Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Haverford vs. Spencer

For those who missed it, five members of the Haverford Township Board of Commissioners have signed a letter in response to a column I wrote criticizing their proposed ordinance to make it illegal in the township to discriminate against anyone based on their "sexual orientation."

The column can be found here. The letter, in full, is below:
To the Times:

While everyone is entitled to an opinion, Gil Spencer’s Jan. 30 column criticizing the Haverford Township Board of Commissioners’ approval (on a first reading) of an anti-discrimination ordinance is so vile and ignorant it demands a reply.

First, every commissioner has publicly endorsed the purpose of the law, although some voted against it for financial reasons or because they believed such legislation should be enacted in Harrisburg and not by individual communities. Not one commissioner has adopted Mr. Spencer’s bizarre view that the ordinance would protect individuals who engage in or desire to engage in illegal activity.

According to Mr. Spencer, the ordinance — the same ordinance the Daily Times praised in a recent editorial — would, for example, require landlords to rent to known pedophiles. Nothing could be further from the truth. Neither the Haverford Township ordinance, nor any other similar ordinance, protects a person’s right to engage in illegal activity. Rather, the ordinance prohibits discrimination based upon a “person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” and affirms that a person should not be discriminated against based upon his or her sexual orientation.

The Board of Commissioners has been debating this ordinance since last fall, and we have heard some extreme opinions, but none of them as wrong and warped as Mr. Spencer’s. Rather than demonstrate why the ordinance should not be approved, all Mr. Spencer’s column does is demonstrate his lack of judgment and, correlatively, the Daily Times’ questionable judgment in publishing such an irresponsible column.


Haverford Township Commissioners
Vile? Ignorant? Warped? It's seems I have hit a nerve. Such a nerve as to reduce a majority of the Haverford Township board to name-calling and a demonstrable misrepresentation of what I wrote.

The column being referred to in the letter does raise the question of whether pedophilia can be asserted to be a "sexual orientation." As the fictional plaintiff argues in the column; Heterosexuals are attracted to the opposite sex, homosexuals are attracted to the same sex, pedophiles are attracted to children. It is thus arguable that pedophilia is a "sexual orientation." In fact that essential argument has been made for years by the folks at NAMBLA (The North American Man-Boy Love Association).

The column, I believe, accurately predicts the reaction of a Haverford Human Relations Commission (board, council, whatever) should such a case ever be brought to it. The petitioner would have his case denied and he would fairly (in my opinion) call the board-members a bunch of hypocrites.

The commissioners attribute to me the "bizarre view" that their ordinance "would protect individuals who engage in or desire to engage in illegal activity."

The column did NOT say or suggest that Haverford's ordinance would "protect a person's right to engage in illegal activity." That is a lie! And adding the "or desire to engage in illegal activity" is a weasel way to protect their false assertion.

It is NOT ILLEGAL for a person to admit to that he is sexually attracted to children. It is illegal for a person to ACT on that attraction, just as it was once illegal for homosexuals in this country to act on their attractions. Times change.

The Haverford Township commissioners now wish to make it ILLEGAL for a landlord, employer or restaurant owner to deny a place to live, a job, or service to anyone based on their "sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression" under punishment of a $10,000 fine. They would like to be held in high esteem and congratulated for doing so. And they are, in some quarters. But in others, township residents (many of them) are expressing dismay at what they see as the commissioners' unnecessary foray into America's culture war.

In their response to my column the commissioners say they have had to endure listening to some "extreme opinions" during their hearings on this obviously divisive issue, though none as vile, warped and ignorant as mine. But they have also heard ridiculous claims that gone into the public record that have gone unremarked upon. The most glaring comes from Lansdowne Mayor Jayne Young who testified before the Haverford board that a similar ordinance passed in her town has been an "economic boon" to the community. Would Mayor Young care to provide any proof to that claim?

Finally,I suspect that the real author of this letter is its final signatory, Larry Holmes, and the others obediently signed on. (They can correct me if I am wrong.) This has, after all, been a pet cause of Mr. Holmes from the beginning. He and I have discussed the issue and we respectfully disagree on the merits.

I do not think the proposed ordinance is vile, bizarre, ignorant, or warped. I think it is unnecessary. Swarthmore Borough passed a similar ordinance three years ago and has not had a single complaint filed in all that time. There is no evidence that anti-gay discrimination is anything close to a serious problem in Haverford Township. Gays are not being denied jobs, service in restaurants or places to live, any more than people with freckles are.

I think that if this ordinance were put to a vote in the township, it would lose in a landslide. And not because a majority of Haverford residents are homophobes but because they see this as being part of an activist political and social agenda with which they disagree.

They may also understand, as I do, that the continued proliferation of government boards to police the behavior of citizens create opportunities for official mischief and injustice.

My column raised a serious and, I think, interesting question about the meaning and definition of "sexual orientation." Obviously, it is one the promoters of this ordinance would rather not think about. But that doesn't make it vile, ignorant, warped, or bizarre. I challenge them all to read the column again, especially Mr. Holmes, and to fashion a response that is less insulting, less misleading and more to the point.

UPDATE: Kudos to DelcoPop for getting it in the comments section to the letter.

CORRECTION: The earlier version of this post said the "entire" Haverford Board of Commissioners signed the letter. Only five (since corrected) did.


Blogger steve mcdonald said...

of course its an economic boon - its getting public attention = shopping and business in haverford courtesy of the gay community! I still believe thats the big reason for the ordinance. Above political correctness, above equality, they want DOLLARS - and a little public attention (like what you're giving Haverford) helps them with their real goal.

February 9, 2011 at 11:02 AM 
Blogger Spencerblog said...


If that were true, I'd be all for the ordinance. But the "economic boon" was claimed by the mayor of Lansdowne. Is there any evidence that there has been such a boon?

As far as I know not a single Haverford commissioner claimed that there would be an economic benefit to passing this ordinance.

To its promoters this was a discrimination and civil rights issue. No one in Swarthmore made the absurd suggestion of any financial benefit to the borough thanks to their ordinance. Passing it was an admittedly symbolic gesture. Nothing more.

February 9, 2011 at 1:37 PM 
Blogger Patrick said...

Gil Spencer writes that the strong response of the Haverford commissioners shows that he has hit a nerve. Does his equally strong response show that they have struck a nerve?

February 9, 2011 at 2:53 PM 
Blogger Spencerblog said...

Misrepresenting what I wrote and then characterizing it as "vile," "bizarre," "warped" and "ignorant." I guess you could say that did hit a nerve.

I challenge every commissioner who signed that letter to defend it. They should be able to tell me why people who suffer the stigma of being pedophiles shouldn't be covered by a law that purports to protect people from discrimination based on their "sexual orientation."

In other words, they should put up or shut up.

February 9, 2011 at 4:09 PM 
Blogger Diane said...

There are already efforts to desensitize us to sex between children and adults. A 2002 book written by Judith Levine, Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex? was widely promoted as a book to challenge "widespread anxieties" about pedophilia. Publisher University of Minnesota Press called Levine's book "a radical, refreshing, and long overdue reassessment of how we think and act about children's and teens' sexuality." James Kincaid, author of "Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting," called it "a crusading book that is also kind, a very rare phenomenon, and it comes down always on the side of trusting not only our kids and their pleasures but our own." There are indeed other sexual orientations beyond the standard definition "homosexuality, heterosexuality or bisexuality" contained in these ordinances. In the near future there will be an effort to include sadomasochism in these definitions.

February 10, 2011 at 11:22 PM 
Anonymous Logic and Reason said...

Pediophilia is a crime. Child molestors are criminals. It is not a sexual orientation, it is criminally deviant sexual abuse.
The GLBT community does not embrace or endorse pediophilia or recognize pediophiles as a "sexual orientaion" deserving of equal rights or protection.
Mr. Spencer, you have spun your lurid scenario to sell papers and entice debate. Why? Probably to fan the flames of discrimination against law abiding and productive members of society. Your homophobia is showing.

February 11, 2011 at 10:27 AM 
Anonymous yuncjunc said...

Diane's comment is supported by dozens of related studies and by blatant statements by homosexual activists and their manifestos.

Philadelphia Metro Task Force has served a demand on North Penn School District and all school districts including Haverford, that they immediately refrain from hiring circuit speakers like Michael Fowlin, who weave homesexual issues into their anti-bullying love-conquers-all motivational talks.

Has your child brought home stories of pro-homosexual lectures or movies ? Help Us Help !

Phila. Metro Task Force

February 12, 2011 at 2:39 PM 

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