Photograph by Linda Greene

Protesters gathered outside Ballantine Hall on April 13 as evangelical bigot Douglas Wilson spoke inside. The Idaho minister has called American slavery "a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes and good medical care."

The Kinsey Institute chose not to dignify minister Douglas Wilson with a protest when he gave a talk in Bloomington described as a two-part lecture called "Sexual by Design," the first half Creation Sexuality and the second Redemption Sexuality. His April 13 speech in IU's Woodburn Hall included a commentary on Alfred Kinsey's ideas and activities.

Though the Kinsey Institute chose silence as the appropriate response to Wilson's presence in Bloomington, IU students and members of the larger community thought Wilson's views were too repulsive and dangerous to ignore. About 75 people gathered outside Woodburn Hall with signs lauding diversity and condemning hate, with some wearing "Out and Proud" buttons and either carrying or wearing rainbow flags, the symbols of LGBTQ liberation. The group walked over to nearby Ballantine Hall, where Wilson spoke.

The group frequently disrupted Wilson's talk with sarcastic and angry remarks, often laughing loudly at what he said. The IU police arrested one protester for refusing to be quiet and leave the hall. They released him a short time later.

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ClearNote Campus Fellowship, a ministry of Bloomington's ClearNote Church, invited Wilson to speak at IU.

From his resume Wilson sounds half-way legitimate. The pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, he is a founding board member of Logos School, a senior fellow in theology at New Saint Andrews College and an instructor at Greyfriars Hall, a ministerial training program at Christ Church.

Wilson, who helped establish the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches, is the editor of the journal Credenda/Agenda and is the author of numerous books on "classical" Christian education, the family, the church and the reformed faith.

After serving in the submarine service of the U.S. Navy, he completed bachelor's and master's degrees in philosophy and a bachelor's in classical studies from the University of Idaho.


Photograph by Linda Greene

Protesters met Wilson's hate-filled speech with calls for love and tolerance.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center, a watchdog organization that tracks right-wing groups, tells a different story. The center's senior fellow Mark Potok said in the spring 2004 issue of the Intelligence Report that Wilson "is part of the far-right theological movement fueling neo-Confederate groups."

During his three decades in Moscow, Wilson, the center says, has built a "far-right religious empire that include[s] a college, an array of lower schools, entire denomination of churches and Canon Press," which has published and sells 31 of Wilson's books.

Wilson, the center says, has developed a theology "that married an enthusiastic endorsement of the antebellum South with idea of religious government -- an ideology now at the center of the neo-Confederate movement."

Wilson, Potok says, has written that:

  • In some circumstances, the penalty for adultery should be execution.
  • Women should be permitted to date or "court" only with their fathers' permission and, if they're Christian, date and court with only other Christians.
  • Woman "was created to be dependent and responsive to a man."
  • A rapist should pay the victim's father a bride price and, if the father approves, should marry the victim.
  • Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people are "sodomites" and "people with foul sexual habits." He favors the "exile [of] some homosexuals, depending on the circumstances and the age of the victim."
  • Cursing one's parents is "deserving of punishment by death. Parental failure is not a defense." Christian parents "need not be afraid to lay it on" when spanking their children. If fact, in Wilson's world view, "godly discipline" should include spanking 2-year-olds for such "sins" as whining.
  • "A rapist should pay the victim's father a bride price and, if the father approves, should marry the victim."

    Wilson and Steven Wilkins are coauthors of Southern Slavery, as It Was, which includes the following "highlights":

  • "Slavery as it existed in the South ... was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence. ... There has never been a multiracial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world."
  • "Slave life was to [slaves] a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes, and good medical care."
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    In the first half of the lecture Wilson barely touched on sexuality. Instead, he regaled the audience with banal, reactionary interpretations of tedious stories about Biblical figures.

    There were some bizarre moments, too. Wilson said at his weekly Sabbath dinner with his extended family he asks the children religious questions individually but always ends by asking them to say in unison what the point of the Bible is. The correct answer, he said, is, "Kill the dragon, get the girl."

    At one point someone shouted that a "queer dance party" was taking place outside Ballantine Hall and everyone was invited.

    As Wilson droned on, with an annoying rhetorical habit of repeating sentences and phrases he seemed to think were especially salient and never mentioning Kinsey, the protestors quieted down.

    Outside the hall, labor studies professor Joe Varga observed he thought Wilson was purposely trying to "defuse" the protest by boring the protestors.

    Linda Greene can be reached at lgreene@bloomington.in.us.