Mitch Turner Googles himself, dislikes result

Several months ago, I published a link to a particularly wacky letter to the editor written by a spokesman for the Constitution Party of Virginia. That person, Mitch Turner of Hamilton, has apparently stumbled across that post, and is unhappy with what I wrote. I freely confess to ridiculing his letter, and I make no apology for that. Sometimes ridicule is an appropriate response, and this was one of those times. However, I do think that my response to his comments has shown too much of an unwillingness to seriously engage his arguments (you’ll understand why below). Rather than continuing to respond to his multiple comments on a months-old post, I thought I would provide him with a fresh forum to explain and expand on his views. My hope is that he can attract more of those who share these views to the Constitution Party, since they seem to be so disappointed in the alternatives. I think Mitch is right when he says that the Republican Party will never really provide a comfortable home for those who believe, as he does, “that individuals ARE NOT sovereign over their own lives” and that our Constitution was not intended to safeguard that sovereignty. There’s a wing of the Republican Party that shares this belief, but it will never cease being a site of divisive conflict with those who have more libertarian and pragmatic beliefs. In my view Mitch’s party would be more accurately named “The Christianist Party,” since its objective is the installation of imperial Christianism, not the defense of individual liberty.

At any rate, Mitch tells me that he is the webmaster for the CPV, not the chairman as I had stated in the previous post. He doesn’t share to what extent he has autonomy or is directed to post content to their website, but much of that content appears to be authored by him, including the gems I highlighted in the previous post. I don’t question the sincerity of his statements. To his mind, they are logical and self-evident – which is why I think he sincerely finds it evasive and infuriating for me to not address them the way he would like them to be addressed.

This will no doubt seem like a waste of time to many of our readers, and I can understand that as well. Box Turtle Bulletin recently published a series of posts entitled “Anti-gay Arguments We Don’t Bother With (And Should)” that unpack some of those anti-gay activist memes that are too fringe to be taken seriously within mainstream venues for discussion. They are, in the words of the BTB author, “the stuff of anonymous online comments, the product of an amateur punditocracy.” All of Mitch’s statements are in this category. The reason for bothering with them is simply that there are real people like Mitch who do take them seriously. One of the failures of the No on Prop 8 campaign was, I think, the failure to sufficiently educate voters about fundamental issues like religious freedom. Claims that religious leaders will be “forced to perform gay marriages,” or will be prosecuted for violating “hate speech laws” may well be silly, baseless, and “complete and total nonsense” as one of the Lambda Legal attorneys just called them; but that doesn’t matter if people who don’t know any better believe them.

We extend an invitation in our commenting policy to all in the larger community who want to engage in principled debate and discussion, as long as they don’t cross certain boundaries of civility. Mitch has expressed, by his repeated commenting, a desire to defend his statements and engage in some sort of discussion – so I invite him to do so. Let’s take a look at some of those statements and give him a chance to explain them more fully.

Mitch, you stated by implication that you think sex between consenting adults of the same sex should be illegal. Your central argument in favor of that proposition is this: “How can incest be declared illegal when homosexual sex is not?” You go on to declare that this implied statement is true because opposition to “incest,” along with “adultery, abortion, lying, and cheating” is “grounded in the same morality that opposes homosexuality.” The question I think you need to answer is this: What, other than your own designation of them as being in the same category do these assorted things have in common? Other than by relying on your own classification, can you explain, for example, how a gay or lesbian couple is the same as an incestuous couple? Please be specific. For example, are you trying to say that “incest” is a kind of sexual orientation? Are you trying to say that incestuous couples have historically been the target of discrimination? I think you should be able to recognize that so far, you have only made what I would call a tautological argument. You have essentially said only that “this list of things are the same because they are in the same category of things,” and then you justify putting them in the same category of things by saying that they are the same. This is meaningless. A “good reason” (my words) for opposing the legalization of incest would be one that doesn’t rely on this tautology. Can you think of one?

Moving on, you also made the statement that GLBT people “already have equal rights.” Can you explain specifically what you mean by this? I’ll refrain from asking more explicit questions here – it’s such a broad, sweeping statement that I’d like to see what your assumptions are first.

I think that’s probably enough for now. I would ask that you take a look at our commenting policy if you haven’t already, and give a little thought to what that might mean in terms of how you choose to frame your answers. Remember that you are a guest in our home.

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11 Responses to Mitch Turner Googles himself, dislikes result

  1. Mitch Turner says:

    David, I appreciate the chance to have a dialogue. I’ll skip over the first few paragraphs, unless you really want to understand my comments on God’s sovereignty, which you take out of context, or your assertion that the CP wants to impose a theocracy, which, unless you claim that was George Washington’s goal, is clearly not our agenda. There are two aspects to your specific question on the comparison of homosexuality to etc., etc. First is the “same category” issue. They are in the same category because God has declared them against his moral law. You may not believe that God exists or has any authority, but that He does both is not my personal opinion. It is based on reason, history, scientific and archaeological evidence, and the personal experience of millions. I’m sure you won’t accept those bona fides. Well, Western (as well as several other) civilization has had marriage and a moral code opposing all the things I mentioned (yes, often honored in the breach) as a foundation of society since its beginning. So the common factor I was referring to there was “sin.”

    The other part of discussing, say, incest, here is because both are an attack on the definition of marriage and God-ordained sexuality. Again thinking of centuries of Western Civ., marriage has meant a lifelong union of one man and one woman who are not closely related. The homosexuals who want to marry want to change that definition. So do those who want to marry close relatives or several partners. Once you take away one part of the definition, how do you tell someone else they can’t take out another part?

    In that other post you stated that my view that sex between consenting adults should be illegal was outlandish. Above you edit that to include “same sex.” You demonstrate exactly my point. If you think incest should be illegal, then YOU think sex between consenting adults should be illegal. Why is my view outlandish, but not yours? Now, if you want to just flat out say the government should stay out of incest, homosexual sex, polygamy, etc., that at least is consistent. To try to run away from the incest argument, or declare it irrelevant, is hypocritical and deceptive.

    The other thing I find interesting about the reaction when incest, etc. are brought up is the “how dare you compare them” reaction. This reaction implies there is some worse moral standing for incest than homosexuality. And that logically leaves one wondering how you can call anti-homos bigots while you are anti-incest bigots? This is all very basic logic. I’ll deal with equality separately.

  2. Mitch Turner says:

    It is not even arguable that you don’t have equal rights–UNLESS you change what the rights are for. If you want to ride your bike on Highway 7, sorry, you can’t. Why? By definition, that is not the purpose of that road. What if you are totally convinced cars are the source of all evil in the world? Are you being discriminated against? Have less rights? NO! If you qualify, have a license, get a car, and follow the rules, you can ride the highway just like all others WHO FOLLOW THE DEFINITION. If you demand access to the highway on your bike, you are not asking to be treated the same, you want to be treated specially.

    Same for marriage and other societal rights. You have total equality with me. See marriage defn above. You can marry any woman you want that is not closely related, is of age, and only one at a time. I have exactly the same rights and restrictions. And if either of us is married, we have the same tax benefits, inheritance laws, etc. Civilization, for centuries, has chosen to protect and reward marriage in certain ways. One important reason is because it allows the human race to continue! Another is the stabilizing factor in society.

    Now you may say you don’t want to marry a woman, you want to marry a man. I say, that’s not possible, since that does not fit the definition of marriage any more than me marrying my cat or my car. Again, Logic 101. Now, if you want to be honest and say what we want is to change the definition of marriage to something it has never meant, I applaud your honesty. But you are asking for new rights, not simply to have the same ones YOU ALREADY HAVE.

    And, once again, that takes us back to the question of the definition of marriage. If we take out the part about man and woman for you, how can we tell the polygamist it must be one and one? How do we demand there be no close relationship? How do we demand the partners be human? Or even alive? If we say yes to the homosexual, but no to the polygamist, THAT is special treatment based on personal opinions opposing the history of our culture and, more importantly to me, the clear teaching of our Creator. And the reason that is more important is because that is a higher authority than the collective opinions of humans.

  3. David says:

    Thanks for the response, Mitch. I’ll deal with the incest, etc. piece first. First of all, I didn’t say anything one way or the other about whether “incest between consenting adults” should be legal. My remark about your apparent desire to make sex between consenting adults illegal referred to same sex couples, which I thought was clear in context. Since you read it otherwise, perhaps not.

    There certainly are legitimate public health reasons for maintaining the prohibition on genetically related people interbreeding. This has been discussed in depth on this blog, somewhere (I don’t remember where at the moment). Besides that, I’m not aware of any significant population of people who want to marry people to whom they are closely genetically related. This just isn’t a social issue, and I don’t foresee it becoming one. It appears to be a red herring.

    Polygamous folks are a different issue. There are people who feel that’s the right way to be in intimate relationships for them, and they will organize themselves and advocate for the right to have their relationships recognized. Fundamentalist Mormons already do, in the sense that they use the legal system to defend themselves from what they see as harassment and discrimination. Interestingly, that community also engages in quite a bit of incest, and the healthcare providers surrounding the areas where their compounds are located have had some things to say about the results of that. Also, there’s that problem of non-consent and of the need to dispose of the extra males, which they solve by dumping boys on the streets of Salt Lake City like unwanted kittens.

    So that’s polygamy – probably not a functional fit for a relatively peaceful, post-industrial society. Polyamorous folks of other kinds will advocate for themselves, too. You see, I have no need to “avoid” the issue. Just because I personally am monogamous doesn’t mean that I don’t acknowledge the right of people different from myself to petition the government, organize, educate, or otherwise advocate for themselves. I do think that recognizing marriage between more than two people would be an administrative challenge (and I use the word ‘challenge’ here in its colloquial sense of ‘nightmare’) and I’m not convinced that it would be a reasonable change. Maybe some knowledge that we gain in the future will change my mind, just as knowledge we now have about sexual orientation has changed so many other people’s minds. I can’t say.

    As you can see, I have no trouble discussing these things you are content to label simply as “sin” as distinct from one another. I feel no sense of conflict or hypocrisy in treating them differently, no “if I accept one, I have to accept them all,” because I recognize them as very different things.

    I do agree that multiple-partner marriage would be a fairly radical redefinition, for reasons having to do with simple math. I do not agree that same-sex marriage is a radical redefinition. The redefinition that radically changed marriage to what it is today, in our culture, already happened. Put simply, marriage is no longer a property transaction in which one party gains legal authority over the other. It’s now a partnership between two adults with equal legal status. Maybe it’s that redefinition you find horrifying, but that horse done left the barn. Extending that legal partnership to two unrelated adults of the same sex, who happen to have a perfectly natural variation of human sexual orientation, is only logical.

    Now, I know that none of what I have just written means squat to you, because to you the only thing that matters, and the only source of meaningful information, is your religious doctrine. I’m only saying that to let you know that I get it. Your assumption that I’m not also a person of faith, however, is misplaced. You said in a comment on the other post that you are not expressing your personal opinions, that they are not your opinions, but God’s. But, Mitch – your name is on your comments. They came from your IP address. Unless God is moving your fingers over the keyboard, what you have shared are your beliefs about God. I have beliefs about God that are shared by others, too, but I don’t claim they are something other than that. Let’s just be clear about what we’re talking about here – our personal views.

  4. David says:

    This is exactly why claims that your goal isn’t theocratic rule ring hollow.

    By marriage, as you have repeatedly stated, you mean marriage as you believe it to have been “ordained by God.” That’s fine – in your church. Likewise, in my church we honor and perform marriage as we religiously define it. But we aren’t talking about religious marriage, in which we actually do have equality; we’re talking about civil marriage, a matter of law. As things stand, your religious definition of marriage is given a special status in civil law. As a result, not only am I treated unequally under the law as a spouse, but I and everyone who shares my faith are treated unequally under the law on the basis of religion. I would have to say that what’s inarguable here is that you are demanding the special right to have your religious definition of marriage enshrined in civil law to the exclusion of others’.

    This is just one place in which your logic completely fails. You can’t make the argument that we are all treated equally under civil law because the definition of marriage just is what it “is,” while at the same time offering as justification for that definition the fact that it’s a doctrine of your religious community. You cannot have both (unless this is, in fact, a theocracy).

    This is another one of those arguments that are understandably not taken seriously in mainstream discourse. It’s always striking to me that the people who make this particular argument think it’s so clever and displays such unassailable logic. Actually, the understanding of “equality” it assumes is so narrow and legalistic as to be useless in the real world. Here’s the example used in the Box Turtle Bulletin post I refer to above, which is as good a refutation of this logic as I’ve seen. You could just as easily say this:

    If the government passes a law mandating that the only religion that can be practiced is Christianity, it doesn’t infringe on the rights of those who are Jewish because they are treated equally; Christians can’t practice Judaism and neither can Jews.

    I’ve edited it slightly for clarity – the original said “passes a law that requires everyone to practice Christianity.” By extended analogy, you are saying that this law isn’t a problem for Jews, because if they want to practice religion they can pretend to be Christians. To use your own example, that of Route 7, it’s only useful if you put it in its real world context. Roads don’t just exist in a vacuum, they have a purpose, allowing people to get from one place to another. If it were impossible to get from one place to another without using Route 7 (not that far from the truth in some instances), then to say that only people with cars, by virtue of what Route 7 “is,” can get to certain places, would create a functional inequality between people. That functional inequality would cross the line into a violation of equal protection if, for example, the only public library were only accessible by driving a car on Route 7. Not a perfect analogy by any means, but if an analogy were perfect it wouldn’t be an analogy.

    I’m sorry, this just isn’t clever, nor is it in any way a compelling argument. That’s why you never see it repeated in any kind of serious debate.

  5. Mitch Turner says:

    David, sorry that life has interfered with blogging. I guess for some, life is blogging, or vice versa, just not me. Your comments on incest and polygamy display the kinds of personal opinions I would expect. Willing to limit the practices of others even though the same standards could limit yours. Health problems from incest? Gee, there aren’t any health problems with homosexual sex, are there? Just AIDS wiping out not only many of the participants but innocent bystanders as well.

    And you dismiss incest as a non-issue because there is no significant number of people doing it that want to marry. Of course not, there is a huge stigma and laws against it. The same could be said of homosexuality not very many years ago. But if you would stop your bigotry against it, maybe they’d come out of the closet.

    See, I never said if YOU accept one, YOU have to accept them all. My argument is that you can’t make rational arguments against them that don’t apply to homo sex/marriage. All you have is your personal prejudices, and if those are valid, then so are personal prejudices against the lifestyle you advocate.

    Now you can keep hunkering down saying these are my personal opinions, even though they are clearly written in a book taken as the Word of God by millions long before I even existed, but you are discounting centuries of cultural consensus and religious consensus that consistently oppose homo sex/marriage. That’s a lot more than you can add to your personal opinion. But the bottom line is that if you discount a higher moral authority than human opinions, all you have left is personal opinion backed up by force as the highest moral authority — might makes right. That is simple logic.

  6. Mitch Turner says:

    On your definition of marriage post, it may feel nice to smugly declare you have the perfect response and declare the debate over. The analogy is nowhere near reality, or near my argument. If you pass that law, you are outlawing all other religions. Given that we have a culture and Constitution that forbid that kind of law, it is clearly abridging rights that people already have. And, unlike marriage, religion does not have a common meaning, not in our limited culture and certainly not around the world. So your example is a carefully created box, that makes sense if you only look at the box, and not the reality around it.

    My highway analogy falls short… because it’s a recent concept clearly determined by the decisions of people locally. The idea of marriage is much more defined and more universally known. Is there a single major civilization in the history of the world that defined marriage as same sex? I admit some cultures have played fast and loose with how many people are in the marriage. I’ve not heard of any that allowed the participants to be of the same sex.

    So making a point by contriving a law contrary to the realities of diverse understandings of what religion is and our understanding and support of religious freedom has no relation to the actual argument that you are attempting to change the commonly understood (even apart from religion) definition of marriage. You are calling day, night; white, black; up; down. If we use the common understanding of words and definitions of concepts, then you have exactly the same rights as I do. The only way you can argue against that is to change the definition and then say you are discriminated against.

  7. David says:

    Hi Mitch, you’re back. We can learn a couple of things from your last two comments: 1) You don’t understand what causes HIV/AIDS; and 2) You don’t understand what religious freedom means. It’s exactly this sort of ignorance that resulted in your original letter to the editor being ridiculed.

    Civil law that violates the tenets of your religion does not constitute “outlawing your religion.” Unless, of course, the definition of your religion requires that it be the state religion. Refer to my previous comment for details.

  8. Dave (not Weintraub) says:

    Mitch,

    New guy here, straight and religious. (Though that should have nothing to do with the arguments, it might affect how you perceive them).

    […you can’t make rational arguments against them (incest) that don’t apply to homo sex/marriage]

    Of course you can. Incest is bad because it creates a weaker species. Diversity in the gene pool yields phenotype strength. That’s Biology 101 in case you forgot. Incest SHOULD be outlawed for physical reasons, not religious. The same goes for cloning. We should not clone humans for purposes of procreation for the same reason: Phenotype decay.

    This does not apply to homosexual behavior. Granted that if everyone were gay, the race would die out, but if we were all celibate priests the same would happen. In either case, though, there is no danger to the gene pool.

    […discounting centuries of cultural consensus and religious consensus that consistently oppose homo sex/marriage.]

    Well, sure, but “centuries of cultural consensus and religious consensus” also thought slavery was ok. Many cultures love polygamy, some eat humans. So what. We’ve learned and we’ve grown up! Welcome to the 21st century. When my grandmother was young, the “cure” for TB was praying by the person’s bedside. We don’t do that any more. We provide drugs. It’s a new cultural consensus based on new knowledge.

    […attempting to change the commonly understood (even apart from religion) definition of marriage.]

    Fully agree. The question is whether that’s a bad thing. The original constitution defined blacks as 3/5 of a white (for census purposes) and the common understanding of blacks is that they were inferior. And man, were there folks pissin’ and moanin’ every time we tried to pass a law changing that common understanding to something close to equality. There are STILL folks that don’t like it. Again, so what.

    What folks like you keep failing to do is to separate the two definitions of marriage that we have. One is religious, “married in the eyes of God.” I have no enthusiasm whatever to change that definition. Each religion should be able to do what they want to do with respect to their interpretation of marriage. The other definition is strictly legal, and is, primarily, a financial contract that allows spouses to pay less taxes and get more in benefits than non-married people. (There are other benefits as well, but let’s keep them on the parking lot for now.) While I don’t believe that blacks should pay more in taxes and get less in benefits than whites, I don’t believe gays should pay more in taxes and get less in benefits than straights. Simple equality.

    Now, I diverge somewhat with many in “the gay community” in that I would be ok with defining a “civil union” as having the same legal rights and benefits as marriage. I think the analogy of black/white “separate but equal” falls short because we’re primarily dealing with money and not access to schools, buses, etc. so legal protections would be simpler and more mechanical. But, in any case, it’s a simple civil rights issue to me and religion should not even be brought into the equation because we’re talking about Constitutional protections which don’t legally involve religion in any way.

    In reality, the argument is much less about religion (in my opinion) than it is about comfort. Let’s face it, if gays can get married, it’s not going to affect the daily lives of straights at all. My marriage will still be my marriage, my taxes will still be the same, it’s really much ado about little from the standpoint of straights. The real issue is that, just like whites marrying blacks, it creeps some people out. This is a good post: http://news.aol.com/elections-blog/2007/06/14/an-anniversary-anti-miscegenation-laws-illegal/

    Back then, we certainly changed the definition of marriage, and it was also a centuries old cultural consensus.

    Last point: I think if you actually study any history you would find that biblical interpretations have been changing ever since the first one was produced. Your interpretation is YOUR interpretation, not by any means universal. Now, I don’t expect you to get your arms around that because if you ever think that the bible is at all “fungible”, your worldview and, quite possibly your sanity, will collapse. Note this article. It explains alot. http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-politics10sep10,0,5982337.story

    Have fun Mitch, although I predict you will be continually frustrated that the world is not like your perception of how it should be.

  9. Mitch Turner says:

    David Weintraub – I realize it is easier to make stuff up to respond to than deal with arguments you can’t answer, but it’s a lie to call that a discussion. I said nothing about what causes HIV/AIDS, so I don’t know how you can declare I don’t understand what causes it. Is it your contention the migration of HIV to the US and its spread is not related in large part to homosexual sex? If so, well, just keep on lying to yourself. As for my comment on outlawing religion, do you not even read your own posts? YOU edited/quoted the supposed be-all and end-all argument that starts “If the government passes a law mandating that the only religion that can be practiced is Christianity …” That sounds like outlawing all other religions. And passing such a new law, stopping the freedom of religion, is very different than keeping laws/definitions that already exist, like marriage.

  10. David says:

    There’s no need to be abusive, my friend. Sure you made a claim about HIV. I suppose we can conclude from your scholarly analysis that all women ought to “become” lesbians, since sexual transmission is by far the lowest between women. I don’t think that will work very well, personally.

    Re: laws outlawing religions. I thought from the phrase “your definition of marriage post” that you were referring to the MD Religious Freedom and Marriage Equality Act. Sorry to have misunderstood you.

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