Wednesday, December 06, 2017

My Family’s Adoption Story Could Be Impossible If ACLU Wins This Case

Five international adoptions from China, Guatemala, and South Korea—in addition to my four biological siblings—have made me the oldest of 10 children.

As National Adoption Awareness Month has come and gone, I’ve reflected even more than usual on the incredible blessing I am grateful to call my family.

Each of my siblings has a unique story—one filled with countless challenges and moments of suffering, but also many more of great joy, laughter, and love.

But they all have one thing in common. Their addition into our family was made possible through the gift of adoption, specifically through Christian adoption agencies.

But an ongoing court case in Michigan has posed a new threat to the very existence of families like mine.

In Dumont et al. v. Lyon, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sued the state of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services over a 2015 state adoption law that allows private adoption agencies, like the ones my family used, to freely exercise their religious beliefs in the way they choose to operate their agencies.

This is not a case about hindering a couple’s choice to adopt, nor is it a case about the establishment of religion.

Rather, it is a case about religious liberty, and whether the government should partner with faith-based groups to provide adoptive services to families while allowing them to simultaneously maintain their religious views.

Even more so, it is a case about how these agencies envision children flourishing in family structures.

In addition to Michigan, six other states—Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Virginia—have enacted similar legislation to protect these adoption agencies from closure.

Additionally, Congress is currently considering the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act, which would implement protections for these faith-based agencies at the federal level.

But if this law is overturned, and these agencies are forced to close, countless children will suffer in incomprehensible ways.

The plight of over 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S. (13,000 in the Michigan foster care system alone) and 110,000 waiting to be adopted warrants a resounding call to gladly welcome children into our families.

Until every child has a home, we ought to make great efforts to remove barriers between waiting children and loving families. One of the surest ways to do this is by making it possible—legislatively—for more adoption agencies to exist.

We ought not to create new barriers by decreasing the number of groups actively assisting in child placement, groups that played an instrumental role in the formation of my family.

My family’s story might not have been possible if it were not for these Christian adoption agencies—and countless staff—who walked with us every step of the way, from the first photo to the first hug.

Adoption is easily one of the hardest, but most beautiful journeys my family has traveled.

For the Christian, adoption is central to the gospel. We adopt because when we were most destitute, we ourselves were adopted into the family of God.

In his book “Adopted for Life,” Russell Moore writes,

When we adopt—and when we encourage a culture of adoption in our churches and communities—we’re picturing something that’s true about our God. We, like Jesus, see what our Father is doing and do likewise. And what our Father is doing, it turns out, is fighting for orphans, making them sons and daughters.

Christian adoption agencies serve families and communities in a unique way. They provide spiritual support throughout an arduous process that comes with many tears and heartaches over the course of many months, and often times, years.

The years of waiting our family experienced with five adoptions could not have been sustained without prayer—prayer from our family, community, and the staff of our adoption agencies.

There was a deep sense of comfort knowing that the people we were opening our family, home, and hearts to were caring for us and our future family members in a way that had a profoundly eternal impact.

Rather than this being a time of unfounded hope and yearning, we had assurance—and regular reminders from our caseworkers—that it was a time sovereignly ordained by God.

Every single child, both born and unborn, has inherent dignity. Through adoption, we demonstrate to these children that they are valuable, wanted, and loved.

We must protect the most vulnerable among us, and signal through both word and deed for our communities to do the same.


The Taylor-haters shouldn't despise her for refusing to get political, they should ADMIRE her for it (and other celebrities should try it sometime)

By Piers Morgan

 Why does everyone hate Taylor Swift so much? I don't mean her fans – the 'Swifties' - obviously. I mean the rest of Planet Earth, which seems to delight in mocking and abusing the woman at every opportunity.

This withering crescendo has soared to record height levels in the past few weeks, culminating in a viral Twitter storm responding to one fan's question: 'Name a badder b*tch than Taylor Swift.'

She didn't mean a more awful woman. She meant a tougher, stronger, more empowered female.

The reaction was fast and ferociously furious, with 99% of responses being either resolutely negative or openly hostile to Ms Swift.

It soon became clear that the wider non-Swifties world believes even Dora the Explorer is a badder b*tch than Taylor.

That is their prerogative, and for what's worth I can think of many women who might pip Taylor Swift to that particular title, led by Malala Yousafzai who faced down the Taliban to fight for girls to be educated.

But why the raging anger towards her? Well, look no further than Charlotte Cylmer, self-styled 'gender-queer' writer and former Army vet.

She tweeted a whole host of names from Beyoncé and Katy Perry to Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga that she considered to be a badder b*tch than Taylor Swift.

At the end, she said: '…and every other woman entertainer in popular music who used their platform to publicly support Hillary in 2016.'

So, as with almost everything these days, it's about politics.  Taylor Swift is being vilified at the altar of sanctimony, resentment and blind hatred because of her political stance.

Only here's the twist: she doesn't actually have one.

Or rather, not one we know about.  Taylor's apolitical; she doesn't engage in political debate at all, preferring to stick to singing about love and romance.

This strikes me as extremely sensible given the current maelstrom of febrile, toxic political warfare, particularly as she will have millions of right and left wing fans. Why anger a large chunk of them unnecessarily?

During my anti-guns campaign at CNN, several male action movie stars pulled out of doing interviews with me because they didn't want to offend half their audience by expressing an opinion about gun control.

I understood that completely. They were movie stars, not elected officials.

But by opting for the same stance, Taylor Swift is being demonised in a quite staggering manner – especially by other women. Marie Claire magazine was first out with the bitchy scalpel.

'We're still waiting for an explanation of Taylor Swift's decision to remain apolitical during the 2016 election,' it tweeted recently. 'Fall of 2016 saw a slew of celebrities get vocally and visibly involved in the political process, supporting candidates and encouraging their fans to get out and vote.

After a period of complete silence about the election, Taylor did post on Instagram about the fact she was voting. Taylor is not required to be open about her politics, of course, but it's also fair to question her decision to remain silent in what was a particularly contentious and consequential presidential battle.

 Whether she likes it or not, Taylor's politics (or her perceived political apathy) are a part of her reputation, and a song addressing or at least acknowledging that would have been impactful.'

The Guardian, Britain's supposedly most cerebral pro-feminism newspaper, followed suit with an even more outrageous attack.

'Taylor Swift: an envoy for Trump's values' ran the headline on an editorial it published last week. The sub-header spat: 'The world's biggest pop star is not simply a product of the age, but seems a messenger for a disturbing spirit.'

I read on, eager to see what evidence the Guardian had for such an extraordinary claim. Of course, it didn't have any.

The Guardian called her 'an envoy for Trump's values'. Her culpability was simply that she hasn't denounced Trump in public and didn't support a woman who many thought was a dreadful candidate. The ACLU has even admonished Taylor for demanding that a blogger retract an absurd post about her effectively endorsing racists

The blog, written by Meghan Herning, was titled: 'Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case KKK in formation.'

It was a preposterous and deeply offensive tirade that effectively accused Taylor of endorsing racists who like her music by not publicly decrying them.

'Taylor's sweet, victim image is the perfect vehicle and metaphor for white supremacists' perceived victimization, Herning wrote, adding that her lyrics have 'dog whistles to white supremacy.'

Think about that argument for a moment. I imagine there are ISIS terrorists and pedophiles out there who like her music too.

Does Taylor Swift thus have to also denounce all ISIS terrorists and pedophiles now, or be automatically accused of supporting them?

Herning even compared her to Adolf Hitler. 'At one point in the accompanying video (to 'Look What You Make Me Do'),' she wrote, 'Taylor lords over an army of models from a podium, akin to what Hitler had in Nazi Germany. The similarities are uncanny and unsettling.'

It is hard to imagine a more disgusting, defamatory analogy, which explains why Taylor's legal team asked for the blog to be removed.

And, of course, with heavy irony, it is precisely vile nonsense like this that encourages white supremacists to hitch their disgusting wagon to Taylor Swift.

In 2013, a teenager named Emily Pattison began overlaying quotes by Hitler on Pinterest photos of Taylor, prompting another legal letter demanding they be removed, which Pinterest refused to do.

This led to white supremacists lauding Taylor as an icon for their movement.

Yet why is that her fault? The blame, surely, lies with the idiot who did the Pinterest images in the first place?

I don't get all this hatred for Taylor Swift, I really don't. She is the No1 pop star in the world, and an incredibly talented singer-songwriter.

Her new album Reputation is the biggest-selling album of the year, shifting a monster 1.23 million copies in its first week in the US alone. This destroyed her nearest rival Ed Sheeran by over 300,000. In fact, it sold more than the rest of the Top200 albums PUT TOGETHER.

She works hard, lives clean, doesn't post topless selfies, takes good care of her fans and donates millions to charity.

On the few occasions I've met her, she's seemed a delightful lady – charming, down-to-earth and mature beyond her 27 years.

But that's not enough, apparently. No, she has to publicly declare her hatred for Donald Trump and love for Hillary Clinton, or she's dead to the world. Really?

I'd say Taylor is the best kind of celebrity political activist, one who urges young people to vote, but doesn't tell them which way to vote.

'I try to be as informed and educated as possible,' she explained preciously, 'but don't like to talk about politics because it might influence other people.'

In other words, she subscribes to the theory that celebrities should shut the **** up about politics and get on with entertaining us.

Given how many of the Trump-hating liberal stars have been exposed as flaming hypocrites lately, I say hurrah for that refreshing attitude.

It's time people backed off Taylor Swift and stopped this hideous hounding of a thoroughly decent young lady. She's a singer, not a Senator, and a bloody good one too.


Study finds eating meat perpetuates ‘hegemonic masculinity’

DO YOU think taking a bite out of a juicy buger is making you sexist? A new study certainly thinks so after it linked meat consumption with promoting the patriarchy.

BEING told meat is murder by vegetarians is one thing, but what if you were informed that eating barbecue brisket is actually making you sexist and anti-feminist.

This is the belief of a study recently published in the Journal of Feminist Geography, which argued “hegemonic masculinity implies an imperative to eat meat” and helped concrete other power hierarchies as well.

For the purpose of the research, professor Anne DeLessio-Parson spoke with vegetarians from Argentina to discover the diet itself is a political act that helps break down the gender binary.

“The decision to become vegetarian does not itself destabilise gender, but the subsequent social interactions between vegetarian and meat-eater demand gender enactment — or resistance,” she explained.

As an example of destabilising gender norms. she suggested male vegetarians opt to spend more time in the kitchen than out on the grill as expected.

“Refusing meat therefore presents opportunities, in each social interaction, for the binary to be called into question,” Ms DeLessio-Parson explained.

She said she started the study after spending five years as a vegetarian in Argentina, where she learnt the diet wasn’t just a lifestyle choice, but a feminist act. Ms DeLessio-Parson believes vegetarianism is a way women can assert their agency and autonomy.

“One of the ways [women] push back against patriarchy, they say, ‘This is my body. You don’t get to tell me what comes in and out’,” she told Campus Reform.

Ms DeLessio-Parson also believes that even though many men in Argentina “still have these very hegemonic masculinity traits”, male vegetarians “seem more egalitarian and respectful” and “more open about talking about how sexism exists”.

She closed her argument by suggesting vegetarianism can help destabilise hierarchies, and drive social change.

“If we can pay more attention to what we put in our bodies ... we can create a better sense of peace in the world. Vegetarianism is a part of that,” Ms DeLessio-Parson wrote.


Why ANU’s Derek Freeman took on Margaret Mead

She was a giant of American anthropology, a celebrity scientist, an icon of public culture whose research into the carefree sexual habits of Samoan adolescents helped shape feminism and the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

He was an obsessive, brilliant professor from Canberra often sidelined by his colleagues as a crazy nonconformist.

But when Derek Freeman took on Margaret Mead he launched one of the great academic controversies of our times, one that propelled the largely unknown researcher to global notoriety and appearances on Good Morning America and The Phil Donahue Show, and shook the foundations of anthropology.

Indeed, the furore over whether Mead got it wrong with her idealised version of an idyllic South Seas island life where teenagers avoided the stresses of adolescence through multiple, casual sexual partners even made it into popular culture, thanks to David Williamson’s 1996 play, Heretic.

It is more than 30 years since the Australian National Univer­sity academic argued that Mead’s research was shoddy and that the locals had hoodwinked her when she wrote her 1928 book, Coming of Age in Samoa, still the highest selling work of anthropology ever published.

Freeman’s claims went to the heart of the debate about whether we are formed by our biology or race, or by our culture — that is, whether nature trumps nurture or vice versa. He was vilified and dismissed by American anthropologists who lined up to defend Mead.

The stakes were high in 1983 as Freeman launched his attack in Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth.

For decades, Mead’s depiction of “Samoan adolescence (as) an idyll of untroubled sexual and temperamental licence” had been used to support sexual liberation and an approach to child rearing centred on choice rather than discipline.

ANU academic Derek Freeman, who challenged Margaret Mead’s work on Samoa, at home in August 1987.
The belief in nurture can be seen in 20th-century attitudes to everything from adoption to eugenics and racial tolerance. And it played to an America eager for evidence of the perfectibility of human nature. Mead became a hugely important commentator in the mid-20th century, with a status based directly on her Samoan research. In the 1970s, her slim, readable book was still selling more than 100,000 copies a year, 50 years after it was first published.

Mead died at the age of 76, just five years before Freeman’s book was released. Freeman had retired from the ANU in 1981 but remained there on a fellowship for the next 20 years. He died in Canberra in 2001 at the age of 84, still largely marginalised by his professional colleagues, and still arguing his case.

Now emeritus professor Peter Hempenstall, a Newcastle-based biographer and historian, takes a fresh look at the man and the controversy in a new book, Truth’s Fool: Derek Freeman and the War over Cultural Anthropology.

Hempenstall researched Samoan history and spent 18 months in the Research School of Pacific Studies at ANU, just along the corridor from Freeman. They met only once, Hempenstall deliber­ately avoiding the man known around the corridors of the Coombs Building as the “Dragon of Canberra”, who was renowned for an overbearing manner and his intellectual intimidation of students and colleagues.

“I never had much to do with him at all because I was too scared to go near him,” Hempenstall says from his home in Newcastle. He is an emeritus professor of history at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and a conjoint professor of history at the University of Newcastle.

“When I started my career he was the great guru on Samoa and I was heading off to Samoa for research. He’s the first person I should have gone to, but he was the last person I was going to see because of all the stories.

“So I kind of tiptoed around Derek Freeman the whole of my scholarly career …”

Hempenstall came back to Freeman 17 years ago while working on a different project on major Australian and New Zealand thinkers, but Freeman died before they could meet.

It has been a long gestation but Truth’s Fool is far more than a biography.

As a historian, Hempenstall positions Freeman squarely in the 80s turmoil over the direction of anthropology, which had been dominated since the 20s by the cultural determinists.

Peter Hempenstall, the author of Truth’s Fool: Derek Freeman and the War over Cultural Anthropology. Picture: Milan Scepanovic
He describes a man driven not so much by a vendetta against Mead, as many have argued, but by a conviction that anthropology had to move away from the “ideology of cultural determinism” to a more integrated discipline that recognised the importance of biology and behaviour in the study of societies. But Freeman’s work emerged at a time when the nature v nurture argument was intensely political.

“Americans had been battling the eugenic movement since the 1920s right through to the 1970s,” says Hempenstall. “It was a real living political battle for liberal social scientists in America to make sure that the racists — and those who believed we were simply products of our genes and that you could prove, for instance, that whites were superior to blacks — were wrong.

“It became more heightened in the 1980s because of the more conservative Reagan period and through the work of people like (sociobiologist) EO Wilson and others who saw our biology as controlling our culture and as the major driver of American society.

“Mead is the great champion of culture against these genetic warriors and American anthropologists didn’t want to see her defeated.”

Mead had been at the centre of that fight all her career.

She was just 23 in 1925 when she was sent to Samoa by her mentor at Columbia University, Franz Boas, the “father of American anthropology”. Boas wanted an answer to the question of whether the difficulties experienced by adolescent girls were due to the physiological changes that took place at puberty or the civilisation in which they grew up.

The product of Mead’s 8½ months of fieldwork was Coming of Age in Samoa, a book Hempenstall argues was more a message for American society than an ethnographic study, and a work that shored up the Boas school of anthropology based on cultural determinism.

He writes: “Mead went to the Samoan islands influenced by a 1920s intellectual movement seeking to integrate individuals into a distinctive American national culture that would dampen the country’s parochial, puritanical materialism.

“Coming of Age had the educational goal (which was equally a political one) to make Americans rethink their cultural assumptions … Mead identified for American educators a series of lessons in the Samoan scheme of life. Modifying American approaches, particularly around the organisation of the family and attitudes to sex, would reduce the stress and anguish of growing through adolescence.”

Her book focused on Samoan girls, who at 17 pursued not marriage but sexual adventures with a range of partners. She wrote of a society where the concept of celibacy was meaningless. And she described a “curious form of surreptitious rape, called moetotolo, sleep crawling”.

Hempenstall writes that Mead described this sexual activity as a kind of Russian roulette played out in the silent hours when the village was supposedly resting until dawn, and that she differentiated it from rape (although Mead saw it as “definitely abnormal”).

Mead’s influence on feminism and sexual education was profound, in part because her book was read as a text by millions of undergraduates over many decades. Its rendering of a sexually free, harmonious society underpinned her later career as a public figure. When Freeman’s claims emerged in the 80s, they threatened to destroy not just her reputation but the liberal values championed by a generation of American social scientists that had shaped social and educational policies.

Freeman was an excellent academic who had done important ethnographic work with the Iban people of Borneo and also in Samoa, and had been appointed to a chair at the ANU in 1972, despite his intimidating manner. But his own research was sidelined as he became obsessed with Mead’s work. Freeman spent years rebutting his American critics. Hempenstall believes he was naive about the impact of his claims.

“I think it’s probably because of his strictly scientific view of knowledge as a simple series of formulas, without recognising there are all sorts of complexities and ambiguities and ambivalences.”

Some feminists saw Freeman’s work as an attack on women’s sexual freedom but Hempenstall rejects that view.

“Freeman was a very conservative person morally, an extreme moralist, a puritan,” he says. “He probably saw Mead as an example of how loose morals had become in the 20th century, particularly because of her marriages to various people and her (lesbian) relationship with (American anthropologist) Ruth Benedict.

“He would not have approved, but that was not his beef with Mead. He actually thought she was brilliant but that she had got it wrong in Samoa. He wasn’t trying to demolish her completely, he would say he was trying to deal with her work on Samoa and its deficiencies.”

Freeman initially believed in Mead’s work but found it wanting when he went to Samoa as a teacher in 1940. He admired the Samoans and respected their culture, but he discovered a puritanical and hierarchical society rather than one defined by harmony and free love. But it was another 20 years before he returned to Samoa for fieldwork and another two decades before he published Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth. As Hempenstall says: “The mission (to prove Mead wrong) grows slowly on him.”

Along the way, Freeman reinvented himself intellectually as he attempted to change the direction of the profession.

Says Hempenstall: “He’s a man who says in 1961, ‘Social anthropology is going nowhere, it’s not getting us an understanding of what human beings are really like in society, I’m going to retrain in psychology and bring a whole new behavioural perspective to anthropology.’ And he goes to London to be trained to do that.”

His determination to move the profession was undermined at times by his complex personality. He suffered nervous breakdowns in Borneo in 1961 and during fieldwork in Samoa in 1967, and his appointment to the chair of anthropology at ANU’s Research School of Pacific Studies in 1972 was highly contentious. Stories and rumours circulated for years about his eccentric behaviour, but the university seemed unable to set any restraints on him and maintained that he did not suffer from a psychiatric disorder.

Hempenstall reveals that in 1974 Freeman was diagnosed as suffering from a bipolar disorder and received treatment, but this was not widely known at that time. Freeman, he says, faced a “constant struggle throughout his life for mental equilibrium … His vehemence in pursuit of opponents was legendary, his academic life speckled with incendiary encounters and comments, as though his subconscious were always spoiling for a fight.”

Was Freeman mad, as some claimed? “No, he was not, but I am prepared to say he suffered from a mild psychosis at times and extreme emotionalism.”

When Freeman began seriously to question Mead’s work in the 60s, she answered his criticisms in detailed letters. When she visited Australia and came to the Coombs Building in 1964, the duo spent two hours and 40 minutes discussing her work.

Freeman’s critique was known inside anthropology departments from at least 1968, when he published his first major paper on the issue, but it was when his 1983 book hit the front page of The New York Times that he was catapulted on to the global stage. He claimed Mead’s fieldwork was deficient, had been undertaken in a very short time, and had been influenced by her preconceptions as a disciple of Boas. He spent years dealing with the backlash from Mead’s supporters but fired another shot in 1988 with the documentary Margaret Mead and Samoa by renowned Australian filmmaker Frank Heimans.

Filming in Samoa, Heimans and Freeman had found an 86-year-old woman, Fa’amu, who had been one of Mead’s informants 60 years earlier. She told Freeman that “she and other girls who had been constant companions of Margaret Mead in the 1920s had jokingly told her exaggerated stories about free love under the palms, never supposing she would write them down or believe them”.

In the film she says: “As you know, Samoan girls are terrific liars and love making fun of people, but Margaret thought it was all true … we just lied and lied.”

For Freeman, it was a gotcha moment. Heimans tells Inquirer: “It was the first proof that anyone ever had that Margaret had embellished it.”

He recalls Freeman as “obsessive about this story, it never left him … I shared accommodation with him in Samoa and it was very hard living with him. He had a strange personality but he wasn’t bipolar as far as his work was concerned. I think he was right. It was always about nature v nurture and Freeman came to the conclusion that (life) is a mixture of both.”

Hempenstall argues that the revelations from Fa’amu are not crucial to the debate.

“Freeman didn’t need the hoaxing argument to show that Mead’s findings were distorted by her own methods,” he says. “None of this is in any way to disparage Mead’s talent or her abilities but there’s an argument that Freeman makes quite convincingly about Mead’s deficiencies in 1926 (and) it is a much stronger argument than anything to do with the hoax.”

Hempenstall says anthropology remains the most tension-ridden of all the social sciences because it seeks answers to the most essential question: what does it mean to be human?

Developments in the neurological sciences have enormous implications for the discipline, he argues. “We are much more appreciative of the chemistry of the brain, the power of evolution and our connection to the environment,” he says. “I think we are much closer to an appreciation of the importance of nature than we were in the 80s and 90s.”

Was Freeman right? “I think he was right about Margaret Mead in all sorts of ways and wrong about her in all sorts of ways. Was he right to keep the war going for so long? I don’t think he was. He should have gone off to pick wildflowers on Black Mountain. He took it too far and he became repetitive. He should have drawn a line under the whole project.”

Mead never recanted her views, but in Heimans’s film a colleague recalls that Mead once told her that Freeman “has proven me wrong” and had “looked very sad and puzzled”.

Says Hempenstall: “Freeman’s work did not destroy Mead’s reputation because she was brilliant, but it did show Americans that they needed to take a good hard look at Margaret Mead.”

As for Freeman, he says in the 1988 documentary: “I have always been a heretic. I think being a heretic is the most beautiful thing because this comes from a Greek root, meaning someone who chooses for himself. What you’ve got to be in science is a heretic who gets it right. It’s no use being a heretic who gets its wrong because then you’re a pariah dog in their eye, but if you’re a heretic who gets it right, you can’t do better.”



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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