Chicago Tribune's Steve Chapman Replies To Paul Gottfried

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Re: Paul Gottfried’s article Libertarian Steve Chapman: Mississippi Has More Crime Than Vermont Because Of Excessive Bible Reading!


From: Steve Chapman [Email him]


It doesn't grieve me to disappoint the folks at VDARE.com, but I'm afraid Paul Gottfried's critique is based on faulty information.


In the column that offended him, I argued that, judging from the available evidence, secularism does not cause the grave harm that Rick Santorum claims.[ Rick Santorum’s Moral Delusions, Reason.com, January 9, 2012] For example, states with low rates of religiosity tend to have low rates of crime—not high rates, as Santorum's argument would suggest. Gottfried doesn't deny this but says the reason Southern Bible Belt states fare worse than the more secular New England is that they have far more black residents.


It's a great puzzle why he thinks this disproves my thesis. Blacks in the United States have a higher propensity for church attendance than whites. If they are, on average, more prone to violence, it tends to confirm that religion does not promote wholesome behavior.


In his preoccupation with the alleged shortcomings of blacks, Gottfried overlooks a crucial fact—the huge disparity in rates of violence among whites.  In Mississippi, the most religious state, the rate of homicide among white men is about five times higher than in Vermont or New Hampshire, the least religious states. Alabama, the second most religious state, is nearly as bad. In West Virginia, which Gottfried cites as a model of peace and decorum because it has so few African-Americans, the rate of homicide among white men is more than double the rate in New Hampshire, Vermont or Maine.


He accuses me of deliberately omitting useful information. It may be useful, but not to his case.


Steve Chapman writes for both the Chicago Tribune and Reason Magazine.


Paul Gottfried writes: Steve Chapman has not disproved my argument, which is that violent crime is correlated most significantly with race. Whether or not blacks attend church services, it seems that their rates of violent crime are higher than among whites.


But according to US Department of Health and Human Services statistics (2011), although over 80% of black children are born out of wedlock, black women who attend church regularly are much less likely to give birth to a first child out of wedlock. Since being born into an intact two-parent family has a statistically demonstrable effect on black crime, church attendance and religious practices may correlate with a lower likelihood of black criminality. [Why Religion Matters: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability, By Patrick Fagan, Ph.D., Heritage.org, January 25, 1996]


I’m not as sure as he is about certain points that Chapman asserts as self-evident. He is correct that blacks at 55% have one of the highest church attendance rates in the US, along with Republicans and self-described conservatives. What he fails to show, however, is that young black males are proportionately represented in that group, which appears to be disproportionately female and over fifty-five.


Chapman may also overstate the difference in church attendance between the North and the South. In the relevant study provided by the University of Nebraska, the discrepancy between weekly church attendance rates in the two regions fell from 8 to 3 days between 1971 and 1996. By now the difference may be lower.


I would also like to know where Chapman picked up his information that the white crime rate in West Virginia is five times higher than in Massachusetts or Vermont. According to US Bureau of Statistics figures I’ve seen, West Virginia had the lowest or second lowest crime rate in the country starting in the early 1970s up until 1998. The rate then rose or fell to number 7 but seems to be going back to its earlier lower level. The white population in New England must be totally emasculated if they can top that record of crime-abstinence. I’d also like to know where Chapman found his comparative figures for white crime in Mississippi and Vermont. The US Bureau of Statistics numbers that I’ve dug up carefully avoid categorizing the perpetrators of crime by race. Perhaps Chapman has better sources than mine but I’d be delighted to know what they are. 


Paul Gottfried [ email him ]  recently retired as Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of After LiberalismMulticulturalism and the Politics of Guilt and The Strange Death of Marxism His most recent book is Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America