most positive event in 20th century history.
7.14.2009 9:04pm
Danny (mail):

Let's stick with close analogies.... The holocaust is a question of fact. Whether gay rights are human rights is a matter of social construct.



Imprisonment and persecution of gay men and lesbians is also a historical fact, including during the Holocaust (gays were the third most targeted group after Jews and gypsies, with the highest death rate of non-Jews in the camps)
7.14.2009 9:39pm
there is no consensus, get over it:
"I understand things have gotten better recently, so perhaps you are correct that now one can be openly gay."

You were wrong. You seem to have a predilection for making claims you do not know to be true.

You don't live here; do not presume to speak authoritatively after a few trips to the local gay bars. You simply aren't credible.

Not only can people be "openly gay," the official apparatus allows for people to be openly gay. People drafted into military service here who declare their sexual orientation get assigned to desk-bound administrative jobs. And many gays do indeed take that 'out' to avoid serving in combatant arms. Jail time? Who are you kidding.

You see, we have a de facto DADT too: don't ask, do tell.
7.15.2009 12:10am
there is no consensus, get over it:
Oh, one group of people do get jail time: Jehovah's Witnesses, conscientious objectors who may serve out their (religious) convictions in military prison.

Oh noes. Religion and religious objectors get less solicitude than homosexuals! The horror!
7.15.2009 12:17am
Randy R. (mail):
""I understand things have gotten better recently, so perhaps you are correct that now one can be openly gay."

You were wrong. You seem to have a predilection for making claims you do not know to be true. "

I'm wrong that things have gotten better? My apologies.

"You don't live here; do not presume to speak authoritatively after a few trips to the local gay bars. You simply aren't credible."

I quoted from a recent article by Queerty, a leading gay newspaper. If you have a quarrel, it is with them, not me.

Perseus: "It is you who drew the silly inference from the Chesterton quote that "If observation and deduction are not necessarily 'right', surely the Holocaust deniers deserve their positions in the university, right?"

Sure was. And you haven't explained why my inference is 'silly' (though I think few people are interested in that). Moreover, I've asked you twice already to unravel or decipher her reasoning that immediately flowed from the Chesterton quote, and you still can't or won't do so. And that's fine -- you are under no obligation to do so.

But if what she writes is gibberish, then it's just evidence that the woman is simply not competent to teach much at all. And finally, I've stated numerous times that if you posit statements that are clearly false, you can't claim competence in that subject area, and again, you have failed to explain that her statements about homosexuality or ex-gays have any colorable truth to them.

So I guess we are just at a stalemate.
7.15.2009 2:55am
Perseus (mail):
Moreover, I've asked you twice already to unravel or decipher her reasoning that immediately flowed from the Chesterton quote, and you still can't or won't do so

You merely reproduced the Chesterton quote itself from the review. No part of the passage that you cited above was by Thio Li-Ann herself. The reviewer indicates that Thio Li-Ann used the Chesterton quote to make the point that "Christian and humanist worldviews are both not provable empirically, in spite of the latter’s claims to rationality." Is there some other quote that you are referring to?
7.15.2009 6:35am
bushbasher:
the gay-hating bitch should be allowed to teach whatever she wants.
7.15.2009 9:20am
Seamus (mail):
Correct. It is a fine though (iirc $500 Singapore Dollars, about $300 US?). So is drinking soda pop on the subway.

Drinking soda pop on the subway will get you a fine in Washington, D.C., as well. I wouldn't cite that as proof that Singapore is an unusually repressive country.
7.15.2009 11:07am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Danny:

Imprisonment and persecution of gay men and lesbians is also a historical fact, including during the Holocaust (gays were the third most targeted group after Jews and gypsies, with the highest death rate of non-Jews in the camps)


Sure. Does Li-Ann deny those facts?

Or does she come to an opinion that disagrees with yours as to questions of natural rights?
7.15.2009 12:40pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Seamus:

What sort of fine? $500? Unless it matches the Singapore fine in real income numbers (hours worked at median wage to pay the fine), I don't think they are comparable.
7.15.2009 12:42pm
Perseus (mail):
"We do not condone or support Li-Ann's position in this area. However in the interest of expanding the exposure of our students to other perspectives, we have invited her to teach this course."

That strikes me as arbitrarily selective unless the university administration has a policy of making such statements whenever a professor holds a view that it finds offensive (not to mention that such a disclaimer undermines the rationale for hiring her and true open-mindedness among students).
7.15.2009 3:37pm
there is no consensus, get over it:
Randy R:

"'I'm wrong that things have gotten better? My apologies."

You haven't stopped beating your boyfriend yet? My apologies.

When you decide to admit your error, let me know.
7.16.2009 12:00am
there is no consensus, get over it:
einhverfr:

"I don't think they are comparable."

That's hilarious nitpicking. Of course they are comparable: the existence of such fines in the United States makes citing such "examples" fatuous, they don't illustrate the notion that Singapore is unusually repressive anymore than they illustrate the notion that D.C. is unusually repressive. You confuse a negligible difference in degree with a difference in kind.
7.16.2009 12:03am
The River Temoc (mail):
You can indeed be fined for spitting in public or for bringing food or drink on the MRT (oddly enough, many signs also say durians are also prohibited but do not list a fine for carrying a durian).

So what? Spitting is filthy, Singapore is remarkably clean, and a fine is hardly a draconian punishment. And it's DC that arrests kids for bringing bananas on its comparatively disfunctional metro, rather than fining them.

In short: Singapore OK lah.
7.16.2009 6:36am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
I had forgotten about the arrests.

Yes, I think some of DC's policies regarding public transportation and food are draconian too.
7.16.2009 1:33pm

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