What George Rekers told a Florida court

The blogs continued to blow up over the continuing disclosures regarding George Rekers relationship with a Miami gay man. Apparently the young man has disclosed details of their European trip and is set to go on CNN with more.

In addition to the current event, some reports have looked into Dr. Rekers’ views and beliefs. That is more my purpose with this post. Dr. Rekers has provided controversial testimony in several court cases, the most notable Arkansas and Florida cases which contested adoptions by gay people. I saw in this report from NBC Miami that Rekers was paid between $60,900 and $87,000 to testify in favor of a ban on gay adoptions. In addition, and what really caught my eye, was his testimony that Native Americans could be excluded from adopting children. Here is the exchange included in the news article:

Q. Well, Dr. Rekers, earlier you testified that Native-Americans have a higher rate of alcohol abuse than the general population does, right?

A. Yes.

Q. It’s a very significantly elevated rate of alcohol abuse, I mean compared to the general population?

A. Yes.

Q. So if Native-Americans have significantly higher rates of alcohol abuse, and if they also have significantly higher rates of psychiatric disorders, and if they also have higher rates of relationship instability, is that enough for you to say that all of a sudden they should be categorically excluded?

The Court: I think you can add violence to that, as well.

The Witness: Yeah, violence, yeah.

Q. And violence, as well.

A. Yeah, if it turned out that a majority of the individuals in the Native-American population, that a majority of them were high risk for one of these things happening, as a lifetime prevalence, there could be a parallel rationale for excluding them, as adoptive parents, because it would be not only them, they would tend to hang around each other. So the children would be around a lot of other Native-Americans, who are doing the same sorts of things, you know. So it would be a high risk, and, in fact, since you can’t perfectly predict human behavior, the best you can do and the best the State can do is to look at risk levels, and if a particular kind of household poses multiple high risks for condition that would be detrimental for children, then that would be a rationale for excluding that group.

I was unable to find the entire transcript of the testimony, but did find the ruling from the case which initially upheld the adoption of Jane and John Doe, decided by Judge Cindy Lederman. In that case, Judge Lederman noted on pages 20-21:
There is no question that Dr. Rekers supports the continued ban on homosexual adoption and even the imposition of a ban on homosexual foster parenting based on the high rates of disorders, distressing conditions and relationship instability reported in the studies he considers telling. The witness testified that he does not support such a categorical exclusion of a demographic group based on one variable; rather, his opinion for the  exclusion is based an overall sum of variables. Thus, according to the doctor, any demographic group with overall high variable risks poses a threat to an adoptive child and should be excluded. As applied to the instant facts, the witness opines that Petitioner is in a high risk group; the majority of individuals sharing Petitioner’s demographic characteristic of homosexuality suffer from a disorder or have the propensity to suffer from a disorder; therefore, even if Petitioner is studied to determine his individual risk factor, the prediction for his propensity to succumb to a lifetime prevalence of risk cannot be overcome. Based on Dr. Rekers’ theory, as Native Americans have a high rate of alcohol abuse, substance abuse, domestic violence, depression, and a life time prevalence of these risks, Native Americans should also be considered a high risk group as prospective adoptive parents as well.

I wrote briefly about such thinking in 2006 when I received criticism from NARTH leaders over my view that homosexuals could lead normal lives. NARTH has continued to champion the view that homosexuality should be changed and opposed due to research finding higher levels of depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns. Currently, on their website, they promote an article which conflates orientation and certain sexual practices. Furthermore, NARTH leaders, including George Rekers, make up the majority of the advisory committee for the Facts About Youth website. A project of the splinter-group American College of Pediatricians, the FAY website parrots the NARTH view that “[t]here is significantly greater medical, psychological, and relational pathology in the homosexual population than the general population.” By saying in his Florida testimony that members of other groups (e.g., Native Americans) are not fit to parent based on group differences, Rekers was just taking the NARTH view to a logical conclusion — a conclusion which is shockingly elitist. 

If this view is advanced as a basis for public policy, then perhaps female physicians should not adopt since at least one study found that the rate of suicide is four times higher for them than other females. I think rather, the real basis for concern over homosexual parents relates to Rekers professed moral views which were also on display in the Florida court. According to Judge Lederman’s ruling, Rekers said psychology as a profession and the law should recognize evangelical theology:

An honest scholarly search for the truth about homosexuality should not stop with psychological or medical information alone. Wise professionals should also consider evidence for moral truth as well. The bible teaches that people are foolish if they deny God’s reality and live their lives as though he were not there…. What happens when psychologists and psychiatrists search for truth about homosexuality, but close the door to any possibility of information from the creator of the human race? What happens if scholars deliberately discard all moral evidence as irrelevant to their professional judgments? Roman’s describes the consequences in suppressing truth revealed by the creator…. Those verses indicate that the existence of God is evident within each person, so psychologists and psychiatrists who proceed as though he does not exist are deliberately suppressing truth. To search for truth about homosexuality in psychology and psychiatry, while ignoring God, will result in futile and foolish speculations.

To me, this line of thinking makes it clear why evangelical scholars must face the data with an awareness of our theological biases. Moral concerns are not irrelevant but they must not guide one to preset conclusions in opposition to data and research. To wit, Rekers also testified in the Florida case that children who were bonded to a homosexual parent should be removed from that home and placed with a heterosexual couple. Judge Lederman’s noted: 

Furthermore, according to Dr. Rekers, if children are bonded to a homosexual foster parent, such a placement may continue because the foster care laws permit regular monitoring. However, adoption should not be an option because of the absence of monitoring and safeguards. Dr. Rekers astounded the Court when he testified that he favors removal of any child from a homosexual household, even after placement in that household for ten years, in favor of a heterosexual household. To this Court’s further astonishment, the witness hypothesized that such a child would recover from the removal from his family of 10 years after one year in a heterosexual household. The Court finds this testimony to be contrary to science and decades of research in child development.

The hypotheses regarding bonding and what is better for kids were driven by Reker’s moral posturing and not research. It is not surprising that Judge Lederman dismissed Rekers’ testimony as unscientific and biased:

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.

Dr. Rekers’ recent actions have put the spotlight on his views. While Dr. Rekers may find less personal influence in coming days, it is an open question whether his actions will cast a negative light on those who hold similar positions.