Monday, March 19, 2018

The incoherence of a university president

Everett Piper
Everett Piper wants to ensure that Oklahoma remains as hateful to LGBT people as is possible.
The Oklahoma legislature is considering a measure (SB-197), the intent of which is to invalidate municipal nondiscrimination ordinances that protect LGBT people — now and in the future. State laws do not offer such protections. The bill is based on the familiar boilerplate of Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT hate group. The bill died in the state Senate in March, 2017. It has been resuscitated. According to the most recent version of the bill:
2. "State government" means:
a. the State of Oklahoma or a political subdivision of the state,
b. any agency of the state or of a political subdivision of the state, including a department, bureau, board, commission, council, court or public institution of higher education…

SB-197 is a broad license to discriminate including adoption, employment, housing and public accommodations.

Everett Piper is president of the small Oklahoma Wesleyan University. The self-promoting Piper likes attention and has very little appreciation for the intellect of others. That might be due to the composition of his student body.

Piper sent a letter to every Oklahoma senator. For the most part it describes what nondiscrimination laws do not do.
Should the government, for example, have the power to “establish” that a Jewish owner of a meat processing business be legally forced to butcher pigs and, thus, provide ham for an anti-Semite’ s wedding? Should the government have the power to “establish” that the Muslim owner of the local newspaper be forced to print Charlie Hebdo cartoons? Should the government have the power to “establish” that the Anglican owner of a convenience store must sell bread and wine to a Satanist church for a mock Eucharist? Should the government have the power to “establish” that PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) be forced to advertise for the NCBA’s (National Cattlemen’s Beef Association) annual convention?
Let's take these one at a time:

Apparently Everett Piper believes that all Jews keep Kosher. He has possibly never met one. That aside, if someone operates a kosher plant there is no nondiscrimination ordinance that could force him to process “traif” (un-kosher food). Nondiscrimination ordinances require our butcher to sell his products to anyone willing to pay for them but do not control what products he chooses to sell.

With that we go to our Muslim newspaper publisher. Newspapers are free to establish their editorial policies. No nondiscrimination ordinance anywhere could force the publisher to provide an outlet for cartoons that are offensive to him.

Now we go to the Anglican convenience store owner. Piper is capable of positing a valid argument. The answer to his question is “yes.” Nondiscrimination ordinances affecting public accommodations require him to sell his goods to anyone willing to pay for them. How those goods are consumed should be irrelevant to a sane store owner. Piper assumes that everyone is as self-righteous as he is.

Finally, the PETA argument is preposterous. There is no nondiscrimination law that could compel the organization to accept an advertisement (on their website?) for anyone. Outlets are free to set their acceptable advertising policy.

Tulsa provides nondiscrimination protection for LGBT people only in housing where sexual orientation and gender identity are protected classes. The same is true for Oklahoma City. There may be others. Tulsa's stated policy includes broad protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The actual ordinance, however, is limited to housing.

Why these Christians feel compelled to eliminate such tepid protections is anyone's guess. As for Mr. Piper, he is a disappointment as a university president. If he sets the tone then his 1,200 students are not being challenged to be intellectually  curious critical thinkers.

Oklahoma Wesleyan had a fall 2016 acceptance rate of 73%. To keep classes full, they need to be less selective (our elite universities have acceptance rates hovering around 5%). The president of a university that accepts almost everyone is challenged to be an educator and a leader. In some ways it is harder to educate students at OKWU than those at a top tier institution.  Students at more selective colleges already possess certain skills and attitudes. OKWU has to start freshmen as 13th graders.

The university has managed to get religious organization status with the IRS. It lacks the transparency that should be required which is probably why they sought the change in the first place. It is not worth my time to do a FOIA request but it would not seem to be eligible. Neither should Everett Piper be eligible to lead a university.

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