Derek Bekebrede

I’m socially conservative, in college, and need a party

Derek Bekebrede
By Derek Bekebrede
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December 12, 2012 (thePublicDiscourse.com) - Following Mitt Romney’s twenty-three-point loss to President Obama among the youth vote, the Republican Party has rightfully focused its attention on increasing its support among this important demographic.

Unfortunately, the outcome of this effort has been a call for the party to abandon its support for life and marriage in order to bring the party more in line with the opinions of younger voters. “I know that neither I nor (almost) anybody else coming of age today supports the Republican social agenda. That’s the way the country is moving—so just deal with it,” wrote George Washington University freshman Sarah Westwood in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal following the 2012 elections. Many others have since echoed her tune.

John Londregan and Luis Tellez on Public Discourse already have shown why the Republican Party should continue its principled support of life and marriage, but the debate has thus far ignored a critical obstacle to the conservative movement’s efforts to appeal to youth: the American college campus. More than sixty years ago, William F. Buckley, Jr., wrote in God and Man at Yale that on college campuses, “the conservatives, as a minority, are the new radicals.” We remain so today.

After three years at the helm of Harvard’s student conservative movement, I know that the campus is not only liberal but also hostile to conservatives, especially social conservatives. As the Republican Party and fellow conservatives try to appeal to young voters, they must not ignore the university environment in which many of those voters live and learn. The actual state of America’s universities is worse than most Republicans realize, not because conservatives’ efforts have failed but because they have not wholeheartedly been tried. Instead of abandoning fundamental portions of the Republican platform, it’s time for the party to embrace a new one: outreach to America’s universities on social issues.

In 2010, the American Association of Colleges and Universities found in a survey of 24,000 college students that only 35.6 percent agreed with the statement, “it is safe to hold unpopular views on campus.” Of 9,000 campus professionals, only 18.8 percent agreed with the same statement. The use of the word “safe” in the survey is particularly telling; it reveals how suffocating the university environment is for conservatives.

On election night in 2008 (before my time on campus), Harvard Republicans called the University police to escort them home in order to safely leave their election night event as their classmates celebrated in the streets. In the four years since the incident, little has changed, and the groups and students promoting life, marriage, and sexual fidelity bear the brunt of the attacks. Harvard Right to Life’s “Cemetery of the Innocents” display, like those on multiple other campuses, has been vandalized. The Harvard Anscombe Society and Harvard Right to Life have been unable to put up posters on campus for years; the posters are consistently torn down within an hour of being put up. Students also have complained that advisers discourage them from taking classes taught by known conservative professors for the sole reason that the professors are conservative.

Despite our complaints, the university has not responded to these incidents. However, like many other universities, it has been happy to sponsor events such as Sex Week, a week with events such as “S&M 101” with The New England Leather Alliance and “The Female Orgasm and All Things Penis!” with Margeaux the Vulva Puppet. Most recently, Harvard recognized a new BDSM and “kinky sex” student group that caught the attention of the media and seemed to surprise everyone except those already at Harvard. Given the view of sex that universities such as Harvard have already supported, it would be hypocritical for them not to recognize BDSM and other “kinky sex” groups.

Among the faculty in today’s universities, perhaps a few are conservative, and even fewer publicly so. In their absence, conservative students must take the stand, although they are often silenced while their liberal counterparts receive active support and funding from the university. Where, then, is it likely that the undecided or wavering student will turn? To the small student group (or, in the case of Vanderbilt, unrecognized student group), or to the persistent echoes of “marriage equality” and “women’s rights” promoted from nearly every corner of campus? It is always easier to attack an opponent’s argument than it is to defend one’s own, but especially so when one’s opponent is not even present to defend his argument. In an environment hostile to conservatives, many students become liberal not because they disagree with conservatives but because they have never heard an intellectual argument for conservatism.

Given these circumstances, Ms. Westwood’s prescription to “just deal with” the “way the country is moving” on these important questions of marriage and life is especially destructive. For the Republican Party and conservative movement to abandon their stances on these issues is to abandon the effort started by Buckley to restore America’s colleges and universities, and to accept that young Americans and universities will remain liberal.

The Republican Party and College Republican National Committee are eager to contact and mobilize young conservatives prior to national elections, but they by and large disappear during the rest of the year. Although campaigning is a necessary and exciting activity for college conservatives, we must be viewed as more than bodies to knock on doors for a few months every other year. On the morning after election night, something of the college conservative movement must continue forward without campaign activities. With the retreat of conservatives from academia, on many campuses we remain the only conservative voice to push back against the liberal majority, but the odds are stacked against us. We can campaign, but the party also needs to invest in us, to develop young scholars with the capabilities and the courage to make the conservative argument to professors, students, and administrators.

How can we develop young conservatives and begin to reform higher education? First, as Todd Hartch wrote in Public Discourse two years ago, conservative professors and faculty members must end their “Ostpolitik” and begin defending the truth on America’s campuses. It requires risk and more than a bit of courage, but on campuses where many students have never heard the intellectual conservative argument concerning moral issues, their words can inspire previously silent conservative students and introduce some healthy skepticism to the minds of their liberal classmates (and professors).

Second, without conservative voices in positions of authority on campus, we need better funding to bring conservative scholars to campus. Many outside groups offer pocket Constitutions and their own publications, but students are much more likely to come hear a speaker than read a pamphlet. With financial help from the Love and Fidelity Network, The Harvard Anscombe Society last spring hosted Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse to speak about sexual ethics in a well-attended event that countered the message of Harvard’s Sex Week. The Heritage Foundation has scheduled events on our campus with scholars such as constitutional expert David Azerrad that inspired students to write in campus publications defending the first principles of the Constitution and arguing against the HHS mandate. Events like these drive attendance, generate headlines, and, most importantly, educate and inspire students. They require time, resources, and close coordination between student groups and outside organizations, but they can provide conservative scholars and accomplished leaders to campuses that lack both. With them, we can grow our community and increase our campus presence in ways that reading intellectual papers and books alone cannot.

Third, and finally, conservative students must remain strong and true to their purpose. It may be easier to stand for entitlement reform and lower taxes, but, as Ms. Westwood’s despair demonstrates, what the campus desperately needs are students willing to stand up for sexual fidelity, marriage, and life. University administrators cannot change tax rates, but they can fund Sex Week. So it is up to the students to build organizations that promote the message of life, liberty, and true love on campus. The results of being a strong college conservative are worth the ridicule and minority status. With the growth in the main conservative groups at Harvard, we have created an exceptionally close community of friends. While the opportunity to debate our liberal classmates allows us to improve our arguments, we also know that we are part of a movement and not alone.

As Republicans vie for the support of America’s youth, they must recognize the environment in which they are competing. For most American college students, being socially conservative requires the courage to face both hateful remarks and punitive consequences. More than sixty years ago, Buckley urged Americans to revolt against a university system that was liberal and intolerant. It’s time for the Republican message to take up his cause, because it is right and necessary for their arguments to reach America’s youth. The students have been pushing back against liberal dominance, but we cannot solve the problem on our own. We need the full support of our party and conservative allies.

Derek Bekebrede is a senior majoring in economics at Harvard University. This article reprinted with permission from The Public Discourse.

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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received more than $400 million in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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