PFOX Plays The Victim; Wants To Fix One Problem By Causing Another

Today, the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays dropped a news release criticizing Virginia’s public universities for failing to distribute their literature to students. In the release, PFOX claims discrimination based on religion and ex-gayness is what motivates the lack of ex-gay literature.
While I don’t doubt that some of those counseling center staffers have problems with conservative religion, I submit that they are correct in their decision not to provide PFOX literature to students.  Much of what PFOX and related groups (e.g., International Healing Foundation, Voice of the Voiceless) promote is scientifically questionable and should be avoided for that reason alone.
The irony is that the group who conducted the undercover investigation accuse the university centers of suppressing accurate information when it is the ex-gay groups which (also?) do this. They know there is no peer reviewed research on therapeutic change that supports them. They also know that at least one of their therapeutic methods (i.e., cartharsis) has been evaluated via research and found to be harmful in some instances. They also know that their narrative regarding homosexuality (i.e., failures in the parent-child relationship) is scientifically dubious and yet they continue to promote this view as if it is supported by research and experience.
It may be that the counseling center directors favor gay affirming religion over non-affirming religion. If so, this would be problematic if the centers are publicly funded. However, any such finding of fact would not be reason to hand out erroneous literature to students. If there are non-affirming groups on campus or in the community (e.g., Andrew Marin’s groups or some other religious group which does not promote debunked theories and methods) then information about those groups should be made available to religious students. Therapeutically neutral approaches should be taught to center counselors to help them avoid establishing an approved religious stance on the subject in a public university. However, PFOX and Voice of the Voiceless should not be allowed to use religious discrimination as a basis to promote their problematic materials.

PATH Member PFOX Files Amicus Brief in the Prop 8 Case

Citing the “change is possible” mantra, PFOX has filed an amicus brief in the Prop 8 case arguing against marriage rights for gays. This is not surprising but I have some observations about their strategy.
In this brief, PFOX continues its odd logic of considering ex-gays to be a protected class while at the same time hoping to remove/prevent protected class status for gays. On page 4, the brief asserts:

Government authorities and other organizations recognize ex-gays as a group which undermines the assertion that sexual orientation is immutable.

The brief continues to cite dubious cases where PFOX claims that ex-gays are recognized as a protected class.
I have never understood why PFOX thinks this strategy helps them. Even if PFOX is correct about their interpretation of those cases, all of the organizations involved also recognize gays as a class. Furthermore, if ex-gays can be recognized as a protected class while they have a changeable sexual orientation, then the issue of mutability of sexual orientation is irrelevant. Taken to logical conclusion, this argument supports equal protection under the law for gays. Since ex-gays already have the right to marry, why shouldn’t gays?
Then, on page 6, PFOX unveils the list of sexual reorientation groups and includes Richard Cohen’s testimony. This makes it clear that the reparative therapists who say they just want to be able to work with unwanted SSA have taken their stand that they are about more than just a therapeutic approach.

New York Times on the Changes at Exodus

Friday night at the evangelical fights.

After the NPR segment comes this New York Times article which covers much the same ground.

It cannot be any clearer; Alan Chambers is leading Exodus from the wilderness of reparative therapy to the promised land of Grace and soul liberty.

What a ride.

Conservatives in the church and elsewhere should welcome this. There is no necessary conservative attachment to reparative therapy. In fact, given the psychoanalytic roots of the model, it has surprised me that conservative Christians have bought into it for as long they have.

 

Montgomery County, MD: PFOX is not an alternative, it is part of the problem

Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays has been getting push back over the ex-gay pamphlets sent home with students recently in Montgomery County, MD. Earlier today, Peter Sprigg, who is on the board of PFOX and works for the Family Research Council wrote the Washington Post to criticize a Post article for calling homosexuality “innate.” Mr. Sprigg:

The March 6 article “Schools review policy on fliers” repeated as fact what are actually mere opinions of those critical of the flier distributed in Montgomery County high schools by Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays (PFOX).In particular, the statement, “mainstream medical and mental-health associations say that homosexuality is innate” was unsubstantiated. Here is what the American Psychological Assocation says about the origins of sexual orientation:“Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors.”The statement in the Montgomery County Public Schools curriculum that homosexuality is “innate” was added by the Board of Education; it was was not recommended by MCPS staff. In other words, it is a political statement, not a scientific one. This simply illustrates why students in Montgomery County need access to alternative sources of information about the choices they have in responding to same-sex attractions — alternatives like those offered by PFOX.

Peter Sprigg, Germantown

The author is a member of the PFOX board. He served on the MCPS Citizens Advisory Committee for Family Life and Human Development from 2005 to 2011.

Although the APA has also reviewed evidence regarding reparative drive theory in 2009 and found it wanting, Sprigg is partly correct that APA has not taken a definitive stance on the origins of sexual orientation.

However, calling orientation innate is not the same thing as saying that sexual orientation derives from pre-natal factors. There is evidence for the innateness of sexual orientation without regard to origins.

What is also troubling about Sprigg’s letter is that he offers an organization as an alternative that does what he accuses the Montgomery Board and the Post of doing – making political statements in place of scientific ones. PFOX has no interest in all of the evidence regarding sexual orientation. Instead, they promote reparative therapy, with the dubious view that parenting and sexual abuse causes sexual orientation. The one PFOX conference I attended several years ago was a sad affair for a group of parents I spoke with after the sessions. Why? Richard Cohen had just finished telling them that lack of love was the culprit behind the gayness of their kids.

As I write this, PFOX is just one of the organizations along with FRC that continues to mislead their constituents regarding current information regarding sexual orientation. They blast those who say that homosexuality is innate or may be a response to pre-natal factors while at the same time promoting bad parenting and trauma as causal factors. If the origins are so unknown, then why does PFOX promote reparative drive theory and therapy?

Montgomery County may still be in an ideological war over the factors which cause sexual orientation to take the direction it does, but an answer to that problem is not more “information” from PFOX.

 

PFOX hit with defamation lawsuit by TWO

As expected…

WASHINGTON , Feb. 22, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Truth Wins Out announced today that it has filed a defamation lawsuit against Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) and its President Greg Quinlan after he claimed on a television show that Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen tried to have him killed. The lawsuit (Case number: CL12000008-00) was filed in Virginia’s Northumberland County Circuit Court where PFOX is headquartered. Norfolk attorney Michael Hamar will represent TWO.

“We will not let PFOX’s outright lies and bizarre fabrications go unanswered,” said TWO Executive Director Wayne Besen. “Greg Quinlan’s false allegations were deviously designed to damage my reputation and that of Truth Wins Out. We look forward to vigorously challenging Quinlan’s delusional version of events and debunking them in a court of law.”

On October 7, 2011, Quinlan was interviewed on News-Plus with Mark Segraves (WDCW-TV). At the 10:38 mark of the show, Quinlan fabricates an alleged hit on his life. According to Quinlan:

“Truth Wins Out if you look further, including Wayne Besen. He’s asked for people, you know, somebody needs to run Greg over. He needs to be hit with a bus. Somebody should inject him with AIDS. Those are the things that Wayne Besen and Truth Wins Out says about me. That’s pretty hateful rhetoric.”

TWO sent PFOX a letter offering the group an opportunity to apologize for their smear campaign. Unfortunately, Quinlan did not take the highroad and express regret for his false and misleading charges.

“When people engage in smear campaigns they are usually smart enough not to write lies on their website or make false allegations on television,” said TWO’s Besen. “That Quinlan would so brazenly lie in social and mainstream media is incredibly reckless and irresponsible.”

 

Finding the Seven Mountain Teaching in Unexpected Places

Since publication in 2007, I have referred many people to the book, unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.  In their book, Kinnaman and Lyons report that the church is known more for what it is against than what it is for. They also document the extreme anti-gay sentiment which dominates evangelicalism. Among young people outside the church, nine out of ten viewed Christians as anti-gay.

Part of my retreat from the culture war relates to the realization that evangelicals have earned this perception. Evangelicals have not stopped with disagreement, but actively opposed equal treatment of gays. And they have not stopped with political opposition. Evangelical thought leaders blame gays for every societal evil and do so with a venom that is often shocking. When I read unChristian, it seemed that the research reported there validated my worries that Christians were largely on the wrong track.

Until recently, I had referred people to the book without knowing much about the organization which produced it. UnChristian author Gabe Lyons runs a group called Q. On the Qideas website, Lyons describes Q as:

Q Ideas

Q was birthed out of Gabe Lyons’ vision to see Christians, especially leaders, recover a vision for their historic responsibility to renew and restore cultures. Inspired by Chuck Colson’s statement, “Christians are called to redeem entire cultures, not just individuals,” Gabe set out to reintroduce Christians to what had seemed missing in recent decades from an American expression of Christian faithfulness; valuing both personal and cultural renewal, not one over the other. Re-educating Christians to this orthodox and unifying concept has become central to the vision of Q.

I was surprised by two items in this description. One, Chuck Colson, a respected evangelical figure, has done a lot to earn Christians the anti-gay reputation that Lyons seems to lament in their book. For instance, today’s column from Colson complains about the President’s recent push to promote decriminalization (more about that in a coming post).

The second element which surprised me was the embrace of the cultural mandate – the belief that Christians are called to create a Christian society. A modern version of this view is that Christians are called to dominate the seven areas of culture and thereby create a Christian society. In an article, titled Influencing Culture, Lyons lays out the program:

HOW NOW SHALL WE INFLUENCE?

The idea of culture shaping is widely debated. Most people, and until recently myself included, implicitly believe that cultures are changed from the bottom-up and that to “change our culture, we need more and more individuals possessing the right values and therefore making better choices.” The problem is that it is only part of the solution. In a widely distributed briefing that was presented to The Trinity Forum called To Change the World, James Davison Hunter asserts, “It is this view of culture that also leads some faith communities to evangelism as their primary means of changing the world. If people’s hearts and minds are converted, they will have the right values, they will make the right choices, and the culture will change in turn.” 

Hunter goes on to say, “…the renewal of our hearts and minds is not only important, it is essential, indeed a precondition for a truly just and humane society. But by itself, it will not accomplish the objectives and ideals we hope for.” This could explain why Christianity as it is practiced by many well meaning, admirable Christians in the past decades has failed to have significant traction.

Cultures are shaped when networks of leaders, representing the different social institutions of a culture, work together towards a common goal: “Again and again we see that the impetus, energy and direction for changing the world were found where cultural, economic and often political resources overlapped; where networks of elites, who generated these various resources, come together in common purpose.”

Saving souls is not enough. “Networks of elites” must come together with the “common purpose” of creating a Christian culture. Then he describes the seven mountains teaching with the slightly different phrase “seven channels of cultural influence.”

The Seven Channels of Cultural Influence

What are the different social institutions of our culture that Hunter is referring to? They are the social institutions that govern any society, including business, government, media, church, arts & entertainment, education and the social sector. Their combined output of ideas, films, books, theology, websites, restaurants, investments, social work, laws, medical breakthroughs and technology drive an entire nation.

The ideas and values they perpetuate sustain the moral fiber and social conscience of the culture. The people who lead these influential institutions have the opportunity to shape the ideas, thoughts and preferences of millions of others. If Hunter is right, it doesn’t take all that many people or time to witness dramatic shifts in the convictions and aspirations of a culture.

And one of the most unique channels of cultural influence is the church. Few other institutions convene participants from so many areas of society. When Christians embrace the common goals of both redeeming cultures and individual souls, the possibilities for positive cultural influence dramatically increase.

Lyons then uses what he calls “the homosexual movement” as an example of how one may use the seven mountains teaching to change the culture. He points to an article in the Regent University Law School Journal by Paul Rondeau (a past president of the board of the Parents and Friends of Ex-gays) which claims the current acceptance of gays as people stem from a small group of gays gathered in 1988 in Warrenton, VA. According to this narrative, the ability of that small group to steer the seven channels of influence is what has triggered the social change.

Lyons wants to do the same thing via the Church.

THE CHURCH’S OPPORTUNITY TO INFLUENCE CULTURE

I believe that the church is the hope of the world and is positioned like no other channel of influence to shape culture. Its people are called to be in the world. As John Stott puts it, “we find ourselves citizens of two kingdoms, the one earthly and the one heavenly. And each citizenship lays upon us duties which we are not at liberty to evade.” Although the work of culture creation may take place outside the physical walls of a church building, the local church creates a natural space where social networks of leaders, within all seven channels of culture, can work together towards a common goal. Nowhere else does this potential for synergy exist. Unlike other channels, the church is a living organism where God’s spirit constantly moves and seeks to express Himself through a willing Body.

Sadly, by focusing on just the “spiritual” and the afterlife, the Christian church has strayed away from its potential influence in the here and now, positioning itself instead as just another subculture. Many Christians currently hold unique and influential positions throughout the seven channels of culture, but have never been supported by fellow believers.

There is nothing particularly new in this. This is an expression of a familiar controversy about the role of the church in society. Lyons says it is sad that the church has focused on the spiritual. I think the church does not focus enough on it. Especially as the 2012 election looms, it is clear to me that many in the religious right want to use the church a a tool of political organizing for the GOP.

Lyons and Kinnaman rightly complain that the church today is known more for being anti-gay than for anything else. However, in my view, the approach suggested by Lyons is part of the problem. If the church is seeking to express Christian views of spiritual life to individuals then the personal characteristics of that individual don’t matter much. However, when cultural change is your aim, then those who would be hurt by your vision of culture become your enemies.

For instance, Chuck Colson inspires Lyons to redeem cultures. Colson’s vision of a redeemed culture does not include defense of people oppressed because of their sexual orientation.  Colson is using his position as a cultural leader to oppose the decriminalization of homosexuality around the world. If Colson is doing it well, as Lyons implies, then the anti-gay attitudes Lyons documents are inevitable.

I think the Founders got it right. Religion in general can be beneficial when it supports the rights of all and freedom of conscience. However, when one religion seeks to dominate, then others who believe differently will rise up to seek protection for their beliefs.

PFOX President says Wayne Besen behind threats to his life

In an interview recently with Mark Sagraves of WDCW-TV, PFOX President and lobbyist for the New Jersey Family Policy Council, Greg Quinlan, said (at 10:32 in the interview):

Truth Wins Out if you look further, including Wayne Besen. He’s asked for people, you know, somebody needs to run Greg over. He needs to be hit with a bus. Somebody should inject him with AIDS. Those are the things that Wayne Besen and Truth Wins Out says about me. That’s pretty hateful rhetoric.

Really? Besen has said some critical and dismissive things about ex-gays but I’ve never heard anything like that. Quinlan may soon have to provide proof of that since Besen absolutely denies the charges and may sue for defamation.

There are other questionable aspects to Quinlan’s claims. In the interview, Quinlan says that both APAs say that sexuality is fluid (not really, they say identity can shift but that orientation is pretty fixed). He says he is not paid to be ex-gay (sorry, I know the history there, his reputation is founded on his status as an ex-gay). He says that is acceptable for him to refer to gays as “faggots” because it is acceptable for blacks to use the “N” word referring to themselves (I’ll let readers ponder that one).

When confronted with the fact that Richard Cohen was expelled from the American Counseling Association, Quinlan said at 11:40, “But he hasn’t lost his license.” To my knowledge, Richard never had a license and he certainly does not now. Then he told Sagraves that Richard has a 90% success rate helping people change. If Richard claims that, I have never seen it.

Quinlan misrepresents Bob Spitzer. He says Spitzer says, “people can change, if they choose to change and they are highly motivated.” This is just not right. I know Bob Spitzer and he thinks change is infrequent and that such change is not just a matter of choosing to do so.

Finally, Quinlan wants civil rights for ex-gays but not for gays. He accuses Dean Hamer of lying – probably also an actionable statement if Hamer were so inclined to follow up.

In the culture war, this may be a new low. If Quinlan cannot prove his charges against Besen and Hamer, he has disqualified himself as a spokesperson. He certainly has passed along misrepresentations on the subject he claims to know when he talked about Cohen, Spitzer and Hamer.

The culture war brings out a toxicity from some who claim to be Christian as if winning the culture war at any cost is the mission. I think this story resonates with me because I have been the target of accusations and action of late. Even my children have been the target of lies about them, because of animosity toward me.

In the past, have been attacked by both Besen and PFOX over my views, but, as far as I can recall, the only personal smears about me or my family have come from those claiming to be Christian.

In addition to whatever truth comes out, I also hope that a result is reflection which will lead to a decline in personal vilification.

 

 

Is PFOX anti-ex-gay?

A couple of weeks ago, the Parents and Friends of Ex-gays asked the riveting question: Is Grove City College anti-ex-gay?
Now I want to know, Is PFOX anti-ex-gay? Let me explain why inquiring minds want to know.
In apparent answer to the query about GCC, the PFOX blog poster reproduced Peter LaBarbera’s call to action and the One”News”Now article about me. Because I dispute stereotypes about gays and report the research as it is, LaBarbera says I engage in “pro-homosexual activism.” Here is the crux of my crimes:

“But in the last few years, he’s basically become a pro-gay advocate who discredits the idea of change for most homosexuals,” LaBarbera explains. “He grants the idea that they can change, but he says change is very rare.

Well, OK.
Now let’s consider PFOX. On the governing board of PFOX is Chris Doyle who is a “resident psychotherapist” at Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation. IHF recently issued an apology to the gay community for “fueling anti-gay sentiment” by stating that “change is possible.”
IHF now refers clients to a host of gay-affirming organizations and resources, including GLSEN and PFOX’s pfavorite organization, PFLAG. The PFLAG reference is especially relevant to the question – “is PFOX anti-ex-gay?” PFOX has accused PFLAG of making hateful statements about former homosexuals. Now that a PFOX board member is a principle figure in an organization that refers people to an organization that makes hateful statements about former homosexuals, then it seems reasonable to ask if PFOX is anti-itself.
I also must wonder if One”News”Now and AFTAH are getting soft on gays. Consider the evidence.
On October 28, 2011, IHF made their apology for “fueling anti-gay sentiment” and posted their references to GLSEN and PFLAG on their website. To date, One”News”Now has ignored the story. And even more puzzling is the absence of an AFTAH-inspired call for PFOX to explain how their board member’s open advocacy of pro-homosexual, anti-ex-gay advocacy fits within their mission.
Almost a month has gone by and this blatant pro-homosexualist initiative at IHF has gone unchecked!
What is wrong with this picture!?
TAKE ACTION! DO NOTHING! CALL NO ONE!
 
P.S. Sorry, I got a little hyperbolic there at the end. 

PFOX: What’s good for the District of Columbia is not good for the nation

In 2002, the Christian support ministry, Parents and Friends of Ex-gays (PFOX) applied to the National Education Association for a booth in their annual convention exhibit hall. Despite having space at the convention and initially cashing the PFOX check for the application fee, the NEA rejected the PFOX application. The NEA said PFOX’s views of sexual orientation were at odds with those of the NEA.

Given that the NEA is based in Washington DC, PFOX filed a discrimination complaint against the NEA with the DC Office of Human Rights. The basis of the alleged discrimination was the sexual orientation of the members of PFOX. To support its action, PFOX relied on the fact that in DC, sexual orientation is included in the Human Rights Act. The definition of sexual orientation in the DC HRA is

“Sexual orientation” means male or female homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality, by preference or practice.

In May, 2005, the DC OHR ruled that there was no discrimination in the NEA action. However, with an appeal from PFOX, the OHR allowed a review. After another denial, PFOX filed suit in the Superior Court of DC in May, 2008. On June 26, 2009, Judge Maurice Ross affirmed the decision of the DC OHR that there was no probable cause for PFOX’s discrimination complaint. According to Ross, the NEA had not unlawfully discriminated against PFOX by excluding the group from the NEA exposition hall.

Despite losing the case, PFOX issued a press release claiming victory. In his ruling, Judge Ross evaluated the claim of discrimination in light of the DC statute. Ross found that ex-gays are covered by the DC law due to the inclusion of sexual orientation. Ex-gay as a term did not need to be included in law since the term, however defined, relates to an adult sexual practice or preference. Continue reading “PFOX: What’s good for the District of Columbia is not good for the nation”