Gonzaga University, which has rejected recent attempts to bring a Planned Parenthood speaker and "The Vagina Monologues" to the school, is under fire for the campus appearance of a conservative who contends homosexuality is a matter of choice.

Share story

SPOKANE, Wash. — Gonzaga University, which has rejected recent attempts to bring a Planned Parenthood speaker and “The Vagina Monologues” to the school, is under fire for the campus appearance of a conservative who contends homosexuality is a matter of choice.


The College Republicans brought in Dr. John Diggs for a lecture titled “The Medical Effects of Homo-Sex.”


Some students criticized the lecture in the student newspaper, the Bulletin, as anti-gay and promoting stereotypes.


Diggs’ appearance Tuesday was intended to foster open debate and inquiry, said Daniel Brutocao, president of the Gonzaga chapter of College Republicans.


The speaker focused on homosexual promiscuity and asserted that “homosexuality is the result of a bad relationship with one’s same-sex parent,” said Rod Aminian, president of the gay and lesbian campus organization, Helping Educate Regarding Orientation, in an e-mail message.


Aminian’s group had encouraged attendance and debate about the lecture — and he said he supported the university’s handling of Diggs’ appearance, which included limited publicity.


But in a letter to the Bulletin, he criticized the lecture and labeled Diggs “an ideologue of vulgar proportions.”


Brutocao acknowledged that the university sought to limit publicity about the event.


“The university did not want us to advertise because it was a controversial topic, but they permitted us to bring the speaker to campus,” he told The Spokesman-Review newspaper. “We acceded to their wishes in this matter.”


The newspaper was unable to reach the Rev. Robert Spitzer, Gonzaga’s president, for comment on the report published Saturday.


In 2000 and 2001, Spitzer barred a Planned Parenthood speaker and an on-campus performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” an all-woman play made up of monologues about sex, masturbation and lesbianism.


Critics said the decisions undercut academic freedom. Spitzer said a Catholic university could not appear to endorse ideas that challenge church opposition to abortion, birth control and homosexuality.


After those controversies, the university adopted a policy governing outside speakers.


Barred are those who are disruptive, promote a message contrary to the school’s Catholic teachings or might create a hostile learning environment.


The policy also says that “members of the University community must be free to engage the full range of views on a variety of subjects.”


Mark Alfino, a professor of philosophy and critic of the decision to ban “The Vagina Monologues,” helped devise the new policy. He said he believes it has been working well and characterized it as an attempt to balance academic freedom and the mission of a Catholic institution.


While he did not see Diggs’ presentation, Alfino said the main question was not whether his views were controversial but whether he has legitimate knowledge, background and understanding to present a point of view.


Beyond that, campuses should be accepting of “every legitimate point of view,” Alfino said. “So far, nothing’s shaken my confidence in that policy.”


According to an online biography, Diggs “exposes the real-world effects of sexual permissiveness through a message that is logical, consistent, coherent and inspiring.” He doesn’t believe homosexuality is innate and says most anti-gay violence is domestic, perpetrated by same-sex couples.


In 2001, Diggs wrote that thousands of people have stopped practicing homosexuality, saying they “offer hope to those trapped in a self-destructive activity.”


In an e-mail interview Friday, Diggs said he believes the university acted inappropriately in attempting to limit publicity about his appearance.


“This school frequently pushes the homosexual agenda. To have one seminar where ideas in opposition are expressed can hardly be called balanced,” he told The Spokesman Review.