Friday, June 16, 2006

honorary doctorate and "heterophobia" has a summary article by Janet Epp Buckingham [director of Law and Public Policy and general legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada in Ottawa] on some of the recent flap over the awarding of honourary degrees and heterophobia.
Dr. Margaret A. Somerville is a renowned ethicist. She has degrees in both medicine and law. She is the founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law. She has a long list of publications in the field of bioethics, particularly genetics and the rights of children. She has several honorary degrees in recognition of her important contribution to the field of bioethics. Most recently, Ryerson University announced that it will grant her an honorary doctorate for her contribution to the field of bioethics.
Ryerson's decision has raised the ire of many in Toronto's gay community. They have started an on-line petition campaign to "disinvite" Dr. Somerville, because some of her views are politically incorrect — she has raised concerns about the impact on the rights of children in relation to legalizing same-sex marriage. Now, Somerville is being accused of bigotry and homophobia, despite her writings in favour of equal treatment for gays and lesbians.

Cheers to Ryerson for deciding to continue with the award, however, they have also said they are going to revaluate their award criteria.

In a similar situation,
Rabbi Rueven Bulka is to receive an honorary doctorate from Carleton University. Rabbi Bulka is a highly respected leader in the Orthodox Jewish community in Ottawa. The issue for the rabbi is that he is on the Advisory Board of the National Association of Research and Therapy Homosexuality. NARTH believes that therapy can assist those who wish to change their sexual orientation. This is, of course, painted as being homophobic.

Rabbi Bulka is being honoured by the university for "an outstanding career as a community leader and scholar, and as a leading figure in humanitarian affairs." It has nothing to do with his views on homosexuality.

Somerville and Bulka are not "anti-gay activists." And they are not being honoured for their stand on same-sex marriage. They are being honoured for their work: Somerville for bioethics and Bulka for community leadership. Their stand on same-sex marriage and homosexual therapy is quite secondary to their work. They are therefore being vilified for their beliefs.
The protests against Somerville and Bulka should concern us. These kinds of protests put a chill on any public expression that is considered politically incorrect. It's not homophobia that's the issue, but "heterophobia" - can I say that without being labled "homophobic"?

And it's more than that. There are those who are so "politically correct" that they will stomp on the rights of dissent. It is not simply whether a position is politically correct/incorrect. But there is the double standard of prejudice and intolerance by the very people who are promoting tolerance of their own identity. Tolerance is being redefined to mean: "I will be tolerant of your position as long as you agree with me."

There is something you can do to make your voice heard. There is an on-line petition in support of Dr. Somerville. You can let Carleton University know that you support the doctorate they are awarding Rabbi Bulka (email

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