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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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

Thank you so much for your support. 

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