Fordham University logo and profile picture on university's Facebook page.

Fordham University to host panel with infanticide advocate Peter Singer

For my three years as an undergraduate, I attended Fordham University. Recently, there has been quite the stir surrounding Fordham and the speakers who have been invited and whose invitations have been rescinded.

Late last week, the College Republicans announced on Facebook that they would be having Ann Coulter as their fall speaker, and they created a Facebook for the event. Well, as Ann Coulter does draw a strong response from both sides, there were many angry responses directed at the College Republicans for inviting such a speaker. Perhaps the most notable response, though, came from the president of the University, Fr. Joseph McShane, in the form of an e-mail sent out to all of those with a Fordham e-mail address. The College Republicans then announced that they had already decided to cancel the event.

The entire e-mail was also posted on the Fordham University Facebook page and can be viewed on the university’s website. The controversy and the cancellation were covered by The Observer, the student paper at the Lincoln Center campus. The university’s website does not mention that there has been reporting from the Young America’s FoundationFIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), and The Daily Caller as well. Fox News even has covered the issue on “The Five.”

Now, Ann Coulter is certainly not without her fair share of controversy. And she has certainly come under fire from the pro-life community recently, as expressed by Kristen Walker Hatten here on Live Action News. Though nowhere in Fr. McShane’s e-mail or comments from angry students was there anything about her not being pro-life enough to speak at a Jesuit University, which Fordham is.

And now, this upcoming Friday, February 16, there is a speaker who most certainly is not pro-life enough to speak at Fordham University. That speaker? Peter Singer. Fr. McShane has not sent out any statement in an e-mail addressed to the entire school about having such a speaker. The president not only did that in the instance of Ann Coulter’s invite, but expressed his “disgust.” I am disgusted with Peter Singer, and I expect Fr. McShane to be as well. Yet there has been no such e-mail.

In case you are not aware, Peter Singer is an advocate for abortion, as a woman’s right and as a form of population control; bestiality; and euthanasia, and he has made the moral case for infanticide, particularly for disabled infants. Yet from the description of the event and of Peter Singer on “FORDHAM NOTES: A NEWSBLOG FROM FORDHAM UNIVERSITY’S NEWS AND MEDIA RELATIONS BUREAU,” you would not know this.

The event is titled “Panel: Christians and Other Animals” with the subtitle “Christians and Other Animals: Moving the Conversation Forward.” Peter Singer is listed as the top panelist, with his credentials listed as “Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University.” There is also a brief one-sentence bio listed about him at the end: “Peter Singer—in addition to being the most influential philosopher alive today—was the intellectual heft behind the beginning of the animal rights movement in the 1970s.” Regardless of whether that bio was written by a person from Fordham, which it may very well have not been, by attaching it to a Fordham advertisement for a Fordham-held and sponsored event, it seems as if the university is standing by Peter Singer “being the most influential philosopher alive today,” and influential in not such a bad way.

Ann Coulter was invited by a student group on campus, an invitation which is to be approved or denied. Regardless how one feels about Fr. McShane’s statement or the decision by the College Republicans to (dis-)invite Ms. Coulter, one surely realizes that the university could have denied the speaker even before approving her, and that neither the event nor Ann Coulter’s views are endorsed by the university or Fr. McShane. However, not only is Fordham University displaying the panel with Peter Singer on a web page for the university, but the panel is also co-sponsored by the Department of Theology, the Center for Religion and Culture, the Office of the Provost, the dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill, and the dean of Fordham University faculty.

Some may claim that perhaps it is beneficial to hear Peter Singer speak and give his thoughts on Christianity, so that we may hear what “the other side” has to say and make the decision for ourselves. However, the views of Peter Singer and his disdain for Catholic beliefs and schools certainly do not make a Jesuit, Catholic University the appropriate venue for him to express these views if the university is to uphold the principle that life is sacred and abortion is wrong. This should be the case even and especially in an academic setting such as a panel. Perhaps at a secular university this panel may seem more appropriate, but Fordham is not that type of university.

It should not be considered “academic” for it to not be so taboo for humans to have sex with animals, or to kill babies in the womb or after they have already been born. Someone who believes such and other aspects of the “culture of death” should not be highlighted as “the most influential philosopher alive today,” regardless of his desire for animal rights.

  • Christopher

    The panel was planned and hosted by a pro-life member of the theology department, and the panel itself has several pro-lifers on it, including the very conservative and pro-life editor of First Things, Rusty Reno. What’s the problem with engaging those who think differently than us in an academic discussion? Isn’t that what a University should do?

    • Juila

      Well then, what was the matter with Ann Coulter speaking there? You can’t have it both ways.

      • Daryl

        Peter Singer holds positions that some people find despicable, but argues for them. Ann Coulter refers to people she disagrees with as “retards” and “faggots.” There’s a difference.

        • Daryl

          And Coulter wasn’t banned from campus, the Republicans withdrew her invitation in response to massive protest. No one is stopping folks from staging a massive protest to Singer either. All fair play here.

          • Rebecca Downs

            I never said that Ann Coulter was banned from the campus.

          • Julia

            “All fair play here”
            Except that the president of this Catholic college (Jesuits are Catholic priests) didn’t’ express his “disgust” for Singer’s invite, like he did Coulter’s. Also, Singer’s invite is sponsored by the school, rather than by a student group (like Couter’s).

        • Julia

          I’ll say there’s difference. One calls someone a “retard”; the other advocates for “retards” being killed before or after they are born.
          Each of these ideas is found “despicable” by some people.

        • Truly, spoken like someone whose entire familiarity with Coulter consists of headlines and hearsay.

    • Rebecca Downs

      I am very glad that it is being moderated by Camosy. And that is great that other panelists are pro-life. But a Catholic University is not the place to bring such a person as Peter Singer, with no statement of explanation. If you had no idea who Peter Singer was, judging from the way the university presents him on this page, you’d say what’s the big deal? My friend proved that to me when I shared the link with him and not knowing who Singer was he was like oh, what’s so bad about animal rights? The university is hiding behind his “influence” as an animal rights activist and not even addressing him for the heinous and inherently anti-Catholic points he really advocates for.

      This would not even be as bad if we didn’t have the Ann Coulter controversy… but when you compare it, the hypocrisy is just astounding.

      • Michael

        My supervisor is also on the panel. I’m pretty sure Singer’s outnumbered. :)

      • It seems like Singer is more than outnumbered, perhaps a reflection that the debate is being held at a Catholic University.

        I am somewhat removed from some of the statements within the post, but it seems Ann Coulter should never be invited to any university giving her previous displays in the past.

        In terms of Singer, it is true that his moral philosophy within Animal Liberation can extend to remove rights from some homo sapiens, it is however also true that within that same text and subsequent texts his extension of moral equality means giving each thing with interests an equal consideration. Bentham said interest means only things that have a capacity for suffering and enjoying things, and Singer uses this as an example similar to his own. Further to this I think Singer extends particular areas of what it means to have interests in a few other readings but even by this definition I don’t see how he could remove this interest from a disabled baby – I guess he must means on the extreme end of the scale, e.g. vegetative state. Either way, any utilitarianism as a normative ethics would have a lot of trouble within Catholic points of view, strangely.

        I read his papers on Abortion a long time ago, do you have any notes from these papers when you wrote this article that may address this? I would appreciate it :)

  • Matt C. Abbott

    Good post, Rebecca!

  • ProTruth2

    The president not only did that in the instance of Ann Coulter’s invite, but expressed his “disgust.”

    Specifically, he quoted himself as having said six months ago that he felt disgust at racist and homophobic slurs that someone was scrawling on campus property. If he felt disgust at someone writing f—-t on a campus building, it stands to reason that he would feel disgust at a speaker calling someone a f—-t, as Ann Coulter has been known to do. As someone said on a different thread here at LiveAction:

    Oh my goodness! How unclassy can you be here? Calling someone whom you disagree with, even if you do genuienly feel that they be wrong, an idiot, is certainly not going to get them to see your point of view any more.

    That’s probably why the president of Fordham considered her an unsuitable speaker.

    Perhaps at a secular university this panel may seem more appropriate, but Fordham is not that type of university.

    Fordham is the type of university that follows the great Jesuit educational tradition of believing that faith is not hindered when students learn about ideas that run counter to that faith. You were both smart and lucky to study there.

    • Rebecca Downs

      I am not sure if you are being sarcastic by saying “someone,” since that someone was me, but I see nothing to defend.

      Ann Coulter doesn’t give a rat’s behind whether or not someone agrees or disagrees with her or finds her an idiot. I was responding to a comment someone made where I think they were trying to get someone to agree with them, by hitting them over the head. I run a few tumblr blogs and there’s one in particular people leave comments and questions all the time trying to get me to admit I’m wrong. Except their rudeness is certainly not going to make me want to listen to them. Maybe they care, or the person who made that comment cares, However, Ann Coulter does not really care.

      I also truly believe that if Ann Coulter did come to speak at Fordham, she would not call anyone there such names, and her talk, discussion, whatever, would have been appropriate for a university setting.

      However, Peter Singer cannot be when he advocates the positions he does, at least not at a Jesuit University. And Fordham made no official statement like they did with Coulter addressing his views and assuring students, faculty, alumni, etc. that they were not endorsing his views. Because on the page advertising the event, they make it sound like he is a pretty neat guy.

      Thank you for acknowledging Fordham is a school where I was smart and lucky to have studied there. I do mean that seriously. To be honest I didn’t always enjoy myself there, but that’s irrelevant. But it does have a good reputation in many ways.

  • There is no “intellectual heft behind the beginning of the animal rights movement in the 1970s.” It is merely a new paganism. Infanticide is no more intellectually solid than ancient virgin sacrifices. Absent a worldview which makes room for a loving Creator, some extremely destructive, inhumane ideologies are bound to take root (see ancient Aztec culture or Darwinism….doesn’t matter how you dress it up….these ideas lead to the wholesale destruction of human lives.)

  • ACB

    Peter Singer would have been right at home with the Nationalist Socialist party in 1932-1945. They too advocated for euthanasia, infanticide for disabled infants and population control. They too were advocates of “big government”.

  • anon

    Killing a child in the womb and after are not the same – a point Rebecca Downs fails to address, by lumping abortion and infanticide into the same category when scientific proof clearly points they are not.