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 firstname.lastname@example.org, and, as Executive Director Jody Huckaby said on Thursday, "find a more suitable person to applaud."