Does the AFA agree with Bryan Fischer about Native Americans?

I fully realize there are bigger fish to fry than how Bryan Fischer continues to make the strong case for the American Family Association’s place on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate groups. However, my mind keeps going back to this matter.

I struggle with the fact that in 2011, Christianity is known for what it is against more than what it is for. I am really disillusioned with the conservative church as represented by religious right advocacy groups. In fact, of late, especially when Bryan Fischer speaks about most things, people run from Christianity. My brothers and sisters, this should not be so.

I struggle with the fact that the American Family Association refuses to be accountable for the statements of people they promote on the radio and their websites. The disclaimer they list on Bryan Fischer’s columns reads:

(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)

However, when I asked the AFA if they agreed with this statement from Bryan Fischer, they have not answered.

Had the other indigenous people followed her [Pocahontas] example, their assimilation into what became America could have been seamless and bloodless. Sadly, it was not to be. 

Last Thursday, I started calling AFA to discern if this was one of the issues which reflect the views of the AFA. I think the group’s leaders might since they took down the first article on Native Americans but then allowed Fischer’s article on Pocahontas with the above statement in it. Does this self-styled Christian organization really believe that Native Americans didn’t have enough converts to avoid the Trail of Tears? And how can we know since they won’t answer a simple question?

New gay change group cites Francis Collins to mislead readers

One would think a scathing criticism on the National Institute of Health from NIH director Francis Collins would be enough to stop misuse of his book, the Language of God. However, not so for a relatively new Latter Day Saint sexual reorientation organization called Foundation for Attraction Research. Writing in the Salt Lake City Tribune, FAR Board members Dennis V. Dahle, John P. Livingstone and M. Gawain Wells provide the same quote that led Collins to rebuke the American College of Pediatricians.

As to science, contrary to a source cited by Hansen that same-sex attractions are of purely biological origin, Dr. Francis S. Collins, former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute and the current director of the National Institutes of Health, reached a very different conclusion. Collins, in addressing the etiology of homosexuality in his book, The Language of God, offers the conclusion that homosexuality is “genetically influenced but not hardwired by DNA and that whatever genes are involved represent predispositions, not predeterminations.”

Exgaywatch first reported on the misuse of Collins’ words back in 2008. At that point, Dr. Collins wrote to me in order to verify his communication with David Roberts, editor at XGW.

Then, the American College of Pediatricians cited Collins in an effort to establish the mutability of sexual orientation. Collins did not take kindly to their citation and wrote the following on the NIH website.

Statement from NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., in Response to the American College of Pediatricians

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Director

April 15, 2010

“It is disturbing for me to see special interest groups distort my scientific observations to make a point against  homosexuality.  The American College of Pediatricians pulled language out of context from a book I wrote in 2006 to support an ideology that can cause unnecessary anguish and encourage prejudice. The information they present is misleading and incorrect, and it is particularly troubling that they are distributing it in a way that will confuse school children and their parents.”

Now the Foundation for Attraction Research takes up the same line of argumentation, although in a somewhat more subtle manner. While the first quote from Collins is clearly about homosexuality and represents Collins views about that specific trait, the second one is not. The FAR authors write:

Collins offers the following additional insight on homosexuality: “There is an inescapable component of heritability to many human behavioral traits. For virtually none of them is heredity ever close to predictive. Environment, particularly childhood experiences, and the prominent role of individual free will choices have a profound effect on us. Scientists will discover an increasing level of molecular detail about the inherited factors that undergird our personalities, but that should not lead us to overestimate their quantitative contribution. Yes we have all been dealt a particular set of cards, and the cards will eventually be revealed. But how we play the hand is up to us.”

While the quote is in Language of God, the statement leading up to it – “Collins offers the following additional insight on homosexuality” – is not. In the book, Collins makes a general statement about the role of genetics and environment but does not offer this view specifically about homosexuality. He does not suggest that “free will” or “childhood experiences” have anything to do with homosexual attraction. The authors want you to think that he does but he does not.

Regarding sexual reorientation which seems to be the real issue for FAR, Collins said this to Roberts and me in the earlier correspondence:

The evidence we have at present strongly supports the proposition that there are hereditary factors in male homosexuality — the observation that an identical twin of a male homosexual has approximately a 20% likelihood of also being gay points to this conclusion, since that is 10 times the population incidence. But the fact that the answer is not 100% also suggests that other factors besides DNA must be involved. That certainly doesn’t imply, however, that those other undefined factors are inherently alterable. (emphasis mine)

No one knows what sexual attractions to be directed toward the same sex. Collins does not opine on these factors in his book beyond saying that they may not be strongly related to genetics. There are other biological factors besides genes that could be involved. Whatever those factors turn out to be does not mean that they are alterable.

Native American columnist blasts Bryan Fischer’s “ugly article”

Last Friday, Indian Country Media columnist, Steven Newcomb, blasted Bryan Fischer’s column on Native Americans calling it an “ugly article” and saying that  it contained “thinly veiled race-purity arguments.”

Newcomb writes:

In other words, the very narrative that Mr. Fischer uses as his standard of judgment against American Indians is a dehumanizing genocidal narrative; that basis alone disqualifies it from being any kind of moral standard of judgment against anyone.

Earlier the Native American Rights Fund said Fischer’s article was “not worth dignifying with comment.”

Expanding on Newcomb’s criticisms, I believe that Fischer’s use of the Old Testament stories involving the promised land as a template for justifying the European conquest of the native peoples here is theologically and morally flawed. His newer article on Pocahontas suffers from a stunning confirmation bias in that only facts consistent with his narrow thesis are presented. I think Mark Noll’s comments in his book on the history of Christianity in the US provide excellent rebuttal to Fischer’s supremacist theory:

Despite the fact that the Cherokees had adapted to American ways with remarkable skill, the removal proceeded with ruthless finality. The missionaries, who had come to the Native Americans as bearers of civilization as well as of Christianity, faced a terrible dilemma. They now were forced to watch their country, supposedly the embodiment of Christian civilization, turn violently against a people that had responded to their message.

Some in the AFA have criticized Fischer but the Pocahontas article remains up on the AFA blog. One can quibble about whether Fischer speaks for the AFA but they are allowing revisionist history about one of the most painful episodes in our history to go unchallenged.

Other posts on this topic:

Bryan Fischer speaks with forked tongue – 2/22/11

AFA divided over Bryan Fischer’s views on Native Americans – 2/14/11

Bryan Fischer explains why the AFA pulled his column on Native Americans – 2/11/11

Native American group: Bryan Fischer’s article “not worth dignifying” – 2/10/11

AFA removes article at odds with Bryan Fischer on Native Americans; Update: Original article also removed – 2/10/11

Bryan Fischer prefers European depravity to the native kind – 2/8/11

Department of Justice won’t defend DOMA, advocates “heightened scrutiny”

Old news by now, but I am including the post by request to facilitate discussion.

Some see it as a way to maintain support among younger voters since they favor gay marriage. I think this puts more pressure on the GOP to come out strongly against gay marriage in order to differentiate the party on the issue. While I think that would be misguided and cut against them in the general election, I am pretty sure this will be a big deal during the primary season.

To better understand the legal issues involved, see this article which reviews the different types of scrutiny a discriminatory law must go through. Also here is AG Holder’s letter laying out the Administration’s position and support for a heightened scrutiny analysis.

To those who say equal rights is not linked with legal assessments of status, I say read the letter and this article.

Florida abstinence group has ties to Martin Ssempa

Andy Kopsa, writing for the Florida Independent, has a story out that links Project SOS to Martin Ssempa.

Project SOS, a Jacksonvile-based abstinence education program, has received more than $6.5 million in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services since 2002 — including $454,000 in September 2010. This despite the fact that the group has been cited for teaching false information about HIV and is a supporter of Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, one of the most outspoken advocates of legislation in that country that prescribes the death penalty for homosexuals.

Project SOS’ federal funding came through the Administration of Children and Families, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, via grants for Community Based Abstinence Education and a Healthy Marriage Demonstration grant. The abstinence education funding is made available through Title V (.pdf) of the Social Security Act. A provision of Title V requires that states provide a $3 match for every $4 in federal money.

Kopsa asked Director Pam Mullarkey about Ssempa’s support for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill:

In a phone interview with The Florida Independent, Mullarkey said she was unaware of any controversy surrounding Ssempa or his support of the so-called “Kill the Gays” bill. 

The Independent provided Mullarkey with numerous links to news articles and YouTube clips, including video of Ssempa calling for the death penalty for homosexuals (whom he refers to as “pedophiles”) while claiming to ABC News that homosexuals eat feces. 

“I know Martin well enough to know that because of his Christian faith he would never support the death penalty,” Mullarkey said when asked about Ssempa’s support of a bill that would punish “aggravated homosexuality” with death.

Mullarkey went on to praise Ssempa as a “change agent” who took a stand for abstinence education as a way to rid Uganda of HIV/AIDS. “At the university, Martin took a stand — he had them burning condoms as a commitment to abstinence,” she said. 

Discussing the fact that Ssempa lost “almost half his family” to AIDS, Mullarkey told the Independent that homosexuals in Africa “have destroyed people’s lives.”

Mullarkey would not denounce Ssempa’s actions surrounding the anti-gay bill. She later told the Independent she emailed Ssempa and is “waiting for his response” before she “will make a statement” on the issue.

Bryan Fischer speaks with forked tongue

American Family Association Issues Analyst Brian Fischer believes that Native Americans lost their lands because they were “morally disqualified” to keep them. His first column on the subject was blasted by a Native American advocacy group, his enemies and even his co-workers – one AFA attorney called it “wrong and disturbing.” Fischer’s claimed that his readers were not mature enough to handle a discussion of his thesis and removed it from the AFA website.Then last week, Bryan Fischer, found a morally qualified Native American to write about. Fischer claimed that Jamestown’s Algonquian princess Pocahontas showed her fellow Native Americans the way to relate to the British – convert to Christianity and learn their ways. Fischer then asserts that her people did not follow her which led to their demise. On point, Fischer wrote:

It’s arresting to think of how different the history of the American settlement and expansion could have been if the other indigenous peoples had followed Pocahontas’s example. She not only recognized the superiority of the God whom the colonists worshipped over the gods of her native people, she recognized the superiority (not the perfection) of their culture and adopted its patterns and language as her own. 

In other words, she both converted and assimilated. She became both a Christian and an American (technically, of course, an Englishman). She melded into European and Christian civilization and made her identity as a Christian and an Englishman her primary identity. She was the first manifestation of what became our national slogan, “E Pluribus Unum,” “Out of many, one.” 

Had the other indigenous people followed her example, their assimilation into what became America could have been seamless and bloodless. Sadly, it was not to be. 

It is true that there was no seamless and bloodless history. But it is not true that indigenous peoples completely rejected Christianity.  

According to real historian Mark Noll, the Native Americans were responsive to Christianity after Pocahontas. Prior to 1675, pastors John Elliot and Thomas Mayhew evangelized in Massachusetts leading to converts among the Algonquians and a translation of the Bible into their tongue. 

Another example of evangelism described by Noll in his book, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, was the work of Moravian David Zeisberger in Pennsylvania. Beginning in 1748, Zeisberger saw the native people in central Pennsylvania converted and organized into peaceful villages. Fischer clams Native Americans were nomadic. In a way that was true of early Christian Native American converts, but not for the reasons Fischer claims. For instance, Delaware people converted through Zeisberger’s work had to relocate multiple times at the insistence of European settlers. During one move in Ohio, savagery was the downfall of a portion of Zeisberger’s colony, but the perpetrators of the atrocities were Americans who brutally murdered native men, women and children. After this tragedy, Zeisberger’s group found refuge in Ontario and thrived as a Christian settlement.

Fischer’s thesis is most clearly devastated by the experience of the Cherokees in the south after the Revolutionary War. The Cherokees signed a treaty with the federal government in 1794 and then settled into a peaceful period where they built roads and villages. They welcomed Christian missionaries which led to many converts among the Cherokee in Northern Georgia and Tennessee. In his book on American Christianity, Noll describes “a slow but steady acceptance of the Christian faith.” Noll continues the sad tale:

During the administration of President Andrew Jackson, however, the evangelism of the missionaries and the work of selective cultural adaptation by the Cherokees both received a fatal blow. After the discovery of gold in Northern Georgia about the time of Jackson’s election in 1828, the lust of the White settlers for Cherokee land grew even stronger than before. Jackson and his agents for Indian affairs were eager to give it to them. The result was a forced removal of the Cherokees from Georgia to the West. Despite the fact that the Cherokees had adapted to American ways with remarkable skill, the removal proceeded with ruthless finality. The missionaries, who had come to the Native Americans as bearers of civilization as well as of Christianity, faced a terrible dilemma. They now were forced to watch their country, supposedly the embodiment of Christian civilization, turn violently against a people that had responded to their message.

The United States, bearing the gifts of Christian faith and republican politics, destroyed a tribal people that was working to accept those gifts. Some missionary spokesmen, unlike Worcester, Butler, and the Joneses, played a signal part in that destruction. Such spokesmen were good culture Christians. The agents of Andrew Jackson’s Indian policy were democrats. Together they did the devil’s work in the name of the Lord and of his “chosen country.”

Noll’s description is haunting. He repeatedly demonstrates that the Cherokee and other native peoples followed the way of Pocahontas but they were not rewarded with Fischer’s “seamless and bloodless” assimilation. Instead, during the Trail of Tears, men, women and children were uprooted and brutally forced to march hundreds of miles, many to their deaths, because they were Native Americans. At the time, some Christians, seeing the evil, engaged in civil disobedience to try to prevent the forced relocation. In the present, why can’t the American Family Association stop revising history and acknowledge this sad and painful chapter in our history?

Anti-Homosexuality Bill to be debated in March?

So says the website of the Rolling Stone (UG).

Anti-Gay Bill To Be Tabled In March

BY CLIFF ABENAITWE

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill will be tabled in March if all goes

according to plan.

Authored by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, the proposed legislation will be discussed as soon as the new Parliament is sworn in.

Uganda voting results: Museveni win looks likely

I have been following Uganda votes on Twitter and the support for sitting President Museveni looks very strong. Africa.com has this news just minutes ago:

Breaking: #Uganda sources report a #Museveni win to be announced at 12am giving him 67% of vote. #Ugandavotes

Most results on Ugandavotes favor Museveni strongly. There have been sporadic reports of irregularies and involvement of the military but I have not seen much of that.

Ugandan readers: what are you seeing?

CPAC leader affirms social conservatives, will vet GOProud

Al Cardenas, the new chair of the American Conservative Union, appeared on C-Span yesterday morning and spoke about the controversy surrounding GOProud.

The challenge is always in terms of our participating organizations. Are you willing to be in the sandbox of our principles or not, and if you’re not, your individual members are welcome but not the organization. So we’re going to go through a vetting process. We haven’t decided yet who is going to get invited to the 2012 CPAC or not. We’re going to make sure that organizations that adhere to our beliefs get invited. So that includes GOProud or anybody else so we’re going to go through a vetting process to see what they stand for.

If you are a group, this has got nothing to do with orientation, if you’re a group of straight couples that advocate for gay marriage then that’s not within the scope of what we believe that the three legs of the stool of the movement are. So it’s got nothing to do with the orientation. It has got to do with the principles that you advocate. There are of gays in America that don’t advocate gays in the military issue or gay marriage and so they’ll fit within the tent of what we stand for…so we;ll do our best to be inclusive while at the same time adhering to the principles that Ronald Reagan dreamed about and we’ve been following.