A Tale of Two Commentaries 731.1

Preface: The 90-second limit for my radio commentaries precludes a more thorough discussion of some issues. This “essay” is an expanded version of what was broadcast. Please remember my personal views in the commentaries, especially on controversial matters like these, are NOT views either endorsed or espoused by the Institute or the CHARACTER COUNTS! program. The Institute and CHARACTER COUNTS! simply advocate respectful and civil discourse on such issues. As always, I invite your reaction.

Based on letters and posts to my commentary blog, I disappointed or disgusted more listeners and readers in this past week than in any other week in the nearly 15-year history of these messages.

During the week, I shared my dismay and anger about the Casey Anthony trial, concluding with a tacky reference to her and O.J. Simpson as a possible couple. Many listeners took me to task – and rightly so. I wrote the commentary under the influence of passion and frustration, failing to follow my own advice. On review, I’m ashamed of this one. It was basically a self-indulgent tirade. What’s worse, it could add fuel to unfair and potentially dangerous denunciations of jurors who clearly did their job to the best of their ability. I let down those who come to my commentaries for more thoughtful analysis. You deserve better, and I sincerely apologize for this lapse of judgment.

The number and tone of the negative letters on the Casey Anthony trial, however, paled in comparison to the reaction to my commentary about same-sex marriage.

As I predicted, that reaction was split between those who agreed with me, or at least thought my participation in this controversy was appropriate, and those who disagreed, not only with my conclusion but with my decision to give my opinion at all. As you might imagine, the naysayers were much more vigorous than the supporters.

I was pleased that many who expressed fervent objection to my remarks did so in a thoughtful and respectful manner appropriate to civil discourse. Still, lots of letters were viciously hostile. They didn’t just criticize my opinion, they condemned me personally. I was called Godless, gutless, and characterless. I was accused of cowardice and selling out. Several made the point that they would never again listen to or quote anything I say. They promised to boycott the Josephson Institute and any other program I’m associated with.

This was upsetting but not surprising. I’ve talked many times about the inability or unwillingness of some people to believe in and advocate for their convictions without demeaning or demonizing those who are equally sincere and passionate in coming to different conclusions.

Unlike my Casey Anthony rant, which was rash, I thought long and hard about my remarks on same-sex marriage. I wrote and recorded the commentary knowing full well that whichever way I went would please some and upset others.

To some, the issues of homosexuality and marriage are conclusively in the domain of their particular religious beliefs. Others view this as a social-political issue. There’s no doubt that the religious and political aspects of the question of same-sex unions are significant, and I truly understand and respect positions grounded in religious or political ideology.

For me, however, the ethical implications of permitting or preventing gay and lesbian adults to have their committed relationships treated the same as those of fellow citizens involved in historically traditional relationships are important and well within the domain of my mission.

In fact, my personal view on this issue evolved over the past few years as I tried to better understand the varying positions during the debate in California of Proposition 8, a referendum on same-sex marriage. During the debate, conversations with partisans on both sides helped me better understand the sincerity of those who believe homosexuality is a sinful choice that shouldn’t be condoned in any way, as well as those who speak from personal experience and assert that their sexual disposition is inborn and that it is wrong to treat them as sinners or to view their committed relationships as morally or legally inferior. Many are religious people who believe they are the way God made them.

These discussions helped me realize that, whether people proudly proclaim or diligently try to conceal their sexual orientation, being gay subjects them to a wide range of abuses and prejudices. I also came to realize that the issue of relationship equality is profoundly important to them. And by “them,” I refer not to a nameless, faceless constituency but to millions of real people – sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and co-workers – who I believe are entitled to be judged, loved, and treated on their merits as human beings, not on their sexual dispositions. (I’m less concerned with whether the term “marriage” or “civil union” is applied to the legalistic aspects of their relationship as I am with my belief that gay and lesbian men and women should not be treated or thought of as second-class citizens.)

I did not come to this conclusion casually, and I did so knowing there would be significant negative impact from my decision to express my opinion. I do not ignore or belittle the many good and decent people, especially conservative Christians and Jews (many of whom I’m proud to call my friends), who have been most vocal on this issue and most offended and angry by my previous commentary.

As a lifelong student of comparative religion and various theories of how the holy scriptures of each religion came to be written, I came to realize that theological debates within each religion – and even within the same denomination within each religion – about the source, translation, meaning, and modern applicability of certain passages, are intense and fundamentally irreconcilable. Thus, no matter what “side” one chooses on any disputed issue, there are those who are convinced you are wrong.

Regardless of the roots and content of my current religious beliefs, however, I view the message of love, acceptance, and forgiveness preached by Jesus to be among the most constructive and impactful ever articulated. I could wear a “What would Jesus do?” bracelet as a guide to personal behavior. In fact, it is this message of love and acceptance that is, I think, the most commonly accepted theme of all Christian denominations and many other religions.*

You may disagree, but my interpretation of the thrust and theme of the philosophy of Jesus leads to the belief that, were he presented with the question, he would be tolerant and accepting.

The bottom line is that my opinion in support of the New York law allowing same-sex marriages and my decision to express that opinion represent my sincere conviction that it was the right thing to do. Doing what I thought was right has cost more than I wanted to pay, but I don’t regret doing it.


* I definitely do not want to get into scriptural debates as I confess I do not feel bound by every ritual or behavioral prescription condoned or commanded in the Bible. (Religious Tolerance is a useful source of some troublesome passages, while Hard Verses does a good job of rebutting arguments of selective application of Biblical passages.) In some people’s eyes, that decision alone disqualifies me as someone worth listening to.

Comments 29

  1. Thank you for your commentary today (July 8). I commend you for admitting that you jumped to conclusions. We all do it.
    Thank you for realizing it.
    Regarding your commentary on gay’s, I missed that one, but based on your remarks & the hateful responses you got, I am sure I am in agreement with your position.

  2. On gays you are WRONG!!! On the Anthony trial you were out of line….Do not make it worse by rationalizing it with: “doing what I thought was right cost more than I wanted to pay, but I don

  3. Please don’t apologize. Say what you feel. You are one of the few that provides commentary with heart and complete honesty. So many Americans are concerned about political correctness that we are all becoming overly cautious and fail to miss the point. I suspect those on the Casey Anthony felt compelled through pressure and over-analyzing, to vote for acquittal. They were wrong. “Reasonable doubt” is based on the thoughts of a reasonable person. Our society has become so diluted in our feelings that “reasonable” has taken on a whole new meaning, and as as a result we have become indecisive. We fail to discipline our children, we simply fail to say what we believe and exact consequences. While I don’t always agree with you, keep up the good work and don’t apologize. I respect you because of your willingness to commit to, and share your thoughts with America. I mean this beyond a “shadow of a doubt”.

  4. Mr. Josephson:
    While scanning my radio on the way to work this morning, I caught the tail end of your program on AM1070…I was intrigued. When I got to work, i found this website and had the opportunity and pleasure to read the opinion you stated which was the subject of your commentary today; i.e., same sex marriage. Although I do agree with one of the comments given that your opinion was a little late in coming, I still believe that it was better late than never. I am writing because your statement today that it “cost you more than you wanted to pay”, although intentionally ambiguous and vague, could be construed, perhaps, to a loss of listeners. So I am writing to tell you that for as many listeners that you lost, for stating your honest opinion, you also may have gained…I am one. You have gained a listener in me from now on. And yes I do believe that character counts. Keep up the good work.

  5. I agreed with your position on the Anthony case; and, do not believe you needed to do this follow-up; but I respect your decision to do what you need to do.
    You are human…we all are, and you made a strong personal statement about an extraordinary verdict, that lacked rational,logical, critical thinking, and was arrived at by, what seems to be, the jury’s inability or unwillingness to understand evidence and discern speculation from reality. The prosecution could have done a better job too.

  6. I have been listening to your commentaries for most of the 15 years you have been sharing them. I feel that I have grown from hearing your OPINIONS. Please note that I have highlighted the word OPINIONS. I tend to share most of your OPINIONS, but appreciate your right to express your different views as well. That anyone would decry your right to express your OPINIONS, even when those OPINIONS are based on the passion of the heat of a moment. I happen to share your views on the Anthony trial. I am outraged that the jury did not find this mother who lied about the whereabouts of her child for more than a month guilty of any level of child neglect or abuse. Perhaps they had a “rush to judgement” – the same terms that were used by OJ Simpson’s defense team. And your well-thought out views on Gay marriage are also appreciated.

  7. Please don’t beat yourself up (Ref: Anthony case, etc.). You are one of the very few stand-up guys in an era when we sorely need more good people like you, who are in possession of a valid moral compass. Many thanks for your lessons and thoughtful comments. Please keep up your good work.

  8. You have no need to apologize. You expressed an honest opinion that was based on your legal experience and your moral and ethical experience. It is refreshing to hear or read something so clear as opposed to many in the political world who speak and one wonders what they truly believe or are they simply trying attract votes.
    Keep up the good work. You are a real “mensch.”

  9. I enjoy your comments and listen to you on am1070 you are one of the most kind and thoughtful people I listen to.Keep up your good work and no need to apologize……You are human and have a right to express yourself sorry some feel they will no longer support you you will gain more listeners
    because you are very honest hard to find these days…I will be listening and reading your comments daily…..thanks so much for your wonderful work very refreshing its a FEEL GOOD kind of thing

  10. I agree with your after-analysis of the Anthony trial – jumping to emotional conclusions leads me to rash conclusions I often regret as well. I have trouble condeming 12 jurors who are no doubt like juries I have served on: thoughtful and intelligent people who not only listened to all the evidence but also the judge’s instructions. I heard only a very filtered bit on the news and don’t feel qualified to judge their work. Personally I feel the legal system generally works in this country.
    With respect to your views on gay marriage, I am not surprised that you took so much heat on that. I am also not surprised that many were less than civil — too many people are unable to deal with subjects they feel are deeply against their beliefs without letting emotions overcome them. I think it merits noting that had your views favored the other side of the issue, you could have expected unreasonable and irrational responses from some on the other side in probably the same proportion. Civility is not the sole possession of either side in most debates, this one included.
    Thank you for sharing your views with us, and for having the courage to admit when you make a bad decision.

  11. While I do not agree with you on homosexual marriage, I believe the subject is appropriate to discuss in the context of your terrific website, nor is my respect and admiration for you in any way lessoned. I am sorry you were treated to hostile and unkind remarks for voicing your opinion. The topic is, I admit, one I wrestle with a good deal. You see, through personal experience with family, I have learned to endorse and support the right of homosexual couples being parents. But the marriage question, to me, keeps boiling down to….basic biology. In “marriage,” there is, by definition, the husband (a man) and the wife (a woman). Changing this basic definition and carrying its logic to any other topic allows one to say “left is right” and “up is down”- and we would have to accept that as truth. But committed homosexual couples should have all the rights, status and advantages as a married heterosexual couple, and their union should be recognized with the same status as a married couple, but that union is not, and should not be called, “marriage.” At least- this my opinion now. It could change over time; I try to keep intellectually flexible.

  12. Michael’s sentence about Casey and O.J. was a little out of character, and I appreciate his apology — but his comment was an accurate portrayal of the frustration many of us feel after the verdict. The prosecution did its best, and so did the jury, but the outcome was wrong. I encourage readers to peruse the website Hinky Meter, especially the Profile section. It is scholarly, well-presented, and compelling. I found it quite by accident… Anyone who reads the items posted there will be further convinced that a psycopathic, narcissistic, manipulative person got away with murder and is probably laughing about it.

  13. If stating “I am gay” means “I lust after others”, then this is a struggle that we all deal with…not just those with same-sex attraction. This is not unique. Surely we can all appreciate the struggle and encourage each other to keep our lustful desires under control. This is what “character” is all about. If “I am gay” means I want to indulge in my lustful desires and I want you to affirm me in doing so – that is against character! It is affirming something that will destroy another. Indulging in lust is NOT healthy. Using others for sexual gratification is NOT loving – it is selfish. No law can define marriage…already defined. Any form of sexuality apart from marriage and procreation is inherently wrong.

  14. Thank you for your comments on both the Casey Anthony trial and the gay marriage issue.
    I have been with my husband for 5 + years now, and we were lucky enough to be in the pre-proposition 8 “window”, so we were able to get married legally in California. I agree that whether you call it marriage, or a civil union, as long as the two agreeing individuals either straight or gay have equal rights and are treated the same. Even though our marriage has a signed certificate, we are far from being treated fairly.
    The hospital issue seems to be a smaller issue especially in big cities as many or most people have accepted the gay community. One thing that really bothers me is how after working for 30+ years and paying over $500,000 into social security, if I die, my partner gets nothing. However it would be a windfall if I had a sham marriage with a woman. It also is a similar story for us transferring our savings to our partner / sopuse upon death…i.e. 401K etc. A man and a woman have a taxless transfer, wile the same sex couple gets heavily taxed when one member of their partnership passes. That is NOT equal treatment!
    On another governmental / economic issue, gay weddings stimulate the economy with hotels, catering, photographers, florists, licenses, travel etc. Everyone benefits.
    If you don’t like gay marriage that’s fine, have a straight relationship. It doesn’t bother me, why should it? I (we) just ask that you do the same. I totally understand if a religious sect does not want to perform a gay marriage (although they gladly take our money in the collection plate), but at least let us have a civil union that treats us fairly!
    Thank you!

  15. Isn’t it interesting how people condemn people that condemn people? Most religions remind us to take the telephone pole out of our own eye before taking the toothpick out of our neighbors.
    Your mistake made you, for me, more credible than ever. How many times I have opened my mouth and later regretted what came out of it. Condemning criticism often comes from mouths that are quick to condemn and criticize. How well I know!
    Your commentary is a testimony that we are all on the path of, hopefully, positive change. Recognizing our mistakes and correcting them can be a painful, yet profitable, experience. The importance in these exercises in growth pain is that we get the lesson.
    Sin is, perhaps, a mistake in need of correction, not punishment or condemnation. We make the correction or learn from the error and don’t do it again (“… go and sin no more”). Love never condemns, yet holds us responsible for our behavior.
    You have done what you could do to correct your mistake. Good job!

  16. I was surprised when I read your commentary on Casey Anthony. Not because I agreed or disagreed, but it didn’t seem like you. Then I remembered that you are a person who faces the same challenges we all face each and every day. At some point in our lives, each of us reacts to a specific situation. Later we may regret that reaction or just feel that we should have taken a breath. Your opinion was your opinion and you had every right to express it. In regards to the matter of gay marriage, my opinion (and your opinion) are our own opinions. I have lost friends over discussions involving politics, race, religion, etc. What I have come to realize is that they may not change my mind and I may not change theirs. However, I have a responsibility to listen to them and respectfully agree or disagree. My personal goal is to “agree to disagree” if that is the case. My upbringing taught me that Jesus was about love and compassion. Even he lost his patience once in awhile. But he died for my sins. The least I can do to honor him is to treat all people with kindness. And if I don’t agree with their opinion, I can always turn the other cheek if attacked!

  17. I will admit that I was very disappointed with your commentary regarding the same-sex marriage controversy and I read what seemed like a hundred different comments to it, both pro and con. At the time, I saw no need to add to the controversy. However, I will give a personal experience of mine that has helped me with this issue over the years. As a student in a graduate course at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale during the 1979-80 school year entitled, Sexual Rehabilitation and Therapy, taught by Dr. Harris Rubin, a renown authority at the time on this topic, I will never forget the day he came to class and addressed the issue of homosexuality. Dr. Rubin’s particular expertise was sex criminals and at the time he interviewed every sex criminal that was sentenced to the state peneteniary in Illinois. On the topic of homosexuality, Dr. Rubin made in extraordinarily clear that NO ONE is born homosexual. Dr. Rubin was a trained clinical psychologist and he bluntlty stated that homosexuality is a LEARNED behavior and he based that on his personal years of study and research. Thus, if homosexuality is a learned behavior, it can be changed as with any behavior. Therefore, I find it impossible to support an institution (same-sex marriage) and behavior (homosexuality) that cannot be justified as a normal behavioral pattern.

  18. Thank you for continuing to express your views and explaining why you come to your conclusions. Your commentaries are a great asset in assisting others to form their own opinions.
    As for the ongoing controversy about what constitutes a marriage, the legal definition of marriage and the religious definition of marriage have both changed significantly in recent history. The word “marriage” now has many confusing definitions. Society, the law, and different religions need to develop a new vocabulary for the multitude of different unions between two or more people.
    Just as different languages have multiple words to describe types of weather conditions; humans need different words to describe their unions. My husband (man) and I (woman) were joined in marriage both legally and in the eyes of our God many years ago when “marriage” meant the union of a man and a woman. “Married” no longer has that meaning, so we hope the brilliant minds of the world are able to coin some new words so we can answer the question “Are you married?”

  19. If someone chooses to be gay or lesbian or is born that way…I could care less. But I will not stand by silently while the courts make a mockery of the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. What’s next? Pedophilia? You can start marrying children legally? How about Bestiality? Sure just get the courts to vote on it and you can marry your pet sheep…make sure you pick out the pretty one! Damn bunch of Socialist/Progressives. if this is progress God help us all…or am I still allowed to invoke the blessing of our Lord and Savior? You people make me ill.

  20. You needn’t apologize; I appreciate you sharing your views. I believe gays have rights, although I think their union should not be called marriage.
    Concerning the Anthony trial: I once served on a jury and everyone was convinced of the defendant’s guilt in the charges of drunk driving. We had a hung jury (11-1) because one woman took the judge’s instructions to heart when it came to reasonable doubt: she said that she didn’t witness the accident so she would always have a reasonable doubt that it happened. I believe the American judicial system has swung way too far to protect guilty people when it comes to technicalities and loopholes. Again, thank you for continuing to share your views with us.

  21. The Good Lord put you on this earh to do EXACTLY what you are doing, God Bless you for that! In this world today, we need more people like you! I have such respect for you, because of your willingness to commit to, and share your thoughts with us! Keep up the good work, I’m am VERY proud of you!

  22. It is interesting to me how many people criticize gays because their “union” cannot produce children. Is the only reason for marriage to produce children? Does this mean that couples who cannot reproduce should not have sex or be considered “married” because they do not have children? Does this mean that sex is wrong unless the intent is to reproduce? What does this mean for all the people who have had their children, have opted for permanent birth control or have reached the age where child bearing is no longer possible? Are they sinning when they indulge in physical pleasure? If two people wish to share their lives together and commit to a loving, permanent relationship, then they are married. End of story.

  23. One of the biggest issues to me, is that those on the side of accepting gay marriage don’t want it just to be an acceptable thing to do but want to cram it down the throats of everyone else, forcing everyone not only to accept it but to embrace it and love it, and teach it to others. It is one thing to make it allowable but they want to trample on the religious freedoms of others, making it a crime to disagree with it or refuse to participate in it. We have many instances of allowing what some may think is “sinful” behavior, but others are not forced to embrace that behavior if they have religious beliefs contrary to it. I would like to see you address this in a commentary.
    Another very hypocritical part of this, is that they want it taught in the schools, that people who did good things had sex with their same sex and glorify this, yet want to punish students for sexting. They want to bring sexual activity out in the open and glorify it then are surprised when students become more involved in it, AND it seems that it is the heterosexual behavior that is the problem that students participate in.
    It is one thing to participate in homosexual activity and that is allowable but why does it have to be glorified and cause the trampling of other people’s religious beliefs?

  24. Michael, your commentary on gay marriage was awesome. I have no doubt whatsoever that my grandchildren will look at this time in history the same way we now look at interracial marriage, or even suffrage – with no understanding on how we ever thought this was a problem. In fact my 17 year old (straight) boy feels this now. Thank you for ‘putting your money where your mouth is’, even at an uncomfortable cost. What I always try to teach my boys is what it means to be a real man – admit when you screw up, and take a stand on what you believe in.

  25. The comment about Dr. Rubin, “a trained clinical psychologist”, stating that homosexuality is a trait that can be changed because you are not born with it, after interviewing sex-crime related convicted felons brings him to an erroneous conclusion in my opinion. Almost all sex offenders are straight men and the majority of them are family members. Check it out.
    Do some research and find out what other “trained clinical psychologists” are saying instead of taking the word of one person. I have friends who visited marriage counselors for advice and after it didn’t work out, found out later the counselors had been married several times. Anyone can give advice. But, if I were looking for advice on something that important, I’d get at least two opinions.
    And Michael, I think you are absolutely right about accepting people for who they are, not what we would like them to be.

  26. Michael,
    Jesus would never tolerate wrong. He forgives freely and equally. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us any less, as well as nothing we can do to make Him love us any more. He stated that your sins are forgiven AND stated now go and Sin NO more. There are moral absolutes whether we want to agree or disagree with the position.

  27. Michael:
    I understand your thoughtful comments on legal marriange for homosexuals. I am struggling with someone close to me who has been a heterosexual most of their life and is now in a homosexual relationship. This individual is young but has dated and had intense relationships with the opposite sex.
    What suddenly changes a heterosexual individual into one who chooses homosexuality? Are we encouraging young people to become homosexuals…because frankly it is now seen as “trendy.”
    I agree that committed homosexual couples who have for years been together cetainly should be permitted to marry…but what about this trend for young people? Is this what we want to encourage?

  28. Yes, one of the primary purposes of marriage is to have children – why would anyone believe otherwise? Can family be defined in any other way? For families to have children is a difficult, beautiful, expensive and noble endeavor. That is why the state is willing to cooperate by given tax-breaks. The state understands the noble calling of perpetuating society. To live together equals being a family? Roomates in a dorm are now a family? No…only when they start using each other sexually…now we have a family? Hello?

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