top of page
Recent Posts
Featured Posts

Supreme Court rejects Clopper v Harvard appeal


Andrew Gross

October 2, 2023

On May 1, 2018 Eric Clopper, a Harvard University employee, performed his one-man production, "Sex & Circumcision: An American Love Story" in a campus theater. [1]



THE PLAY

In some respects the two-hour presentation was similar to An Elephant in the Hospital, Ryan McAllister's scholarly lecture. Clopper gave his audience the typical intactivist talking points that are mostly false, misleading, out of context, or irrelevant. Many of his arguments have been addressed in various articles on this website. (See below.) As the performance progressed Clopper became agitated, frenetic, hyperbolic, and finally enraged. He portrayed medical officials and religious leaders as monsters conspiring to deceive the public.


Clopper displayed reckless arrogance and narcissism, boasting, "I didn't come here to debate this issue. I came here to dominate it." [2] "I learned everything about circumcision. I know everything about it." [3] "I am the fucking authority [on circumcision]. I am Doctor Who in this motherfucker! There's not a person on this planet who can contest me on this!" [4] "I explained it! I explained everything! And I am 100% unquestionably, irrefutably, unequivocally correct!" [5]



Two days later the Harvard Crimson student newspaper published a story titled, "Harvard 'Reviewing' Employee's Nude, Anti-Semitic Rant in Sanders Theatre." The article cited a video of the performance and stated that Clopper "repeatedly mimick[ed] various sexual acts with an inflatable sex doll" while nude. [6]


A Crimson editorial noted that Clopper had misled the public when promoting his show. "Posters of a censored yet nude Clopper and paid promoters in penis costumes made no mention of Clopper's anti-circumcision stance, much less his anti-Semitic one... Clopper's tirade ... falsely bill[ed] the show as an 'American Love Story' instead of a bigoted criticism of, in Clopper's words, the Jewish 'fucking covenant.'" [7]


Two months later Harvard concluded its investigation and fired Clopper from his position as a systems administrator.



THE LAWSUIT

In July 2020 Clopper filed a $500,000 federal lawsuit against Harvard University, the Crimson, and unnamed "donors and alumni." Clopper "accused Harvard and the Crimson of defamation and libel, violating the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, and other actions that justify damages. His complaint also alleged the University violated Clopper’s First Amendment rights." [8]


Clopper, now age 31, accused the Crimson of "interfering with his employment contract and conspiring with Harvard to defame and steal the play." [8][9] He alleged defamation based on three published statements: "(1) that [Eric] Clopper 'improperly worked on the play during work hours,' (2) that he 'is anti-Semitic'; and (3) that he 'engaged in a 'nude, anti-Semitic rant' in Harvard's Sanders Theatre.'" [9][10]


In October 2020 a federal district judge dismissed the lawsuit against the university. The judge ruled that Harvard, a private institution, didn't interfere with Clopper's First Amendment rights. The university's decision to terminate his employment was legal because he had an "at will" contract. [11] Three weeks later the court dismissed the libel lawsuit against the newspaper. The judge ruled that none of the statements were actionable because they were either true or opinions based on direct quotations of the performance. [10]



THE APPEALS

Clopper appealed the dismissal of his lawsuit in December 2020. In the appellant brief he contended that the district judge improperly dismissed his complaint with prejudice (meaning he was prohibited from ever refiling his case) just 15 days after the judge had granted Harvard's motion to dismiss the case. Clopper argued that federal rules of civil procedure grant a plaintiff 21 days to file an amended complaint. [11] He asked the appeals court to overturn the dismissal and order the district court to allow him to file an amended complaint. In August 2022 the court rejected his appeal. [12]

In April 2023 Clopper announced his intention to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. [13] He argued that Harvard had "apparently convinced the [lower courts] that instead of having sincere religious beliefs worthy of protection, Clopper merely delivered a nude anti-Semitic rant unworthy of minimum due process." [14] Clopper and his attorneys failed to realize that the earlier rulings weren't based on his anti-circumcision message, his religious beliefs, or the propriety of public nudity. Rather, the rulings were based on the fact that the defendants had neither violated his civil rights nor committed defamation.


This afternoon the Supreme Court denied Clopper's appeal. Case dismissed! [15]



NUDE SEX ACT

A Harvard administrator emailed Clopper three days before the event, advising him that nudity was not allowed in the theater. [16] He replied, "It's an edgy show, but we'll stay within the bounds of propriety, no worries." [17] Yet Clopper ignored the warning because he "believed that he had the right to include nudity." He declared that he considered a prohibition of nudity "an infringement on his contractual rights and his constitutionally protected right to free speech." [9]


Clopper described a lecture he had given at Cornell University in 2017. He adapted his play for Harvard from the Cornell lecture and added "theatrical elements," including the nude sex scene. Paradoxically Clopper claimed that "nudity was an essential part of the message about circumcision." [9] He didn't explain why his message had to include a nude sex act at Harvard, but not at Cornell.



ANTISEMITISM

During the performance Clopper denounced Jews and Judaism, promoted classic antisemitic stereotypes, and held the Jewish faith responsible for Gentile circumcisions.

  • He falsely stated, "It is irrefutably true that rabbis designed and implemented circumcision to damage Jewish children's sexuality." [18]

  • He called the Jewish religion "hideous," "duplicitous," and "an unspeakable evil," and he falsely claimed that Judaism fooled the United States into implementing infant circumcision. [19]

  • He provoked circumcised American men to blame Judaism for their circumcision status. "If you are an American man ... you have been raped of essential elements of your humanity because of the demonstrably evil influence Judaism has on this country.” [20]

  • He referred to Dr. Andrew Freedman, an AAP task force member, in a manner designed to personally humiliate the Jewish urologist. “I just made [the AAP Circumcision Task Force] publicly my bitches. Except for you, Andy. You’re not my bitch. You’re my little piggy. Will you show them how you squeal for me, Andy? [pig squealing sound]. Oh that’s a good little piggy, Andy!” [21] Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon explained that Clopper was referencing 'Deliverance,' a film in which a madman attacked and raped a man while forcing the victim to squeal like a pig. "Clopper, in this disgraceful reference, is dominating Andrew Freedman by rape." [22]

  • Clopper told the audience that "Judaism has too strong a grip on this country" and he demanded that they refuse to "tolerate Judaism in its current form." [23] In closing Clopper labeled Judaism "an unmasked genital mutilation cult," and he falsely accused the Jewish people of having a superiority complex. [24]


Ungar-Sargon, a Jewish intactivist and filmmaker, wrote, "Eric Clopper’s show ... includes passages that are so unambiguously antisemitic that it is impossible for anyone even remotely familiar with the prejudice to arrive at any other conclusion in good faith." Ungar-Sargon concluded that the play is "factually inaccurate, negligently insensitive, and unambiguously antisemitic." [22]


Muslims and Christians are responsible for exponentially more circumcisions than Jews. So it's telling that Clopper withheld his wrath from their religions. He absolved Islam and Christianity for superficial reasons despite acknowledging that "Islam is the largest circumcising group in the world." He falsely claimed that Christianity banned circumcision and that the procedure violates the Christian faith. [25][26]



JEWISH IDENTITY

At several points during the performance Clopper stated that he is Jewish, and he held up his Jewish identity as a shield against the charge of antisemitism. He referred to Judaism as "the blood that courses through my veins." [27] Two days later he said, "This play was an expression of my Jewish heritage, an expression of my Jewish identity, an expression of my Jewish sexuality. [28] Clopper repeatedly asserted his Jewish identity in legal briefs. For example, "Clopper was born Jewish and is a Jewish man." [9] Consequently most media reports identified him as Jewish.


However a commenter to a 2020 article questioned Clopper's religious identity. PurpleJean wrote, "it appears that Clopper was born to a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother." Why is that significant? Jewish law as practiced by the Orthodox and Conservative movements follows matrilineal descent. Jewish identity is passed down through the mother, not the father. [29] The Reform movement accepts a child with one Jewish parent as a Jew only if he was raised in the Jewish faith. [30]


While referring to his Jewish father at several points during the show, Clopper never mentioned his mother's religion. [31] An online search failed to locate definitive proof of her religious status. However it appears that Michele A (Puehn) Clopper is a 1971 graduate from Bishop Neumann, a Catholic high school in Nebraska. If his mother was Catholic at the time of his birth, then Clopper is not a Jew according to Jewish law. A Gentile status would shine a sharply different light on his antisemitic rant. Eric Clopper would be condemning Judaism - not as an insider, a member of the tribe - but as an outsider, a Gentile without a single drop of Jewish blood in his veins. [30][32]


Clopper brazenly accused the writers of the Harvard Crimson article of calling him an antisemite. He said, "For non-Jews to brand a Jew as an anti-Semite is not only absurd, but it's an offensive act of cultural appropriation. It is anti-Semitic on its face." [28][33][34] Ironically I found more evidence that Clopper is a Gentile than that either reporter is a Gentile. [35]


Clopper didn't respond to my email requesting clarification of the basis for his Jewish identity.



CONCLUSION

His arrogance and narcissism may have led Eric Clopper to believe that he is infallible on the topic of circumcision. The same destructive traits drove him to initiate this futile legal action and then pursue it all the way to the Supreme Court.


Clopper ended his performance by predicting his impending success. "History will vindicate me in the immediate future, whether it takes two months or two years. But I seriously doubt longer than that." Five years later it's clear that he was wrong. (In fact one could say that Clopper was unquestionably, irrefutably, and unequivocally wrong!) Since his prediction two states have resumed Medicaid coverage. [36] Intactivists have lost several lawsuits in the United States and Canada. And circumcision remains legal everywhere on earth.






ARTICLES THAT ADDRESS CLOPPER'S ASSERTIONS



[1] Eric Clopper; "Sex & Circumcision: An American Love Story by Eric Clopper"; Eric Clopper YouTube channel; July 19, 2018

[2] ibid (10:25)

[3] ibid (17:56)

[4] ibid (1:18:38)

[5] ibid (2:02:07)

[6] Lucy Wang and Michael E. Xie; "Harvard Reviewing Employee's Nude, Anti-Semitic Rant in Sanders Theatre"; Harvard Crimson; May 3, 2018

[7] The Crimson Editorial Staff; "Against 'Sex and Circumcision: An American Love Story'"; Harvard Crimson; May 9, 2018

[8] Jasper G. Goodman; "Former Harvard Employee Eric Clopper Sues University, The Crimson"; Harvard Crimson; July 21, 2020

[9] Clopper v. Harvard University, 1:20-cv-11363, (D. Mass.) 2020

[10] Eugene Volokh; "Libel Lawsuit Against Harvard Crimson Dismissed"; The Volokh Conspiracy; November 5, 2020

[15] Clopper v Harvard, USCA Case Number 20-2140 (2022), Appellant Brief

[11] Rule 15: "A party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course no later than:... 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b)."

[12] Brandon L. Kingdollar; "Federal Appeals Court Rejects Libel Lawsuit Against Harvard, the Crimson" Harvard Crimson; August 11, 2022 [13] Eric Clopper; "Clopper Appeals to the Supreme Court of the United States"; Eric Clopper Youtube Channel

[15] Clopper v Harvard, case 23-1; Supreme Court of the United States; updated October 2, 2023

[16] Ruth Polleys; email to Eric Clopper; April 28, 2018. "Due to the nature of the posters advertising the event, I've been asked to let you know that zoning laws and our Entertainment License with the City of Cambridge do not permit nudity as part of any event. The May 1 event may well not include nudity, but we want to be sure--and want to be sure the Entertainment License for Sanders remains in compliance."

[17] Eric Clopper; email to Ruth Polleys; April 28, 2018

[18] Clopper; "Sex & Circumcision"; (29:53-30:01)

[19] ibid; (2:02:21-2:02:56)

[20] ibid; (2:03:07-2:03:20)

[21] ibid; (1:15:58-1:16:22)

[22] Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon; "On Eric Clopper and Misdirected Anger"; Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon blog; August 8, 2018

[23] Clopper; "Sex & Circumcision"; (1:59:57-2:00:01), (1:57:46-1:57:53)

[24] ibid; (2:06:30-2:06:52)

[25] ibid, (1:36:05-1:37:45)

[26] Glory Dy; "What Should Christians Know About Circumcision in the Bible?"; Christianity Today; December 29, 2020. "Even if our Christian belief does not necessarily demand us to do so, the practice of circumcision has become a societal norm and a free choice for Christians to make... [C]ircumcision is a believer’s choice. It may not be a demand as stated in the New Testament, but sometimes it is a norm in certain countries and societies, and studies have shown it is a healthy choice - and for this reason, Christians follow the practice."

[27] Clopper; "Sex & Circumcision"; (1:37:50-1:37:53)

[28] Eric Clopper; "Cultural Appropriation at Harvard"; Eric Clopper YouTube channel; May 3, 2018

[29] A Gentile can engage in a process to convert to Judaism. However a conversion in accordance with one Jewish movement may not be recognized by a more traditional movement.

[30] Clopper described that as an infant, he was "strapped to a board" and circumcised by an obstetrician. His description is contrary to a Jewish ritual circumcision, which is performed by a mohel and typically wouldn't involve an immobilization board. In other words, Clopper was circumcised for medical or cultural reasons, not religious tradition. Eric Clopper; "Sex & Circumcision"; (2:01:00-2:01:14)

[31] Clopper: "Sex & Circumcision"; (1:56:08-1:56:14)

[32] Under most circumstances a person's religion would have no bearing on the validity of his argument. However in this case, Clopper has made his religious identity relevant by repeatedly identifying himself as Jewish. He's used his religious identity as a sword to attack the Jewish religion and a shield to protect himself against legitimate accusations of antisemitism.

[33] Clopper's assertion that the reporters labeled or branded him antisemitic is meritless. Typically a newspaper headline is created by an editor, not a reporter. Wang and Xie accurately wrote that "Harvard [was] reviewing reports that ... Eric Clopper made anti-Semitic comments." The reporters quoted Clopper's statements and accurately called them "attacks against Judaism..." At no point did the reporters directly label him "antisemitic."

[34] An accusation of antisemitism against someone who is Jewish made by someone who isn't Jewish is neither absurd nor antisemitic nor cultural appropriation. Clopper's feigned outrage diverts attention from the relevant issue, which is whether or not the accusation is true.

[35] I am not suggesting that Lucy Wang or Michael Xie is Jewish. Only that Clopper had no reasonable basis to exclude the possibility, based on his own self-identification.

[36] North Carolina reinstated Medicaid coverage on January 1, 2021. South Carolina followed six months later.



Comentarios


Follow Us
Search By Tags
Archive
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page