Derek Bekebrede

Opinion

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

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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Princeton Professor Robert George speaks at the Legatus conference. Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews
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Princeton’s Robert George: Are you ready to pay the price? The days of socially acceptable Christianity are over

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ORLANDO, February 4, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- “It is no longer easy to be a faithful Christian, a good Catholic, an authentic witness to the truths of the Gospel,” said Princeton Professor Robert George to a large crowd at the Legatus Summit in Orlando, Florida last weekend. Professor George added that people can still safely identify as “Catholic” as long as they don’t believe, or will at least be completely silent about, “what the Church teaches on issues such as marriage and sexual morality and the sanctity of human life.”

He said “the guardians of those norms of cultural orthodoxy that we have come to call ‘political correctness,’” will still grant a comfort to a Catholic ashamed of the Gospel, “or who is willing to act publicly as if he or she were ashamed.”

The Princeton professor, who has been a leader in the fight for life and marriage, reminded his audience of Christ’s words: “If anyone wants to be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me.” “We American Catholics, having become comfortable, had forgotten, or ignored, that timeless Gospel truth. There will be no ignoring it now,” he remarked.

Are we “prepared to give public witness to the massively politically incorrect truths of the Gospel, truths that the mandarins of an elite culture shaped by the dogmas of expressive individualism and me-generation liberalism do not wish to hear spoken?” he asked.

For Catholics, and Evangelicals in America, he said, “it is now Good Friday.”  To a rousing standing ovation Professor George concluded:

The memory of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem has faded.  Yes, he had been greeted—and not long ago—by throngs of people waving palm branches and shouting ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’  He rode into the Jerusalem of Europe and the Jerusalem of the Americas and was proclaimed Lord and King.  But all that is now in the past.  Friday has come. The love affair with Jesus and his Gospel and his Church is over.

Fearing to place in jeopardy the wealth we have piled up, the businesses we have built, the professional and social standing we have earned, the security and tranquility we enjoy, the opportunities for worldly advancement we cherish, the connections we have cultivated, the relationships we treasure, will we silently acquiesce to the destruction of innocent human lives or the demolition of marriage? Will we seek to ‘fit in,’ to be accepted, to live comfortably in the new Babylon? If so, our silence will speak.  Its words will be the words of Peter, warming himself by the fire:  ‘Jesus the Nazorean? I tell you, I do not know the man.’

The saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ includes, integrally, the teachings of His church on the profound and inherent dignity of the human person and the nature of marriage as a conjugal bond—a one-flesh union….

The question of faith and fidelity that is put to us today is not in the form it was put to Peter—“surely you are you this man’s disciple”—it is, rather, do you stand for the sanctity of human life and the dignity of marriage as the union of husband and wife?  These teachings are not the whole Gospel—Christianity requires much more than their affirmation.  But they are integral to the Gospel—they are not optional or dispensable.  To be an authentic witness to the Gospel is to proclaim these truths among the rest. The Gospel is, as St. John Paul the Great said, a Gospel of Life.  And it is a Gospel of family life, too.  And it is these integral dimensions of the Gospel that powerful cultural forces and currents today demand that we deny or suppress.

One day we will give an account of all we have done and failed to do. …

One thing alone will matter: let me say this with maximum clarity—whether we stood up for the truth, speaking it out loud and in public, bearing the costs of discipleship that are inevitably imposed on faithful witnesses to truth by cultures that turn away from God and his law. Or were we ashamed of the Gospel?

If we deny truths of the Gospel, we really are like Peter, avowing that “I do not know the man.”  If we go silent about them, we really are like the other apostles, fleeing in fear. But when we proclaim the truths of the Gospel, we really do stand at the foot of the cross with Mary the Mother of Jesus and John the disciple whom Jesus loved. We show by our faithfulness that we are not ashamed of the Gospel. We prove that we are truly Jesus’s disciples, willing to take up his cross and follow him—even to Calvary.

But lest we fail the test, as perhaps many will do, let us remember that Easter is coming.  Jesus will vanquish sin and death. We will experience fear, just as the apostles did—that is inevitable. Like Jesus himself in Gethsemane, we would prefer not to drink this cup.  We would much rather be acceptable Christians, comfortable Catholics. But our trust in him, our hope in his resurrection, our faith in the sovereignty of his heavenly Father can conquer fear.  By the grace of Almighty God, Easter is indeed coming. Do not be ashamed of the Gospel.  Never be ashamed of the Gospel.



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Planned Parenthood investigator Daleiden refuses plea deal: ‘What we really want is an apology’

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URGENT: Sign the petition to Harris County urging them to drop the charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Click here.

HOUSTON, February 4, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - This morning, Harris County prosecutor's office offered David Daleiden a plea deal. His legal team, in turn, made a counter-offer.

"The only thing we're going to accept right now is an apology," said Terry Yates, one of four attorneys who flanked Daleiden down the corridors of the courthouse as he visited two court rooms to face felony and misdemeanor charges.

He confirmed an offer had been made but was unlikely to be accepted.

Instead, Yates said that a hearing before Judge Brock Thomas of Texas District 338 had been scheduled for March 28. "At that time, we anticipate filing a couple of motions" asking that all charges be dismissed at once. "We believe the indictments are factually and legally insufficient."

"The old Texas expression 'all hat and no cattle' - that's what we believe these indictments are. There's not much to them," he said.

Peter Breen of the Thomas More Society reiterated that stance during a press conference co-hosted by LifeSiteNews at 11 a.m. local time.

When asked if Daleiden would plead guilty to lesser charges offered by Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, Breen replied, "At this point, no."

"What we really want is an apology," Breen said, standing next to fellow counsel Briscoe Cain, Texas attorney for Operation Rescue. "He deserves an apology...He is innocent."

His legal team felt certain he would prevail on the substance of the charges without admitting guilt to any of them.

"The reality is David is a modern day hero," Jared Woodfill, another Daleiden attorney, told LifeSiteNews inside the courthouse. "He has exposed the wrongdoing that has been occurring at abortion clinics all across this country. And the fact that he's here today is a miscarriage of justice."

"He will be vindicated," he said.

The 27-year-old Daleiden appeared unflappable - smiling, well-groomed, wearing a black jacket, blue shirt, and black tie as he spoke briefly with reporters, including LifeSiteNews.

"I'm very grateful for all the support from the public, especially from the people of Houston," he said, some of whom held handmade signs that said "I Stand with Sandra and David" as he presented himself for booking and paid bail this morning.

Attorneys did not disclose the terms of the agreement prosecutors had offered. If convicted, Daleiden and fellow pro-life investigative journalist Sandra Merritt face up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

However, the charges could be dismissed at any time. LifeSiteNews delivered the first batch of signatures, more than 106,000, on its petition to the DA's office asking that all charges against Daleiden be dropped at once.

If that fails? "We're ready to go to trial," Woodfill told LifeSiteNews.

URGENT: Sign the petition to Harris County urging them to drop the charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Click here.



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First 100K petitions to drop charges against Daleiden delivered: ‘let’s double that’

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LifeSiteNews reporter Lisa Bourne and the Christian Defense Coalition's Patrick Mahoney deliver LifeSiteNews' petition to the Houston DA's office.
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URGENT: Sign the petition to Harris County urging them to drop the charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Click here.

HOUSTON, February 4, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) - Pro-life leaders have presented more than 106,000 signatures to the Harris County district attorney's office, demanding that charges be dropped against David Daleiden.

It was the first batch of signatures to be dropped off in LifeSiteNews' ongoing petition. It asks prosecutor Devon Anderson to dismiss the charges facing Daleiden and his fellow investigator Sandra Merritt, which could result in 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

"Houston, we do have a problem," said Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition at a press conference at 11 a.m. local time.

"We are standing in solidarity and say, 'When you attack David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, you are attacking us and our community,'" Rev. Mahoney continued. "Do not proceed with these unjust indictments."

Congressman Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, sent a statement to the gathering saying, "Instead of society persecuting the truth tellers, Planned Parenthood needs to answer for their gruesome practices," as well as apologizing to adoptive families like his own, which the abortion provider has "prevented from being whole."

The local indictment, made by the Houston-area grand jury last Monday, has drawn national coverage as the first skirmish in a war between Planned Parenthood and those who sought to expose their practices.

"In delivering these petitions, I am representing more than 100,000 people who demand that these charges against this 27-year-old man and his fellow investigator be dropped at once," said LifeSiteNews reporter Lisa Bourne.

"The next move is up to the Harris County DA's office," she said, reading a statement prepared by LifeSiteNews. "These petitions prove that the world is watching."

"The indictment is another example of Planned Parenthood's bare-fisted intimidation tactics," she added, similar to campaigns taken against former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Andy Parrish, PR director for LifeSiteNews, who was in Houston with Bourne, said he was honored to tell David of the 106,000 LifeSite petition signers who were standing with him. "These signatures are just the beginning. The coalition standing behind David is growing. We've got 100,000, but let's double that."

David Daleiden addressed the crowd alongside two of his attorneys, Peter Breen and Briscoe Cain, and thanked all those who showed their support for him during his latest legal showdown.

"I just want to say thank you to everyone at LifeSiteNews and everyone who shared the petition, who signed it, and made it possible to deliver that today," Daleiden told LifeSiteNews. "It means a lot to me, and to Sandra, and to the Center for Medical Progress. Thank you for your faithfulness and for standing up for us."

URGENT: Sign the petition to Harris County urging them to drop the charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Click here.

He hoped everyone would remain united in demanding justice be done - and, like Cheryl Sullenger of Operation Rescue, hopes that Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast be indicted.

"I firmly believe that if we stay the course, if we stay together, we will bring about a day when there is no longer a price tag on human life," Daleiden said.

During the windy 45-minute-long press conference, speakers at the rostrum defended Daleiden's undercover journalism tactics in the face of sometimes hostile questions from the established press.

"No one can deny that this was the number one investigative journalism story of 2015," Rev. Mahoney said, citing statistics of the story's impact on the mainstream media.

In the new media environment of 2016, someone does not need a degree from Northwestern or Columbia to be a journalist, he said.

"He broke one of the biggest stories of the year," agreed John Hawkins of Right-Wing News, who sent in a written statement to the conference. Pressing charges against him sends a message to conservatives and Christians: "Sit down and shut up, or this just might happen to you."

"If this were a meat-packing plant investigation, there would be no question about his integrity," said Alexandra Snyder, executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation. "He would be universally lauded as a hero. I think he's a hero...for getting the truth out."

"In the meantime, we're going to do everything we can do to stand with David," she said, "and see justice prevail."



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