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Dr. Laura's Moral Dilemma

Relentless attack by gay rights activists is unjustified.

by Mark D. Johnson
November 11, 2000

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Dr. Laura's Moral Dilemma_Mark D. Johnson-Relentless attack by gay rights activists is unjustified. It’s quite popular these days to bash Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Though she maintains a huge audience on her daily morality-driven radio show, she has never been so loathed as she is today -- an indicator of the sharp moral divide among Americans. The campaign by her opponents to shame her and her supporters has been so successful that I am almost embarrassed to admit that I am a Dr. Laura fan. Almost. But I have listened to Dr. Laura much more than her critics have; I know her better than they do. And this devout Jew who ends her program with the words “Now go do the right thing” is being unfairly villainized.

During her meteoric rise in talk radio a few years ago, Schlessinger’s no-nonsense style gained throngs of fans, but many were also offended. They were shocked by her quick assessment of callers, her frankness and seeming lack of compassion, and her constant “moralizing,” with which they disagreed. She said things like “cohabitation is wrong,” discouraged inter-faith marriages because of the effects on the children, and held people responsible for their actions. Who did she think she was, they asked. She knows nothing about the people who call in, yet she callously tells them they’re living their lives wrongly. But this kind of criticism was nothing compared to the war she is now engaged in with the gay and lesbian community.

It all started back in late 1998, when Dr. Laura said, “If you're gay or a lesbian, it's a biological error that inhibits you from relating normally to the opposite sex. The fact that you are intelligent, creative and valuable is all true. The error is in your inability to relate sexually intimately, in a loving way to a member of the opposite sex ­ it is a biological error." Gays and lesbians took this to mean that she did not consider them to be completely human, and labeled her a bigot and called her statement “hate speech.” Their outrage at these remarks, and Dr. Laura’s refusal to retract them, reached fever pitch this past spring and summer as Dr. Laura prepared to launch a new TV show, distributed by Paramount studios, which has likewise been condemned. Many large advertisers were shamed or threatened into dropping out of sponsorship, and when the show premiered this fall, it was to poor ratings. It appears that this organized effort to silence Dr. Laura, at least on television, is winning.

All of this is documented at a well-publicized website, stopdrlaura.com, which is unabashed propaganda. Here you can find Dr. Laura’s statements taken out of context and, under “Netizens for Dr. Laura,” nothing but hate speech from homophobes who do not represent Schlessinger’s audience. Ironically, though the activists behind the site object to intolerance, they will not tolerate Schlessinger. Apparently, the right to free speech is for liberals only. It’s okay to censor Dr. Laura.

Hollywood has taken up the cause as well, attempting to turn Dr. Laura into a despicable and hypocritical caricature. The writers of the hit show “Frasier,” wrote in an obnoxious radio host named Dr. Nora with obvious contempt for the real thing. This season on “West Wing,” President Martin Sheen scolded a fictional Schlessinger, “Dr. Jacobs,” for saying the Bible calls homosexuality an abomination. This segment was not just a blatant attack on Dr. Laura, but on all who consider the Bible to be the word of God. “Law & Order” apparently took a dig at her as well. I like it when TV shows tackle current issues, but it irks me when they indulge in juvenile revenge.

It is clear to long-time listeners that when Schlessinger was discussing homosexuality in terms of a “biological error” and “deviancy,” she was trying to make a valid scientifically-based point, and not trying to promote hate against gays and lesbians. I can understand how gays and lesbians would be hurt by these terms, but she obviously was not trying to show disrespect. Dr. Laura is not anti-gay. In fact, her track record shows her as being respectful to the gay community long before this controversy arose, as she was one of the first talk show psychiatrists to take calls from openly gay men and lesbians. Instead of criticizing their lifestyle, she encouraged staying in a committed, monogamous relationship. She told parents of gays and lesbians to embrace their child, saying that families need to stay connected. This is tolerance, is it not?

Interestingly, stopdrlaura.com has nothing to say against the scientific argument that homosexuality is a deviancy from the norm, given that species have two sexes in order to procreate. There is nothing in that, from what I see, to suggest that homosexuality is morally wrong. Furthermore, most gays uphold the notion that they are biologically disposed to homosexuality – that it is not a behavioral choice. Aren’t Dr. Laura’s statements essentially in agreement with that position?

This fall, on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, Schlessinger publicly and sincerely apologized to the gay community in an full-page ad in Variety, acknowledging that her remarks hurt many people. Not good enough, according to stopdrlaura.com. They demand a retraction of the “biological error” statement and similar comments, the basic tenets of which she and many others still consider valid. To say that she no longer believes what she believes would be truly hypocritical.

When such a fundamental disagreement is at the center of an issue with many proponents on both sides, as with abortion and capital punishment, neither side should be silenced. Let the discussion continue in an intellectual manner. Gay rights advocates have not taken the high road with stopdrlaura.com. Instead, they have resorted to name-calling, distortion, and character assassination.

Dr. Laura’s radio and TV programs are about helping people make morally correct decisions in their lives, especially when they concern children. Certainly, she sees the gay rights agenda as a threat to the traditional family unit, but the scope of her programs goes well beyond this issue, and her opponents would have to be truly narrow-minded to deny that she has helped many, many people along the way. When one listens to her with more than knee-jerk reactions, it quickly becomes obvious that Dr. Laura is a very intelligent person, true to her convictions, and not hypocritical. She has withstood an enormous amount of criticism because she stands on solid intellectual ground, defending herself point by point, while the other side plays unfairly by perennially twisting her words.

Schlessinger’s most vocal opponents are themselves guilty of hate-mongering, their hate speech directed toward one individual. The assault is unjustified. Stop stopdrlaura.com? No. Let’s not stoop to that level.

Comments (1)

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bob ockenden from Minneapolis writes:
November 13, 2000
Hey Mark,

Kudos for having the integrity to take on a difficult and easily misunderstood topic with your Dr Laura piece. Let reason prevail, as in all other matters.

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