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Grand Rapids based Acton Institute once again demonstrates their Transphobic beliefs

March 27, 2022

Over the years, GRIID has been monitoring the Grand Rapids-based Far Right Think Tank, known as the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

The Acton Institute’s main objective is to demonstrate that Capitalism and Christianity are good bedfellows, but they have also written about and invited speakers & writers from other groups that take a hardline stance against the Black Freedom Struggle, Reproductive Justice, Public Education, and LGBTQ issues.

On Monday, March 21st, on the Acton Institute’s podcast known as Acton Unwind, the far right think tank decided to present their views surrounding the so-called controversy involving collegiate swimmer Lia Thomas. The title of the show provides listeners with a clear indication of where the think tank stands on the matter, “Lia Thomas and the nature of the human person.” 

The Acton host invited two other Acton writers, Samuel Gregg and Dan Hugger, to discuss what they referred to as a “more high-minded conversation.” The three cis-gendered men spent about 20 minutes using comments like; “We lived in a confused society,” “how do we define what a human being really is,” “the Lia Thomas controversy,” and “Physicality and anthropology.” One of the show’s guest even cited Rene Descartes, “I think therefore I am,” as a means of justifying their position. 

The three cis-gendered white men also perpetuated some falsehoods, like what Lia Thomas’s ranking was when they swam on the men’s team and now on the women’s team.

One of the guest on the Acton podcast then said it was hard to have these conversations because people will shut you down. If by shutting you down means, calling people out for being transphobic, then yeah, it is hard to have “these kind of conversations.” If someone was clearly making anti-Semitic statements or anti-Black statements, it is important for them to be called out on it, so why shouldn’t it be any different when people are making anti-trans statements.

In this same argument about it being “hard to have these discussions,” the Acton podcast guest then refers to the book, When Harry became Sally, by Ryan Anderson. The cis-gendered man says the book, “presents a very careful philosophical argument, that is done with sensitivity.” The book referenced is both transphobic and homophobic, and was so offensive that even the online sales behemoth Amazon removed it from their listing of books.

There was one comment that I tended to agree with, coming from one of the podcast participants. The comment was referencing the fact that people who identify as liberal or progressive, who claim to the an ally of the trans community, feel that something doesn’t seem right about trans athletes. Just based on recent social media posts, this seems to be the case, but for this writer it says more about the so-called ally community and how many of us have internalized transphobia. 

Like all social justice issues, those of us who carry a great deal of privilege in this society, need to do the work to better understand what is at issue here. It is not the job of the trans community or trans athletes to educate us. We need to do that work ourselves. Here are a few resources that I have found useful in my own education.

https://transequality.org/

https://alp.org/

https://transgenderlawcenter.org/

https://www.thenation.com/article/society/brittney-griner-lia-thomas/

https://www.outsports.com/trans/2022/1/6/22867761/lia-thomas-penn-swimming-trans-truth-myth

https://www.npr.org/2021/03/18/978716732/wave-of-new-bills-say-trans-athletes-have-an-unfair-edge-what-does-the-science-s

https://www.aclu.org/news/lgbtq-rights/four-myths-about-trans-athletes-debunked/

The Acton Institute’s anti-LGBTQ ideology is not surprising. In 2019, they invited Kate Anderson, who serves as legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, to write an article about why they were defending Catholic Charities of West Michigan in their legal battle to defend their right to deny same sex couples the right to adopt in Michigan. We also reported in that Alliance Defending Freedom was on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate map, listing these claims:

No matter how “high minded” the Acton Institute wants to claim they are, the reality is that the have long demonstrated an anti-LGBTQ ideology. This ideology not only does actual harm against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer community, it is well funded and influences people around the world. Maybe their Acton University event, from June 20 – 24th at the DeVos Convention Center, would be a great opportunity to publicly call them out on their transphobia and other oppressive beliefs.

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