by Dr. Michael Shermer & Dr. Frank Turek

It’s not often that an atheist and a Christian, who have just had a debate on campus, can be brought into agreement by a group in the audience. But the Graduate Queer Alliance (GQA) at Stony Brook University has managed to do that. Their letter to the editor on April 30 was so full of false assertions and totalitarian demands that we, Dr. Michael Shermer (an atheist) and Dr. Frank Turek (a Christian), felt compelled to write this letter together in response.

The central assertion of the GQA is that anyone who expresses a negative opinion of same sex marriage or homosexual behavior is guilty of “hate speech” and should be barred from speaking at Stony Brook University. The GQA says this while also claiming to believe “that a university should provide an open forum for controversial ideas to be discussed and debated.” We both wonder how the GQA can hold these two contradictory opinions at the same time. After all, they say they are for the debate of controversial issues, but apparently only if both debaters hold the same position and that position agrees with the GQA. Some debate!

How is disagreement over controversial moral and political issues “hate speech?” If it is then GQA’s position is “hate speech” because it disagrees with people who believe marriage should be defined in other ways. Calling people names or characterizing their arguments as “hate speech” is not good public discourse designed to discover the truth; it is bullying—the very thing GQA should be against.

To demonstrate the oversensitivity of the GQA, you should know that our debate was not even about same sex marriage or homosexuality. Our debate was about whether God or Science better explains morality. As you can see for yourself in the debate here, Dr. Turek never mentioned homosexuality or same sex marriage in his prepared opening statement. Dr. Shermer brought up those issues in his opening statement as examples of what he believes to be moral progress (hence the title of this book, The Moral Arc). Dr. Turek expressed disagreement with Dr. Shermer’s point only when Dr. Shermer pressed him to comment during the cross-examination period. (Imagine, a debate where the debaters disagree!)


The true motives of the GQA are revealed by what is not in the letter: the arguments made by Dr. Shermer in support of same sex marriage, arguments he made with great passion that elicited equal passion—on both sides of the issue—from the audience. If those in the GQA are so interested in advancing their position through sound reason and science—which was Dr. Shermer’s point—why would they not highlight the arguments offered in support of it? Instead, the GQA seems to think they have a right not to hear an opposing opinion lest they be challenged!

It’s a shame that those in GQA appear so uninterested in evidence. Unfortunately for them, as the late Christopher Hitchens put it (and Dr. Shermer elevated to a principle, “Hitchens’ Dictum”, in one of his Scientific American columns, “What can be asserted without evidence, can also be dismissed without evidence.” Instead of citing evidence, GQA attempted to smear the character of one of the debaters and now tries to silence all future debate by simply declaring that the major issues of our day have all been decided in their favor. Don’t bother debating anything. We know what’s right and you have no right to express your wrong opinion!

What’s also problematic is that none of the derogatory assertions about Dr. Turek made by the GQA are true. For example, contrary to the GQA:

  • Dr. Turek has not written a book that “derides gays.” His book on same sex marriage (which they obviously haven’t read) does nothing of the sort as numerous reviewers have observed. By making a derogatory judgment without knowing the facts, those in GQA are guilty of the very bigotry with which they falsely charge Dr. Turek.
  • Dr. Turek never said that gays have a choice in their sexual orientation. He believes the consensus view that the causes of sexual orientation are not entirely understood. But for him, the issue isn’t attractions—it’s actions. And we all are responsible for the actions we choose.
  • Dr. Turek made no parallel between homosexuality and a Nazi propaganda video. The video was shown in Dr. Turek’s opening statement, long before Dr. Shermer brought up the issue of homosexuality. The only purpose of the video was to demonstrate that Hitler thought natural selection gave him justification to kill the weak.

Finally, on the issue of tolerance, it appears that GQA only wants to tolerate ideas they agree with. That’s not tolerance. That’s totalitarianism. You can only tolerate ideas you disagree with. Moreover, you will never learn and grow (the essence of a university) if you hear only one side of any issue. As Dr. Shermer points out in The Moral Arc by quoting same sex marriage advocate Jonathan Rauch: “Good ideas outcompete bad ideas in the marketplace of free exchange.” Now that’s a good idea rooted in the very foundation of a free society.

Unfortunately, GQA is expressing a totalitarian impulse to silence all opinions that dissent from their own. As a free people, we must not adopt such an unlearned, intolerant and unconstitutional position. This atheist and Christian agree with same sex marriage advocate Andrew Sullivan who wrote against this totalitarian impulse this way: “If this is the gay rights movement today—hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else—then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.”



  1. “I was pointing out the fact that the framework does not make relationships successful nor provide a healthy environment”

    I thought the whole point of the ‘we should protect marriage’ argument was that marriage DOES provide a framework that makes relationships more successful. If it doesn’t, then what exactly are you trying to protect?

  2. >”Why is the lack of unity and broken marriages amongst marriages any kind of sign?… Why is that an argument against gay marriages?

    You used “Marriage framework” as support for Homosexual marriage. I was pointing out the fact that the framework does not make relationships successful nor provide a healthy environment.

  3. And another Leftist totalitarian movement rears its ugly head on college campuses. Now bigotry against the free speech opinions of others is now being driven by the homosexual movement. Thank God for the 1st Amendment!

  4. (1) Gay activists continue the abhorrent practice of slandering their opponents as part of every argument. “…someone who is against gays as people…?” Garbage. If you can’t argue without slander, you can’t argue at all. Knock it off, or go home.

    (1)(‘) If using straw men is evidence of bigotry, as you claim, then this persistent slander proves that gay activists are deeply bigoted, ne c’est pas?

    (2) If gays aren’t advocating for public sex, why are so many gay parades and demonstrations so full of public, sexual displays? “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!” Gimme a break; the entire gay “rights” movement is about making “gay” publicly acceptable, mostly by telling sanitized lies about gays.

    (3) Gays have not been treated differently for decades. What current activism is about is suppressing even the slightest hint of disagreement with the gay agenda.

    (3)(‘) Yes, gays can get married, and have always been permitted to do so. There is no “sexual preference” test in the law governing marriage. A gay man may marry any women who is not a close relative, not a minor, and who consents to the union; a gay woman may marry any man who is not a close relative, not a minor, and who consents to the union.

    What gay activists may not do is redefine words in such a way as to make the laws mean whatever they like.

  5. “Evidence shows that married people are happier and live longer…If people want to argue that these benefits could not also be enjoyed by male/male and female couples then they need to give good reasons.”

    The issue for me isn’t, whether or not homosexuals can benefit from marriage (marriage meaning a bonding agreement that promotes unity with one partner.) The argument is which environment has the greatest potential of providing the best environment for the child. Marriage between one man and one woman has been proven throughout history to be the best method for raising a healthy child. (mentally and emotionally)

    It sounds like you are hoping that the bonding agreement of marriage is what’s going to provide the same “framework” for the child. If we look to the lack of unity and broken marriages amongst heterosexual marriages then that should be a clear sign that redefining marriage to incorporate same sex relationships is not going to provide the same framework in order to raise a child. There is a deeper heart issue for heterosexual couples and for homosexual couples. The bonding agreement of marriage is not what keeps marriages together and provides the environment or “framework”.

    Here is some research I have found interesting.

    In the British Journal of Education, Society & Behavioural Science, a peer-reviewed journal, American sociologist Paul Sullins concludes that children’s “Emotional problems [are] over twice as prevalent for children with same-sex parents than for children with opposite-sex parents”.

    He says: “It is no longer accurate to claim that no study has found children in same-sex families to be disadvantaged relative to those in opposite-sex families.”

    “It is based on more data than any previous study — 512 children with same-sex parents drawn from the US National Health Interview Survey. The emotional problems included misbehaviour, worrying, depression, poor relationships with peers and inability to concentrate.”

    After crunching the numbers, Sullins found opposite-sex parents provided a better environment. “Biological parentage uniquely and powerfully distinguishes child outcomes between children with opposite-sex parents and those with same-sex parents,” he writes.

    So why would I encourage and promote same sex marriage involving children? Why not encourage people to lay down their “wants” to have a same sex parter for the sake of the next generation? If you want children or have children, Marry the opposite sex and fight your desire for same sex. Work with the natural means of procreation in order to provide a potentially better “framework” for raising a child.

  6. “I’m sorry but you are assuming that gay marriage provides the same framework as straight couples”

    I’ve seen no reason to assume that it wouldn’t.

    “Just to be clear, what do you mean by framework?”

    Evidence shows that married people are more likely to stay together, are happier and live longer. Conservatives often offer this as a reason to encourage couples to marry. So it seems that marriage provides a beneficial framework. If people want to argue that these benefits could not also be enjoyed by male/male and female/female couples then they need to give good reasons.

    “What do heterosexual households provide that homosexual households do not?”

    You tell me!

  7. “I wasn’t making such an argument!”

    I apologize by assuming you were making that argument.

    “Working through their differences doesn’t apply to many families where the child was Born via surrogate to existing gay couples….gay couples raising kids has been a reality for a long time.”

    You’re right. I agree with everything you have said up to this point. But here is where I am agnostic/ skeptical.

    “All allowing gay marriage does is provide the same framework that straight families currently enjoy.”

    I’m sorry but you are assuming that gay marriage provides the same framework as straight couples. Which takes me back to my first question. What do heterosexual households provide that homosexual households do not? And I’ll add another question. Does the answer have any effect (biologically, emotionally, etc.) on the child at all? And should we just accept redefining marriage and calling it the same for the sake of experiment?
    I mean Can’t we just offer special assistance to those surrogate children and their family in need without saying, “I totally agree with same sex marriage and I am confident that it provides the same or better environment than the normative heterosexual couple.” I can’t say that just yet.

    Just to be clear, what do you mean by framework?
    Just by allowing two adults to label themselves as “legally married” (receiving benefits and tax exemptions Etc.) doesn’t provide the same “framework”. One way it doesn’t provide the same framework is biologically to the natural order of family.

  8. Just like every sinner who has hated to submit to the authority of the one true God, homosexuals too, will most certainly have the opportunity to “advocate their case” before our Lord and our God , Jesus Christ on that great day of judgment. Sinners can continue to foolishly justify themselves to themselves and before themselves while in the flesh, but as certain as it is appointed for every man to die, so too will every man come face to face with his Creator in order to give an account for themselves.

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11 King James Version

    9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

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