To the Editor:

Last week, I wrote on this page that “Two men married means twice the patriarchy” (“Labels aid brevity but impede understanding,” 9/19). It seems that some readers misunderstood my intention with the sentence. Indeed, the critics are correct: Technically speaking, patriarchy involves children, a biological impossibility for two men considered a couple. Therefore, I would like to take this moment to assure readers that I never intended to offend ardent supporters of legitimate patriarchy. May no one redefine patriarchy again.

But it seems that I am not only misunderstood when my tongue is firmly planted in cheek. Though I appreciate Xan White ’09’s response (“Conservatism, religion work at cross purposes with Constitution,” 9/21) he did not understand the central claim of my editorial. I argued that conservatism is not simply made up of the slate of issues that political conservatives espouse. When White points out Barry Goldwater’s vote against the Civil Rights Act and equates the position with conservatism, then, he is employing the specific tactic against which I argued. Indeed, a conservative can take issue with Goldwater’s vote precisely because he believes in a principle — the idea that men are equal before God.

Strangely, White also argues against this principle. To be fair, White delineates between the private and the public realm, arguing that the principle is acceptable when confined to private faith. But is his notion of “institutionalized U.S. secularism” a reality in the American political tradition? When Thomas Jefferson wrote that “all men are created equal,” the creator to whom he was referring was not the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Equality before the law is an American principle because equality before God is the American creed.

Peter Johnston ’09

Sept. 24, 2006