(National Review) – Ben Carson, the noted pediatric neurosurgeon, has become the target of a petition by Johns Hopkins students who want him removed as the medical school’s commencement speaker this spring.
Dr. Carson became a media sensation in January when he questioned Obamacare and progressive taxation in a speech to the National Prayer Breakfast as President Obama sat just a few feet away from him.
With his new prominence, Carson has apparently also riled some liberals, including these Johns Hopkins students. Last Tuesday, he told Sean Hannity of Fox News that “marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are, they don’t get to change the definition.”
That inappropriate comparison of gays to members of the North American Man/Boy Love Association and those who practice bestiality, along with his pointed criticisms of liberal policies at the prayer breakfast, prompted a petition demanding that he be replaced with another commencement speaker. Carson has responded by telling the Baltimore Sun the following:
I think people have completely taken the wrong meaning out of what I was saying. First of all, I certainly believe gay people should have all the rights that anybody else has. What I was basically saying is that as far as marriage is concerned that has traditionally been between a man and a woman and nobody should be able to change that.
Now perhaps the examples were not the best choice of words, and I certainly apologize if I offended anyone . . . But the point that I was making was that no group of individuals, whoever they are, whatever their belief systems, gets to change traditional definitions. The reason I believe the way I do, I will readily confess, is because I am a Christian who believes in The Bible.
Carson says he is willing to forego his commencement duties if he is formally asked to. He explained to the Sun today, “This is their graduation, their big day, and if they think me being there is going to be a problem, I am happy to withdraw.”
We’ll see if his apology is accepted. If it’s not, it will become clear that an authoritarian anti-free speech mindset has set in with many gay-marriage supporters. Free and open debate is vital to discussing public-policy issues. In fact, it was liberal Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor who brought up the issue of bestiality during this week’s oral arguments on a gay-rights case, openly asking if the extension of marriage law to gays would open the courts up to lawsuits demanding equal marriage rights by polygamists and those who engage in bestiality.
Apparently, for many liberals, free-speech rights can be extended to people who agree with them or their allies, but those outside their circle had better be prepared for attempts to shut them up.