The Nones Vote more regularly than the “Evangelicals”




Bullshit pollsters and whore journalists have now taken to dissing the potential impact of the non-religious in the upcoming election. The meme is that while there may be more and more people rejecting religious identification and religious belief, they don’t vote so they don’t matter. This is complete and total bullshit.

While bullshit polls like PRRI’s crap show gods know what, and I don’t care (or even believe in gods or fairies) our only real studies like the GSS show that people who reject religious identification voted at rates comparable too if not exceeding that of sectarian Protestants—who like to call themselves “evangelical.” In 2012, 61% of nones voted, while 64% of sectarian Protestants voted. And, if we only look at whites (the real Americans, right?) 62% of nones voted while only 60% of sectarians voted.

The fact is Liberal Protestants and Moderate Protestants vote at much higher rates than other Americans. But, the growing and now very large portion of the electorate who is non-religious also votes at least as much as their adversaries on the far-right in the sectarian denominations. Importantly, among whites in the 2014 GSS 23% have no religious identification while just over 18% identify with sectarian Protestant groups. AND, the white nones voted at HIGHER rates than the white sectarians in the 2012 Presidential election. Hence, they are a MORE important voting block than the white sectarian Christians.


It Shouldn’t Be a Competition

Ha! You lost, sucker!

Ha! You lost, sucker!

Driving off to the Saint Louis airport to go to the Sociology Prom I was confronted with a familiar sight blocking my view of the Gateway Arch—dozens of signs advertising the merits of various public universities from Illinois and Missouri. The signs continue all up and down the five interstate highways coming into STL, and represent hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenditures per month just in sign rental—not including the millions paid to marketing consultants who puke out the jingoistic verbage and bad artwork, all of which is strikingly similar (especially when you travel the country and see the same shit for a different school 200 or 2000 miles away). But, we have to compete, right? If public schools don’t compete for students, then they’ll lose. But why? This is complete bullshit and an utter waste of public education resources.

State sponsored universities have a clear mission–to educate deserving students in and from their state. We shouldn’t be competing to draw in students from nearby states—yet now we give in-state tuition to students from Kentucky, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Indeed, for regional campuses, competition for students is anathema to their mission. States are supposed to have a flagship campus with rigorous admission standards, an elite agricultural and engineering campus in higher population agricultural states, some regional research universities depending on the population, and a set of smaller four year colleges. Students who don’t get into the flagship or engineering school but are college material should go to the regional research university or to the four year college closest to home (or furthest from home, if they prefer).

Instead, funding formulas based on body counts have led many flagships to open up enrollment, diminishing the bodies available for regional universities like my humble campus. And, this pushes the regionals to do likewise, and that trickles down to the 4 year colleges—particularly in states with declining college-age populations like Illinois. Add in competition from other states, and it is a recipe for disaster for many universities. Right now, Western and Eastern Illinois are on the brink of collapse, and Chicago State is almost dead.

We do the same thing at the University level. Colleges and departments are placed in high-stakes competition with one another. How many majors do you have? How many core curriculum students do you teach? If you can’t prove your worth in terms of credit hour production, your department is put on the chopping block. There is no vision that you can’t have a university without a physics or philosophy department. Why should physics or German have to compete for majors? At my humble university, very few students are smart enough to major in physics or math or philosophy—but we need those departments to educate people and give them a chance to be exposed to those fields. And, yes, fewer students will choose to study German than Spanish. So what? Taking that opportunity to learn away from students at regional and 4 year colleges restricts their horizons. Some students will choose German. A few may even excel and major in German. But that won’t be the case when you close the department and stop teaching German as a language option.

Competition among higher education institutions and departments helps further the right wing agenda to eliminate public education. That way, only the wealthy will be able to afford college—like when America was great.

Bringing Psychopathology Back In: Part IV, Extremist Violence from and against the State



I’ve slowly begun working on a paper I’ve had in mind for over a decade. It focuses on the prevalence and importance of psychopathology for social movements, but also for other actors in the field of politics and organizations. Cross-cultural studies show that 5% of human populations suffer from serious mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, and another 5% suffer from serious anxiety, compulsive, or depressive disorders. It seems ill-advised for sociologists to ignore this aspect of the human condition.

Last week we had yet another (or probably six) shooting of an unarmed African American by a police officer. The poor guy is a therapist in a group home and he literally had his hands in the air while lying on his back—and still the cop shot him, three times. I think I know why, and simple racism isn’t enough.

Nearly 30 years ago I was shot by a stranger in a convenience store parking lot. It wasn’t on television or even considered remarkable because the guy was a Vietnam vet who was physically and psychologically disabled. We used to joke about that shit back in the 1970s and 1980s. Crazy Vietnam vets holed up in a trailer with a bunch of guns waiting for the Viet Cong to show up.  Vietnam Vets were lucky. Unless you wanted to make a career in the military, if you were unlucky enough to be sent to ‘Nam it was only for one 4-6 month tour. Still, the horrors of war interact with comorbid physical injuries and latent mental health problems to exacerbate and channel psychotic behavior. If you have a schizoid disorder or bipolar with psychoses and you’ve killed people and or watched people die in war, you’re unlikely to express symptoms through believing you’re the Easter Bunny, and much more likely to have dangerous paranoid delusions.

We have been at war for 15 years, and before that fought a low level war in several parts of the Middle East as well as in what is now Bosnia and Serbia. Unlike in the past, over the last 15 years the US has subjected regulars and even National Guard members to long and arduous tours of duty in Iraqistan. People are pulled from their jobs and families and sent to kill and die (mostly the former, though). Given that this is a volunteer military, it raises serious questions about selectivity and psychopathology—particularly given the lowering of all manner of standards for all branches of service (except the Merchant Marines and the Coast Guard….).

One thing you get out of military service, particularly if you are white and male, is extremely strong affirmative action for employment in police departments. Indeed, there are virtually no other requirements for employment in most forces save for a short training stint at a police academy—where you are taught by people with very similar experiences, proclivities, and likely psychopathologies.  Our  veteran police officers are almost uniformly veterans of our warmongering enterprises in Iraq and Afghanistan, and most likely suffer the trauma of such involvement. Yet we give them guns and train them to shoot first. Who knows what that “SWAT” team member saw. I saw a developmentally disabled adult sitting in the road with a guy who looks like Black Santa Claus. The cop may have seen a big hulking Afghani who pulled a grenade and fragged his buddies in Kabul.

Ah, but let us not forget our ethnically diverse military. Many of those who chose to join are ethnic minorities. African Americans, Latinos, and even Arab Americans who were more looking for a way to pay for school or get a job–rather than signing up to kill them some Haji’s (that’s what they call us, I know). It is not surprising at all that several of the shootings of police officers following police shootings of African Americans have been executed by former military personnel. Not only are they likely to be suffering from psychopathologies, but they are also not likely to reap the rewards of public employment and social esteem which accrue to white veterans. Nor is it surprising that all of the family members report that “XXXX wasn’t the same when he got back from Iraqistan.” Extremist violence is often a product of psychopathology, rather than being strategic in an organizational sense, it is an egoistic response of the afflicted, which then must  be dealt with or incorporated into the agendas of social movements—or the repressive state…..

Black Men with Guns–our only hope for Gun Control

Stand your ground, brothers!

Stand your ground, brothers!

In late November of 1986 I was walking from my apartment in a somewhat seedy area of Tulsa to an adjacent convenience store. As I approached, I noticed that there was this guy freaking out with a gun. He blasted a round or two into the ground. I had to get my shit, so I kept walking. He followed me over and unloaded his pistol in my face from about 15 feet. He only hit me once in the shoulder. I couldn’t feel it because of the shock and went into the store (I was on a mission from my pregnant soon to be ex-wife). I was wearing a white polo shirt, and the cashier was aghast when I approached the counter. “Dude, you know you’re bleeding, right?”

The cops were already there before I even went in, since the guy had been freaking out for a while. They had the guy and had searched his place and uncovered a few more guns. All of his guns were pieces of shit. 38 specials, 32 5-shooter, what we used to call “Saturday Night Specials” which even the racist redneck Lynard Skynard band wanted dumped to the bottom of the sea (not ideal, we can recycle….). I remember one of the cops saying something like “these guns shouldn’t even exist.” And, they wouldn’t have, were it not for the revolution in the NRA in 1976, and the complicity of politicians in allowing not only the continuation of Saturday Night Specials, but also the development of civilian markets for military guns. That market did not exist before 1980.

When I got shot in 1986 there was no state in the United States where it was generally legal to carry concealed weapons. Permits were strict, and most holders were judges, lawyers, and police officers. Back when we almost banned virtually all handguns in 1976, the highest capacity semi-automatics could only hold 7 shots. Now, we have handguns with 27 shot clips, and assault rifles with 35-45.

The history of gun technology and regulation is something lost in this non-debate about gun control. The fact is, until the late 1970s there were NO high caliber semi-automatic rifles available for sale which could shoot more than three rounds. Ruger changed that in the late 1970s, through heavy lobbying. All guns used to have safety mechanisms, now they don’t. This is why so many toddlers are killing people and themselves. Semi-automatic pistols with no safety. Jesus. People are shooting their dicks off every day. There is no longer any respect for gun safety, people just want the biggest baddest thing to stuff next to their limp dick (before they shoot it off).

Importantly, nobody needs these weapons for hunting or for the rare instance of self defense. You can’t hunt with a pistol for almost any game in almost any state, and the few that you can require it to be a rifle without a stock. Most states don’t allow you to hunt with a rifle at all, because it’s too fucking dangerous. NO state allows anyone to hunt anything with a gun packing more than 5 rounds. If you don’t hit your quarry in the first shot or two, you’re more likely to kill your brother in law than the duck or deer. The reason why all handguns should be banned should be obvious by the fact that I’m alive. That motherfucker unloaded six rounds and only hit me once! If you’ve ever shot a piece of shit Saturday Night Special or even a fairly high end pistol, you’ll appreciate why. They suck. They ain’t good for nuthin’.

What is to be done? First we need to regulate the arms trade in a more substantial way, and revive the Saturday Night Special ban along with the assault weapons regulations (way more people get killed by the former than the latter). Next, we need a massive buy back program for all weapons. Give fair value. Pay cash. Yeah, it will work!  Look at Australia. Destroy all of the weapons, just like what we did in Cash for Clunkers…..

Next, we need a tax on all gun and ammunition sales. Given the enormous burden of gun violence on the state for both policing, prisons, and health care and disability—I’m thinking that a tax of 500% is not out of line at all. That would mean that the killing machine that the last six mass murderers used in the US would cost $3250 instead of $650—though maybe it should be more for those kind of guns…..

All of the rounds used in Saturday Night Specials should be eliminated from production. This would have a huge effect on homicide and suicide in poor inner-city communities, particularly when combined with buy-back programs. 25 cal, 32, 38, 38-special….worthless shit that should not even be legal to produce or sell.

No gun should have a magazine carrying more than 7 rounds. End of Discussion. If you need more than that, you’re a fucking terrorist. You shouldn’t need more than one shot. So, why do you? Unless you’re a bad guy with a gun.

What we really need is for every African American Man in this nation to run out and buy an assault weapon and get a conceal/open carry license. They then need to parade around in public scaring the white people. A few of our brave soldiers will, of course, be murdered by pigs, but, eventually, we’ll get gun control and maybe also control over our police state.

Yeah, the police state. I learned about that when I was a kid working with Octavia Booker and Mark Smallwood and Harold Peavey. I never knew that police would pull you over and beat the shit out of you, until Booker came to work fucked up one day. I had to duck down when we drove out to their places to party after work. They said there’d be cops and if they saw a white guy with black guys, we’d be fucked. I deferred to their experience. The effect of this harassment and oppression is devastating. I’ll never forget when my good friend Victor Anderson reflexively dove to the ground upon seeing a cop who hailed us near the parking lot at Vanderbilt. Victor, a tenured professor at Vanderbilt, laid on the ground and said “don’t shoot me, don’t shoot me, please.” I thought it was kind of funny at the time…I don’t anymore.


Sect Acts


Jesus Fuck a Bunny in the ass……Where have I heard that before? 


Some things just keep getting worse, and in the sociology of religion it is the influence and power of conservative Christian sociologists. I had a slight reprieve while finishing a few books, but now I have been dealing with Christianist reviewers again. Thankfully, I know well enough not to send papers to Christianist journals, and normal sociologists and political scientists know me well enough to know that I do good work. If you really think you can smear me as some ignorant novice who doesn’t know anything about religion and science or religion and sexuality or religion and stratification, you’re wrong. Editors know better. And, now they know what you are.

Iranianredneck's Weblog

Ah, yes. Don’t come to the Tour de France with a tricycle……

The Christianist mafia which seeks to control the social scientific message regarding the impact of Christianity on social life just hasn’t quite banked on one thing—in mainstream social sciences, some journal editors actually read the reviews and the articles!!!! And, thankfully, some editors have at least read a little Weber and Durkheim and Berger. You can’t just  LIE about shit in reviews and get away with it in perpetuity. The fact is, science is built on reviewers, and reviewers who can’t be trusted can’t be tolerated. Or, they should simply be ignored when an editor just needs a few more reviews to feel like they’ve bagged the quota.

In the latest episode Conservative Christian Reviewer Syndrome, I actually had two nutjob reviewers suggest that the sociological concept of “sect” was non-normative and simply pejorative.  Jesus fucking sheep!!! Sect?!…

View original post 247 more words

Sociologically Adrift



This is REAL sociology

This is REAL sociology

Thirty years ago in the Summer of 1986 I was preparing to take the GRE exam. Back in those days, there were few opportunities to take the exam, particularly if you didn’t want to have to travel.  I bought a book and worked through the practice tests, it wasn’t hard. I did very well, except for one part that didn’t matter—the subject test in sociology. I don’t even know if we still have such things, and we never looked at them at Duke or Vanderbilt, nor do we request that people take them for admission to SIU (if they still exist). By “didn’t do well” I mean that I failed miserably. Scoring  in the bottom quarter. As I was taking the test I knew something was wrong. I didn’t know any of the answers. Most of the stuff was meaningless worthless minutia from 1960s era functionalist sociology. Nothing about Marx, only the least interesting stuff on Weber (most of that was actually wrong, as well) and Durkheim. Lots of BS American sociology and social construction crap. No exchange theory, no political economy, no social movements, no gender theory, just a load of shit that some committee of losers cooked up and sold to ETS. It was a useless instrument that demonstrated nothing.

A few years back, a couple of “sociologists” I had never heard of wrote some pithy book to make money claiming that people don’t learn anything in college because they gave them pre- and post- tests of “critical thinking” and the means didn’t budge. No shit, Sherlock. We’ve known that since the 1870s. You can’t grow IQ. We can teach you shit, but we can’t cure stupid or create smart. Of course, the real purpose of Academically Adrift was to torpedo universities, particularly public universities, by claiming that we need to be held accountable for learning outcomes—reversing the arrow of student responsibility for learning—and particularly to undermine disciplines that tout the goal of increasing “critical thinking.” Good luck with that, to all who think they can. You can introduce students to materials that may change their point of view, but we cannot increase actual critical thinking as measured by what amounts to intelligence tests.

No doubt these two sociologists have now become quite influential in administrative circles. What’s next? They want to bring back the subject exam for all! Not just people who want to go to grad school (because, if they had ever been on an admissions committee or been DGS they would know that such instruments are bunk), but instead for every single sociology major! Or even anyone who took intro? Whatever will make the most money for the Pearsons/Wiley/Sage/insertpredatorpublisherhere and do the most to justify cuts to whichever disciplines they can get a bullshit subject test for. It’s a fucking bad joke to see these yahoos on the cover of the Chronicle and writing crap for Inside Higher Ed.

They even tout that this movement for “no sociology major left behind” is “faculty driven”, by which they mean that a few sociologists took money from the Gates and Teagle foundation to help cook up their assessment test. I’m sure they’ll all collaborate on the intro textbook our administrations will try to force us to adopt, and we’ll be expected to teach to the test—even though looking at the list of I’m sure I’d disagree with their interpretations of what sociology majors should know—or even what sociology is….

The sociologically adrift are quite upfront in their partisanship on the discipline “In sociology, for example, one of the five essential concepts is the “sociological eye,” which means students “will recognize key theoretical frameworks and assumptions upon which the discipline is founded and differentiated from other social sciences.” That underpinning, the book said, includes founding theoretical traditions (Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Mead), a critique of rationality to explain human behavior and how social forces affect individuals.”  Jesus fuck a bunny in the ass! “Sociological Eye”? Mead? Really? I don’t agree with any of this!

At Vanderbilt, I used to teach a very rigorous intro to sociology course with no textbook. We read primary works by Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Homans, Emerson, Blau, Coleman, and then we had a coursepack of articles on substantive themes from Social Forces and ASR (copyright was too hard for AJS and others). I always began and ended the course with the same sentence “Sociology is the foundation of all of the social sciences, it encompasses all of economics and political science, it explains much of what is interesting in psychology, there are many perspectives and interpretations of what we do and what we know and how we can know it. You can’t possibly cover all of them in one course or even in a career. Frankly, I don’t know what sociology is.” But that isn’t going to stop some gaggle of assholes with money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Teagle Foundation from telling me.



Naivete and Narcissism vs. Peer Reviewed Publishing

Ha, and now I'm going to publish it in ASR instead!

Ha, and now I’m going to publish it in ASR instead!

A recent opinion paper by a naive junior scholar fits in with some of the more wacko ideas that people have been  bandying about. I have to say that I know where all this shit is coming from: people thinking far too highly of their own work and having no understanding of or respect for the work of journal editors and reviewers. But the sheer ignorance of these proposals is shocking. How do you think this would play out, and why?

Today I received a request from the co-editors of Social Currents, where I serve on the editorial board. They had a paper in my area which had been under review for “too long” and they can’t get the person who agreed to review it to even respond to e-mails (they must be boycotting Sage or something….). I’ve already reviewed a lot of papers for them this year, so they asked very politely for another  “and can you make it quick…please?” They work very hard to keep turnaround time down, and using editorial board members in situations like this is one of the most effective ways to do that. Tomorrow, they’ll have a review and will be able to render a decision, and I suspect that it will be an accept or conditional accept.

Now, in the weirdo world where “times have changed…” and we need a new model that gives agency to authors and all of that bullshit blather, this yahoo claims that we should now negotiate. Rather than publishing the paper in the journal where the editors worked hard to find reviewers, editorial board members sacrificed to help ensure a timely decision, and reviewers read and reviewed a paper with an eye of it being published in Social Currents, the authors are now going to negotiate? What, Toni and Vinnie should send it on to Notre Dame and have it published in ASR? Why? You mean Social Currents should have a cooperative agreement with Soc. Forum and TSQ and Social Forces that enables authors to choose which journal they want to see their work published in? Why would journals sponsored by different associations and published on varied presses cooperate? So, because Toni and Vinnie are excellent editors and are busting out decisions in fair and timely manner everyone should submit to Social Currents, and then when they accept it, you think it is ok to pull the rug out from under them? You think editors should have to negotiate with authors after acceptance? Then, you think the editors should have to coordinate with other editors? I guess you must think that editors aren’t working hard enough….

This is just idiocy. The people touting this bullshit are completely out of touch. The narcissism and selfishness are really grating. I implore people to think a bit harder about what goes in to editing a journal. I ask once again for people to just shut the fuck up and do your god damned reviews. Once you’ve written a few hundred reviews for a few dozen journals, and maybe been on an editorial board or edited a journal, then you can make some proposals. And, I can guarantee you that portable publication is not going to be one of them.


The Discontents of Publishing in the 21st Century



I got your open access right here, baby!

I got your open access right here, baby!

Oh boy, everyone is all fucking pissed about publishing. Reviews don’t get done, reviewers don’t pay attention, oligopolistic corporations are fucking us, free cheese is coming, we can’t do anything about it, we must have a revolution. Jesus Fuck. I can hardly keep up with the shitstorm.

One thing that struck me in reading a lot of the discussion from many a rant is that this is all short term memory and reactionary shit responding to a long time corporate strategy to monopolize publications and engage in some good old fashioned rent seeking behavior. What kind of befuddled me is how people have simply swallowed this very new model as if it is the only way of doing business other than reverting to anarchy. NO, we don’t have to have some of the arrangements we have now. But, YES, we have to reform this from within the existing models of scholarship, and some aspects of those models are imperfect perfection. Peer review is as good as it can be, you fuckers just need to swallow your pride and do your fucking reviews. Reviewers should not need to be paid, people submitting articles should only pay nominal costs, none of this pay for play shit.  They do not and should not pay editors as if they were full time employees. We have jobs as college professors. Generally, that limits us to a maximum of 3 months salary for other work. Journals should never cover 3 months of cost for an editor, unless it is a for-profit journal. But even then, it’s basically volunteer work.

From 1999-2002 I coedited Review of Religious Research with Chris Ellison. I did all of the finance and production end, and one of the things we did was to move our independent journal linked to the Religious Research Association —a group of scholars and researchers who basically pay dues for a journal and to go to meetings—from a small Mennonite Press to Vanderbilt Printing Services. This cut costs and raised quality by a considerable margin. Most of the “costs” for the RRA were for the annual meeting and for the journal. The bulk of the costs for the journal were for printing and mailing–like 95% of the costs.

We have to keep the existing journals going and going well. Radical change is not a good plan. People’s tenure and reputation depend on this. And, there is only one way to break the backs of the oligopoly–for long-established associations to break ranks with big publishers and go free.  This has already happened in several academic areas. The way the oligopolies responded was to create and intensify journal bundling. Sure, AJS may be able to go on its own, but the oligopoly can handle that and will assume that TSQ and Soc Forum (and etc.) are too fearful of library cuts which produced the bulk of the revenue under the old system, though now this is brokered through bundling….Of course, until very recently, associations were just tickled pink if the journal was in the black.

What has gone unnoticed in the critical scholarly community is the complicity of our associations with oligopolization. We were bought off. A few of the early innovators (sellouts) in sociology were SWS and MSS. They sold out big and were picking up huge sums of money and all of the other associations were envious and wanting to get in on the grift. Everyone was being encouraged to jump on the big publishing gravy train, “just sign off your rights on the dotted line, and you will have open bar receptions at your meetings….” Rodney Stark encouraged us at RRA not to sell out, and we didn’t. I suspect it made more money for RRA to have held out for those three precious years and maximize it’s value on the market. But then again, the way the oligopoly pushed independent publishers was to squeeze them out through library bundling. So, I don’t know what RRA got after we were gone and they sold out.

The key point is that this shit just went down in the last 20 years. Most of the oligopolization happened after 1998. That was not the beginning of time, what we have now is not the traditional way of scholarly publishing. But what has also occurred since then is a complete implosion of market entry barriers. We don’t need print. We don’t have to mail. That was the bulk of our costs. There almost are no other costs. But, now associations have a stake in continuing the racket because they sold their journals to these parasitic firms and now are raking in a bunch of money to help fuel their bureaucracies (and sometimes do good things, like have an open bar at the meetings or a minority fellow program….).

The first step to breaking this down is for well-established journals tied to dues-paying organizations to make their content free or virtually free and to break from contracts with major publishers. Anyone submitting an article should have to pay dues to the organization and maybe a small fee, but none of this “pay to publish” shit. Given that we no longer need print or mail, the associations will still be perfectly solvent, they just won’t be picking up big paychecks from Sage or Elsevier. It will be a shock for associations glued to the teat of big publishing. But, not as much as people think. Most of the “profits” of publishing as a sellout are wasted through increased bureaucracy in the associations. The associations that hit it big in the journal lottery are not using those funds to pay editors or reviewers. Until 20 years ago, most associations were simply trying to break even on their journals. Now, the greed is out of control.

Racism, Sexism, and the Whoring of Survey Research


This shit always comes back and bites you. We used to be looking for racism without racists, or sexism without sexists. But, now, we clearly have racism with racists and sexism with sexists…and we’re not trying to tap that anymore because we thought it went away or that we could never again measure it because of social desirability bias. I beg to differ…..

Iranianredneck's Weblog

I feel the Pulse of the Populace, I can feel it! Sexism is dead, I can feel it.

I was just trying to get a bead on a few issues, and lamenting my inability to get a good measure of racial threat for a paper I’m working on showing the impact of conservative movements and propaganda on public opinion. But, alas, racism and sexism are so OVER. Everyone knows that nobody is a racist or sexist. We do NOT need to be asking people if they would vote for a NEGRO for President or if they would vote for a Woman (who does not have a penis), or if they think that those Africans have gone too far in pushing for Civil Rights. Fuck Civil Rights. This is America! Hell Yah! And, in American Social Science we are much more concerned with how Christianity is helping your mental health, or whether or not your one true god is more like a…

View original post 175 more words

Hating the gays is the new Southern Strategy….


In the ramp up to both the Democratic and Republican conventions the candidates have received little scrutiny of their positions on civil rights for GLBT people, or cultural issues more generally. This is curious given the furor over a host of GLBT discrimination bills that have flown through state legislatures in Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina,  and are successfully percolating up the legislative chambers in several others including South Carolina and Tennessee. While some may focus on the actions of governors to veto such legislation, as was the case in Georgia, it is more telling that these discriminatory laws were passed with overwhelming majorities. Notably, while similar laws have been passed in Indiana and Arizona, there is a peculiar Confederate streak apparent in these efforts to limit civil rights for LGBT citizens, and the stench of exclusivist Christianity wafts from every effort.



While both Democratic candidates for the nomination have resoundingly criticized the latest round of  anti-GLBT legislation, the Republican candidates have been largely silent. Ted Cruz remains a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage and has vowed to end it, as has Donald Trump, in spite of his endorsement by the Log Cabin Republicans.  In contrast,  John Kasich wants to “move on”, though we don’t really know what that means in terms of his support of “religious freedom” measures or other discriminatory laws.  Anti-gay bigotry seems to be the new “Southern Strategy” for the Republican Party, and they are poised to continue to include opposition to same-sex marriage in their Party Platform—as they have since 1992.


The easy passage of discriminatory legislation in Southern states, and elsewhere, is strongly connected to religious commitments. As I showed in Changing Faith and in other papers, identifications with exclusivist sects and Baptist groups has a profoundly negative effect on support for same sex marriage, while rejecting religious identification has a strong positive effect on support. Opposition to marriage rights is crystallized by commitments to Biblical literalism, while it is generally undermined by secular beliefs that the Bible is merely fables. In the 2014 GSS data presented above, what is notable is that vehement opposition—very opposed as opposed to merely opposed—is substantially higher in the South regardless of religious beliefs or identifications.  In the South, nearly 14% of people with secular beliefs in the Bible nonetheless are “very opposed” to same sex marriage compared to under 3% outside the South. And, over 15% of Southern “nones” are animated in their opposition—compared to under 3% outside the South less than 6% among non-Southerners. This evidences what sociologist Amy Adamczyck argues about the importance of place and context for structuring prejudices about GLBT people.


Animus toward LGBT persons is very high in the South, particularly among biblical literalists and those with exclusivist identities. A particularly chilling indicator is the proportion of people who would fire a college professor for admitting they are gay or lesbian. Again, across all religious commitments, support for employment discrimination against gays and lesbians is substantially higher in the South—even among seculars. Indeed, Southerners with secular beliefs about the Bible are actually more supportive of discrimination than are those who believe the Bible was inspired by God. Overall, 17.3% of Southerners would fire a college professor for being gay or lesbian, compared to 8% of non-Southerners.

The South is a hotbed of anti-GLBT sentiment in part because a large fraction of the population identifies as Baptists or with other exclusivist sects, and they also tend to hold literalist beliefs in the Bible. Over 45% of Southerners hold literalist views, compared to fewer than 26% of non-Southerners, while only 12% of Southerners adhere to a secular view, compared to 28% of non-Southerners. In areas dominated by Baptists and other sects, which includes most of the rural districts in the South, opposition to civil rights for LGBT people will be found among a majority of citizens—which helps explain the zeal of their representatives for promoting anti-GLBT legislation.

Most of the discussion of these anti-GLBT bills has focused on corporate and cultural backlash, as Paypal, Bruce Springsteen, and Ringo Starr weigh in with their wallets and condemnation. Yet, ignoring the fact that these bills are easily passing through state legislatures in spite of heated corporate opposition fails to make sense of their genesis. The religious right is not dead, and it dominates the South and even influences non-religious Southerners. Will it be Nixon all over again?