A reader named Andrew Beckwith, a lawyer and president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, sent the following e-mail in response to my earlier post on religious liberty. I post it with his permission:
You mentioned Professor Dale Carpenter. I took his “Sexuality and the Law” class at the University of Minnesota Law School in the 2002-2003 academic year. That class was a large reason for why I now work full-time in a deep blue state to fight for family values and religious liberty. His class told me what was coming. Don’t get me wrong, Dale was a nice guy and an encouraging and intelligent professor, but in his class on sexuality and the law, we marched through in theory what we’ve been living in law and culture over the past decade.
The class opened with the announcement that there could be no religion or traditional morality invoked to justify laws regarding sexual activity. The foundation for what should be acceptable was whatever “two consenting adults” wanted to do. I’m embarrassed to say that at the time I did not have the presence of mind, or perhaps the courage, to object to that standard. It sounded perfectly reasonable. Of course, it became clear that “two consenting adults” included homosexual activity and adultery, in addition to fornication. It also meant that incest (if they were adult relations) should not be criminalized. Some students were mildly uncomfortable with incest, but that discomfort was explained away by a now antiquated aversion to sexual unions which had a higher rate of genetic deformities, etc. With our medical advances in screening, access to contraception and abortion, there was really no reason why adult incest was wrong. BUT, then we were asked why “two” consenting adults? That numerical limit was seen as arbitrary. Many cultures engage in polygamy or even polyamory, so why limit the sexual activities of consenting adults to only couplings of two? Again, the students in the class largely accepted this as the correct progressive conclusion at which to arrive.
But we didn’t stop there. Who is an “adult?” Different cultures and societies across history have had different acceptable ages for marriage and sexual activity. The age of consent is different even across some US states, so who is to say what an adult is. Alfred Kinsey’s ground-breaking research demonstrated that children, even very young children, have sexual desires and can have sexual pleasure, so do they not have rights? Should we be denying them sexual pleasure based on arbitrary age restrictions? Isn’t that really more about just ensuring the ability to give consent? Which brought us to our destination in this semester-long through experiment – interspecies sex. Bestiality, fortunately, was a bridge too far, even for my very liberal classmates. However, their objections to the legal and social acceptance of sex between humans and animals was NOT that it was somehow ‘wrong’ – we are all animals, after all, products of evolution – but rather that we did not have the ability to guarantee the consent of the animal. Bestiality should probably remain criminal in order to protect the rights of the beasts.
Throughout this whole class, at what was at the time a top 20 law-school, the only students to object out of the dozen or so of us in the seminar were myself and a Mormon classmate. For everyone else, this all made perfect sense. This is where we are headed. By way of reference, this class occurred prior to Lawrence v. Texas – when sodomy itself was still on the books as a crime in some jurisdictions. But I saw it all laid out in that class – the striking down of sodomy laws, the repeal of DADT, same-sex marriage, polygamy… and more. It was only a matter of time.
So, in my line of work, people often ask me now, after the Obergefell case, as we try to fight off cross-gender bathroom usage, “What’s coming next.” Depending on who’s asking, I often answer, “polygamy, pedophilia, and bestiality, although not necessarily in that order.”
Dale Carpenter gave me a vision of what was going to come. The students at my law school, as you mention in your article, were far out of sync with the rest of society in 2002-3. It turns out they were merely a decade or so “ahead.” Finish the Benedict Option book as soon as you can. I have four young kids.
That’s a brave man.
You will remember what the late, great Justice Scalia prophesied in his Lawrence dissent (2003):
I turn now to the ground on which the Court squarely rests its holding: the contention that there is no rational basis for the law here under attack. This proposition is so out of accord with our jurisprudence–indeed, with the jurisprudence of any society we know–that it requires little discussion.
The Texas statute undeniably seeks to further the belief of its citizens that certain forms of sexual behavior are “immoral and unacceptable,” Bowers, supra, at 196–the same interest furthered by criminal laws against fornication, bigamy, adultery, adult incest, bestiality, and obscenity. Bowers held that this was a legitimate state interest. The Court today reaches the opposite conclusion. The Texas statute, it says, “furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual,” (emphasis added). The Court embraces instead Justice Stevens’ declaration in his Bowers dissent, that “the fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice.” This effectively decrees the end of all morals legislation. If, as the Court asserts, the promotion of majoritarian sexual morality is not even a legitimate state interest, none of the above-mentioned laws can survive rational-basis review.
When people accuse me of alarmism, it’s usually the case that they don’t want to see what’s right in front of their nose, because that makes them extremely uncomfortable. Would that we all had the courage of Andrew Beckwith.
Don’t forget too what Alasdair MacIntyre wrote in After Virtue:
But if we are indeed in as bad a state as I take us to be, pessimism too will turn out to be one more cultural luxury that we shall have to dispense with, in order to survive these hard times.
I take that as meaning that we cannot afford to curl up in a fetal position and wait for everything to fall apart. Let’s prepare. Let’s go!
UPDATE: It’s fine by me if you dissent from anything here, but if you’re just going to snark and wail in the comments section, I’m not going to post it.