crossposted on Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters

A situation which hardly ever gets discussed when it comes to opposition to gay equality is the bad intersection between Christian beliefs and distorted science.

To some who call themselves Christians, opposing gay equality on  religious grounds isn't enough. Some Christians align themselves in or with “traditional values” groups  and religious figures who have created a body of “scientific work” which supposedly proves that homosexuality in itself is a “dangerous lifestyle” that is indicative of dastardly deeds, sexually transmitted diseases, and an early death.

However it should be noted that this body of “scientific work” is rife with junk science and studies either cherry-picked or taken out of context.

A perfect example is a recent piece by Catholic Online entitled Opposing the Homosexual Agenda: Religious Bigotry or Science and Justice?. The author, Sonja Corbitt, tries to make the case that there are justifiable reasons to discriminate against gays and lesbians. And the research she cites is highly dubious:

A “Review of Research on Homosexual Parenting, Adoption, and Foster Parenting” was done by George A. Rekers, Ph.D., Professor of Neuropsychiatry & Behavioral Science, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Columbia, South Carolina. It is a well-known review, and in it, Rekers cites numerous national and international studies that revealed:

• Households with a homosexually-behaving adult uniquely endanger children.

•Households with a homosexually-behaving adult expose children to significantly higher rates of psychological disorder, (particularly depression), suicide, and substance abuse in homosexually-behaving adults, which results in higher rates of child depression, child maltreatment and neglect.

• Households with a resident homosexually-behaving adult are substantially less capable of providing the best psychologically stable and secure home.

• Households with a homosexually-behaving male contribute to a potentially higher risk of removal due to the sexual abuse.

• A husband/wife relationship is significantly healthier and substantially more stable socially and psychologically.

• The best child adjustment results from living with a married man and woman compared to other family structures.

• Compared to a family without a homosexually behaving adult, empirical evidence and 30 years of Rekers´s own clinical experience with children strongly support the conclusion that a home with a homosexual-behaving individual subjects a child to a set of disadvantages, stresses, and other harms that are seriously detrimental to a child´s psychological and social development.

This review is an extensive survey of many, many studies and their research; the science behind it was used at state levels to guide public policy regarding child custody decisions, adoption, and foster parenting, as well as to defend and uphold laws to this effect in other states and on behalf of the Boy Scouts of America. These laws were upheld by the US Supreme Court.

At first glance, Corbitt's citation of Rekers sounds reasonable. But there are a few facts she omitted.

Rekers, a former professor at the University of South Carolina and a founder of the Family Research Council, has testified against the lgbt community in adoption cases.

In 2004, he was an expert witness in a case involving gay adoption in Arkansas. The state had banned gays from adopting in 1999. In January 2005, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Timothy White ruled against the state of Arkansas. Furthermore, he called Rekers' testimony “extremely suspect.” He also accused Rekers of testifying solely for promoting his “own personal agenda.”

 

In 2008, Rekers was also an expert witness in a case defending Florida's gay adoption ban. Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Cindy Lederman ruled against the state. In her decision, she said “Dr. Rekers’ testimony was far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence. Dr. Rekers’ beliefs are motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science. Based on his testimony and demeanor at trial, the court can not consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy.”

Lederman may have been put off by the fact that Rekers said based on “research,”  a case could be made for banning Native Americans from adopting children.

Then Corbitt says the following:

Dr. Robert L. Spitzer, the Columbia University psychiatric professor and researcher who led the 1973 APA decision to declassify homosexuality itself as a mental-health disorder, released findings in 2001 that disproved his earlier position of immutability and demonstrated, instead, that change is possible. He said specifically, that data from his study “show some people can change from gay to straight, and we ought to acknowledge that” (“Some Gays Can Go Straight, Study Suggests,” Malcolm Ritter, Associated Press, 9 May 2001).

Here are a few facts that Corbitt again omitted. In 2001, psychologist Robert Spitzer published a controversial study that seemed to claim that small number of people can change their orientation from gay to heterosexual.

In 45-minute individual telephone calls with 143 “ex-gays” and 57 “ex-lesbians,” Spitzer asked them 60 questions dealing with their feelings and behavior before and after they allegedly changed their orientations. They also talked about their strategies, feelings and motives for changing. Many of these individuals were referred to Spitzer by “ex-gay” groups.

And it was these same groups which lauded the study, making sure to mention that Spitzer was one of the principle people who led the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

However, as these groups touted Spitzer's study as the silver bullet which would kill the argument for gay equality, Spitzer himself wasn't exactly happy about how his work was being used. He went on record declaring that he was “appalled” at how his work was being simplified. He also published a column in the May 23, 2001 edition of The Wall Street Journal saying that “complete change is uncommon.”

In addition, in a 2006 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Spitzer said that he now believes that some of those he interviewed for his study may have been either lying to him or themselves. – Ex-Gays Seek a Say in Schools, Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2006

The most egregious part of Corbitt's piece is the following:

the research is also clear that those involved in a gay lifestyle are much more likely to suffer from negative health effects ranging from psychiatric disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, suicide attempts, domestic violence and sexual assault, and increased risk for chronic diseases, AIDS, and shortened lifespan. 

Corbitt conveniently doesn't cite the sources of her claims here. But allow me to break it do
wn if I can. She omits the fact that while some gays do suffer from cases of negative health behaviors (i.e. alcohol and drug abuse and suicide attempts,)  and some are at risk for diseases (i.e. AIDS), no researcher or physician has ever blamed the gay or lesbian orientation for this. Many have said that outside factors, in fact the main outside factor for these negative health behaviors and diseases is having to deal with a homophobic society.


Proof of that is here, here, and here.

However there are two points where Corbitt may have used cherry-picked research:

Shortened lifespan – the distortion of  1997 Canadian study.

Domestic violence -  the distortion of the book Men Who Beat the Men Who Love Them and work from the Journal of Interpersonal Violence

The thing to note about Corbitt's piece is not so much that the work it contains is inaccurate but that I don't think she meant to deceive anyone. I don't think that she knows how wrong her citations are.

And that's the sad thing about the intersection between Christian beliefs and junk science.

If Christians have to stoop to junk and cherry picked science to defend their religious beliefs, then what does it say about the nature of God whom they are supposed to serve?