Sunday, January 13, 2013

#372: Mathew Staver

Since Amitakh Stanford, who makes Gene Ray look sane, is Australian (sample article here) we’ll do another American bigot instead.

Matt Staver is a founding member and Chairman of Liberty Counsel since 1989, and dean of Jerry Falwell’s legendary Liberty University School of Law since 2006. As a lawyer he primarily defends “value” cases (that is, he tries to get his bigotry with a tinge of theocracy endorsed as law), which he does with zeal, rage, and a notable lack of critical thinking skills (his most magnificently delusional argument ever may still be his argument for the claim that occasionally using the word “Holiday” when you could have used “Christmas” entails that you are a communist; he has also lamented the fact that college campuses don’t allow diversity, since colleges are generally liberal. His own college is presumably assumed to be an exception (see in particular this).

In 2005 he argued before the Supreme Court – in a manner worthy of Orly Taitz – that the Massachusets high court ruling on gay marriage was unconstitutional because it violated the guarantee in the federal constitution that every state would have a republican form of government. The argument is discussed here; an equally ridiculous follow-up is discussed here. I guess these were the points that qualified him to teach in Michele Bachmann’s Constitution Course. In a similar vein, after a district court judge rejected their challenge of California’s law that prohibits therapists from practicing dangerous sexual orientation conversion therapy on minors, Liberty Counsel decided to appeal, because, in Staver’s mind, the law promotes “child endangerment” and “will destroy many lives,” maintaining that “Jerry Sandusky would welcome a law like SB 1172”. The premises from which he derived those conclusions are still undisclosed.

In short, Staver just doesn’t have a clue; combine that with Taliban-style fundamentalism, and you get the common nonsense with a substantial amount of fuming anger to go with it. (See his take on the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic here for an example.)

To get a flavor of Staver, when the ACLU attempted to (and succeeded in) getting a school in Alabama to allow a lesbian couple to go to the prom, Staver’s response was that the case was typical of the ACLU in that “anything that is anti-moral, anti-religious liberty, and anti-freedom, you can always find them on the other side.” Overlooking the double negation mistake (the simplest rule of inference in standard natural deduction), what Staver is really saying is that ACLU is fighting against the government’s and official institutions’ right to limit the freedom of individuals. That is a strange position. But it seems to be the type of position he consistently endorses. (Discussed here.) As for the ACLU, Staver has argued that their War on Christmas is now forcing Christians into the closet.

And when irrationality and incomprehension don’t bring his point home, Staver is not above plain lying or resorting to deception: He has for instance tried to argue that schools across the country may be breaking the law by allowing students to participate in pro-homosexual events, the reason being that roughly half of the states require that if “sexuality is taught or discussed, it has to be done from an abstinence-based perspective.” (He got that argument from David Gibbs, whose name is hereby duly recorded for the Encyclopedia; indeed, Staver appears to have access to a lot of interesting facts that don’t exist for anyone else). You can see him declare that when the Southern Poverty Law Center labels anti-gay groups as “hate groups”, they are doing just what the Nazis did to the Jews (also here). But he is, according to himself, “not an alarmist”. He followed that affirmation with “but this [the 2012] election will literally determine the survival of Western civilization.”

Staver has also been caught recycling anti-gay propaganda from the fifties and passing it off as cutting-edge research. Here: is Staver and associate Matt Barber taking on the American Psychological Association for lacking competence (indeed, for being a “pseudo-scientific organization”) because its members don’t agree with Staver and Barber. Also the Bible.

A case in point: As Staver and his Liberty University School of Law associate Judith Reisman point out, the Catholic Church scandal can be blamed squarely on Alfred Kinsey because, well, his stuff sounds kinda liberal and Reisman has done some pseudoscientific rants that suggest that this conclusion is warranted since it was a presupposition for her “investigations”.

He has also weighed in on Obama’s “Super Death Panels” with staggering lack of logic and insight and a predictably rampant paranoia, which is justified because: “I would consider him [Obama] to be the biggest threat to religious liberty we've ever had because he will push the homosexual agenda,” (indeed, Staver has claimed that Obama is trying to force us all to be homosexuals), which suggests that there are some rather elementary concepts Staver never quite managed to master (see this, by the way) – besides the fact that he seems to take it as axiomatic that if the courts determine a case in a way he doesn’t like, it’s Obama’s fault. Here he is calling for a civil war (though it is the other side’s fault, of course).

In his rabid fight for/against freedom (note that “religious freedom” means freedom for Christians – Staver has explicitly denied that Islam is a religion and hence not covered by any freedom of religion measures), Staver has called for the boycott of Starbucks for their support of LGBT rights, and denounced the government’s “radical sexual anarchist agenda” (which may obscure the way in which LGBT is anti-freedom, but ok). The transgender part is apparently the worst, since recognizing transgendered people entails that adults will begin identifying as children so they “can go and use the little kiddies restroom,” and that transgendered people are similar to anorexics and bulimics, and therefore do not deserve legal rights (because ... anorexics and bulimics don't deserve legal rights?)

Needless to say he doesn’t enjoy much success in courts with these value cases. Relatedly Staver & Barber are of course among the numerous people who were praying for the Supreme Court to overturn the health care reform, which of course reveals a certain lack of understanding of how the Constitution works. But legal ignoramuses like Staver and Barber don't quite get the distinction between the Constitution and the Bible, or between the Constitution and their own knee-jerk bigotry -  even the expressed sentiment suggests that their opposition is not quite based on the perceived ineffectivity of the reformed health care but on something substantially more emotional (i.e. directionless hatred and cluelessness).

Staver also figured in the wingnut pseudo-documentary “The Dumbing Down of America”, produced by Truth in Action Ministries, which sought to unmask the sinister agenda of the ungodly institutions of public education – with rightwing luminaries such as Janet “public schools are based on a Hitlerian idea” Parshall, Dee “public schools are led by atheist, communist teachers who seek the eradication of Christianity” Wampler, Katherine Dang (of the Philomath Foundation) and Alliance Defense Fund’s  legal counsel Greg Baylor. Staver warned that public schools have created a “society that is ripe for chaos and disorder,” but Staver is associated with Liberty University, remember, so it is probably too much to expect that he would have any understanding of “education” and “learning facts”.

He is of course a staunch creationist.

There is a fine Staver resource here.

Diagnosis: Complete madman. Vile, dishonest, and apparently incompetent to boot. A perfect guy for the Law School at Liberty University.


  1. Staver
    calls on Americans to wake up and realize that what gay activists seek is to abolish morality (also here).

    Barber & Staver, in their usual vein, claims that Obama is pushing America toward civil war – it can’t be people like Barber & Staver who are to blame by being willing to take up arms to maintain discrimination against people they don’t like?

    Staver, who is supposed to be a constitutional scholar, remember, wants Obama impeached for blasphemy. What counts as a “scholarship” at Liberty University is obviously not what counts as scholarship elsewhere, but we knew that already.

  2. Some would call it hyperbole.

    And here Staver offers what Brayton deems to be his perhaps second dumbest argument ever. Which it probably isn't, but it is still pretty dumb.

  3. For a constitutional lawyer, Staver's understanding of the Constitution is rise if the supreme court backs marriage equality, since - apparently - the church is the real defenders of the Constitution whereas those secular judges just misunderstands the Bible (or the Constitution, same thing). Here, for good measure, is Staver denouncing some people who disagree with him. And here he denounces Obama for being the first president "who does not love America" (that is, Obama disagrees with Staver; therefore he hates America/God and the Bible/Constitution).

  4. Staver repeating his trite nonsense. Here he is miffed that his hate group is labeled a "hate group".

  5. Staver has recently voiced his concerns, given recent developments, concerning the imminent rise ofback-alley gay reversion therapy.

    He is also one of many wingnuts featured in a new “documentary” from Truth in Action Ministries.

  6. Staver, who - remember - is promoted as a Constitutional scholar, thinks Obama violates the First Amendment by supporting gay rights since homosexuality is an immoral and unhealthy lifestyle. And recognition of transgender rights means the abolition of civil rights.

    By some pretty tortured logic he concludes that ENDA will harm women and children, but at least it is not clear whether he thinks ENDA is unconstitutional. Wouldn't really surprise, though.

  7. Staver thinks ENDA and similar gay rights laws will put America on “the road toward a revolution” in order to resist the supposed anti-Christian persecution such measures (in Staver's mind) entails.

    And not only are such nefarious things as equality happening in the US - the US is even exporting the evil, as he reported after a visit to Peru.

    And as many of you have probably noticed, Liberty Counsel has made a movie, Uncommon, to be released in 2014 (trailers are already available, and it looks as hilariously inept as you'd predict).

  8. Stave still thinks that everybody may go gay under marriage equality, which still just has to make us wonder a little about his own relationship to his own sexuality. But that is, at least officially, part of the reason why he and Barber want to see Russian anti-gay laws in the US. And that is presumably partially why he thinks Obama is destroying the judiciary with black, "practicing homosexual" judicial nominee, since black homosexuals are obviously not qualified for such positions.

    He also called Michelle Obama an evil human being who is just like Adolf Hitler because she praised a community health clinic in Miami that serves the poor and uninsured. Such ungodly immorality is clearly unacceptable.

    And this one! This one is pure conspiracy land. This is lizard people level.

  9. Ed Brayton labels Staver one of th 3 dumbest lawyers in America, along with Larry Klayman and Orly Taitz.

  10. Mostly everybody who is professionally associated with Liberty University is an idiot - although many of the students may not be.
    I could never figure out: What is this obsession that these US fundamentalist christians have with gays and gay sex?
    It's like with Rick Santorum - the guy is totally obsessed with gay sex.
    Any man that talks to much about gays and gay sex is suspicious to me - even if they are condemning and criticizing it. They sound like they are trying to reassure themselves more than convince others of their views.