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Soon, Alan Turing May Stop Turning In His Grave

A Religious Right Watch Special Edition

Soon, Alan Turing May Stop Turning In His Grave

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Our buds (and we use the term loosely) at Family Research Council (FRC) seem to have taken a break from railing against healthcare reform, stoking the septuagenarians to disrupt town hall meetings and decrying pornography to send out a new screed titled, "President Obama Is Repaying His Pro-Homosexual Base—with Our Kids!"

Of course, it's a little hard to tell whether Obama actually has a "pro-homosexual base" or whether it's just that the vast majority of gays are Democrats because the New! Improved! Republican Party rejects them so thoroughly. After all, the 2008 party platform included a "plank" which says, "We affirm every citizen's right to apply religious values to public policy and the right of faith-based organizations to participate fully in public programs without renouncing their beliefs, removing religious objects or symbols, or becoming subject to government-imposed hiring practices. Forcing religious groups to abandon their beliefs as applied to their hiring practices is religious discrimination." (Translation: "If you're an anti-gay bigot, it's okay with us!")

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"Pro-homosexual educators and their sympathizers, who have been undermining parents' rights and your Christian values in the classroom for years, now have a powerful ally at the very top of the federal education bureaucracy," the screed begins. "President Obama appointed Kevin Jennings as assistant deputy secretary at the Department of Education in the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. Jennings, the founder of the radical Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network [GLSEN], is the leading advocate of promoting homosexuality in the schools. Now Jennings will have access to tens of millions of federal dollars—your taxes—to support programs that will: Turn public schools into homosexual recruiting centers [and] [f]orce vulnerable, eager-to-please youngsters to celebrate and experiment with immoral lifestyles and dangerous sexual behavior—beginning in kindergarten[!]." [Emphasis in original]

Now, any rational person who's given the issue any study at all understands that whether one is gay is a matter of biology, and if one is gay, whether one acts on those feelings seems to be partly biological and partly one's early training. The simplest test of this axiom for those who consider themselves straight is to ask themselves, "What sort of inducement would convince me to prefer my same gender, sexually, over the opposite gender?" (And guess what? If you can think of such an inducement, you're not totally straight.) (Deal with it.)

Almost needless to say, FRC never bothers to detail just how Jennings will "force" the "vulnerable, eager-to-please youngsters" to either "celebrate" or "experiment with immoral lifestyles and dangerous sexual behavior," much less how he'll do it with (way prepubescent) five- and six-year-olds, or even how public schools could become "homosexual recruiting centers" when such centers exist nowhere else in society—and, as noted through the above question, wouldn't work even if they did. But that's okay; the sort of people who give credence to anything FRC says have no trouble accepting the concept that anything a gay person does is tainted by... SATAN!

About the closest FRC comes to addressing its claims is a sidebar listing the alleged results of the "Obama administration's stealth campaign to force the homosexual agenda on America," most of which are simply attempts to prevent gays from being discriminated against by government programs: Repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell"; granting workplace protection to transgenders and providing some benefits which heteros already have to gay partners of government workers; ordering census-takers to count gay couples as couples; honoring gay rights activists; and even <gasp!> "Permitting employees of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, to hold a Gay Pride Theme Party, urging them to 'dress in drag or as a gay icon.'" (In college, we just called that a "frat party.")

And then there are the gays that Obama has moved into "top-level, influential U.S. government offices from which they can touch your family and freedoms." (And believe us, nobody in FRC wants a gay person touching their family.)

For instance, there's Harry Knox, "who believes dangerous, immoral sexual behavior is a gift from God," who now sits on the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, where he'll have "access to tens of millions of dollars to advance his agenda"—unless, of course, the other advisory council members vote it down. Also watch out for Fred Davie, the "openly homosexual president" of a "community activist organization," who was also "named" to the advisory council.

And then there's David Hansell, "former leader of the Gay Men's Health Crisis," who's now the "Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Administration for Children and Families" at the Department of Health and Human Services. "Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary"—boy, that's "top-level" for ya!

Oh, and watch out for John Berry, now the "first openly homosexual director" of the Office of Personnel Management, whose duties include "attracting and developing the best people for federal service"—and "Lord" knows, some of those "best people" might be <shudder> GAY! Even worse, Berry's "top legal advisor" is now Vic Basile, former executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, whose mission, according to the HRC website, is to "end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all." Wow! Just what FRC is against!

One of the charges FRC levels against Jennings is that he supposedly once stated, "I can envision a day when straight people say, 'So what if you're promoting homosexuality?... Ooh, that's good for kids.'"

Of course, that's not what he said. According to a transcript of Jennings' comments published in the Lambda Report, what Jennings actually said was, "Two years ago, one of our board members, one named Ann Simon, was called to testify before Congress when they had hearings on the promotion of homosexuality in schools. And we were busy putting out press releases, and saying, 'We're not promoting homosexuality, that's not what our program's about. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.' And my best friend, who's a straight woman who lives in London, e-mailed me…and she said, 'So what if you are?' And I thought of how I can get so wrapped up in my own defensiveness, and…the day-to-day struggle, and stuff, that being finished might some day mean that most straight people, when they would hear that someone was promoting homosexuality, would say 'Yeah, who cares?' because they wouldn't necessarily equate homosexuality with something bad that you would not want to promote. And when we were talking there, and Mike said, 'You know, and I'd like five years from now—right now let's face it, for large swells of people they think of GLSEN and kids, and they think, 'GLSEN is bad for kids.' They do because of their stereotypes and misinformation—I'd like five years from now for most Americans when they hear the word GLSEN to think, 'Ooh, that's good for kids.'''

In other words, in 1995, when the Republican-dominated House of Representatives was holding hearings about the alleged "promotion" of homosexuality in schools—which, of course, is absurd on its face but a common right-wing claim nonetheless—Jennings began to realize that education about (not "promotion of") homosexuality, which is GLSEN's mission, was not something he and his associates had to apologize for; that only because of "stereotypes and misinformation" would anyone think that educating people (including kids) about lifestyles about which they might not be familiar would be a Bad Thing.

And of course, it's that very educational process that FRC uses to bash Jennings. For instance, FRC takes him to task for creating "I am an Ally" pledge cards, where signers promise to intervene whenever they hear "anti-LGBT language"—an excellent way to teach kids that hate speech can hurt. Another educational venture that FRC tries to twist into iniquity is the organization's real sex ed seminars where "homosexual behavior" (cocksucking?) is "explained in graphic detail." FRC also claims, based on a (typically erroneous) WorldNetDaily report, that GLSEN members distributed to elementary school kids a booklet titled "Little Black Book: V. 2. Queer in the 21st Century," which contains information on how gays can engage in safe sex. Jennings also is taken to task for suggesting to a gay 15-year-old, "You know, I hope you knew to use a condom" rather than reporting the kid's liaison to the police.

Enclosed with the FRC materials is "A Letter of Deep Concern" for its recipients to sign, which states, "Mr. Jennings has proved through his public statements, GLSEN's activities, and his books that he sees the public schools as a means to undermine parental right, promote homosexual behavior, and win new converts to a dangerous and immoral lifestyle," and concludes, "Therefore, I urge you to defend our children by (1) refusing to accept federal funds that in any way—directly or indirectly—promote or condone homosexuality; (2) refusing to accept curricula supported by the federal government that in any way promote or condone homosexuality; and (3) refusing to allow in our classrooms materials or programs that promote or condone homosexual behavior."

And of course, when returning your signed copy of the letter, you can also enclose a donation to FRC.

But what, you may ask, is the point of the above? We suppose it may have something to do with the timing. The FRC materials are dated "August, 2009," and coincidentally, August, 2009 is also the month that ace computer programmer John Graham-Cumming, CEO and founder of software manufacturer Electric Cloud, together with a group of other programmers and mathematicians, has placed a petition on the official UK government website, number10.gov.uk, asking that Prime Minister Gordon Brown "apologize for the prosecution of Alan Turing that led to his untimely death."

And who, you may ask, was Alan Turing?

"Turing's work has affected us all," said Graham-Cumming. "He is best known for his involvement in Second World War code breaking (especially for helping to break the Enigma code) and if that was all he had done we would be grateful."

The subject of several movies, the "Enigma code" was the code created by an Enigma machine, which consisted of a series of rotors controlled by a typewriter-style keyboard which used both gears and manually-adjusted settings to create a highly-encrypted message from plain text. During World War II, Turing devised a number of codebreaking techniques, but in particular, he built a sort of anti-Enigma decoder called the "bombe," which automatically selected every possible rotor position of the German Enigma machine and applied a test. The test eliminated thousands of possible positions of the Enigma rotors, and the few remaining potential solutions were then examined by hand, thus greatly reducing the time necessary to break German coded messages. While this and other devices he invented didn't "win the war," they certainly helped and in 1945, he was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for his ground-breaking work.

But that's not all.

"Turing was also a critical pioneer of computer science," Graham-Cumming continued. "He defined a theoretical model of computers that holds true today. He suggested how we might determine whether a computer was sentient. His death should remind us how prejudice ruins and degrades."

The "Turing test" is perhaps Turing's greatest honor and legacy. Turing was on the team that designed the very first "Automatic Computing Engine," and delivered a paper containing the first detailed design of a "stored-program computer"; that is, a computer which could use pre-programmed routines to solve problems from inputted data. Think of it (and Turing) as the great-great grandfather of the modern PC.

But in 1950, Turing tackled the question of artificial intelligence—creating a machine that could actually think independently of its programming—and devised a method of testing that ability which has become known as the "Turing test." The idea was that a computer could be said to "think" if it could prevent an interrogator, holding text-only "conversations" with both a human and a computer, from being able to tell which conversation was with the machine. Each year, the Cambridge (Mass.) Center for Behavioral Studies awards a prize to the individual or group which has created a machine best able to simulate human responses.

But why should Turing's death "remind us how prejudice ruins and degrades"? Simple: Turing was gay, and after admitting that fact to police in the course of their investigation of a burglary at Turing's house, he was charged with "Gross Indecency," which in 1952 was a crime in England.

Turing was given a choice between going to prison or agreeing to undergo hormonal treatments which amounted to a form of chemical castration for a year. He chose the latter, but the conviction led to the removal of his security clearance and barred him from continuing his cryptography and computer work for the British government. Two years later, the 41-year-old Turing committed suicide by eating a cyanide-laced apple, possibly reenacting a scene from "Snow White," his favorite fairy tale.

"What really annoyed me about this was, here was a man who died in his early 40s because he was a homosexual," Graham-Cumming explained to the British newspaper The Independent. "He was a war hero but here was a part of our history that we were turning a blind eye to when we should be celebrating it. There were a lot of homosexual people during the war doing incredible work – if it was not for Turing we would most likely be having this conversation in German."

The current petition, which sadly can only be signed by British citizens and resident aliens, seeks to reaffirm Turing's monumental contributions to the world of computer science. At press time, it had over 5,000 signatures.

So thanks, Family Research Council: Not only has your and your followers' religious prejudice against gays prevented some first-class thinkers from contributing to the advancement of modern society (not to mention, left the U.S. military sorely lacking in Arabic translators), it's caused at least one of the greatest minds in history to commit suicide.

Maybe FRC can include a denouncement of Turing in its next fundraising screed.






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Mark Kernes

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