Keeping Focus on the Family Honest on Reparative Therapy

In a recent CBS News report on reparative therapy (sexual orientation change efforts), Focus on the Family’s Jeff Johnston was quoted in support of the practice and a link to FOTF’s website was a part of the story. I have a long history with Focus on this issue. There are some misleading statements on this page which I outline below.

Focus says:

Focus on the Family does not and has never offered sexual-orientation change therapy, also referred to as “reparative therapy.” We have licensed counselors on staff who take one-time phone calls and refer to other therapists, upon request. We also support an individual’s right to counseling for unwanted homosexuality — and the rights of counselors to offer such help.

Although technically true, Focus did recommend reparative therapy via their Love Won Out traveling ex-gay workshops from the late 1990s into the late 2000s. Reparative therapy popularizer Joe Nicolosi was the featured speaker on the origins and treatment of homosexuality. Exodus, Focus on the Family and NARTH (National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) were the trinity of sexual orientation change efforts in the United States. Even if Focus didn’t have counselors on site who offered counseling, they promoted reparative therapy to the world in a very aggressive manner.

Focus really confuses matters in their definition of “sexual orientation change efforts.”

“Sexual Orientation Change Efforts” (SOCE) is a broad term that deals with any kind of help from a licensed mental-health professional for those with unwanted homosexuality. This is counseling, or talk therapy, to assist someone with unwanted homosexuality —whether it’s behavior, attractions or identity — to live according to their faith and values.

Focus tries to soften the meaning of the word “change.” SOCE is a broad term but it doesn’t refer to “any kind of help from a licensed mental-health professional for those with unwanted homosexuality.” Change means change. SOCE is about trying to help people change their orientation. Opponents of SOCE oppose the efforts of counselors to change orientation.

Focus confuses the issue by saying SOCE includes counseling efforts to help clients “live according to their faith and values.” That would only be SOCE if living according to one’s faith meant changing sexual orientation. However, sexual identity therapy (which is what Mark Yarhouse and I developed) helps people without focusing on orientation change as a goal. Our perspective is that clients can be assisted within their religious framework without any SOCE.

Sexual identity therapy is not SOCE. SIT is a kind of help for people who are conflicted about their sexual orientation but it isn’t SOCE. SIT does help people seek harmony within themselves without using SOCE. Focus’ description of SOCE is too broad and misleading. Focus appears to want to make this issue about religious freedom when in fact, it is about what is helpful with clients.

Focus then speculates about what isn’t allowed by a ban on SOCE.

If this therapy is banned, think about the impact this would have on minors:

A teen boy who is hooked on gay pornography — and wants to stop — could not get help from a licensed professional counselor.

A young girl who was sexually abused, and was questioning her identity, could only get help to identify as lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

A boy who wants to develop his sense of masculinity and identity could not get help to affirm his masculine identity from a state-licensed counselor.

A girl who’s involved in a same-sex relationship, but whose faith says that’s not best for her, could not get help to stop the relationship from a licensed counselor.

As worded above, SOCE is not required to address any of these situations. Laws prohibiting SOCE for minors allow for identity exploration and the treatment of sexual abuse. The laws do not forbid clients from acting in line with their religious beliefs as long as the counselor does not implement techniques designed to change a client’s sexual orientation. For instance, if a same-sex attracted teen is in a same-sex relationship but believes it is wrong, she can seek help to take steps to end it and cope with the results.

Revoice Evermore

The controversy over the upcoming Revoice conference continues to resound through social media. To catch up a little, read my first post on the matter.

Revoice is an organization composed of people who seek “to encourage, support, and empower gay, lesbian, and other same-sex attracted Christians so they can experience the life-giving character of the historic, Christian sexual ethic.” The group encourages same-sex attracted people to be open about their orientation in traditional church structures but to remain celibate.

In essence, it looks like those opposed to Revoice don’t like it that Revoice supporters refer to themselves as gay or queer or as a sexual minority person. Both sides believe gay people should be celibate, but the anti-Revoicers don’t think it is right to use gay as a self-description.

Evidence is compelling to me that same-sex attracted people demonstrate a variety of essential differences which justify a descriptive difference even if they decide their beliefs don’t allow same-sex sexual behavior.

At the heart of the discussion is biblical exegesis of I Corinthians 6 suggesting that Christian converts not only leave their behavior behind but also their identity and state of being. Recently, Rev. Owen Strachan made this point in a Patheos post, writing:

 In layman’s terms, Paul views the Corinthians as having broken decisively with their old identity and practice. They were thieves, but are not any longer.  They were drunkards, but are not any longer. They were homosexuals (whether the malakoi or the arsevokoitai, the passive or active homosexual partner, respectively, according to the Greek) but are not any longer.

Strachan adds:

David Garland says it well in his own exegetical commentary: “The implication is that Christianity not only offers a completely new sexual ethos and a new ethos regarding material possessions but also brings about a complete transformation of individuals. God’s grace does not mean that God benignly accepts humans in all their fallenness, forgives them, and then leaves them in that fallenness. God is in the business not of whitewashing sins but of transforming sinners.”

The verses in question are I Corinthians 6:9-11:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor [a]effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Assuming these words are translated correctly,* I wonder if there could be another way to understand this passage. Strachan wants us to believe that spiritual conversion changes a person from gay to not gay. His exegetical partners set up a complete transformation standard for conversion.

However, empirically speaking, this is rare. Most same-sex attracted people who have converted to Christianity remain same-sex attracted many years after conversion. Since Strachan and his Revoice critics view same-sex desire and attraction (not just behavior) as sin, then they leave the same-sex attracted Christian without hope. I don’t know what they think changes at conversion for a gay person. I know this is an inconvenient observation, but it is a true one. I asked Strachan in a comment at his blog to address this issue but he has not answered.

In the list above, some of those traits are more likely to change completely with conversion than others. For instance, I have little trouble believing a thief will completely transform but not all converted alcoholics do.  Relapse happens.

Will Covetous Believers Go to Heaven?

In my view, the I Corinthians 6 passage affirms that God can reach anyone with forgiveness and redemption. Even swindlers, thieves and adulterers can be justified, and once justified, one is always justified. Once you were not justified, but now you are. Some of those Corinthians were pretty far gone but God forgave and justified even them. To say that God requires a complete transformation standard defies human experience. If covetous believers aren’t going to make it, then very few are going to make it, including many preachers.

As far as I can tell, the Revoice approach is quite traditional but recognizes the reality of human experience. To them, “gay” doesn’t signal a rejection of their beliefs but rather is a matter bearing true witness.

 

*It is no secret that the translation of several of the traits described as sins in the I Corinthians 6 passage has been disputed. I am not taking a position in this post on the accuracy of the translation.

 

 

Sponsor: Celibacy as Therapy Goal Allowed by CA's Anti-Conversion Therapy Bill

The outrage surrounding California’s anti-conversion therapy bill (AB 2943) is growing by the press release. For instance, last Monday (April 30) Summit Ministries canceled a conference in CA because they contend the bill (when it becomes law) will forbid advice which doesn’t affirm homosexuality. According to the press release,

Summit’s program would fall under the proposed law because its lineup includes defenders of traditional man/woman marriage and people who advocate pursuing only those sexual activities approved in the Bible. Myers said it has also been common during prior trainings for students to ask questions of Summit staff about how to address confusion over gender identity and sexual attraction in the context of their faith. By prohibiting such conversations, AB2943 would cripple Summit’s ability to care for and equip its students, Myers said.
“What are we going to say to a young person experiencing sexual confusion?” he asked. “That the state of California forbids us from allowing a biblical ethic embraced by billions of people for thousands of years to inform our answer?
“California state authorities are hijacking good-faith concerns about reparative therapy to deny constitutional protection to those who hold traditional views of sexuality and marriage,” Myers added. “We cannot and will not bend God’s truth to accommodate the state of California.
“This is the most blatant chilling of free speech in America in my lifetime.”

According to the bill’s sponsor, the bill doesn’t relate to speech or religious teaching. It regulates sexual orientation change efforts. The bill would only apply to their conference if Summit Ministries charges conference goers for sexual orientation change counseling.
If students ask questions about what the Bible teaches, the teachers are free to provide whatever teaching they believe. They can recommend change efforts, celibacy, prayer, meditation, or whatever they believe. They can recommend books, sell books and tapes, and even recommend therapists. However, those therapists can’t conduct those treatments under the new law.

Would the Bill Prohibit Counseling to Live a Celibate Life?

Summit Ministries argued that biblical advice, such as celibacy, would be prohibited by the bill. I asked bill sponsor Evan Low’s office if counselors could help clients seek celibacy if clients wanted to avoid homosexual behavior. Low’s office referred me to policy advisor Anthony Samson who answered by email that “AB 2943 would not prohibit one from providing therapeutic help to an individual seeking to become celibate.”  He pointed to the word “includes” in the following definition of “sexual orientation change efforts”

(i) (1) “Sexual orientation change efforts” means any practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.

Samson said, “The term ‘includes’ means that the practices following it must be in connection with seeking to change an individual’s sexual orientation.  In other words, ‘efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex’ would be precluded to the extent they were provided in connection with seeking to change one’s sexual orientation.” Samson explained, “Because providing services to help one become celibate would not be in connection with changing one’s sexual orientation, it would be permitted.”
So biblical advice would not be banned and therapeutic help for traditional clients will still be available as well. For instance, I have no hesitation in conducting or recommending sexual identity therapy in CA.
To me, these protestations appear to be efforts to derail the bill in order to protect reparative therapy. Having read the bill, I can tell that the Summit press release, and most of the Christian news articles on this bill are reactionary efforts which don’t deal directly with the actual bill. If these groups want to be ta ken seriously, they should secure scholarly opinions from serious legal scholars and not culture warriors.
Furthermore, if religious conservatives want to have an impact on this legislation, I encourage them to do what I have done. Contact the sponsor and enter into a respectful, rational, fact-based dialogue.

Fact Sheet on AB 2943

Why the Mental Health Professionals Want to Ban Conversion Therapy

Why the Mental Health Professions Want to Ban Conversion Therapy

While there are several reasons why mental health advocates want to ban sexual orientation change efforts, I want to focus on the recent push to legislate bans on the practice by licensed professionals.
Historically, therapists who treat gays with an aim to change them have viewed homosexuality as a developmental disorder. Some may also think same-sex sexual behavior is immoral, but principally the use of therapeutic techniques is driven by a belief that there is something psychologically wrong with someone who is attracted to the same sex. If the right techniques can be applied, eventually the GLB person will experience a shift in psychological perspective and find the opposite sex attractive. In short, homosexuality is an illness to be cured.
As most readers know, this view of same-sex orientation isn’t held by any medical or mental health professional organization today. Only a tiny group of practitioners hold to this view and they are among those who are fighting legislative efforts to ban sexual orientation change efforts. When legislators craft bills to stop treatment of same-sex orientation, they are hoping to stop efforts to cure something that isn’t a disorder.
To me, this is a sensible stance. No disorder, no need for treatment.
On the other hand, many religious traditions disagree with same-sex sexual behavior. They discourage such behavior as inconsistent with their moral teachings. Churches and religious groups have the right to teach this and advise their members in keeping with their principles. When people ask for their advice or opinion, churches can teach their views. In fact, anyone can teach and speak any view about homosexuality.
However, when a person joins a learned profession and gets a state license to practice that profession, there are certain restrictions that come along with that choice.  Mental health professionals are not clergy. We have a role to enhance the mental health of our clients and curing non-existent diseases doesn’t seem to me to be a part of that mandate. If clergy need to speak against certain behaviors, that is their right and the state’s regulation of mental health professionals cannot stop them.
I do have sympathy for those clients who believe that their same-sex attractions result from some historical trauma. In fact, there is a very small subset of people for whom those factors might be relevant to an understanding of their overall personality, including their sexual interests. I also believe that those people can continue to receive therapy, under these laws, if the treatment is not framed as a direct effort to change orientation.
Ultimately, I believe this is an issue of regulation of mental health professionals and not one of religious liberty. Since there is no universe in which sexual orientation change efforts are effective, why would mental health professionals make space for them? The rare exceptions can be accommodated via other frameworks (e.g., identity exploration, trauma recovery). Religious views will continue to be shared and any challenge to them will not succeed. We can coexist.

For more information on helping non-affirming same-sex attracted people live in keeping with traditional sexual ethics without engaging in sexual orientation change efforts, see the following articles and websites:

Sexual Identity Therapy Framework
Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity
A New Therapy on Faith and Sexual Identity (WSJ)
Living the Good Lie (NYT)
 

Sponsor: CA Conversion Therapy Bill Won't Ban Books or the Bible

Some conservative pundits are worried that a bill moving to the California State Senate will ban the Bible or at least some Christian books. Upon examination, I don’t see a basis in fact for that claim.
The bill is AB 2943 and would amend state law on unlawful business practices with a prohibition on performing sexual orientation change therapy for a fee. A fact sheet for the bill provided by bill sponsor Assemblyman Evan Low can be viewed at the link below.

Fact Sheet on AB 2943

Liberty Counsel has been spreading the view that the Bible would be banned by the bill and National Review’s David French has made a serious case that the bill would lead to a ban on certain Christian books.  Essentially, they say that the current law prohibits the sale of “goods” which result in harm from being sold. They argue that books which promote changes in behavior away from homosexual behavior even if the goal is celibacy might be considered within the reach of the statute since the statute defines sexual orientation change as including “efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions.”
Since the entire bill is about sexual orientation change, it seems clear to me that the reference to behavior change is due to the practice of some change therapists to get gay clients to engage in heterosexual behaviors even when it doesn’t seem natural as a kind of behavior therapy. This isn’t a reference to celibacy – which by the way doesn’t reflect a change in orientation.
In fact, the next section of the bill says that sexual orientation change efforts as defined by the statute don’t include interventions which:

(A) provide acceptance, support, and understanding of clients or the facilitation of clients’ coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices; and (B) do not seek to change sexual orientation.

Clients who decide to live a celibate life can count on a counselor’s help as long as those interventions are neutral regarding change of orientation.

Does the Bill Ban Books?

I wrote Assemblyman Evan Low to ask if AB 2943 prohibited the sale of books or videos promoting conversion therapy by therapists. I also asked if the amended law would prohibit the sale of religious books or videos which advocate that gays should change their sexual orientation by religious means. Finally, I asked if AB 2943 prohibited the sale of books or videos promoting celibate behavior for gays as a way to adhere to religious beliefs.
Low’s Communications Director Maya Polon wrote back to answer all three questions negatively. According to the sponsor, the bill doesn’t relate to books or speech. I followed up by asking if any of the unlawful business practices has ever led to the banning of any books or speech. She wrote back to say that she wasn’t aware of any instance where books about any those practices have been banned. I also asked Mr. French via Twitter if he was aware of books banned in CA due to the unlawful practices law but have not heard back from him as yet.
A few days ago Evan Low responded to this issue via Twitter:


I haven’t decided what I think of the bill yet but unless this part of the law has ever been used to try to ban books before, then it doesn’t seem to be a serious reason to oppose it now. There is a lot wrong with conversion therapy but generally I favor more freedom not less. What makes me think this could be a reasonable response to the harm reparative therapy can do is that there is nothing in the bill that stops a person from trying to make personal changes outside of a professional context. Furthermore, I don’t see how the bill prohibits counselors from helping clients who pursue celibacy. However, it does remove the stamp of approval of the mental health professions for change therapy.

Uganda: Members of Parliament Call for Another Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Yesterday members of Uganda’s Parliament called for legislation akin to the failed Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014. Beginning in 2009, Uganda had the world’s attention as the nation’s Parliament debated a bill which would have implemented the death penalty for repeat instances of same-sex behavior between consenting adults. A slightly modified bill finally passed in 2013 only to be struck down by a Ugandan court in 2014.
In protest, nations around the globe cut off aid to Uganda and President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced the bill at the 2010 prayer breakfast. Evangelicals were divided over the bill with some giving quiet support to the evangelical parliamentarians in Uganda. Others, like Rick Warren, criticized the bill and urged Ugandan pastors to come out against it. See the end of this post for more reading on the issue. I wrote scores of articles about the bill and came out strongly against it.

A New Anti-Homosexuality Bill?

After speaking out against same-sex marriage at the March Inter-Parliamentary Union conference, members of Parliament passed a commendation of Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.


Here is Kadaga at the IPU meeting:

The recognition of Kadaga Wednesday led to other members of Parliament making statements about a need for a new law against homosexuality.


That homosexuality spreads “like a wild fire” is just one of many misconceptions which members of Parliament use to generate support for their efforts. As a response to a request from President Museveni for scientific information relating to homosexuality, Jack Drescher and I wrote a scientific consensus letter in 2014 which was signed by over 200 scholars and sex researchers. I would like to think it helped but he signed the bill anyway. Furthermore, when I read these statements from the Parliament, I can see we have more work to do.

Additional Reading

Scientific Consensus Statement
History of Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill – NPR
Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill Inspired by American Evangelicals  – Daily Beast
My Salon series about a Nevada church who dropped support of a Uganda missionary over the bill
Straight Man’s Burden – Harpers
The Bill Inspired by American Evangelicals – The Atlantic
All posts about Uganda
 

Family Policy Alliance Misleads Public on Conversion Therapy Legislation

To hear Focus on the Family’s public policy arm, Family Policy Alliance, talk about it, the opponents of forcing teens to go to sexual orientation change efforts (aka conversion therapy) don’t want kids to go to counseling. Listen to Stephanie Curry use the phrase “basic talk therapy” like it is her job (which in this case it is).

Transcript:

Hi, I’m Stephanie Curry and I’m a public policy manager with Family Policy Alliance. I’m here today to talk to you about a series of bills that we’re seeing across the country that would seek to ban basic talk therapy for our children. Family Policy Alliance cares about this issue because we care about our children and that they’re able to have access to basic talk therapy if they are struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction and gender identity issues. We believe that families and parents know what’s best for their children and they should have the ability to find licensed therapists that support their moral and religious principles.
Some bills we’re seeing that are cause for concern are for example a bill in Massachusetts that said it was child abuse for a family to take their child to a therapist to get therapy for their unwanted same-sex attractions or gender identity issues. We also have seen a bill in Massachusetts that equates this type of basic talk therapy to torture. Now we know that this isn’t true. Because we love our children, we want them to have access to compassionate and ethical basic talk therapy that is open to change. Thank you so much for joining us today.

The Basic Talk Therapy Bill

In fact, the only bill I could find in MA did not refer to therapy as child abuse or torture. The bill does not prohibit basic talk therapy. The 2017 bill — H1190 — specifically forbids interventions which serve sexual reorientation or gender identity change. However, the bill does allow a neutral exploration of sexual and gender identity issues.
Read the the bill below:

SECTION 1. Chapter 112 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2014 Official addition, is hereby amended by adding following new section:-
Section 266. (a) Definitions.
For the purposes of this section, “licensed professional” means any licensed medical, mental health, or human service professional licensed under Chapter 112, including any psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, psychiatric nurse, allied mental health and human services professional, licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed rehabilitation counselor, licensed mental health counselor, licensed educational psychologist, or any of their respective interns or trainees, or any other person designated or licensed as a mental health or human service professional under Massachusetts law or regulation.
The term “sexual orientation” shall mean having an orientation for or being identified as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality.
The term “Gender identity” shall mean a person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth. Gender-related identity may be shown by providing evidence including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of the gender-related identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity; provided, however, that gender-related identity shall not be asserted for any improper purpose.
“Sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts” means any practice by a licensed professional that attempts or purports to impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, including but not limited to efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex. The term “sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts” does not include practices:
(A)(1) to provide acceptance, support, and understanding of an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression; (2) facilitate an individual’s coping, social support, and identity exploration and development; or (3) that are sexual orientation-neutral or gender identity-neutral including interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices; and
(B) Do not attempt or purport to impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
(b) Under no circumstances shall a licensed professional advertise for or engage in sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts with a patient less than 18 years of age. Any licensed professional violating this prohibition shall be such subject to discipline by the appropriate licensing board, which may include suspension or revocation of license.
(c) Whoever violates this section shall be considered to have violated section 2 of chapter 93A. Any such claim brought under this section shall be subject to sections 5A and 7 of chapter 260.
SECTION 2. (a) Subsection (a) of Section 51A of chapter 119 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official addition, is hereby amended by inserting after the words “chapter 233” the following words:-
or (vi) being subjected to sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts as defined by section 169 of chapter 112
(b) Section 51A of chapter 119 is further amended in subsection (i) after the word “family.” by adding the following words:-
Any report including licensed professionals engaging in sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts as defined under section 169 of chapter 112 shall be filed within 30 days to the appropriate licensing board for review and possible suspension or revocation of license.

Therapists Should Be Neutral

Religious right pundits have been distorting these bills since they first came along. The MA bill clearly allows “basic talk therapy” which “provide[s] acceptance, support, and understanding of an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression” and “facilitate[s] an individual’s coping, social support, and identity exploration and development” or “that [is] sexual orientation-neutral or gender identity-neutral including interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices.”
Therapist should facilitate coping, social support and identity exploration and do so in a neutral manner. Therapists should not try to push sexual reorientation.
As a result of supportive therapy, some teens will determine that they are straight or cisgender and others will come out as a sexual minority. Such therapy is legal under this bill. Religious therapists should be perfectly fine with this arrangement. Therapy should not be a platform for spreading religious beliefs or making clients into Christian disciples.
What the state of MA is trying to prevent is for a therapist to use the cover of a state license to pursue sexual orientation or gender identity change. Therapists may do many things to support families who are traditional in their beliefs, but under a law like this, they may not actively use techniques or prescribe methods which have the intent to change orientation. Given that those techniques rarely, if ever, work, this would be beneficial for teens on balance.

Yesterday, Liberty Counsel Celebrated Christian Freedom Day

Yesterday, like presidents before him, President Trump issued a proclamation commemorating Thomas Jefferson’s work in writing Virginia’s

Cover of Getting Jefferson Right, used by permission
Cover of Getting Jefferson Right, used by permission

Statute for Religious Freedom (full text here) which was adopted by the Virginia legislature on January 16, 1786. The law ended the establishment of the Anglican church in Virginia and recognized freedom of conscience in the state.
Jefferson meant for that freedom of conscience to extend beyond Christian denominations to all religions or none. However, ultra-conservative Liberty Counsel does not appear to recognize the breadth of Jefferson’s work. In their press release, the Statute on Religious Freedom is described as follows:

Religious Freedom Day is celebrated in America each year on January 16 to commemorate the 232nd anniversary of the passing of the 1786 passage of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom that ended the state-established church in Virginia, finally protecting religious rights for all denominations. The Anglicans had fined, persecuted, jailed and murdered Christians who were not part of the state-established church. However, Jefferson, a lifelong fervent advocate for the rights of religious liberty and religious conscience, worked hard to protect and defend those Christians. (emphasis added)

Liberty Counsel’s presser refers to denominations of Christianity and to Jefferson’s work to defend Christians. In the past, Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver has questioned the status of Islam as a religious worthy of First Amendment protection. Staver is also of the David Barton school of thought regarding the First Amendment — that the purpose of it was to prevent a Christian denomination from being established. In other words, when the First Amendment says religion, it means Christianity.

What Did Jefferson Mean?

In fact, there was an effort in the Virginia legislature to limit the scope of Virginia’s statute to Christians during debate on the bill. Jefferson wrote about it in his autobiography:

The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason & right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally past; and a singular proposition proved that it’s protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word “Jesus Christ,” so that it should read “departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion” the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it’s protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Islam], the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.

According to Jefferson, the effort did not succeed. He meant his religious freedom bill to cover all people, of all religious ideas or no religious ideas.

What Religious Freedom Really Means Now

Ultimately, religious freedom at this particular time for this particular group means the freedom to discriminate against people, usually GLBT people in providing public services. In general, I think those who provide services to the public should provide them to GLBT people, even if they personally disagree with some aspect of those they serve.
But that’s just me and my beliefs. I know others believe differently, and the beauty of this nation is that they are free to believe it. What we will find out over the next few years is if they are free to discriminate based on that belief.

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2017

In 2017, the following ten posts received the most page views:
10. K-LOVE’s Pledge Drive: Money Behind the Music (2017)
9. Former Newsping Pastor Perry Noble Incorporates Second Change Church (2017)
8. American College of Pediatricians v. American Academy of Pediatrics: Who Leads and Who Follows? (2011)
7. After the Demise of Mars Hill Church Mark Driscoll Landed on His Feet with Over One Million in Donations (2017)
6. IRS and Postal Service Agents on Scene at Benny Hinn’s Office (2017)
5. Mark Driscoll Spins the End of Mars Hill Church (2017)
4. A Major Study of Child Abuse and Homosexuality Revisited (2009)
3. Former CFO at Turning Point Claims David Jeremiah Used Questionable Methods to Secure a Spot on Best Seller Lists (2015)
2. What’s Going on at Harvest Bible Fellowship? James MacDonald Resigns as President of HBF (2017)
and the #1 post is:

  1. Open Letter to Gateway Pastor Robert Morris from a Former Member of Mars Hill Church (2014)

 
Some past posts have aged well. The 2009 post regarding child abuse and non-heterosexuality has been in the top ten nearly every year since 2009.counseling image 2 Readers continue to be interested in Mars Hill Church and various players surrounding the demise of that church.
Although the page views don’t show it, the story that continues to be covered here and almost nowhere else is the Gospel for Asia saga. The target of federal scrutiny and two RICO lawsuits in the U.S., GFA has also initiated and been involved in various legal actions in India. Although the scope of the GFA empire dwarfs other organizations I have examined, it continues to fly along under the radar.
For a profile of my work and the role blogging has played in it, see this lengthy article by Jon Ward in Yahoo News earlier this month.

To follow the blog on social media, check out and like

Facebook
Twitter
To like the Facebook page dedicated to the book Getting Jefferson Right, click here.
The learn more about the sexual identity therapy framework, go here.

New Studies Point to Biological Basis for Male Homosexuality

A study out yesterday lends support to the fraternal birth order theory of male homosexuality. Also called the older brother effect, the effect has been hypothesized to relate to an immune response in mothers of sons. The more sons a woman has, the more likely her younger sons will not be heterosexual. Although without support up to now, supporters of the immune theory believe that having sons for some women create antibodies which react against proteins which effect brain development. Presumably, the brain development would be an areas which effect sexual orientation.
From the press release:

Groundbreaking research led by a team from Brock University has further confirmed that sexual orientation for men is likely determined in the womb.
In the first-ever laboratory study of mothers of gay men, the research was prompted by more than two decades of statistical data examining the ‘older brother effect’ which shows that biological older brothers — but not older sisters — increase the odds of homosexuality in later-born males.
The study, “Male Homosexuality and Maternal Immune Responsivity to the Y-Linked Protein NLGN4Y,” was published Monday, Dec. 11 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Brock Health Sciences Professor Tony Bogaert, lead researcher on the project, said the new study has produced some of the most significant findings in men’s sexual orientation research in the past 10 or 15 years. The team included researchers from Harvard and the University of Toronto.
“The implications of this study, especially if and when it is replicated by an independent team, are profound,” said Bogaert. “Along with more deeply understanding the exact origin of the older brother effect, it helps solidify the idea that, at least in men, there’s a strong biological basis to sexual orientation.
“This is the culmination of more than 20 years of research where we started looking at the older brother, or fraternal birth order, effect. The current study adds to the growing scientific consensus that homosexuality is not a choice, but rather an innate predisposition.”
Bogaert, an internationally recognized expert in human sexuality, said the study is groundbreaking for at least two major reasons:

  • It supports the conclusion, suggested by previous studies, that genes alone do not completely account for homosexuality.

  • It suggests that immunological factors should be considered along with genetic and hormonal factors as possible biological influences on sexual orientation.

The study did not link the proteins with specific neural outcomes but did find that mothers of gay sons demonstrated a different immune response than mothers of straight sons.

The team of psychologists and immunologists tested 16 women with no sons, 72 mothers with heterosexual sons, 31 mothers of gay sons with no older brothers, 23 mothers of gay sons with older brothers, and a control group of 12 men.
The women’s antibody reactivity was measured to two proteins (PCDH11Y and two forms of NLGN4Y) found only in males, both of which are expressed in the male fetal brain.
The team found that mothers of gay sons, especially those with older brothers, had significantly higher antibody levels to both forms of NLGN4Y than did the control samples of women, including mothers of heterosexual sons.
“It seems that some women during their first male pregnancy, or just after their first male birth, begin to detect this foreign substance (the NLGN4Y protein) and start to develop an immune response. And then later, with further male pregnancies, the high levels of antibodies directed toward this substance may change brain development in these later born males,” Bogaert said.

If the work is replicated and it can be demonstrated that these antibodies influence brain structures associated with non-heterosexuality, e.g., the hypothalamus, then the evidence for the immune connection would be even stronger. Since antibodies in response to multiple male births would only effect a small number of gay males, there must be other pathways to non-heterosexual brain development. As I review several lines of research, I believe there are other ways in addition to the immune hypothesis (e.g., hormones, epimarks) that the neural basis for non-heterosexuality could come to be.

Genetic association study

Just last week, a genome association wide study found yet more ways in which the DNA of gay males differ from straight males. Alan Sanders andphoto-1456434893711-6a909e9cd81d_opt his team reported that they found those differences in a gene which is involved in helping to form the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus repeatedly shows up in studies where gay and straight males differ.
Charles Roselli has studied the hypothalamus in rams and found that “gay rams” (male oriented rams) demonstrate size differences in the preoptic area of the hypothalamus. Here is a 2013 video where he described his research: