Friday, July 25, 2008

A Call for Bill Donahue's Resignation

I am posting two items back to back; this posting here on Bill Donahue, and a related posting as well on PZ Myers.

William Donahue

I write today to call for the resignation of William Donahue as the President of the Catholic League and, if he is not willing to do the right thing in this matter, call for his removal from that position by whatever mechanisms the Catholic League has for such an action.

The reason is because William Donahue has been using an organization that claims to exist for the purpose of promoting civil rights to advance an agenda that is quite the opposite of this intended goal, and to serve as a mechanism for promoting bigotry and prejudice towards others.

One of the defining characteristics of bigotry resides when somebody takes the wrongs (real or imagined) of an individual or group of individuals and uses that to promote hostility towards a whole group. We find examples of this in several of Donahue's press releases.

For example, in responding to PZ Myers' threat to desecrate a Eucharist, Donahue made a comment in MYERS TO DESECRATE EUCHARIST AND KORAN that:

Much has been written about the moral vacuity that marks the Darwinian vision of society that Myers embraces. He now has a grand opportunity to rebut those critics. Or sustain the perception.

His statement here has the same moral quality as the statement, Much has been written about the greed that marks the kike vision of society, of which my opponent is a member. He now has a grand opportunity to rebut those critics. Or sustain the perception.

Donahue's statement is morally equivalent to the anti-Semitic rant in the above paragraph on two points.

First, it is equivalent in the sense that 'Darwinism' is a derogatory term that theists have invented and toss among themselves to refer to those who believe in evolution and in no God in a derogatory and profane manner. You will scarcely see this word in writing or hear it spoken except in an attitude similar to that with which people also use terms like 'nigger', 'kike', 'wetback', and the like.

Second, it is equivalent in the sense that it asserts that all members of the bigot's target group share the common flaw of being morally inferior to the speaker's group. It makes this accusation in total disregard to the individual characteristics of those who make up the group.

It makes no difference whether Myers is actually guilty of a wrong. It is as irrelevant as the answer to the question of whether the Jew, in the above example, was being inappropriately greedy. What matters is that the speaker decided to use the fault of a specific individual (real or imagined) to promote prejudice towards a whole group.

With this bigoted slur, Donahue is inviting and encouraging his readers to prejudge a group of people as 'morally vacuous' – to promote prejudice in such a pure form that it could stand in as a paradigm example of that particular moral crime. It is particularly ironic that it comes from the leader of an organization that claims to not only have a proper understanding of, but is on a mission to promote, religious freedom rights and the free speech rights.

This is not the only expression of bigotry to come from Donahue.


So now the Planet-of-the-Apes biologist has divined himself an expert on the artistic value of cartoons.


Myers, who claims expertise in studying zebrafish, has quite a following among the King Kong Theory of Creation gang.

So we have a pattern whereby Donahue uses the pulpit of an organization allegedly created to support religious freedom and civil rights to promote bigotry and prejudice against those who do not share Donahue's religion.

Some will be tempted to compare this call for Donahue's removal with his call for the firing of PZ Myers for making claims that are hostile to Catholics. However, there are clear and relevant differences.

Chief among these is the fact that Myers is a biologist, while Donahue is the President of an organization that claims to exist for the purpose of promoting religious liberty and civil rights. If Myers were as incompetent in the biological sciences as Donahue has proven himself to be in the field of religious liberty and civil rights, then it may well be appropriate to find some way to remove Myers from his position.

Furthermore, Myers is not speaking for the organization for which he works. He is not releasing press releases as if they were official university statements. He is not posting his statements on a university web site as if his words were those of the university.

Donahue, on the other hand, is doing all of these things. He has made his bigotry the official doctrine of the Catholic League, spoken in their name, using their money, and using their web site, as a medium for promoting bigotry and prejudice.

For both of these reasons, if the Catholic League were a moral and just institution, they would not have Donahue as their mouthpiece and would end his use of their resources in promoting prejudice.

As it stands, Donahue's incompetence in his selected field is unmatched.

If Donahue does not resign, then the Catholic League should consider removing him and replacing him with somebody who has the competence to first understand what religious liberty and civil rights are. Donahue is an embarrassment to anybody and everybody who holds that the defense of religious liberty and civil rights is truly something worth defending. He has made himself an agent of the very types of behavior he claims to be fighting against, and has made the Catholic League an accessory to and an agent of bigotry and prejudice.

If the Catholic League does not take steps to remove him, then we have reason to question whether the Catholic League itself has not decided to embrace bigotry and prejudice.


Russell Hume said...

Really, "Darwinian" means "a particular ethical system (or lack of it)"?

I always thought it actually meant something along the lines of "pertaining to Charles Darwin or his doctrines," or "a person who accepts or advocates Darwinism." Last time I checked, there weren't many valid ethical systems based entirely on a scientific theory of evolution from the 19th century.

Moreover, the majority of people who accept evolution are not strict Darwinist's, after all, his original theory was not perfect and has been corrected overtime to be in agreement with the current scientific data.

So really, the term "Darwinian," as used by Bill Donahue, is not only incorrect, but it is used purely in a pejorative fashion. When Donahue, and other religious people, use the term "Darwinian," they are often imparting a meaning to it that is specifically their own, one wholly intended to be insulting.

It is essentially equivalent to the term "faggot," in that it was a word that originally had no relation to the group of people it is now meant to designate as well as, when created, was never meant to specifically designate that group. Rather, the word has been co-opted for an entirely derogatory purpose to inaccurately describe a large group of people.

Perhaps if the writer had used the word "faggot," a more well-known word, it would have been more obvious. E.g. "Much has been written about the greed that marks the faggot vision of society, of which my opponent is a member. He now has a grand opportunity [...]."

Anonymous said...

Thats a great letter/post and all, and I hate to rain on anyone's parade, but Phil Donahue resigned in 1996. He hasn't worked since unless you count that dumb show that was on MSNBC for 2 weeks.

Russell Hume said...

Actually, he is still President of the Catholic League. Check out their website. It is in this sense that his resignation is being demanded.

Anonymous said...

I never liked it when people told me atheists are too serious/angry/lack sense of humor.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it obvious that the Catholic League is an organization that, as you put it, has decided to embrace bigotry and prejudice?

Lippard said...

Becky: You are mistaken. "Darwinian" does not denote a particular ethical system or lack thereof.


If you look at the Catholic League's board of advisors, you will see that it is full of people who are just as irrational as Bill Donohue, including Dinesh D'Souza, Thomas Monaghan (of Domino's pizza, whose Thomas More Law Center defended Dover in Kitzmiller v. Dover), Republican nutball Alan Keyes, bogus complaint generator Brent Bozell III of the Media Research Center (formerly Parents Television Council), and a psychiatrist who has generated enormous nonsense about atheist psychology, Paul Vitz.

Sheldon said...

"Thats a great letter/post and all, and I hate to rain on anyone's parade, but Phil Donahue resigned in 1996. He hasn't worked since unless you count that dumb show that was on MSNBC for 2 weeks."

Just to set the record straight and that a good man is not maligned. You have confused Bill Donahue of the Catholic League and the subject of Alonzo's post with Phil Donahue.

The latter had a long running talk show from the 70s to 1996, and then a show on MSNBC from 2002-2003, (that was not dumb) and was cancelled due to pro-war hysteria.

More recently he was involved in producing a recent documentary film "Body of War" about a U.S. soldier, Thomas Young, wounded and paralyzed in the Iraq war.

dbonfitto said...

Ragnar's just looking for a rimshot, folks. Badum-bum-psshh!

The real trick is not to get atheists to call for Bill's resignation, but to get Catholics to call for it. Even better, get the Pope to call him a bigot.

Anonymous said...

Oh, lighten up! Donahue wasn't denigrating a whole set of people who hold a scientific view of evolution. He specifically refers to that vision which Myers embraces. Considering Myers' viciousness in desecrating that which is holy beyond measure to Catholics, it gives credence, fairly, to Donahue's term, "moral vacuity."