In light of an imminent Supreme Court decision on two cases involving gay marriage issues, the influential The Des Moines Register today published what may be an academic landmark statement, at least in our state of Iowa.
Biblical scholars from all three regents universities in Iowa published a joint statement challenging the popular claim that the only acceptable definition of biblical marriage is that between one man and one woman. An appeal to the Bible has been endemic among those who oppose gay marriage. This is the first time that biblical scholars from all three major state universities in Iowa have joined together to issue such a statement. See Statement.
The co-authors of this statement are Dr. Hector Avalos, Professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, Dr. Robert Cargill, Assistant Professor of religious studies at The University of Iowa, and Dr. Kenneth Atkinson, Associate Professor of History at The University of Northern Iowa.
Such a joint statement may mark a new emphasis on activist biblical scholarship that seeks to go beyond writing only for academic publications that the general public rarely reads. Academic biblical studies can be more relevant when it can educate the public and refute misinformed views on the Bible that are often used to enact social policies.
Iowa has been a leader in the use of faculty statements in the past, including during the Intelligent Design controversies at Iowa State University in 2005 and 2007 (see Intelligent Design Controversy). Iowa is also one of the first states to legalize gay marriage.