Oglethorpe Community Thwarts Hate From Matthew Franck

8 Mar

Bravo, OU Students

As expressed in my article, Oglethorpe University: Not Safe for LGBT Students (?), I have some wonderful news to report from TSM Correspondent, Jonelle Thomas.  Here is Thomas’ report:

As I approached the Emerson Student Center on Monday, 07 March 2011–the afternoon of the much ballyhooed Dr. Matthew J. Franck lecture–I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  After reading some of Franck’s prior writings, I was struggling with the idea of remaining as free from pre-judgments as possible.  Even the title of the talk, however “Charging Hate in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate: How to Stop an Argument You’re Losing and Endanger Freedom While You’re At It” made this effort very challenging.

I entered the lecture room and settled into a seat in the back row and watched the room began to fill with what would ultimately be approximately 120 attendees.  Of these attendees, roughly a third wore some symbol of support for LGBT equality.  A man appearing to be in his 60s, sat next to me, leaned in with a confused expression and asked, “What does all the purple mean?”  I told him it was being worn to express support for LGBT equality.  He responded, “So, I guess if they’re wearing purple and a rainbow sticker, it means they’re twice as gay?”  I said, “Or at least twice as supportive.”

The event began with Dr. Brad Smith introducing this lecture as the first in a series of four, which collectively fall under the heading “Contemporary Constitutional Controversies”.  In his introduction, Dr. Smith was warm and welcoming and thanked the audience for their presence (a large turn-out by Oglethorpe’s standards).  He then lamented the current polarization of American politics.  He asserted that for one to successfully engage in a meaningful political argument with another whose views differ, a person has to be able to know and understand the argument of the other side.

As Franck approached the podium, I felt a spark of hope that this desire for mutual respect, expressed by Dr. Smith, would be in evidence during Matthew Franck’s lecture.

Alas, my hope was short-lived.

Throughout the lecture, I found Franck’s demeanor to be smug and condescending.  As he espoused his views on the harmful nature of homosexual marriage, virtually everything about Franck’s demeanor smacked of the contempt in which he seems to hold the homosexual community.  He repeatedly asked the audience to “try to follow my logic, if you can”, as he listed his grievances with arguments supporting gay marriage.  He gave multiple examples of how people who (by their own admission) believe “it is not okay” to be gay are facing “discrimination” by the “despotism of secularists”. He even freely admitted that Christians (including himself) believe themselves to be better able to decide moral arguments than those “without faith”.  He simultaneously expressed sadness at the increased rights being experienced by gays and indignantly insisted that the Christian majority in this country would not be “swayed” into changing its mind and accepting equality.

After several minutes of these lamentations, he concluded his lecture and began to take questions from the audience.

The question-and-answer portion of the event began with a respectful exchange of ideas.  I was very pleased and proud to see Oglethorpe’s students asking thoughtful and provoking questions, respectfully challenging some of Dr. Franck’s assertions.  As the questions continued, however, and Dr. Franck became increasingly less adept at dismissing them, he began alternating between folding his arms across his chest, responding dismissively without addressing the question being asked, or just snickering at the questions, before addressing a different questioner.

Throughout this question-and-answer period, Dr. Franck insisted he had “won” the argument he came to present (an insistence he never bothered to explain) and repeatedly asserted that Catholics (such as himself) were being discriminated against because of their “defense of traditional marriage”.  In a condescendingly “magnanimous” gesture, he said he would be willing to “consider” civil unions on a federal level, as long as threesomes, “octos” (his expression) and platonic relatives were included in the definition of such unions. Even in this discussion of equal legal rights, Dr. Franck managed to make clear the contempt in which he holds the LGBT community.  He responded with derision to the well-researched and clearly-articulated counter-arguments presented by Oglethorpe’s students.  Ultimately, after a student repeatedly pressed him as to the exact nature of his objection to homosexual marriage, the only response he could muster, was that marriage is an institution that “was never supposed” to include homosexuals.  This was a very weak response from someone supposedly well-versed in the details of constitutional law.

Contrary to the opening words of Dr. Brad Smith, Franck seemed to have very little experience engaging in substantive political conversations with those who disagree with him, judging from the ultimately petulant nature with which he responded to his questioners.  Even worse, he appeared to be completely obtuse to the effect his arms-length qualified “approval of gays” has on the lives and civil rights of others, who struggle daily to be treated with a small measure of the respect Franck seemed to demand from his audience.

TSM Correspondent: Jonelle Thomas

12 Responses to “Oglethorpe Community Thwarts Hate From Matthew Franck”

  1. webwordwarrior March 8, 2011 at 9:32 am #

    Ha ha ha ha ha! Looks like our MJF got a bit of a surprise!
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful follow-up, Jonelle. It’s nice to know that the campus responded so magnificently to this message of ignorance.

    Foppish Franck flogs flawed feelings, fails.

  2. Jenny Hofstetter March 8, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    I just wanted to say thank you for your thoughtful responses both to learning the news of this Lecture Series, and your thoughts after attending this specific “discussion”. I too am an alum(nae) of Oglethorpe (Class of 2006), and I was actually co-President of OUTlet my Freshman year. I’m a heterosexual female, but my best friend (also an OU alumnae) along with many other people I love and care about are gay. (I’m also just a person who believes that love is love).

    I wait with bated breath for the day that an opponent of gay marriage can make a logical argument to support their belief that separate but equal works in this case without invoking Leviticus or the “traditional” definition of marriage. But based on your review of the discussion, it would seem like that’s another topic for another day.

    I don’t know if Oglethorpe itself, it’s student body or the faculty in general – I don’t know how conservative-leaning they have become these day. I do know that I was in a room full of recent other recent OU grads this weekend, many of whom argued that it would be hypocritical and wrong not to allow Mr. Franck to speak; that public discourse is the very basis for the learning process at OU. I couldn’t adequately articulate why in this specific instance, on this specific campus, Mr. Franck’s presence is an unnecessary, disrespectful insult. Your blogs, both this and the original post, hit the nail on the head. How will LGBT students ever feel comfortable at a school where faculty members invite lecturers to come speak about the morality of the love (or more probable lust) a student has? And how the LGBT students ever feel comfortable at a school where this Lecture Series is funded by a known homophobic and bigoted company?

    Anyway, thank you. I wasn’t able to attend myself due to work constraints, and though I’m sad to read that Mr. Franck’s lecture did not drift far from my expectations, I’m glad to hear that an LGBT-supportive presence was there, and apparently ruffled some feathers.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt March 8, 2011 at 11:57 am #

      Jenny, wow! What a powerful comment! Thank you for being such a strong ally of the LGBT community and for really understanding that inviting Franck under the guise of academic discourse presumes a level playing field, which there is not. Please continue to speak truth to power!

    • Jenny Hofstetter March 8, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

      Ah. Reading comprehension was never my strong suit. I completely skipped over the part that this first-hand experience was from Ms. Jonelle Thomas. So my thanks goes to you both! 🙂

  3. Jonelle Thomas March 8, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    Thank you so much for your kind words, Michael and Jenny! We are fortunate to have you both!

  4. Jay March 8, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

    While I encourage Universities to present a multitude of opinions in regard to issues like taxation, spending, the proper role of government, and foreign policy, it is becoming increasingly obvious that presenting ‘both sides’ on the gay marriage debate is like giving the Klan equal time in a debate about race, religion or ethnicity.

    I believe Francke, Maggie Gallagher and their ilk can sense this shift, and their ironic feelings of persecution underlie the weakness and desperation of their arguments.

    I’m not surprised to hear of Francke’s petulance and condescension–he is accustomed to earning easy applause (in the right-wing echo chamber) with bromides, straw men, the ‘ick’ factor, and the argument from authority. He’s free to find gay sex icky–I find the idea of Huckabee sex icky–and his church is free to decline to perform gay marriages–but those are blatantly insufficient grounds for denying civil marriage rights to gays and lesbians.

  5. brad fairchild March 8, 2011 at 10:49 pm #

    jonelle, i love what you said to the man sitting next to you! and great report, by the way!

  6. Nelson March 27, 2011 at 12:43 am #

    OU has a student body and teaching staff that is fairly divided 50% conservative 50%liberal. The liberal component may be more vociferous. Gay and lesbian pride maintains a presence. From drag shows to gays in fraternities, I’d say it’s a rather open community.

    Did anyone bring up separation of church and state? It interests me because Dr. Smith is a fan of Martin Luther.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt March 27, 2011 at 7:02 am #

      Thank you for chiming in here. Again, it is rather insulting to say that because an institution/organization host a drag show, that makes it a safe place for the LGBT community.

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