I was born in a nation which had thrown off the shackles of His Britannic Majesty 201 years before, and as an adult, I moved to a country which had done so 51 years prior. I’m not a fan of the British monarchy, but I have nothing against them either. I am mystified by the obsession with the heir to the heir to the heir of the throne and how brilliant, I am sure, his poops must be. After all, they’re just figureheads, right?
Except they’re not. Queen Elizabeth II is head of state, which means she has the authority to do what she did today, granting a pardon to Alan Turing:
Who was Alan Turing, and why should you care? Well, imagine if Albert Einstein was capable of doing math. If you’re reading this, you owe Alan Turing, without whom the modern computer would never have existed. Also, the Nazis would probably have won without his code-breaking machine. And then there was the Turing test, which may help us prevent the RIse of the Machines by figuring out when they achieve true artificial intelligence. But if you’re OK with killer robots, typewriters and the Third Reich, you could have done without Alan Turing.
That is, after all, what Her Majesty Elizabeth II’s government decided. The Crown prosecuted Turing for “gross indecency,” i.e. having sex with a consenting man, in 1952. The case was Regina v. Turing and Murray. Guess who that Regina was? Yup, Lizzie Deux, long may she wave.
Turing was given the choice of chemical castration or prison, and he chose the former. Two years later, at age 41, he committed suicide with cyanide; a half-eaten apple was found next to his corpse. It seems that Professor Turing had an obsession with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, especially the part with the Wicked Queen, disguised as a Witch, who uses a poisoned apple. I guess that was just a coincidence.
So Alan Turing gets a pardon on Christmas Eve, by Her Royal Mercy (not Justice, mind you). But he was not the only revolutionary scholar-teacher to catch a legal break this holiday season: our old friend Moti Elon (whom I’ve written about before here and here) got quite a gift from the Magistrate’s Court in snowy Jerusalem. Though he has been convicted of two counts of indecent acts against a minor, he won’t serve any jail time: he gets off with 6 months of community service.
After the sentencing, Elon said that he “happily accepted” the community service, wryly noting that has already been serving the community for years and “will be happy to engage in public service until I’m 120 years old.”
So, his community service will be preaching. Maybe the Knesset will pass a bill preventing him from teaching minors. Maybe the Rabbinate will strip him of his title. Or maybe he’ll be pardoned. Who knows?
It’s certainly not encouraging what Rabbi Haim Druckman, one of religious Zionism’s most prestigious figures, has done. He has given him a job teaching at his own yeshiva, Or Etzion, where Elon will be in exactly the same position he was at Yeshivat HaKotel when he molested two 17-year-olds (indicted for both, convicted for one): teaching recent high-school graduates. Druckman states:
I don’t believe there is anything in his Torah lessons that is not kosher, there is no reason not to learn from him or listen to Torah lessons from him.
At the end of the day, we’re talking about an incident in which two people were in the room, Rabbi Elon and the complainant. There was no one in the room apart from them. This person claims one thing, which the other denies. There’s no other testimony [on this incident]. Who says the claim is true? No one knows what happened in the room and no one can know. This is why I saw the ruling as a mistake.
Got that, everyone? The ruling is wrong because there are no witnesses. Druckman’s message: rape away, rabbis, as long as no one’s watching. No arrest, indictment, conviction or sentence can ever make us doubt you.
For the sake of full disclosure, I will note that I studied at Yeshivat Or Etzion and taught at Yeshivat HaKotel. Technically, Elon was the rosh yeshiva while I was there, but he was under the bizarre semi-excommunication dictated by the Takanah organization, headed by Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion. (I studied there for the better part of a decade.) Needless to say, this whole affair has seriously affected the way I think of all three, albeit to varying degrees.
Now, people often ask me why I, an Orthodox rabbi, write in defense of homosexuals (or they just tell me that since I do so, I can’t really be an Orthodox rabbi). The answer is right in front of you. What happened to Alan Turing is vile and disgusting, and it is not that distant from our experience. The queen who just pardoned him is the same queen who prosecuted him. The fact that he was a once-in-a-generation genius, the fact that he was a war hero, the fact that he had consensual sex with a 19-year-old–none of it mattered, because GAAAA-AAAY! That’s why I get up in arms about bearded rednecks who use their limited understanding of the Bible to condemn gays as the source of all immorality and sin (without letting those uppity black folk off the hook); that’s why I enlist to fight the supposedly enlightened rabbi-doctors who are calling us to “continue to wage the war” against the gays and those “who might accept them, and treat them with respect and understanding.”
It’s the only way to fathom the shocking cruelty shown towards Turing all those years ago; I would argue that it also goes a long way to explaining the shocking leniency shown towards Elon now. Once you classify homosexuality as sickness, it’s easy to say that Elon had a bout of it, but now he’s all better. Only through the lens of homophobia can you discount both the consensual, mutual romantic relationship between Turing and his adult paramour in 1952 and the coercive, vindictive rape committed by Elon against his underage victim fifty years late. I do not want to be in that bigoted camp under any circumstances. It’s not about mercy, Ma’am; it’s about justice, God save you.
Personally, at the end of the day, I pray for my portion to be with the God of Alan Turing, not the God of Moti Elon.