Exodus International: Open forum

This week Exodus International is holding the annual conference at Ridgecrest, NC.
From time to time on various posts Exodus history comes up. I have been privileged to have numerous Exodus participants past and present comment here over the years, but the comments often go hither and yon.
So I am creating the post for that conversation to continue. I am going to talk to my weboverlord, Paul to see if we can get a link to it in the right column so we can find it easily. So spread the word, if you have ever been involved with Exodus International, feel free to comment here, good or bad. Feel free to cut and paste comments from other threads. I do not intend for this to become a praise or bashing session, rather a forum of sorts to discuss history and impressions, aspirations, positives, areas for improvement, etc. If you really like Exodus, I hope you might glean something from those who do not, read and learn if you will. And if you don’t like it, I hope you will recognize that some others have found much meaning and blessing in the relationships they have formed via Exodus.

Anti-violence group expresses concerns over APA abortion task force

Just over a year ago, I reported on the creation by the American Psychological Association of a task force to study the mental health issues related to abortion.
The task force is slated to report findings at the August, 2008 annual convention. I have obtained letters of concern regarding the timing and composition of the task from a group called Consistent Life. Their mission statement reads:

We are committed to the protection of life, which is threatened in today’s world by war, abortion, poverty, racism, capital punishment and euthanasia. We believe that these issues are linked under a ‘consistent ethic of life’. We challenge those working on all or some of these issues to maintain a cooperative spirit of peace, reconciliation, and respect in protecting the unprotected.

The first letter is here.
APA President Alan Kazdin replied here.
Consistent Life then wrote a follow up response.
The report is not available to the public as yet but will probably be made public during the APA convention. I will be surprised if the report provides reasonable guidelines for informing women of potential risks associated with abortion.

Insure.com in gay lifespan dispute

Boxturtlebulletin is reporting a Cameron citing of some interest. Insure.com has an article on the company website which accepts the lifespan estimates of the Camerons.
We have covered this matter here in depth (e.g. here). To make it easier to follow that nine-part series, I have put it into one article – “Only the gay die young? An exchange between Warren Throckmorton, Morten Frisch, Paul Cameron and Kirk Cameron regarding the lifespan of homosexuals.” All of the posts are included with commentary regarding the arguments presented in that exchange.
As I look at the Insure.com article and the CEO response, I am puzzled why the company has not removed it from the website. I do not believe the Camerons made their case in that article. Also, the one other team which reports a more traditional methodology, Hogg et al, later made it clear that their estimates would be much more positive if current data were used. The author, Joe White, omits that information from his article.
Mr. White quotes the Cameron’s Eastern Psychological Association presentation but does not link to it. It is no longer on the Christian Newswire website but is stored here on the Lifesitenews website. The Cameron’s EPA report is extensively critiqued in my article above by Danish epidemiologist, Morten Frisch and me.

Man sues Bible publishers over references to homosexuality

Actually, what I think he is saying is that the Bible doesn’t really mean homosexual when in I Corinthians 6, homosexual is listed. As I understand it, from this USA Today article, he is arguing that the publishers used the term homosexual in the translation with intent to harm him as a member of that class. I think Zondervan and Thomas Nelson will prevail…

Swedish twin study: Q & A with J. Michael Bailey

Recently, I posted here and here about a new study from Sweden involving twins and sexuality (Niklas Långström, Qazi Rahman, Eva Carlström, Paul Lichtenstein, (2008). Genetic and Environmental Effects on Same-sex Sexual Behaviour: A Population Study of Twins in Sweden. Archives of Sexual Behaviour, June 7, published online.) To get additional perspective on this new report, I asked prominent sexuality researcher, J. Michael Bailey from Northwestern University to comment. My thanks to Dr. Bailey for his time and expertise.

Throckmorton: How are the models used in twin studies able to separate the family influence into genetic and shared environmental effects? Clearly the environmental factors shared by twins do not look influential in this study. Many critics of this kind of work will wonder how the shared family environment cannot be influential. Hence, the question about how we can tell the family influence is genetic and not from the common parenting or social environment.
Bailey: Most studies use twins who have been reared together from birth. Shared environment is the environment shared by siblings reared together, and thus, identical twins and fraternal twins are equally similar in their shared environment (provided they were reared together, they share all of it). Nonshared environment consists of environmental factors not shared even by siblings in the same household. Nonshared environment is the kind of environment that causes differences even between identical twins reared together. The logic of the common twin study (as opposed to the rare study of identical twins reared apart) depends on their being two types of twins that vary in their genetic similarity. The assumption is that this is the only salient way that such twins differ–other differences are presumed not to have an affect on the trait of interest. If this assumption is true, then one looks to see whether identical twins are more similar than fraternal twins. If they are, this is evidence for genetic effects. To the extent that identical and fraternal twins are equally similar to each other (and more similar than random people are to each other), this suggests there are shared environmental factors. To the extent that identical twins reared together are different from each other, this supports the importance of the nonshared environment.
Throckmorton: What are the advantages of this study over your 2000 population based study (Bailey et al, 2000)? What are the limitations in contrast to your work?
Bailey: I think this study is comparable in quality to our 2000 study, although our measures of sexual orientation were more comprehensive.
Throckmorton: In the new twin study, the genetic effects are estimated at 35-39% for men and 18-19% for women. Since we are not assuming one gene codes for sexual orientation, do you have thoughts about what genetic mechanism(s) could be at work? The pedigree studies have had mixed results, have they not?
Bailey: Studies such as this one provide little if any insight into the nature of genetic mechanisms. Rather, they estimate the magnitude of genetic effects, whatever those effects are. Pedigree studies are studies that look at patterns of similarity in families, and there has been some inconsistency, with some studies finding evidence consistent with X-linkage, and others not finding such evidence. But virtually all studies have found higher rates of homosexuality among family members of gay men.
Throckmorton: The estimates of the effect of non-shared environmental factors are very high. The authors indicate that hormones in utero could be an aspect of the non-shared environment. Given that these twins shared the same womb, what kinds of non-shared effects are they referring to?
Bailey: No one knows how this can happen. First of all, nonshared environment is the kind of environment that causes identical twins reared together to be different. This nonshared environment is poorly understood but is clearly important. We know, for example, that if one identical twin has a congenital major brain anomaly such as microcephaly (being born with a very small cortex), the other twin is usually normal. Obviously, this is due to some kind of prenatal environmental factor or event. (It can’t be genetic, because they have the same genes.) We really haven’t a clue what it is.
Differences between identical twins (or fraternal twins for that matter) also reflect measurement error, and the amount of such error depends on how good the measure of sexual orientation (in this case) is. I would say the measure used in the study at hand is okay but not great.
Throckmorton: By the measure of sexual orientation, I assume you are referring to the fact that this study did not assess sexual fantasy or attraction independent of behavior. How do you think a measure of sexual fantasy would impact the results? Do you think we might get lower effects of environment on the inner world?
Bailey: I have no idea, honestly.
Throckmorton: Concerning environment, some critics of pre-natal theories might suggest that twins are not often treated alike and do not really share environments, even though they live in the same house and share the same parents. Is there an empirical answer to this concern?
Bailey: Twin researchers have typically concocted indices of how similarly twins were treated as children. Parents vary in their twin-rearing philosophies, with some favoring “treat ’em alike” and others favoring “treat ’em differently.” Typically, these indices don’t predict how similar twins become.
Throckmorton: Could the non-shared environment also include peer influences, different socialization experiences, trauma, etc.?
Bailey: Yes. Regarding sexual orientation, though, there is both anecdotal and empirical evidence that relevant twin differences arise early. For example, gender nonconformity differences in childhood are common and predict orientation differences in adulthood.

Dr. Bailey’s answer to the last question is an intriguing finding. One twin might display gender nonconformity and the other might not. These differences do arise early and cause me to question that they are often in response to parenting differences. The GNC differences however, will likely lead to very different social environments for each twin.
Going forward, research on non-shared environmental factors would shed light on how environment helps to shape the pre-natal givens.
*Bailey, J.M., Dunne, M.P., & Martin, N.G. (2000). Genetic and Environmental influences on sexual orientation and its correlates in an Australian twin sample. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 524-536.

Obama waffling on abortion policy?

If Obama supports the Freedom of Choice Act, how can he say this to Relevant magazine?

I think it’s entirely appropriate for states to restrict or even prohibit late-term abortions as long as there is a strict, well-defined exception for the health of the mother. Now, I don’t think that ‘mental distress’ qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy . . .”

This post provides more detail on the mental gymnastics about mental distress.

Exodus makes new policy statement regarding holding therapy and IHF

Recently, questions have been raised on various blogs about connections between Exodus International and Richard Cohen. Initially,Exgaywatch noted that a statement regarding distance from Mr. Cohen’s methods had been removed from their website and that Janelle Hallman, on the Exodus Speaker’s Bureau, recommends the International Healing Foundation on her website. Then XGW received a statement from Hilde Wiemann, saying that Mr. Cohen and the leadership of Exodus had met and made peace.
In response to my inquiry, today, Alan Chambers, Executive Director of Exodus, alerted me that a revised policy statement has been posted on the organization’s website. It reads:

Holding/Touch Therapy
Exodus International is opposed to the therapeutic practice commonly referred to as “holding/touch therapy” as a healing exercise for those with same-sex attraction distress. Accordingly, Exodus does not endorse the work of Richard Cohen, the methods utilized by the International Healing Foundation or any other individual or organization that is known to use that method.

The former statement is here and was made in light of television appearances of Mr. Cohen demonstrating his work.
Via this broader statement, the policy regarding holding/touch therapy could probably be applied to such groups as Journey into Manhood and the Mankind Project, where various processes involve paternalistic holding/cuddling of clients.

Does abortion cancel a soul? Abortion specialist William Harrison on South Dakota's informed consent abortion law

Last week, the Eight Circuit court of appeals ruled that a South Dakota law which requires doctors to tell women seeking an abortion that “the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being” should be sent back to federal District Court to decide constitutionality. In the meantime, the state may begin enforcement of the law. According to an AP story, The court ruled on June 27

that Planned Parenthood, which operates South Dakota’s only abortion clinic in Sioux Falls, has not provided enough evidence that it is likely to prevail.
“The bottom line is if the state Legislature orders a professional to tell the truth, that’s not a violation of the First Amendment,” said South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long, who is defending the law in court.
Mimi Liu, a lawyer for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said such rulings generally take about three weeks to take effect. Long said it could take less time.

Predictably, reaction was mixed to the ruling

Harold Cassidy, a lawyer representing two pregnancy counseling centers that support the abortion law, hailed the ruling.
“We think it’s a big victory for the woman obviously to be given accurate information in order to make a decision not only for the child, but also for herself,” Cassidy said.
Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, said the law would force doctors to read ideological language to women seeking abortions.
“They are imposing compelled speech on doctors. It is not about providing information to women. It is about intruding in the doctor-patient relationship. It is unprecedented and extremely outrageous,” Stoesz said.

According to the AP story, the law also requires women to be told the potential mental health risks of abortion. I have addressed that informed consent issue in prior articles.
Two points are at issue: prescribing professional speech and the accuracy of the prescribed speech. Professional disclosure is sometimes prescribed by law. For instance, many states required licensed psychotherapists to provide a disclosure statement to clients regarding services and means of handling complaints. The South Dakota statement is very specific and no doubt is intended to discourage abortions. The second issue is the accuracy of the information. Pro-life advocates are united that abortion ends a life, hence their opposition to abortion. But what do pro-choice doctors believe? To get this perspective, I consulted noted abortion doctor and friend of Hillary Clinton, Dr. William Harrison. I referred to Dr. Harrison via Dr. Paul Kengor’s book on the faith of Hillary Clinton in a former post, noting that Dr. Harrison was

Hillary’s personal OB-GYN in the early 1970s in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He has done about 20,000 abortions. He was interviewed at length for my book. He was quite candid, extremely open, and very generous with his time. He likewise is a Methodist. He says that he prays to God that Hillary will be our next president.

I emailed Dr. Harrison regarding the South Dakota law. While his prayers regarding Hillary have not been answered, he clearly does not support the Republican ticket due to his pro-choice position as will be clear from his responses to me. I asked him if the South Dakota statement was accurate, to which he replied

Life is being terminated when a male wears a condom, or has a wet dream or “spills his seed of life on the ground” or in someone’s mouth or anus. Or when he ejaculates into the vagina of a women who isn’t ovulating or is post menopausal. The sperm are alive until they die. And the egg is alive until it dies. Each is a unique human life, etc.
The only reason the S.Dakota leg passed that law was to either make a girl or woman who was not prepared to have a baby have that baby, or to make her suffer as much emotionally as they could.
It is a piece of shit legislation, designed solely to increase human suffering. A few days ago I wrote a letter to our state and local newspapers. I will send you a copy which describes exactly what I think about this type of legislation.

I wrote back and asked for clarification regarding prevention of conception and ending of life. He then provided the copy of the letter to the editor he mentioned in the first email which makes his views even more clear. He gave permission to use both email replies. The Christian acquaintance referred to in this letter is my GCC colleague and author, Paul Kengor.

Letter to the editor.
A few days ago I got a question from a Christian Pro-Life acquaintance. [What follows is a paraphrase of part of a letter I got from your friend and colleague. I sent him a somewhat longer reply. I also sent him a copy of my book, There is a Bomb In Gilead. Ask him to let you read it.]
“I understand fully that you see your work as saving women from an unwanted pregnancy that might, if illegal, lead them to dangerous “back alley abortions,” doing them great harm or perhaps even killing them. I, as a prolife Christian, don’t want to see them hurt or killed. On the other hand, by doing an abortion, you are taking a life – an innocent one that has no say in the decision. I rarely hear pro-choicers lament that decision, the loss of the unborn.
“Do you ever regret that part of the decision? How do you come to terms with that, or do you not see the fetus as a life or a person? I don’t want to see either one die, and would do my best to save both. But your work on the other hand, seeks the end of one of these lives. How do you justify that decision?”
Here is my answer: Anyone who has delivered as many babies as I have, and has seen hundreds of living and dead embryos and fetuses being spontaneously aborted as have I, knows exactly what we are doing when we provide an elective abortion for our patient. We are ending the life of an embryo or a fetus. Not the life of a person, but certainly a creature that might have become a person under other circumstances. When I am asked this question, I always go back to two of the most insightful and beautiful verses of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khyyam.
Oh, if the world were but to recreate
That we might catch ere closed the Book of Fate
And make the Writer on a fairer leaf
Inscribe our names, or quite obliterate.
Better, oh, better cancel from the Scroll
Of universe one luckless Human Soul,
Than drop by drop enlarge the Flood that roars
Hoarser with Anguish as the ages roll.
When Omar wrote his beautiful and treasured poem over a thousand years ago, mankind had no way of safely canceling “from the scroll of universe one luckless human soul” whose numbers make up that flood of howling anguish; at least, no way of canceling it without risking also the life of the woman carrying it. In this day of medical marvels and, hopefully, ever increasing social justice, we possess such a way.
Embryos and fetuses spontaneously aborted – most, but not all of those “canceled” by “God” – are just such luckless human souls. But a few spontaneous abortions occur in desired pregnancies with no discernable abnormalities. For those girls and women and their families whose circumstances would make their babies “luckless human souls,” I “cancel” them before they become babies.
Physicians who save wanted babies from being spontaneously aborted (and we can save a few now that God once seemed determined to abort), and we who cancel “luckless human souls” are doing God’s work.
Want to increase Omar’s flood of anguish? Just vote to put John McCain in the White House and Pro-Lifers in your legislatures and the U.S. Congress.

Dr. Harrison places his views in the context of the current election. Clearly there is an ideological divide between Barack Obama and John McCain, the religious left and religious right on abortion. While Dr. Harrison does not like the South Dakota legislation, it does appear that if the wording was changed from “terminate a life” to “cancel a soul”, the law requires accurate disclosure. I am still reflecting on his response but I think he and I have different ideas of what preventing a life/soul is. For him, it appears that prevention ranges from preventing conception to preventing a birth, whereas, I see the fetus as a human soul, luckless or not.

Obama says faith-based is okay if it isn't entirely based in faith

I am not sure my headline captures it but it is close. In this New York Times article, Barack Obama is shown Zanesville, OH (near my old stomping grounds) promoting a kind of faith based initiative. After all the reading, I think the issue at odds is whether faith-based groups should be able to take Federal money if they can discriminate in hiring by only hiring people who support the faith on which the group is based. John McCain and most conservatives say such groups should be able to participate if they can control the hiring and Obama says no, groups cannot exclude people of other or no faith from working in their organizations.
I think Obama is very smart. He is courting Evangelicals by speaking an Evangelical dialect. Many rank and file Evangelicals would not support his bottom line positions but his public ideological opponents of late are attacking him without lifting up the alternative in corresponding positive tones. Until Evangelicals begin to promote McCain instead of merely attack Obama, the Illinois Senator is going to scoop up interest and possibly support among moderate Evangelicals where McCain could be strong. Mr Obama is seizing the opportunity.