On Sunday, March 4, an op-ed titled “Conversations about sex,” written by Everett Piper, the president of conservative evangelical Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OKWU), appeared in the Washington Times, encouraging readers to consider “conversations” about LGBT people by swapping that acronym with ISIS, the jihadist terrorist organization.
It was the latest outburst from Piper, a lesser-known but particularly virulent anti-LGBT extremist with ties to both the Trump administration, and a cadre of anti-Muslim extremists.
In the op-ed, Piper instructs readers, “Go to any article in any magazine or website that argues for ‘conversations’ about sexual morality and simply replace the acronym of the day with another set of letters. For example, every time you see LGBTQ in an article, simply replace those letters with ISIS. Change nothing else…”
Piper seems to believe he’s made a sublime point by illustrating what those results might be: “‘Love is love and ISIS has the right to love who they want to love.’ ‘The ISIS community simply wants to be accepted and affirmed.’ ‘What right does anyone have to refuse to bake a cake for an ISIS wedding?’”
“In this brave new world of hyphens and acronyms,” Piper writes, “we paint ourselves into a corner of ‘tolerance’ where we must affirm the proclivities of anyone who ‘identifies’ as ISIS just as much as we do all who identify as LGBTQ. After all, in both cases it could be easily argued, ‘that’s just who they are.’”
Piper has been president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, since 2002, but his anti-LGBT activism has significantly ramped up over the last few years (although Piper was a signatory to the 2009 “Manhattan Declaration,” an anti-same-sex-marriage and anti-abortion Christian manifesto).
With close ties to anti-LGBT hate groups the Family Research Council and the World Congress of Families, which allow Piper platforms for his anti-LGBT rhetoric on radio programs and at conferences. Piper also uses the university itself as a soapbox, delivering polemics from his “Talking Points With President Piper” blog, where he’s declared homosexuality a “choice” and declared that real feminists can never accept transgender women.
Piper even made a home for a cabal of anti-Muslim extremists at Oklahoma Wesleyan — the National Security Investment Consultant (NSIC) Institute, established in 2014. Piper is listed among “key faculty” for NSIC, along with Frank Gaffney, Jr., founder of the anti-Muslim hate group the Center for Security Policy (CSP), fellow anti-Muslim extremist Lieutenant General William G. “Jerry” Boykin (Ret.) (who’s also executive vice president of anti-LGBT hate group the Family Research Council), CSP Vice President for Research and Analysis Clare Lopez and NSIC founder Kevin Freeman, a senior fellow at CSP.
The NSIC Institute, which purports to train investors and investment advisors to “address the emerging global risks for investors,” appears to now be defunct. A voicemail left with the Institute wasn’t returned, but the outgoing message states, “we can also update you on upcoming 2016 events,” and the last event listed on NSIC’s website was in May 2016.
While most of Piper’s fellow NSIC “key faculty” focus their efforts on smearing Muslims and fear- mongering about Sharia law, Piper seems content to fire volleys at LGBT people.
In a February 2015 blog post on OKWU’s website, Piper posited, “We are not heterosexuals and we are not homosexuals. We are human beings! And as such we are free agents with free will and we can choose our sexual actions just like we can choose to smoke, drink or eat.”
In a blog later that year, Piper praised “ex-gay” author Rosaria Butterfield, claiming the “redemption, restoration, reformation, and regeneration not found in selfish desire but in a divine savior.” Butterfield is a former professor of English and women’s studies at Syracuse University who, in her late 20s, “was allured by feminist philosophy and LGBT advocacy,” according to her bio on her website. She “adopted a lesbian identity” and claims that in the late ‘90s, she converted to Christianity while researching Christian Right men’s ministry, the Promise Keepers. She currently calls herself a wife (married to a man), homeschool mother, author, and speaker. In August 2015, OKWU ended its affiliation with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), an association of Christian colleges in the U.S., in protest after member schools Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen University altered their policies to accommodate same-sex couples on faculty and staff. (The next month, both universities voluntarily left the CCCU.)
Piper was also the closing keynote speaker at the 2015 conference for the anti-LGBT hate group World Congress of Families in Salt Lake City, where he attacked the education establishment, saying it “is known not for pursuing truth, but rather for celebrating tolerance, and in the name of tolerance they then tell us that our intolerance is intolerable.” He also attacked gay rights advocates for “ideological fascism” and declared, “The result of this nonsense is that the rainbow banner of tolerance has become the dark flag of tyranny almost overnight.”
Piper doesn’t shy away from dustups with equality advocates. After the Obama administration issued new guidelines under the federal Title IX law for protecting students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, Oklahoma Wesleyan University was one of more than 50 schools nationwide that sought a waiver from the government under Title IX’s religious exemption.
Human Rights Campaign issued a report on the schools that requested an exemption, titled “Hidden Discrimination,” which prompted Piper to write an op-ed published on an Oklahoma political news website in January 2016 titled “Title IX Exemption and I’m Proud of It.”
Explicitly describing why OKWU would not accommodate transgender students, Piper wrote,
We refuse to comply with the misogyny endemic to the transgender agenda. We recognize the ontological and biological dignity of the female. We believe in science and we believe in facts and there is little more empirically obvious than one’s sex. Being a female is an objective reality and we refuse to insult women by ignoring such self-evident truth.
This language is a dogwhistle that suggests trans women, specifically, are not women but men and are attempting to further marginalize ciswomen.
Piper continued in this vein in a May 2016 blog post on OKWU’s website: “The [Department of Education’s] transgender mandate is anti-woman and anti-science,” he wrote. “We view this as sadly misguided at best and blatantly misogynistic in the extreme.” How can we give women equal access to anything, he went on, “if we accept the fallacious argument that a woman in not a biological reality but, rather, simply a postmodern construct of subjective feelings?”, a statement that again dogwhistles right-wing claims that trans women are men attempting to access women’s spaces, possibly to harm them.
While guest hosting on Family Research Council president Tony Perkins’ “Washington Watch” radio show in October 2017, Piper came up with a novel argument for his anti-transgender stance: One cannot be a feminist if they accept transgender women.
Why are we being silent in the face of a culture that is degrading and insulting a female by saying she’s not a biological fact, but she’s nothing but a fantasy and a fabrication of a dysphoric male who wants to raise his hand on a given day and say he’s a woman? Why is it too political for us to defend the dignity and the identity of a woman? You can’t be a feminist if you deny the feminine. We are the true feminists today. We are the true liberals today.
After Right Wing Watch criticized Piper’s remarks, Piper responded with an op-ed in the Washington Times doubling down on his argument. He wrote, “Yes, the scholars at this university have concluded that a female is an objective reality and not merely a social construct,” and declared, “You can’t defend the rights of women if you don’t believe women are real, and you can’t claim to be a feminist if you deny the very existence of the feminine.”
As Piper has become more prominent among anti-LGBT extremists, he’s also gained traction with the political right. Piper was a speaker at the Values Voter Summit, hosted by the Family Research Council, in both 2016 and 2017; the keynote speaker in 2017 was President Trump.
Indeed, as the Trump White House has consistently embraced hateful elements of the far-right, Piper’s profile has risen. When the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the formation of its Conscience and Religious Freedom Division on January 18, 2018, a division of the Office for Civil Rights charged with enforcing “existing laws protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom,” Piper was a featured speaker at HHS headquarters, alongside Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), one of the House’s most strident anti-LGBT members and one of the architects of an anti-trans bill that would have denied active transgender service members access to gender-reassignment surgeries and other therapies if a doctor deemed such necessary.
“It is chilling to see anti-LGBTQ activists like Everett Piper, who actively promotes discrimination against the transgender community and insists that being LGBTQ is a choice, given a platform by the White House,” Zeke Stokes, Vice President of Programs at GLAAD, told Hatewatch. “The Trump Administration continues to promote hate and division when we should be working to bring all Americans together to accept one another and celebrate our differences.”