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College Students Taught To Defend Traditional Families

SAN DIEGO – Anne Petty always believed in and supported the traditional definition of marriage – but the 23-year-old Idaho college student said she didn’t know how best to defend her position other than to cite the Bible.

After this weekend, Petty said she is armed with knowledge and data to explain her beliefs from secular, academic and scientific points of view.

“I have always felt strongly about the family, but now I’ve been given the resources to articulate why the family is important,” said Petty, who majors in psychology at BYU Idaho. “I know so many new angles on why the family is important.”

Petty was among nearly four dozen college students and young professionals to attend The Ruth Institute’s annual “It Takes a Family to Raise a Village” student conference, which concluded Sunday.

The nonprofit hosts and funds the four-day event every year in Southern California, bringing in students from across the nation to learn more about the traditional marriage movement and related topics.

Ruth Institute founder Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse – a former economics professor at Yale and George Mason universities – said the conference, now in its fifth year, helps religiously serious students understand the importance of conservative values’ and traditional marriage’s roles in maintaining a free and healthy society.

At the event, students learn how to defend those concepts and more – such as purity before marriage and shunning the college hook-up culture – through disciplines such as economics, law, social science, psychology and other academic studies. Theological perspectives are also raised.

“We see the gay marriage issue as one part of a larger problem of the sexual revolution,” Morse said.

Students learn why the sexual revolution happened, and how it happened, so they can learn from the past, understand its roots, she said. It’s an education that’s vital, as the information is not imparted at typical universities, she added.

“Many departments are hostile to the traditional family,” she said. “Even sociologists who have the data that shows the family is good are spinning and respinning.”

Lectures during the conference were given by educators whom Morse described as some of the “top scholars in the marriage movement,” including: Boise State University political philosophy professor Scott Yenor, author of “Family Politics: The Idea of Marriage in Modern Political Thought”; University of Texas associate professor of sociology Mark Regnerus, author of “Premarital Sex in America”; and Dr. Freda McKissic Bush, a practicing OB-GYN and clinical instructor at the University of Mississippi medical center and author of “Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children.”

One of Yenor’s lectures, for example, traced the sexual revolution back to John Locke’s philosophy that marriage is solely based on a contract, and cited Locke’s support of divorce. He delved next into John Stuart Mill’s arguments that women were subjugated by marriage, and followed up by citing French existentialist Simone de Beauvoir’s “anatomy is not destiny” arguments.

“Modern principles want to remake institutions to honor our freedoms,” Yenor told the students, then added developments such as contraception, abortion and in vitro fertilization helped humans in their quest to control and master nature and buck evolutionary biology.

Same-sex marriage is another development to that end, he said.

He advised students to “occupy the controversial high ground” when discussing same-sex marriage in that traditional marriage is about sacrifice, understanding one’s own limits, admitting the need for another human being who is biologically different than oneself, and contributing to the greater good of society by having and educating children.

“We are for an understanding of love that joins people together for a common good,” Yenor said.

In another lecture, Dr. Bush spoke to students about the massive proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases, the physical and psychological risks of abortion, and the hormonal, emotional and physical negative effects of casual sex, among other topics.

Bush’s lecture included charts, graphs, photos, data, brain scan images, and reams of statistics to make her case that “human beings’ brains seem to be structured to experience a lifetime, committed relationship” as the healthiest option.

“Sex is a powerful brain experience,” she said. “The more sex partners you have, the more the innate ability to bond becomes unglued.”

Professor Regnerus, during one of his talks with students, pointed out the economics of casual sex, and essentially argued women have undersold themselves by embracing the hook-up, no-strings-attached campus sex culture.

“How much does sex cost? Literally nothing,” he said.

Meanwhile, women don’t have to marry to become successful in life, so many succumb to the notion that casual sex is acceptable, even though they prefer committed relationships, he said.

Underscoring that, sex has become “the opium of the masses,” that “we are lacking transcendence and sex is a transcendent act,” he said. Ultimately, casual sex is a disappointment, he added.

“Sex doesn’t explain the world, religion does,” he said. “Sex will come up short.”

In addition to those three lectures, subjects such as “Jesus and marriage,” “the law and parenthood,” “Paul and homosexual practice,” “understanding same-sex parenting studies” and “activism for promoting marriage” were offered.

Thomas Peters, communications director for the National Organization for Marriage, which oversees the Ruth Institute, also rallied the students to get vocal about their beliefs on social media websites and blogs.

Several students said they learned a lot, and plan to take back the information to their campuses in a proactive way.

“I am better equipped to defend marriage and the family in the public square,” said Michael Bradley, 21, who attends Notre Dame University and edits the conservative campus student newspaper the Irish Rover. “Even at Notre Dame, it’s needed.”

Jennifer Kabbany is associate editor of The College Fix.

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IMAGE: ITAF student conference 2013

About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor of The College Fix. She previously worked as a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for a decade in Southern California, and prior to that held editorial positions at The Weekly Standard, Washington Times and FrontPageMagazine. She is also a Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship recipient and has contributed to National Review.

Add to the Discussion

  • XbonzHD

    Wow “almost four dozen” attended!!!

    • Marie

      Almost 100 applied to attend. There is an application process and usually only around 30 are accepted – this year it was 41. It is a pretty selective conference because it is aimed at forming emerging leaders – not just anyone. And it covers almost all the costs of the attendees. In order to offer so much they select the best of those that apply.

      • scottrose

        More brainwashed gay-bashing zombies for Jesus. Make me puke.

  • scottrose

    If you had the least bit of sense, you would realize that families INCLUDE their married gay and lesbian relatives in the wider circles of love of their families. The word “family” is not a designation for heterosupremacists only. You don’t understand what love and family really are if you don’t support LGBT equality. You are fatuous fools and bigots.

  • Alencon

    Why does it have to be admitting the “need for another human being who is biologically different than oneself” and not simply admitting the “need for another human being?”

    • Arimathean

      One could ask the same question of those who advocate “diversity” in every corner of our society.

      • Alencon

        Really? You mean ask why should we strive for inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness? I would think the answer would be obvious to any one that has any inkling of what it means to live in a society based upon democratic ideals.

        • Arimathean

          It appears you have absorbed the propaganda of your liberal masters so well that you cannot even perceive the logical contradiction in your views. You deny the benefit of diversity in marriage while trumpeting diversity as a universal requirement of democracy. Is diversity a good thing in every facet of society or not? Once you get beyond the simplistic (and contradictory) views implied by your rhetorical questions, you have to deal with complexities that are not accommodated by the progressive worldview.

          • Alencon

            As yes, anything outside your bubble of delusion and beyond your comfort zone must be “propaganda.” The typical conservative response, fear that which you don’t understand. I have bad news for you, there are ALWAYS going to be things beyond your understanding so get used to it. You limit the definition of diversity in marriage to simply individuals of a different sex? I don’t deny the benefit of that. I have nothing against heterosexual marriage but I know that marriage is more than for sex and procreation. It’s love and respect and caring and companionship as well. We don’t care if two elderly folks marry if they care for each other despite knowing that sex probably plays no part. Personally I’m not afraid of complexity. Hell, I welcome it because if you can resolve that complexity it’s always worth while. To my mind people are people. I don’t know why some folks have their sexual wires crossed but I’m willing to accept that as a fact of life and take it from there. Why aren’t you?

          • Arimathean

            Your ridiculous stereotyping of conservatives, like your resort the liberal buzzword “inclusiveness”, amounts to the invocation of progressive dogmata designed to short-circuit actual thought.

            In any case, with your concession that you “don’t deny the benefit” of the male-female difference within marriage, you’ve accepted my original point. The rest of your post raises new issues about same-sex marriage that I am not inclined to take up in this context.

          • Alencon

            So according to you, because I believe heterosexual marriage is a good thing I must automatically concede that gay marriage isn’t? I wasn’t aware it was an either/or situation. As for short circuiting “actual thought,” we like to do our thinking BEFORE we arrive at a conclusion. It tends to work out better that way.

        • Arimathean

          What do we really mean by these buzzwords “diversity” and “inclusiveness”? Do we mean that we should allow – even encourage – institutions that each embrace and advocate different points of view in the marketplace of ideas? If so, then diversity is indeed required for democracy to work. Unfortunately, this is too often NOT what liberals mean. Rather, liberals want every institution to embody diversity WITHIN itself, thus neutralizing diversity BETWEEN institutions. If we use the criterion of “inclusiveness” to say that the NAACP cannot favor African-Americans in its hiring decisions and the Catholic Church cannot favor Catholics, we will have lost their distinctive voices, and thus reduced the diversity of viewpoints that can be heard in the marketplace of ideas. This sort of “inclusiveness” is poison to democracy.

          • Alencon

            Really? Where did you ever get that idea? Liberals DO NOT want every institution to be diverse within itself UNLESS THAT INSTITUTION CONVEYS SOME BENEFIT OR ADVANTAGE THAT CANNOT BE DUPLICATED EXTERNALLY. The key issue is advantage versus disadvantage. When one segment of the population reserves a benefit for itself to the exclusion of another segment of the population that’s when there’s a problem. Inclusiveness and diversity simply mean extending the same opportunities to everyone and benefitting from the broad consensus that develops out of extending those opportunities. Let’s focus on the simple fact that gays could live together and enjoy all of the interpersonal benefits of marriage without the actual document. But, in our society, “marriage” still holds a special place of honor and has myriad benefits conveyed upon it. Why shouldn’t people who’s sexual orientation is different from ours not share in that? How is it fair to deny them those benefits?

          • Arimathean

            Liberals are already using “inclusiveness” criteria to invade and take over groups with opposing agendas – and the Supreme Court has, unfortunately, upheld their right to do so under certain criteria in the context of a private university. “Inclusivenss” is turning into another liberal strategy to neutralize opposing voices.

          • Alencon

            Well, if that’s the case, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to identify one. I notice that you didn’t bother to do so in your response. By the way, I’d LOVE to hear what SCOTUS opinion established that precedent. Could you cite it for me?

          • Arimathean

            Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.

            Here is the first link that came up in my search:

          • Alencon

            I’m familiar with that case. This wasn’t about non-Christians trying to join the group, it was about the group challenging school policy. The CLS was the plaintive.

            From an objective web site. “The U.S. Supreme Court today in a 5-4 decision upheld the non-discrimination policy of Hastings College of Law that requires registered student organizations to allow any student to participate. The policy was challenged by the Christian Legal Society which requires members to sign a Statement of Faith and abide by it, so that non-Christians and those who engage in “unrepentant homosexual conduct” are excluded. Registered student organizations get the advantage of being able to meet on school premises, and of communicating with its member through sending e-mails to the student body and through other official forums.”

            In other words it was the CLS asking for special privileges to exclude gay students not liberals trying to join the group.

            Did you actually read the article? Then I’m sure you saw Justice Kennedy’s statement that the group would have a strong case “if it were shown that the policy was either designed or used to infiltrate the group or challenge its leadership in order to stifle its views.”

            In other words it’s unconstitutional if anyone tries to do what you’re claiming the SCOTUS says it’s ok to do. Of course Alito believes the policy was originally established to do precisely what you’re claiming. The problem is the CLS couldn’t convince a majority of the court.

            You can get a far better discussion of this case here http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2010/06/supreme-court-upholds-hastings-law.html.

          • Arimathean

            The four dissenting justices obviously did not buy the argument you are making. And Kennedy was not writing for the majority – his opinion was a concurring opinion. Can there be any serious doubt how the 9th circuit will treat this ruling in the future? Those who want to prevent infiltrators from using this ruling will have to hope that Kennedy is still on the court when their appeal reaches SCOTUS. Groups holding minority views on campuses are perfectly reasonable to fear the effect of this ruling on their equal access to the public square.

            In any case, anti-discrimination laws are already being used in conjunction with same-sex marriage laws to force religious organizations and individuals out of business. The best-known case is Catholic Charities of Boston, which was forced out of the adoption business because it would not facilitate adoptions for same-sex couples. There was no issue of “privileged access” here – there were many other adoption agencies that were willing to facilitate adoptions for same-sex couples. This was all about forcing an organization whose views are out of favor to knuckle under or go away.

            Likewise, wedding photographers have been successfully sued for declining to photograph same-sex weddings (despite the availability of competing photographers who were willing to do so) and doctors have been sued for declining to artificially inseminate unmarried women, including lesbians (again despite the existence of competitors willing to do so). The demand for inclusiveness is being used to eliminate diversity and impose universal conformity with the progressive agenda.

          • Alencon

            It’s still a case of the CLS asking for special privileges and not someone trying to silence the CLS. Kennedy may have been writing for the majority but he was refuting your claim that the SCOTUS is ok with infiltrating groups to silence them. As for what the ninth circuit will do in the future, I have no idea and neither do you.

            In your best known case, get your facts straight. Catholic Charities was not forced out of the adoption business. They chose to go out of the adoption business after the state’s four Catholic Bishops got wind that gay parents had been adopting kids through Catholic Charities. Nobody forced them out but themselves. Or, probably more correctly, their church hierarchy.

            As for the wedding photographer thing, that’s an interpretation of non-discrimination laws. If you are offering a public service, available to anyone for a price, what gives you the right to decide who you will and will not provide that service to based simply upon the group that person is a part of? That’s what non-discrimination laws are all about and they date back to the sixties.

            So far examples of this supposedly “liberal strategy to neutralize opposing voices” are (a) a Christian group asking for a special privilege and being denied by the SCOTUS, (b) a church charity deciding on it’s own to stop doing adoptions because that was the only thing they could come up with to prevent their own charity from allowing gay couples to adopt and (c) a straight violation of non-discrimination laws that date back to the 1960s.

            Do you have anything that actually supports your contention and your claim that the Supreme Court condones this strategy?

          • Arimathean

            A group’s ability to limit its membership to those who agree with its objectives is not a “special privilige” – it is the absolutely essential precondition for the existence of any group that holds a minority view. No organization or organism can exist without boundaries. The rule the CLS proposed to violate is unjust and anti-democratic.

            The ninth circuit never misses an opportunity to push the envelope on the radical legal agenda. It is completely predictable.

            You seem to think that Catholic Charities could have simply chosen to stay in the adoption business in violation of the Church’s principles. This was not an option that any Catholic bishop could entertain while maintaining his integrity. The bishops “decided”, but they could not have decided otherwise.

            Once again you uncritically invoke a liberal dogma – the absolute prohibition of discrimination – as if it were dispositive of the question at hand. No need to think about the consequences – they did all the thinking for us back in the sixties, and that old movement can neither be questioned nor restrained.
            In conclusion, you have demonstrated that you think it is okay – even commendable – to us “inclusiveness” criteria to disable the CSL and sideline wedding photographers. You have more or less made my point for me.
            Perhaps you are not willing to put it so bluntly, but some liberals are. EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum has said explicitly that when sexual liberty comes into conflict with religious liberty, the former should always win. She is certainly not alone in pushing this agenda, just more explicit about than most.

          • Alencon

            One more time. In the CLS case it was the CLS challenging a school policy not liberals or gays trying to infiltrate the group. They were fighting an issue that didn’t exist out of pure paranoia.

            On the Catholic Charities thing the issue was they were accepting money from the state and as such were required to abide by non-discrimination laws. Catholic Charities had been facilitating adoptions for gay families for 15 years before same-sex couples could marry in Massachusetts.

            It is important to note that the CC board voted 42-0 NOT to exclude gay and lesbian couples under their “best interest of the children” criterion but they were overruled by the church hierarchy. CC could also have stopped accepting state funds but they chose to stop adoption services instead. I’m having a real problem seeing the church on the side of the angels here. You do know that since they are still accepting state funds they’re servicing gays in other areas right?

            Chai Feldblum is entitled to her opinion but she doesn’t speak for everyone. I might point out that every gay marriage law has a religious exemption and no one has challenged them. In the US, religion is allowed to discriminate out of deference to religious freedom. That doesn’t mean that everyone belonging to a religion can discriminate and that’s what the CLS and the photographer were claiming.

            Good discussion. I’ll let you in on a secret. I agree that sometimes political correctness can run amok. I just don’t think it’s as wide spread as you think it is and it’s certainly not an organized strategy. Take care. Talk to you again on something else I’m sure.

          • scottrose

            Take your idea that you are entitled to keep LGBTers living in second-class citizen status and shove it!

  • Michael Worley

    ITAF is a wonderful for youth to help them understand why, as a spiritual, logical and legal matter– the definitions of sex, marriage and divorce matter.

  • Susan Miller Repasky

    The Ruth Institute is a brilliant organization. it is not a group of bigots or fatuous fools. They love ALL people and attempt to teach logical, practical family values that have served civilization well since the beginning of time.
    Since the beginning of time, one man and one woman have brought growth to our civilization, and through marriage given their children the right to know their father and mother, be raised by their father and mother (which we know is of utmost importance to the emotional and loving growth of children) and take their rightful place in living a life of integrity, truth and love.
    It makes me so sad that there are comments that condemn these righteous people, especially since the percentage of those who are so-called “homosexual” is only 3 1/2% of the U.S. population but treated as if it were more like 70%. Money, politics, TV, movies, magazines can make it look like this is common…but we people who love all people know the truth and want to bring that truth to all in a logical, fact filling way.
    Sadly, there will always be those who call us names and never look past the end of their noses!

    • Osowoofy

      Breaking news! Sky is blue, water is wet and heterosexuals can still get married. Quit being a wanna-be martyr…it’s unbecoming.

    • scottrose

      The Ruth Institute is allied with NOM and everybody attached to those organizations are filthy gay-bashing heterosupremacist theocRATS.

  • edwardcao

    disagree with title.

  • Osowoofy

    Wow, look at all those white people!

  • YTK

    An interseting side-effect of “traditional families” is that some of their kids ARE gay, Transgendered, gender-queer.
    Accept the fact and leave people alone.

  • Tatiana Covington

    The real problem is our prolonged and total helplessness and dependence as infants and children. We cannot even reliably stand up till we are a year old! So our parents absolutely must stay together, else it’s extinction.

    Straight Darwinism.