Steve Ralls

The B.S. Doctorate

Filed By Steve Ralls | May 09, 2008 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, Media, Politics
Tags: Eagle Forum, Jody Huckaby, PFLAG, Phyllis Schlafly, Washington University

Unless there is a doctorate in bigotry and sexism, I cannot think of one that Phyllis Schlafly deserves.

And yet, the administration at Washington University in St. Louis has announced it will confer an honorary degree on that most tired of modern crusaders, the founder of the ultra-right Eagle Forum.

The university has invited Schlafly, who began her career opposing women's rights and went on to demean and demonize gays, to speak at the school's May 16 commencement... and bestow upon her an honorary doctorate for her "public discourse" on "vital issues of the times."

The decision is sparking an outcry among students and faculty at the university, who have rallied more than 1,000 people on Facebook to demand that the school reconsider. And PFLAG and its chapter in St. Louis have joined the calls to drop the Schlafly degree

"Phyllis Schlafly has spent much of her life on a crusade to roll-back opportunities for millions of people, including many of the students at Washington University," said Dr. Dean L. Rosen, president of PFLAG's St. Louis chapter. "She has consistently opposed full equality for women and for gays and lesbians, and has pushed her anti-equality agenda in our schools and our state houses. As parents and allies of GLBT young people, we are alarmed that Washington University would honor someone who has such a long track record of attacking our children."

Schlafly, the mother of an openly gay son, once called the LGBT community "vicious" and "very mean." She's also proclaimed that "Sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for virtuous women," and that including positive portrayls of LGBT people in school curriculums endorses "behaviors and lifestyles that are physically and spiritually dangerous for children."

Indeed, Shlafly is the "mother" of the movement to roll-back rights and set back progress for millions of people. She organized the opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment; crusaded against women in the military; and called for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy after he wrote the landmark decision, in Lawrence v. Texas, overturning sodomy laws.

On March 30, 2006, Schlafly even went so far as to credit improvements in women's lives to the invention of the clothes dryer and paper diapers.

She has, in short, a long history, as one Republican once noted, of serving as "an exponent of extreme right-wing philosophy - a propogandist who deals in emotion and personalities where it is not necessary to establish facts or prove charges."

Always the fighter, Schlafly told members of Congress in 2007 that, should they move forward on the Equal Rights Amendment even today, it would "compel courts to approve same-sex marriages and deny Social Security benefits for housewives and widows."

Just a little more of her important contribution to the "public discourse" on the "vital issues" of our time.

"Mrs. Schlafly has one of the longest track records opposing equal opportunity of any activist in America," said PFLAG executive director Jody M. Huckaby. "She would gladly embrace any measure to block progress for gay Americans, including her own son, and she would welcome a world where some students are considered less than others. That's unacceptable, and renders her unworthy of this honor.

And yet Washington University continues to stand by its decision to present what may the world's first B.S. Doctorate on the mama of the extreme right wing."

PFLAG is urging those who oppose Schlafly's degree to email the school's chancellor, at [email protected], and, as Executive Director Jody Huckaby said on Thursday, "find a more suitable person to applaud."

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Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 10, 2008 12:02 AM

My first exposure to this frump was her barnstorming state to state to oppose ERA 35 years ago. And a category of woman flocked to her. I assume many still do.

She does deserve this degree. She HAS contributed to "public discourse" for a very long time. Like a magnet she has a positive and negative polarity that repels many and attracts some.

Each student graduating has a choice. They can attend the commencement or not. When Phyllis Schlafly speaks they can listen, read a newspaper, (very obviously) hold up an ERA banner, a PFLG banner, (you can fit a lot under a commencement robe) sit backward in their chairs facing mom and dad who likely paid the tuition.

The crux of it is we do not have to agree with everyone, to recognize that they have contributed, and without an adversary we can become complacent and even simply lazy. If we wish to enjoy the rights of expression and argument, I prefer to give all persons like her, enough rope to verbally hang themselves. We can then draw reasoned distinctions and persuade logically rather than just emotionally.

Let her speak, we can get a lot of publicity out of it ourselves, and a lot of mobilization during the election season. Just think of all the newspaper quotes and public discussion she will generate. The trick becomes "to find the good" in every situation. Each time she is honored, all her past baggage gets a fresh airing, and it can only be good for us because of it's patent stupidity.

PFLAG moms & dads should organize a "Phyllis Schlafly hates our kids" picnic and publicly invite her son!

Steve Ralls Steve Ralls | May 10, 2008 8:38 AM


I like your idea of a PFLAG picnic! I'll pass your suggestion along to our chapter in St. Louis.

It's important to note, too, that neither the students, faculty nor PFLAG are asking that Schlafly be disinvited. We recognize she has a free speech right, too, and we have not asked the school to remove her as the commencement speaker. But we do believe the honorary degree should be reserved for someone who has EARNED it - through positive work, stellar public service or another significant contribution. Schlafly doesn't meet that threshold, in our opinion, so we're suggesting she not receive the degree . . . but not that she be banned from speaking at commencement.

Phyllis Schlafly is from St Louis and is a graduate of Washington University. Though a GOP supporter, she is critical of Bush and critical of the war.

I decry her opposition to the ERA and in particular her use of poorly founded in fact hyperbolic arguments against it as well as her tendency to fear mongering.

This woman who said to other women that “The flight from the home is a flight from yourself, from responsibility, from the nature of woman, in pursuit of false hopes and fading illusions," spent her life as an activist and a lawyer, in direct opposition to her goals for others.

Other activities include opposing the Gardasil vaccine for wommen that could eradicate one of the major killers of women, cervical cancer. She has publically spoken out in favour of continuing the fear of death and disease as a weapon against promiscuity, never mind that a woman could contract HPV during marriage from her husband.

All things considered, she is a bad choice for speakers, a bad representative of women. The women who followed her in the past in the battle against equal rights did so based upon lies and exaggerations that she promulgated.

A quiet protest, the wearing of Rainbow Flags and Feminist symbols, is certainly in order.

And if all else fails, studens and supporters tsnding up and turning their backs to Ms. Schafly will send a powerful message as well.

I did it to Vic Basile (the first HRC exec director) when he was speaking at a KFA dinner back in November.

Clarente Thomas speaks somewhere many African-American turn their backs to him.

I'm a fan of the "turn your back" method. But honorary degree? Bullshit.

Gerri ladene | May 10, 2008 1:00 PM

I know my ranting here will never see the light on Bilerico, but I just had to send it anyway! This is a link to Ann Coulter's praise of Phyllis Schlafly written '02, the pistol packin' Coulter spares no amount of groveling in Schlalfy's dark shadow. How obscene to throw praise on someone who promotes military growth, a friend the weapons industry and of our now $1.6 trillion dollar military expenditure! That's $1,600,000,000,000.00!!! You'll also notice that no mention of Schlafly's gay son is in the article that would likely tarnish her praise and in turn be so un-patriarchal of her. It's a shame that a person such as Schlafly has lent her literary talent to the extreme right. I could go on but that would not change what has been done! But, then again we all share the responsibility to undo what has been by the outspoken right and make our own voices heard. Our world and humanity cannot continue on the course that people with twisted conceptions of their own would make the rest of us believe. One thing I believe is that we spare no quarter in our responses to those who would attack the rest of us for voicing our arguments in the pursuit of peace and equality, they do this in a disgusting fashion with derogatory terms when they wish to promote their agenda against any and all opposition and we should respond in kind! One does not wish to lower themselves to another’s level of low blows but that is what it takes to take the fight back to them.
Anyone who uses the wrath of god argument against me will only ignite my total dislike of a mid east patriarchal belief system that that was given extreme power by the Roman state. My ancestors, being of northern European and Native American decent, were called pagan by the Church of Rome; these were matriarchal societies which had no place in the Roman Empire of old, much like the America of today. Fortunately for women in America today, they are allowed to practice medicine with out being burned as a witch. Just another part of the history of a warped religious belief system! Countless Women, Gay and Trans people have suffered terrible persecution to the death from the promotion of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religion. Even in their own history before its terrible spread, Roman and Jewish authorities squashed any challenge to their authority. One man comes to mind, a visionary, a revolutionary, someone who wanted to change the patriarchal religion into something that more resembled the beliefs of more stable and peaceful societies, where hating anyone for not believing in the ill conceived model of the patriarchal one god belief would be accepted. Shame they nailed him to a cross and then perverted the memory of his values and beliefs into something that could be used against those that believed as he did!
So, here we are in a nation formed out of conquest, stomping out yet more peaceful societies in favor of Manifest Destiny! That destiny is still thriving, killing, maiming and destroying lives, only now in the form of bottom line profits as its driving force for those who would rule the world. The only concern anymore seems to be with profit, consumer bases, cheap labor by the money changers and a poor quality of life for those of us at the bottom of this illusionary food chain! As John Lennon tried to tell us, “Imagine”, I believe Jesus tried to tell us the same thing! We are all part of nature and not some creation of some omnipotent Leprechaun, the universe is the entity and we are all one! The very fact that we all live in a Religious and Monetary based society is unnatural! These have been one Tran’s person’s opinion and for those who disagree I will refrain from my sometimes colorfully expletive responses.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 11, 2008 8:30 AM

I like what Kathy Griffin said about Ann Coulter, "What's going on with that nutbag? Wearing a black cocktail dress on "Good Morning America" at 7:00 AM? It looks like she got laid last night and didn't even bother to go home."