Pepperdine Divorces Proposition 8

Timothy Kincaid

October 3rd, 2008

Pepperdine professor Richard M. Peterson is probably a very nice man. He’s an advocate for persons with disabilities and special education needs and seeks to help adolescents in the areas of anger management and conflict resolution. He seems to be a caring individual.

But when it comes to Proposition 8, Professor Peterson let his strong religious convictions overrule his compassion and even his integrity. Peterson is the voice of authority in the anti-marriage ad put out by the Yes on 8 campaign wherein he sternly warns Californians that unless Proposition 8 passes people could be sued for their personal beliefs, churches opposed to same-sex marriage could be threatened with losing their tax-exempt status, and children in public schools would be taught about same-sex marriage.

It is difficult to imagine that such a smart fellow is not aware that the claims he is spouting are nothing more than scare tactics.

As the San Francisco Chronicle noted

It’s all overwrought. No one’s personal views would be threatened, and churches could continue to choose which couples they marry. Public schools certainly would teach that same-sex marriage is legal, and the history behind it. But the value judgments surrounding matters of marriage and family would remain in the domain of home and church as they are today.

And surely he must know that the news sources that flash behind his head on the ad have nothing whatsoever to do with marriage and deal with situations that are not impacted by Proposition 8, should it pass or fail. Even should Prop 8 pass with an overwhelming majority, doctors still will not be able to deny services to Californians based solely on their orientation.

For a law profess to not know the inaccuracy of his claims would be startlingly irresponsible. To know but yet continue is startlingly dishonest.

In addition to playing fast and loose with his personal integrity, Professor Peterson has also placed the reputation of Pepperdine on the line.

Pepperdine University is a well respected learning institution with a beautiful campus and a very conservative Christian ideology. Its law school is considered “a bastion of conservatism” and includes such faculty as Ken Starr.

However, even Pepperdine did not want its name linked with the nonsense put out by the supporters of Proposition 8. LAist has a letter issued by the school’s public relations department indicating that they had demanded an end to the association.

The professor in the ad was not advocating a Pepperdine position, but his own personal position.

We have received confirmation that our request to have the reference to Pepperdine University deleted from the ad will be honored. We have been assured that the ad will be revised, perhaps by today.

It may be that the university recognizes that youth, even conservative youth, have little tolerance for hateful deception.

Pepperdine Alum

October 3rd, 2008

Pepperdine’s implied endorsement of Prop 8 is unacceptable.

The unedited commercial remains posted on (6pm on 10/3/08).

WHEN is Pepperdine going to take action and have this ad pulled?

Contact Pepperdine President:


October 3rd, 2008

The unedited commercial was running on KRON 4 as of 5pm today.

Chino Blanco

October 4th, 2008

There’s a line being touted at sites like this:

That suggests:

“[Peterson] said that he would but he had to clear it with “the powers that be” at Pepperdine first. He submitted the script to them and they said that they had no issues with it. Now with the backlash, as so often happens, they are not being very supportive.”



October 4th, 2008

Given the support of the major CA newspapers for the “No on 8” campaign, surely the “Yes on 8” campaign should have realised that spreading these kinds of lies will only backfire. I know that if I was an editor of an anti-8 paper I’d be having a field day with this.

For starters, the lies promoted in the advert have been countered by a (presumably) respected & pro-8 law school. That is pretty clear evidence of how unrealistic those claims are.

Secondly, even relatively minimal research into other countries which have legalised gay marriage will show that the kind of litigation that Peterson is talking about is unlikely, perhaps even impossible. Quite apart from the fact that anti-discrimination legislation would prevent it, there is very little will amongst the LGBT community to deny religious groups the right to practice their beliefs. The recent Islington v. Ladele case in the UK is a good example: even within the gay community here there was division regarding who was in the right.

And finally, if the “Yes on 8” are using such obvious falsehoods then they are either blinkered to reality, or they must really be scraping the barrel in their efforts to ban marriage equality – and either case would show their position to be pretty flimsy.

Patrick ONeill

October 4th, 2008

“Thou shalt not bear false witness” is the forgotten commandment.

I have never seen as much blatant lying and slandering as I have with christian leaders attacking gay rights.


October 4th, 2008

For conservative Christianists, “thou shalt not bear false witness” isn’t a commandment, it’s just a suggestion, just as “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” is merely a recommendation.


October 4th, 2008

Are you suggesting that you can guarantee that our children are not going to be taught these things? The following video supports Prof Peterson

In our own school district, a book was circulating in the kindergarten literacy bags about “my two dads” it was not in our classroom, so I cannot provide the title. I would have felt just as strongly as the parents in the video provided.

I personally voted for equal rights for gay copules registered as Domestic Partners and I know many other people believe that all people should have equal rights trusted that this would be enough. As of 2007, California affords domestic partnerships all of the same rights and responsibilities as marriages under state law (Cal. Fam. Code §297.5)

I believe that embracing diversity is to be happy with supporting equal rights for all without redefining terms of identity. I believe that Prop 8, supported by the measures to protect your rights in the past, establishes a live and let live policy.

I used to be content to teach my children equality and to not judge a person based on their personal lives outside of how it affects them. They have had gay teachers all along and I have never protested. Now, because activists cannot leave well enough alone, I have to be ever more vigil about things presented to my children when I am not present that violates my rights as a mother.

My children were not told that gay marriage was so wrong…until this June, when the courts acted to degrade marriage to a genderless contract on my birthday. Now that I am activly involved in Prop 8, it is a topic of daily conversation. Now, because they know my views, without the years of experience and maturity, it is harder to teach them acceptance.

I don’t hate gay people or ever treat them unfairly. The commercial with the elderly couple talking about fairness is just as misleading because we have already voted to protect civil rights for gay people. Now, it is time to vote in support of my civil rights.

Freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Trusting the public school system to stay neutral on a topic that is highly offensive to many, just as they do with religion in the classroom.

SO, if you can GUARANTEE that we will still be permitted to teach our children to uphold the moral laws of God that we hold sacred, allow churches to uphold the standards of marriage that they have, and that businesses will continue to have the right to serve whom they want to without fear of legal actions on exaggerated charges of hate crimes and discrimination, then we can go back to the live and let live policies we have already agreed on.

Ben in Oakland

October 4th, 2008

Honey– you can still teach your children whatever you want whether prop. 8 passes or no.

You say you personally voted for domestic partnership rights. When? what election?

The ballot initiative that DIDN’T make it to the ballot would have eliminated partnership rights as well.

you say you don’t hate gay people, but you are quite willing to treat them unfairly.

Here are three rights that gay people don’t have that you have. We can’t get married, when any man and woman who met five minutes and have $50 for a marriage license. Our marriage can be voted on by complete strangers, but yours can’t. My marirage ceases to exist the moment I cross the state line.

You can always teach the moral values you hold dear. Not all churches share whatever your moral values are. there are a great many churches and a number of denominations that have a different set of beliefs regarding gay people. Is freedom of rleigion just for you, or do they get to do what they please.

And on and on and on. your arguments are just the same warmed over crap.

Timothy Kincaid

October 4th, 2008

“I personally voted for equal rights for gay copules registered as Domestic Partners”

That sentence makes you either a legislator, a liar, or woefully misinformed.

Stefano A

October 4th, 2008

I believe that embracing diversity is to be happy with supporting equal rights for all without redefining terms of identity.

Just how does extending the right to marriage redefine your identity? If you are married now and heterosexual, you are not going to have a new identity.

I think the more accurate comment would have been to call a spade for a spade. You’re not concerned about your identity being redefined, you’re concerned only about a personal since of entitlement and preserving certain rights exclusively for yourself you do not want to extend to others.

Trusting the public school system to stay neutral on a topic that is highly offensive to many, just as they do with religion in the classroom.

What baloney! Based on everything you put forth in your comments, you do not want the public school system to stay netural, what you want is for them to promote your religiously based beliefs and censor everything else. A direct contradiction to what you currently wrote “just as they do with religion”. For them to stay neutral as you wish, they would need to inform about all forms of relationships without the moral commentary you wish to impose.

You mention the book circulating, that book circulates because the school is staying neutral. They’re not censoring information to cater to one side or the other.

And as Ben said, You can always teach the moral values you hold dear. However, that does not mean the school should only inform your personal views.


October 4th, 2008

Hey, I’m Richard Peterson’s son. First of all, writing to my father or the dean’s won’t help you. My father is an incredibly firm man and wont be shaken by threats and the deans are behind him (he had the University’s permission before doing the commercial AS A FAVOR to another professor).

Second, I don’t want to sound adversarial and I know my father doesn’t either. But I cannot believe the kinds of horrible, even violent emails he’s been receiving. I don’t understand why people have to threaten him for standing up for what he believes in! This is America right? And aren’t you fighting for what you believe in? Every time I hear about this debate it seems that the “no on prop 8” people are in favor of free speech so long as it isn’t against what they want. What’s the deal here?

Now, I expect in any response to this I’m sure to hear about how you think the “Yes On Prop 8” people are morally incorrect and all the reasons why but writing about that in response to my comment would be dodging the issue. LET ME MAKE MYSELF CLEAR, the issue here is that those in favor of changing marriage appear to favor free speech only when it doesn’t contradict their views and that they typically respond with violent and threatening communications to those who stand up for what they believe in. Responding to me about anything else would prove the shaky foundation of those who do so. So, if you have something constructive to say, don’t bother with the deans, it won’t work. Send me an email if you’d like. My email is Take care.

Stefano A

October 4th, 2008

Rebecca your entire post can be summed up thusly: What you want is the for the schools to “protect” what you see as the only form of biblically sanctioned marriage — between a man and a woman. That is not staying “neutral”.

It also must be news for you that the government does not sanction ANY biblical meaning of marriage.

As has been said time and time again, and as the Anglican Bishops of California pointed out. Government does not bestow the religious sacrament upon marriage or dictate the “form” of marrital ceremony. Only churches decide those. And not all churches reserve such sacraments or for heterosexuals and not all religious ceremonies are alike.

Stefano A

October 4th, 2008


Let’s get one thing perfectly clear.

No one is lobbying to deprive anyone the right to express their views on homosexuality or on homosexual commitments. You are not talking about the First Amendment right of free speech. That is not under threat.

What is being contested is the use of constitutions to REMOVE rights rather than protect rights.

No one is protesting freedom of speech.

And with regard to Pepperdine. No one is contesting the professors right to speak as an individual, but the university is pointing out he does not represent any official university position on the issue and pointing out the deceptiveness of attempting to imply the professor does speack for the university.

Stefano A

October 4th, 2008

The university sanctioning the professor to speak as an individual is not a sanction for him to speak “as the university” which is what the advertisment attempts to project/imply.

Stefano A

October 4th, 2008

And as for censorship — simply read Rebeccas charge that schools should censor presenting the realty of same-sex loving committed relationships and only inform of biblically sanctioned relationships.

Frankly, in my personal opinion, schools should not be teaching any morality or lack of morality from a specific viewpoint with regard to relationships (committed or otherwise) but informing on the responsibilities and consequences that come with relationships regardless of sexual orientation.

Emily K

October 4th, 2008

My mother, an educator for nearly half a century in all parts (teacher, administration, public, private) has said this to me regarding “teaching diversity” in the elementary school classroom as it is related to same sex couples:

It used to be that it was controversial to talk about divorced families. Families with divorcee’s who had kids – single parent families – were called “broken families.” It was a topic treated as though it were a “special situation,” as if half of all marriages weren’t ending in dissolution.

In fact I remember hearing that term as a little kid, little more than 15 years ago.

Even before my own parents split (comparatively amicably and then for 10 years lived only 3 miles apart), I had a presumption that only really messed up people got divorced and only truly messed up families ended up in that “broken” situation.

But I learned that a family is a family. People are going to learn that too.

I have a feeling that the REAL insecurity of people who don’t want their kids to know same-sex couples exist lies in their assumption that kids are going to be automatically thinking about what “two daddies and two mommies do in bed together.” The school will not teach this, just like the school will not teach what a mommy and a daddy do in bed together.

Honestly, I might have been just too damn niave for my age, but seeing the Flintstones have twin beds on TV when I was little didn’t phase me one bit. I thought “hey some married couples like twin beds and some couples like one big bed.” It didn’t automatically bring to mind questions of how they conceived Pebbles. So I don’t think sexual questions will necessarily permeate the discussion of different kinds of families in the classroom. And if they did for heterosexual discussion of families, the teacher would most likely outsource the answers to the parents, where they could say about homosexual couples: “some live a sinful lifestyle and that’s their choice.” Fine by me.


October 5th, 2008

Rebecca, exactly WHAT civil rights of yours are there up for a vote with Prop 8?

Your “right” to get married? No.

Your “right” to have your marriage recognized by the state government? Hmmm….no.

Your “right” to practice your religion as you see fit? Well…nope.

Your “right” to teach your kids whatever you wish regarding same-sex couples? Nah.

I’ve thought and thought about this and I really can’t see what you’re getting at when you say (and I quote):

“Now, it is time to vote in support of my civil rights.”

Cause I really don’t see a single constitutional ban being proposed to exclude you specifically from government contracts. Actually, I don’t see any way at all that Proposition 8’s failure or success will affect your ability to function civilly in this society. Sounds to me like you’re crying wolf when there’s no wolf in sight.

Tell me again…which civil rights of yours are you voting/advocating to protect?

PS — I laugh when you say that you feel domestic partnerships and marriage is the same. Obviously, you have never received a letter in the mail from your insurance company saying they don’t cover domestic partners. Or perhaps in all your “separate but equal” advocating , you just forgot to take a look exactly what kind of “equality” was being delivered to gay people.


October 5th, 2008

Rebecca seems to overestimate how much power teachers have over how children think. I can remember disagreeing with my teachers well before I was ten years old. What children need is a variety of views, and for that a good library is more important than the curriculum.

utah reader

October 5th, 2008

Let me guess, is he a Mormon? If so, enough said.

Ben in Oakland

October 5th, 2008

David– here’s one for you. Your father, however much I disagree with what he has to say, has an INVIOLABLE right to say it. If G himself were to say to me “Here’s the deal. gay marriage or free speech, one or the other” I would forgo my marriage to preserve free speech.

However, free speech is NOT the issue. The lies, the distortions, the half-truths, and the FEAR MONGERING that your esteemed father engages in are.

Children ‘taught same sex marriage’? Taught facts– and hopefully, same sex marriage will be a fact. but that’s not the implication. Taught about hetero sex is. Taught that gay people are the enemiy of all that is good.

Religious freedom– apparently, only for some believers, not for others. Lawsuits for speaking out against gay people? Not on my watch. Lawsuits cfor not allowing same sex marriages in their churches.

And on and on and on. The poverty of the arguments against gay marriage is measured by the willingness of the proponents to create fear mongering sterotypes and distortions.

David Benkof. david blankenhorn. your father. lovely company.

Timothy Kincaid

October 5th, 2008

LET ME MAKE MYSELF CLEAR, the issue here is that those in favor of changing marriage appear to favor free speech only when it doesn’t contradict their views and that they typically respond with violent and threatening communications to those who stand up for what they believe in.

No, David, the issue is truthfulness.

For example, you claim that those who oppose Proposition 8 “typically respond with violent and threatening communications”.

That is an outrageous claim; one that is obviously false and one for which you provide no evidence.

If there really are violent threats, which I doubt, turn them over to the police. But even if there were some violent threats, such response is far from “typical”, even towards those who seek to take away people’s rights.

It would seem that you are very like your father. You are quite comfortable with dishonesty.

Ben in Oakland

October 6th, 2008

Timothy: Speaking of being truth-challenged, I thought you would appreciate this letter that I just sent to the Mercury News:

Dear Editor:

Michelle Hayton claims that gay marriage caused a decline in all marriages in “Scandinavian countries that welcomed gay marriage a decade ago” and has negatively impacted those societies. First, gay marriage did not exist anywhere until 2001 in Holland, which is not Scandinavia.

Secondly, though she provides no citations, these “statistics” were created by Stanley Kurtz, and have been shown to be bogus, most recently by M.V. Lee Badgett and Timothy Kinkaid. Kurtz’s conclusions ignored the fact that his negative-impact statistics were part of long-term trends dating from the early ’70’s, reflecting profound changes in those societies long before gay marriage, and have since mostly leveled off or reversed . If one were going to claim that gay marriage impacts heterosexuals at all, which I would not, the data show the effect is a positive one.

Earlier this year, the government of Norway granted full marriage rights to gay couples. Would they have done this if marriage equality were having the deleterious effects that Hayton claims?


October 6th, 2008

Everyone should keep writing the Pepperdine people.
The name of the school is still running on some ads in Los Angeles and online.

That professor needs to be reprimanded or fired. What a crappy thing to do to the reputation of the school. It hurts all alumni.


October 7th, 2008

Utah Reader is correct. Just learned the Professor is a Mormon. Big Surprise, Huh?

Timothy Kincaid

October 7th, 2008

johnson, do you have a link to a source for us?


October 7th, 2008

It has been well discussed on, a website for former members of the LDS church. Couple of different threads relating to this, but the most active is entitled “Mormons up in arms to protect LDS Pepperdine Law Professor featured in Yes on 8 Commercials”. Hope that helps.


October 7th, 2008

This is the best link that Mr Peterson is indeed an LDS member Article on him in which he speaks about his LDS faith.

Timothy Kincaid

October 7th, 2008


thanks for the link. Yep, he’s definitely a Mormon.

Another Pdine Alum

October 7th, 2008

Don’t be fooled Pepperdine is anti gay marriage, but they are not stupid enough to alienate vast amounts of their student body and alumnus in order to get that point across. As a former student I know there are a lot more gay students at Pepperdine than they care to admit. I am shocked that as a law professor he didn’t realize by agreeing to do this ad he was giving them the green light to flash Pepperdine across the screen. They won’t fire him right away, but Pepperdine hates bad publicity, so it will only be a matter of time before they find a way to push him out.


October 7th, 2008

The ad is still up on the Prop 8 website and it still says “Pepperdine”.


October 8th, 2008

It gets worse. They have a NEW commercial now with new garbage out of his mouth and it says Pepperdine too.


October 8th, 2008

It is somewhat common for BYU students to choose to attend Pepperdine for their post-graduate degrees. It is recommended by student advisors and faculty at the “Y”.

If you want sources, I’m afraid I can’t provide them. Let’s just say…I know.

The tentacles of the Church has infiltrated the unwary…it is the BYU Campus West Coast (aka Pepperdine) as some would like it (playfully) to be called.


October 14th, 2008

I wonder if this Professor of Law, back in the day, would have come out as aggressively when blacks and whites were allowed to marry. People like him exist. We can only hope that the gays in his family (which there are) will show him that gay people are people. Surely, he will have his place in history and he’ll probably be the guy, who in 30 years, says he was wrong and naive.


October 14th, 2008

Direct complaints here:

Jerry Derloshon
Public Relations and News
Direct: (310) 506-6485
Cell: (949) 510-5455

George Pepperdine

October 14th, 2008


TO: University Faculty

FROM: Andrew K. Benton

RE: University Neutrality and Academic Freedom

DATE: October 14, 2008

I want to provide an update on an issue that weighs heavily on many of our minds: encouraging academic freedom while refraining from political endorsement by Pepperdine University. As most are aware, Yes on 8 ads airing on television and radio feature one of our professors. The Pepperdine name is prominently displayed in the current round of ads and many vocal supporters and opponents of Prop 8 see the opinions expressed as not only the professor’s, but Pepperdine’s as well.

Many of our professors write op-eds, books and give speeches; and they are appropriately identified with Pepperdine University. My first reaction to this series of television ads was that Pepperdine was too prominent. Many on the faculty disagreed, some agreed strongly. At the faculty conference I learned that a disclaimer would satisfy the professor and others who were involved. We offered language that was simple and clear, and while we knew the firestorm would continue in some quarters, we felt a straightforward disclaimer would allow the professor his right to speak and our right to remain outside any role of endorsement in the political fray. The next day, I learned that the professor and those promoting Proposition 8 preferred to withdraw Pepperdine’s name completely. We agreed. It was a change from a position announced just the day before, but it seemed a stronger measure and appropriate.

Just prior to running a second ad, the campaign announced to us that in their opinion it would be more effective if Pepperdine’s name was back in. They added a disclaimer, albeit so small and bare, that most do not see it. It was not the language which we had suggested. They did not ask us; they told us what they were going to do, and they did it.

Without any involvement in the campaign, Pepperdine has been lionized and vilified. We have been given credit where it is not due and blamed beyond anyone’s wildest imaginings. I, and perhaps many of you, continue to receive words of praise and condemnation from people who are either thanking us, or sharply criticizing us. Whether the writers are for or against Prop 8, I take no comfort from either position as it puts us where we don’t belong — in partisan politics.

This is a very challenging situation. We believe that the right to freedom of expression must be balanced with the fact that universities cannot endorse political candidates and propositions. We can host debates, we can educate, but we can’t endorse.

We regret when anyone supposes that we are inappropriately involved in a political issue when we are not. We will take whatever measures we deem appropriate to correct the misunderstanding. I will be writing to alumni and donors to explain the delicate nature of the balance we strike. We must not chill the right to free expression, but we must also avoid the appearance (intended or not) of political partisanship.

You can be of service to our institution by helping us clear up this confusion with those who may ask. I appreciate your understanding, your assistance and your patience.

Yet Another Alumnus

October 14th, 2008

I have been engaged in a debate with the Pepperdine administration, including someone who has a gay son. Pepperdine is claiming “academic freedom,” and has not responded to my argument that academic freedom does not include the freedom to lie. I am disgusted by this whole matter. It comes down to this: Pepperdine, like any university, is interested in raising money. That, in turn, means placating donors. Money talks, the truth walks. I guarantee you that, religious affiliation aside, if Pepperdine had a number of major donors who were against Prop 8, it would have taken a much different approach with Peterson — or may have had a professor appear in a No on 8 ad instead.

I spent two years as a student working for the admissions department at Pepperdine, including two summers that I spent working at church camps and spreading the good news about the school. And now I am completely ashamed to be an alumnus.


October 16th, 2008

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