Bryan Fischer's expert misleads audience on ex-gay therapy

Psychologist Tim Rampey was on the Bryan Fischer show yesterday going on about how homosexuality is not innate. He mentioned two studies which were supposed to make his point on the clip I have below – one called Calhoun’s Rat Universe and another one conducted by Alan Bell, Martin Weinberg and Sue Hammersmith.
Listen in:

Rampey described Calhoun’s Rat Universe as a possible social influence on sexual behavior. In this study, there were many breakdowns in procreation as well as other behavioral changes when the living space became overcrowded. This, of course, is a study which is only relevant to situational sexual behavior. Explaining why some people engage in sexual behavior under duress is not the same thing as explaining the development of same-sex attraction under more typical circumstances. And besides, as NARTH writers like to remind us, animals are not human.  
Then, Rampey invokes the 1981 report from Alan Bell, Martin Weinberg and Sue Hammersmith which found very little difference between the home life of gays and straights. Rampey said:

If you actually take Alan Bell’s study, the differences are huge. The number of heterosexuals who said that they were disliked or hated by their fathers was less than half than those who said such among the homosexuals.

It is really sad to see a person who criticizes drug companies for misusing research turn around and misuse it himself. That is exactly what he has done here.
I have the book, Sexual Preference, by Bell, Weinberg and Hammersmith which provides the questions used in the analysis. The authors asked gay and straight participants many questions about both parents. The closest question I could find to one asking participants if their fathers hated them was one asking if the participants hated their fathers. The authors described the response:

A minority of the homosexual respondents said they had disliked or hated their fathers, but even fewer heterosexual respondents mentioned such feelings (WHM (white homosexual males): 29%, WHTM (white heterosexual males): 12%). (p. 54)

The researchers asked many other related questions with similar results. Generally gay males described more strained relationships with their fathers than straights. However, what should we make of this?
If we are looking for a general factor from these data of why same-sex attraction occurs, we cannot assume a strained paternal relationship is the cause. First, let’s examine the implication Rampey makes that differences in ratings of paternal relation mean those differences cause the differences in sexual orientation. Rampey has made a living critiquing researchers for errors in design and interpretation, but he makes a rookie error by implying that correlation means causation.
There are other explanations for the differences observed in relationship assessment. As Bell et al point out, during their growing up years, gay males often appear more stereotypically feminine in interests and activity preferences. Fathers who do not know how to deal with this may pull away from their sons. The father – son issues, to the extent they are remembered correctly, may be a reaction to the development of same-sex interest and not the cause of it. And then relationships can really sour in adolescence when same-sex interest becomes more obvious. Consider these recollections from former clients:

“I was a daddy’s boy until about 7th grade. We did everything together and I knew he loved me. When I got into music though, he didn’t really get it. We kind of drifted until I told him I was gay and now it is pretty strained.” And from a dad: “I never suspected a thing. We were very close but when he told me he liked boys instead of girls, something in me died, I think. We are not the same now.”

Rampey then claims that the differences in Bell et al are huge. However, they are not huge, at least huge enough to explain sexual orientation. First, the absolute number of gays in Bell’s study providing answers portraying a strained relationship was infrequently over half the respondents. Just taking the question referred to by Rampey, note that 71% of gay males did not hate or dislike their fathers. On two-thirds of the questions about father, a majority of the gay males answered in the direction of a good relationship with their father. As a group, straight males described better relationships with their fathers, but rarely was the difference dramatic or indicative of large effects on adult sexual orientation.
Bell et al analyzed all of the differences and found that the only real effect of paternal relationship was if it contributed to childhood gender nonconformity. In other words, they concluded that a lack of paternal identification did not have much at all to do with homosexuality unless a boy also reported being disinterested in typical male activities and interests growing up. Bell et al said it like this:

Unfavorable relationships with fathers do seem to be connected with gender nonconformity and early homosexual experiences; nonetheless, the connection to adult sexual orientation is not a strong one…From these findings, then, we conclude that the relationship a boy has with his father cannot be said to predict very much about the sexual orientation he will develop. (p. 62).

Another problem with Rampey’s use of Bell’s data is that he did not report the additional analysis Bell conducted to separate therapy patients from non-therapy patients. If homosexuality in general is related to poor relationships with father, then this connection should be true in emotionally troubled clients as well as those gay males who do not report mental health concerns. In research, one must not generalize results to general, non-clinical populations from those seeking treatment. Understanding this, Bell’s team compared gay men who had been in therapy and gay men who had not sought treatment. For the non-therapy group, there was no relationship between detached-hostile fathers and later homosexuality; whereas for the group who had been in therapy, this variable explained more of the variance than for the entire group (8.4%). Fewer differences were noted for women.
In short, Rampey does in the domain of sexual orientation what he complains about when it comes to drug companies – uses research to paint a misleading picture.
In part two of the interview, Rampey continues to distort things when it comes to harm of ex-gay therapy saying that all APA concern comes from the Shidlo and Schroeder study. He gets some details wrong and does rightly critique the bias involved in that study. However, he completely glosses over the other indications of harm, including the recent Kirk Murphy case. This is a relevant observation because Rampey quotes a 1975 textbook citing many behavioral modification studies which prove sexual reorientation works without harm. Kirk Murphy’s family would dispute that as would I.

Article on The Response and the AFA published at Indian Country Times

I believe the Indian Country Times is the largest Native American news service on the web. Today, they published my article asking why Governor Rick Perry would partner with the American Family Association given the vilification of Native Americans by Bryan Fischer and condoned by the AFA earlier in the year. I am glad that the ICT folks consider the issue relevant and important enough to bring before their readers.
Click the link for the article.

One more reason to just say no to The Response

Of late, left leaning groups have raised concerns about a prayer meeting convened by Texas Governor Rick Perry and hosted by the American Family Association. Called “The Response,” the event bills itself as a religiously motivated solemn assembly. To me, it seems like a political statement. About his work, National Finance Chair for the event and uber-organizer, David Lane says, “What I do is spiritual. The by-product is political.”
One of the major problems with the event as raised by critics is the involvement of the American Family Association. Even though I am an evangelical, I agree. In my view, the AFA has earned their designation as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Critics point to outrageous statements from the AFA’s Bryan Fischer regarding gays, Muslims and African-Americans as reason to question why a prominent elected official would partner with the AFA.
While all of the insults and stereotypes identified by critics are serious and disqualifying, I don’t want us to forget Bryan Fischer’s views of Native Americans. Early in 2011, Fischer wrote that “Native Americans morally disqualified themselves from the land,” saying that Native Americans were so savage and immoral that they were displaced for their evil. In other words, they got what was coming to them. Even though that article was removed from the AFA website, the AFA was silent on the issue, allowing Fischer to remove it without an apology saying he removed it because his critics were not “mature enough” for the subject. Then Fischer followed up that article with one that stated Native American assimilation into the new America would have been “seamless and bloodless” if only they had converted to Christianity. One Native American writer called Fischer’s articles “ugly” and said he advocated “thinly veiled race-purity arguments.”
A few evangelicals spoke out. Two Southern Baptist leaders criticized Ficher’s views as being “a barrier” to efforts to bridge gaps between evangelicals and Native communities. Native American Southern Baptist pastor, Emerson Falls, said about Fischer and the AFA, “This kind of stereotyping has traditionally been used to de-humanize people so they can be treated differently. I believe Native Americans are no different than any other people created in the image of God.”
That Rev. Falls would need to repeat the obvious is an indicator of the offense caused by the AFA. Despite calls for a redemptive response, the AFA refused repeated requests for comment on the matter. A couple of AFA staffers said they disagreed with Fischer but even they stressed that they were not speaking for the organization. In short, the AFA has done nothing to distance the group from Fischer’s racial stereotyping.
In my view, the AFA should not be leading a prayer event claiming to call America to their view of righteousness. I am surprised and sad that Governor Perry would partner with them.
I was even more surprised that Governor Sam Brownback (R-KS) would agree to take part. Brownback was a prime mover of the Native American Apology Resolution which I called the AFA in March to endorse. I do agree that at times it can be productive to join together with various groups to accomplish an objective. However, it is beyond me how these two Governors can partner with a organization that regularly slanders and maligns entire groups of people, not individuals mind you, entire groups. In the case of Brownback, he once stood for confession of wrongs in apology to Native Americans, but now he stands with a group which openly rejects the need for that apology.
My response to The Response is no.

GOP Kingmaker and Chief Recruiter for the Left

Bryan Fischer may be creating his own category:
GOP Kingmaker and Chief Recruiter for the Left
As Right Wing Watch notes, last week the American Family Association did damage control for the third time on a Fischer-penned article. First, Fischer wrote:

Allowing Muslims to immigrate into the United States, a Christian nation by origin, history and tradition, without insisting that they drop their allegiance to Allah, Muhammad, the Qur’an, and sharia law, is to commit cultural suicide. We believe in freedom of religion for Muslims like we do for everybody else. But if they insist on clinging to their religion, they will need to exercise their freedom of religion in a Muslim country which shares their values: death for those who leave Islam, the beating of wives by their husbands, and the labeling of Jews as apes and pigs.
Immigration is a privilege, not a right, and our policy should be to admit to our shores only those with a commitment to a full assimilation to American culture, adopting our faith, our heroes, and our history. Someone with a Muslim background who wants to become an American had best be prepared to drop his Islam and his Qur’an at Ellis Island.

So ancient Israel offers a paradigm of what a sensible and sane immigration policy looks like. It’s simple: don’t break the law (that is, come in through the front door instead of breaking in through a window), convert to Christianity, fully assimilate (become an authentic American, not a hyphenated American), and support yourself. If you commit to those things, you are welcome here. If you don’t or won’t, perhaps it’s best for you to stay home.

But then someone changed it to read:

Does this mean that folks need to convert before they immigrate? No, but at a minimum, it would mean making sure that immigrants to the United States affirm and believe in the superiority of the Judeo-Christian system of values and truth claims over alternative value systems such as sharia law.
Immigration is a privilege, not a right, and our policy should be to admit to our shores only those with a commitment to a full assimilation to American culture, adopting our values, our heroes, and our history.

So ancient Israel offers a paradigm of what a sensible and sane immigration policy looks like. It’s simple: don’t break the law (that is, come in through the front door instead of breaking in through a window), fully assimilate (become an authentic American, not a hyphenated American), and support yourself. If you commit to those things, you are welcome here. If you don’t or won’t, perhaps it’s best for you to stay home.

There is so much left to work with that I may need another post but please note that hyphenated Americans are not authentic to Mr. Fischer. Also, I would like to hear him grapple with this verse:
Deuteronomy 10:17-19

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.

So anyway back to the Christian nation stuff – do immigrants need to convert or not?
I actually got an email from a reader who speculated that perhaps Mr. Fischer is a plant of the left because he is doing such a good job pushing moderates that way.

Bryan Fischer doubles down on Christianity as a state religion

Yesterday, Bryan Fischer doubled down on his view that the First Amendment does not recognize claims of non-Christian religions. He wrote:

The leftwing political websites lit up over my column of last week in which I took the position that the First Amendment provides no guarantees to practitioners of the Islamic faith, for the simple reason it wasn’t written to protect the free exercise of Islam. It was written to protect the free exercise of the Christian faith.

First of all, it was not only left wing blogs lighting up. Notably the Volokh Conspiracy knocked down Fischer’s strange moves. Eugene Volokh is not a left-winger and neither am I.
Fischer reaffirmed his view that the First Amendment only covers Christianity.

This view of the First Amendment is confirmed by a review of the debate surrounding the First Amendment in Congress in 1789. A re-reading of the all the entries in the congressional record of the debate over the First Amendment reveals no mention — zero, nada, zilch — of Islam.
Instead, as the Founders grappled with the wording of the First Amendment, they road-tested several variations, all of which make it clear that the objective here was specifically to protect the free exercise of the Christian faith.
Here are some of the alternative versions that were considered:

  • “Congress shall make no law establishing One Religious Sect or Society in preference to others.”
  • “Congress shall not make any law, infringing the rights of conscience or establishing any Religious Sect or Society.”
  • “Congress shall make no law establishing any particular denomination of religion in preference to another, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of conscience be infringed.”
  • “Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith, or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion…”
  • “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

The last, of course, is the wording Congress finally chose and passed on to the states for their approval.

In my view, the context of the House of Representatives debate over the religion clause undermines Fischer’s conclusion that the Representatives only had Christianity in view. Here is a lengthy excerpt of discussion of James Madison’s proposed amendment regarding religious freedom. First the language as proposed on June 8, 1789:

The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.

And then later in August, the House took up various amendments as a Committee of the Whole. As the matter was being developed, various suggestions were offered, some of which Fischer describes in his column. The following excerpt provides a look into Madison’s explanation of his amendment.

Mr. Madison said, he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience. Whether the words are necessary or not, he did not mean to say, but they had been required by some of the State Conventions, who seemed to entertain an opinion that under the clause of the Constitution, which gave power to Congress to make all laws necessary and proper to carry into execution the Constitution, and the laws made under it, enabled them to make laws of such a nature as might infringe the rights of conscience and establish a national religion; to prevent these effects he presumed the amendment was intended, and he thought it as well expressed as the nature of the language would admit.

The new government would not establish a religion, would not prefer one, and would not compel citizens to worship contrary to conscience. These rights are individual rights, not granted to a particular religion, but instead to citizens directly. The amendment was not written to protect any religion, Christian or otherwise.
Then the Representative from Connecticut spoke to what he perceived to be unintended consequences.

Mr. Huntington said that he feared, with the gentleman first up on this subject, that the words might be taken in such latitude as to be extremely hurtful to the cause of religion. He understood the amendment to mean what had been expressed by the gentleman from Virginia; but others might find it convenient to put another construction upon it. The ministers of their congregations to the Eastward were maintained by the contributions of those who belonged to their society; the expense of building meetinghouses was contributed in the same manner. These things were regulated by by-laws. If an action was brought before a Federal Court on any of these cases, the person who had neglected to perform his engagements could not be compelled to do it; for a support of ministers, or building of places of worship might be construed into a religious establishment.
By the charter of Rhode Island, no religion could be established by law; he could give a history of the effects of such a regulation; indeed the people were now enjoying the blessed fruits of it. He hoped, therefore, the amendment would be made in such a way as to secure the rights of conscience, and a free exercise of the rights of religion, but not to patronize those who professed no religion at all.

There is debate about what Huntington meant here. Perhaps he was hoping to protect the ability of religious groups to exact offerings from those who had committed to pay, even if they no longer professed religion. However, what seems clearer is Huntington’s positive reference to Rhode Island. Rhode Island was a leader in establishing religious freedom of conscience. In Rhode Island, all faiths were welcome to exercise belief, following the teaching of Roger Williams. Williams wrote in his “A Plea for Religious Liberty:”

Sixthly, it is the will and command of God that (since the coming of his Son the Lord Jesus) a permission of the most paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or antichristian consciences and worships, be granted to all men in all nations and countries; and they are only to be fought against with that sword which is only (in soul matters) able to conquer, to wit, the sword of God’s Spirit, the Word of God.

If we are to understand the intent of the First Amendment via what some Representatives said, then it seems important to go further and capture more of the context. Along with the refusal of the first Congress to allow religious tests, Madison’s Amendment provided strong protection for individual conscience without regard to membership in a religious group, such as Christianity. By Fischer’s logic, the Representatives favored Christianity as a religion, the very thing the Amendment expressly prohibited.
Please note that the evidences of Christianity found by Fischer in his reading of the Congressional debate do not cite Christianity. In fact, the phrases he believes prove that the Constitution only protects versions of Christianity (denomination of religion, religious sect, etc.) were not kept in the final amendment. Even if some legislators only wanted to protect Christian sects, the final wording did not do so.
Furthermore, direct references to Christianity were not a part of the debate on Madison’s amendment. In fact, there is a perfectly good word for Christianity that was not used in any versions of the First Amendment – that word is Christianity. Instead, those debating Madison’s amendment stuck with the general word religion.
Finally, let me examine one additional precursor to the debate on religious freedom. The Virginia legislature passed a law regarding religious freedom in 1786. You can read the entire statute here. Of interest to understand the thinking of Jefferson and other legislators on religious freedom is an amendment to the statute which ultimately failed. Thomas Jefferson in his collected works, tells the story: 

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 and right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that its 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, “a 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 its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.

Fischer apparently refers to the Virginia case in his column but dismisses the relevance of it.

Some critics have pointed to the religious liberty plank in the Virginia constitution, and the statement of some of its advocates at the time that it specifically provided for the free exercise of Islam as well as Buddhism and Hinduism. But this only illustrates my point, because that has to do with religious expression in a state constitution, not the federal constitution.

While the application is indeed limited to Virginia, this passage does speak to Fischer’s contention that the Founders meant Christianity when they said religion. Jefferson and no doubt fellow Virginian Madison had the broader view of religion as an expression of individual liberty of conscience.
Ultimately, in my opinion, Fischer’s effort to prove that the First Amendment establishes Christianity as a state religion fails.

Bryan Fischer: Freedom of religion only for Christians

In the wow, just wow category, Bryan Fischer continued his supremacist ways by stating that constitutional guarantees of freedom of  religion applies only to Christians. To wit:

Islam has no fundamental First Amendment claims, for the simple reason that it was not written to protect the religion of Islam. Islam is entitled only to the religious liberty we extend to it out of courtesy. While there certainly ought to be a presumption of religious liberty for non-Christian religious traditions in America, the Founders were not writing a suicide pact when they wrote the First Amendment. 

To bolster his claim, Fischer quotes Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story out of context:

“Probably at the time of the adoption of the constitution, and of the amendment to it, now under consideration, the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state, so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience, and the freedom of religious worship. An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation…
“The real object of the amendment was, not to countenance, much less to advance Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment, which should give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.”
Story, writing as a constitutional historian, is quite clear. The purpose of the First Amendment was not “to advance Mohametanism” but to “exclude all rivalry among Christian sects.”

However, a elsewhere in the same book, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (1833), Story wrote:

It was under a solemn consciousness of the dangers from ecclesiastical ambition, the bigotry of spiritual pride, and the intolerance of sects, thus exemplified in our domestic, as well as in foreign annals, that it was deemed advisable to exclude from the national government all power to act upon the subject. The situation, too, of the different states equally proclaimed the policy, as well as the necessity of such an exclusion. In some of the states episcopalians constituted the predominant sect; in other presbyterians; in others, congregationalists; in other, quakers; in others again, there was close numerical rivalry among contending sects. It was impossible, that there should not arise perpetual strife and perpetual jealousy on the subject of ecclesiastical ascendancy, if the national government were left free to create a religious establishment. The only security was in extirpating the power. But this alone would have been an imperfect security, if it has not been followed up by a declaration of the right of the free exercise of religion, and a prohibition (as we have seen) of all religious tests. Thus, the whole power over the subject of religion is left exclusively to the state governments, to be acted upon according to their own sense of justice, and the state constitutions; and the Catholic and Protestant, the Calvinist and the Arminian, the Jew and the Infidel, may sit down at the common table of the national councils, without any inquisition into their faith, or mode of worship. (596-597)

Justice Story said correctly that most people in the early nation were Christian of one stripe or another. The common understanding was the state would advance Christianity, but Story’s argument, if read in context, was that the United States would be different. In matters of national business, there was not to be a religious test, no inquiry about allegiances to a particular religious view.
Elsewhere in his book, Story writes about the religious tests in England for those pursuing public office. Candidates had to demonstrate allegiance to the Church of England via statements from clergy and involvement in religious ceremony. Such tests according to Story, were designed to keep out “non-conformists of all denominations, infidels, Turks, Jews, heretics, papists, and sectaries…” However, the First Amendment stood against the formation of such tests in the new nation.
Story’s real argument is for a government which respected the individual conscience, saying that the “rights of conscience are, indeed, beyond the just reach of any human power.” (p. 727). Reading the relevant sections, it becomes clear that Fischer has pulled out a section out of the context of Story’s eloquent tribute to freedom of conscience that is the First Amendment.
As an addition to this post, I want to include a lengthy section of Joseph Story’s writing (free on Google books) on religious tests for involvement in public life. Story is commenting specifically on Article VI, paragraph 3 of the Constitution:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Although primarily influenced by Christianity, the founders did not want state limitations on conscience and made that explicit. Story’s commentary blasts religious bigotry and supremacy and should be heeded by those on the Christian right who want to limit the religious freedom of others.

1841. The remaining part of the clause declares, that “no religious test shall ever be required, as a “qualification to any office or public trust, under the “United States.” This clause is not introduced merely for the purpose of satisfying the scruples of many respectable persons, who feel an invincible repugnance to any religious test, or affirmation. It had a higher object; to cut off for ever every pretence of any alliance between church and state in the national government. The framers of the constitution were fully sensible of the dangers from this source, marked out in the history of other ages and countries ,- and not wholly unknown to our own. They knew, that bigotry was unceasingly vigilant in its stratagems, to secure to itself an exclusive ascendancy over the human mind; and that intolerance was ever ready to arm itself with all the terrors of the civil power to exterminate those, who doubted its dogmas, or resisted its infallibility.
The Catholic and the Protestant had alternately waged the most ferocious and unrelenting warfare on each other; and Protestantism itself, at the very moment, that it was proclaiming the right of private judgment, prescribed boundaries to that right, beyond which if any one dared to pass, he must seal his rashness with the blood of martyrdom. The history of the parent country, too, could not fail to instruct them in the uses, and the abuses of religious tests. They there found the pains and penalties of non-conformity written in no equivocal language, and enforced with a stern and vindictive jealousy.
One hardly knows, how to repress the sentiments of strong indignation, in reading the cool vindication of the laws of England on this subject, (now, happily, for the most part abolished by recent enactments,) by Mr. Justice Blackstone, a man, in many respects distinguished for habitual moderation, and a deep sense of justice. “The second species,” says he “of non-conformists, are those, who offend through a mistaken or perverse zeal. Such were esteemed by our laws, enacted since the time of the reformation, to be papists, and protestant dissenters; both of which were supposed to be equally schismatics in not communicating with the national church; with this difference, that the papists divided from it upon material, though erroneous, reasons; but many of the dissenters, upon matters of indifference, or, in other words, upon no reason at all. Yet certainly our ancestors were mistaken in their plans of compulsion and intolerance. The sin of schism, as such, is by no means the object of temporal coercion and punishment. If, through weakness of intellect, through misdirected piety, through perverseness and acerbity of temper, or, (which is often the case,) through a prospect of secular advantage in herding with a party, men quarrel with the ecclesiastical establishment, the civil magistrate has nothing to do with it; unless their tenets and practice are such, as threaten ruin or disturbance to the state. He is bound, indeed, to protect the established church; and, if this can be better effected, by admitting none but its genuine members to offices of trust and emolument, he is certainly at liberty so to do; the disposal of offices being matter of favour and discretion. But, this point being once secured, all persecution for diversity of opinions, however ridiculous or. absurd they may be, is contrary to every principle of sound policy and civil freedom. The names and subordination of the clergy, the posture of devotion, the materials and colour of the minister’s garment, the joining in a known, or an unknown form of prayer, and other matters of the same kind, must be left to the option of every man’s private judgment.”

The American Family Association should apologize to Native Americans

Crosswalk and the Christian Post published this article last week but I want to put it up here too. The American Family Association refuses to comment officially on the supremacist views of Bryan Fischer but I believe they should. In this article, I quote some evangelical leaders who comment on Fischer’s views. Here is a powerful one:

Fischer’s revision of history is offensive to Rev. Falls. Referring to Fischer’s articles, Falls asserts, “This kind of stereotyping has traditionally been used to de-humanize people so they can be treated differently. I believe Native Americans are no different than any other people created in the image of God.”

Read on…
Should evangelicals apologize to Native Americans?

Yes, we should.
It is past time for evangelicals to express remorse and regret to Native Americans for the mistreatment they experienced at the hands of Christians throughout the history of the nation. Although President Obama signed a resolution of apology in 2009 on behalf of the nation, evangelical groups should also follow suit.
It is a sad fact of American history that Christianity, at times, conspired with the government to colonize and nearly eradicate a proud and free people. Sadly, in the present, those wounds have been reopened by a representative of that same belief system, in effect, blaming the native people for their demise. In February, Bryan Fischer, Issues Analyst for the American Family Association wrote on the AFA website that Native Americans were “morally disqualified from sovereign control of American soil” because of “superstition, savagery and sexual immorality.”
Fischer followed up by suggesting that Americans should be proud of the “displacement of native American tribes.” Finally, he wrote that if the native people had converted to Christianity, like Pocahontas did, then “their assimilation into what became America could have been seamless and bloodless.”
Such assertions are offensive to Native American Christians. One such leader, Rev. Emerson Falls, counters Fischer, telling me that some Indian tribes, such as the Cherokee, assimilated into white Christian ways only to be displaced by federal policy at gunpoint and marched from the deep South to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears (1838-1839). Falls added, “It was only after their forced removal on the Trail of Tears that they began to question the validity of Christianity.” 
Ironically, Fischer’s assertions about Native Americans come at a time when some Christian groups are attempting to address wounds, never fully healed, among Native Americans.  
The first weekend of March, Southern Baptists hosted a conference in Oklahoma called “The Gathering” where Native American Christians reflected on reasons why their peers are not more receptive to Christianity. Randy Adams, Church Outreach Director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, described barriers past generations of Christians created for native people. “At times, mission agencies were complicit with the government mistreatment of native Americans,” referring to government removal of native people from their home lands.
Furthermore, Christians conspired with the government to Americanize native people in the name of religion. Rev. Falls, first Native American president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, explains: “The church partnered with the government to run boarding schools that took Native children out of their homes, cut their hair, changed their clothes, and denied them the right to speak in the own language. This led to an attitude that equates Christianity with cultural genocide, an attitude still prevalent today.”
Both Adams and Falls said that recent months have brought a resurgence of interest in Christianity among native people. Fischer’s views, they said, coming as a representative of the religious right, could be a significant barrier to this movement.
“Fischer has a simplistic and convoluted view of history. Native Americans were deceived and lied to. To suggest that such treatment was noble or praiseworthy is just wrong and destructive,” Adams said.
Adams said that the pain of this history is never far from the native Christians he knows, saying, “What they suffered and what they lost, it is still a part of who they are.”
There are numerous instances of deceit and trickery being used to take native lands, but perhaps the prime illustration is the policy of forced removal begun under Andrew Jackson and continued during the term of Martin Van Buren. White settlers wanted the tribal lands and pushed the Jackson administration to remove native people. Beginning with the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the United States engaged in a systematic displacement of the inhabitants from their lands.
The effort culminated in the brutal Trail of Tears which led to the deaths of approximately 4000 Cherokee as they were marched from several Southern states to what is now Oklahoma. Families were uprooted with little more than the clothes they were wearing and forced to travel through harsh conditions to a place they had never seen.
Fischer’s revision of history is offensive to Rev. Falls. Referring to Fischer’s articles, Falls asserts, “This kind of stereotyping has traditionally been used to de-humanize people so they can be treated differently. I believe Native Americans are no different than any other people created in the image of God.”
Rev. Falls is right. Stereotyping is often used to justify differential treatment. Christians should have no part in the illusion that Native Americans deserved their fate. It is time for Christians to reject historical revisionism, remove barriers and build bridges. Furthermore, I call on the AFA to correct the false information they have promoted and express regret for the pain they have caused.
If you want to express your agreement with the US apology to Native Americans, go to this Facebook page and hit the Like button.

Native American Apology Resolution 2009 – Full text

Early in February, Bryan Fischer, Issues Analyst and talk show host for the American Family Association, wrote that Native Americans deserved the treatment they received from European settlers and the United States because they failed to convert to Christianity. Someone at the AFA decided to pull that article after the predictable outrage. However, he then penned an article saying that the conversation about the US treatment of native people was important because the integrity of the nation was at stake:

If, however, there is a moral and ethical basis for our displacement of native American tribes, and if our westward expansion and settlement are in fact consistent with the laws of nature, nature’s God, and the law of nations, then Americans have much to be proud of.

Fischer closed his article by chastising those who challenged him, saying:

So this is a conversation that needs to take place. But based on the reaction to my column of Tuesday, America is not mature enough right now for that robust dialogue to occur. Until it is…

 Although not front page news, the conversation has been taking place and was elevated to national policy with the passage of the Native American Apology Resolution in 2009. Proposed by social conservative Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), now Governor of Kansas, in 2004, the resolution was passed in 2009 and signed by President Obama later that year. Here I reproduce the resolution in full. If one of the most conservative politicians in the nation can see the need for such an apology, shouldn’t the American Family Association follow his lead?

Native American Apology Resolution

111th CONGRESS

1st Session

S. J. RES. 14

To acknowledge a long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes and offer an apology to all Native Peoples on behalf of the United States.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

April 30, 2009

Mr. BROWNBACK (for himself, Mr. INOUYE, Mr. BAUCUS, Mrs. BOXER, Mr. CRAPO, Ms. CANTWELL, Mr. COBURN, Mr. HARKIN, Mr. LIEBERMAN, and Mr. TESTER) introduced the following joint resolution; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs


JOINT RESOLUTION

To acknowledge a long history of official depredations and ill-conceived policies by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes and offer an apology to all Native Peoples on behalf of the United States.

Whereas the ancestors of today’s Native Peoples inhabited the land of the present-day United States since time immemorial and for thousands of years before the arrival of people of European descent;

Whereas for millennia, Native Peoples have honored, protected, and stewarded this land we cherish;

Whereas Native Peoples are spiritual people with a deep and abiding belief in the Creator, and for millennia Native Peoples have maintained a powerful spiritual connection to this land, as evidenced by their customs and legends;

Whereas the arrival of Europeans in North America opened a new chapter in the history of Native Peoples;

Whereas while establishment of permanent European settlements in North America did stir conflict with nearby Indian tribes, peaceful and mutually beneficial interactions also took place;

Whereas the foundational English settlements in Jamestown, Virginia, and Plymouth, Massachusetts, owed their survival in large measure to the compassion and aid of Native Peoples in the vicinities of the settlements;

Whereas in the infancy of the United States, the founders of the Republic expressed their desire for a just relationship with the Indian tribes, as evidenced by the Northwest Ordinance enacted by Congress in 1787, which begins with the phrase, `The utmost good faith shall always be observed toward the Indians’;

Whereas Indian tribes provided great assistance to the fledgling Republic as it strengthened and grew, including invaluable help to Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their epic journey from St. Louis, Missouri, to the Pacific Coast;

Whereas Native Peoples and non-Native settlers engaged in numerous armed conflicts in which unfortunately, both took innocent lives, including those of women and children;

Whereas the Federal Government violated many of the treaties ratified by Congress and other diplomatic agreements with Indian tribes;

Whereas the United States forced Indian tribes and their citizens to move away from their traditional homelands and onto federally established and controlled reservations, in accordance with such Acts as the Act of May 28, 1830 (4 Stat. 411, chapter 148) (commonly known as the `Indian Removal Act’);

Whereas many Native Peoples suffered and perished–

(1) during the execution of the official Federal Government policy of forced removal, including the infamous Trail of Tears and Long Walk;

(2) during bloody armed confrontations and massacres, such as the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864 and the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890; and

(3) on numerous Indian reservations;

Whereas the Federal Government condemned the traditions, beliefs, and customs of Native Peoples and endeavored to assimilate them by such policies as the redistribution of land under the Act of February 8, 1887 (25 U.S.C. 331; 24 Stat. 388, chapter 119) (commonly known as the `General Allotment Act’), and the forcible removal of Native children from their families to faraway boarding schools where their Native practices and languages were degraded and forbidden;

Whereas officials of the Federal Government and private United States citizens harmed Native Peoples by the unlawful acquisition of recognized tribal land and the theft of tribal resources and assets from recognized tribal land;

Whereas the policies of the Federal Government toward Indian tribes and the breaking of covenants with Indian tribes have contributed to the severe social ills and economic troubles in many Native communities today;

Whereas despite the wrongs committed against Native Peoples by the United States, Native Peoples have remained committed to the protection of this great land, as evidenced by the fact that, on a per capita basis, more Native Peoples have served in the United States Armed Forces and placed themselves in harm’s way in defense of the United States in every major military conflict than any other ethnic group;

Whereas Indian tribes have actively influenced the public life of the United States by continued cooperation with Congress and the Department of the Interior, through the involvement of Native individuals in official Federal Government positions, and by leadership of their own sovereign Indian tribes;

Whereas Indian tribes are resilient and determined to preserve, develop, and transmit to future generations their unique cultural identities;

Whereas the National Museum of the American Indian was established within the Smithsonian Institution as a living memorial to Native Peoples and their traditions; and

Whereas Native Peoples are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and among those are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. RESOLUTION OF APOLOGY TO NATIVE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED STATES.

(a) Acknowledgment and Apology- The United States, acting through Congress–

(1) recognizes the special legal and political relationship Indian tribes have with the United States and the solemn covenant with the land we share;

(2) commends and honors Native Peoples for the thousands of years that they have stewarded and protected this land;

(3) recognizes that there have been years of official depredations, ill-conceived policies, and the breaking of covenants by the Federal Government regarding Indian tribes;

(4) apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States;

(5) expresses its regret for the ramifications of former wrongs and its commitment to build on the positive relationships of the past and present to move toward a brighter future where all the people of this land live reconciled as brothers and sisters, and harmoniously steward and protect this land together;

(6) urges the President to acknowledge the wrongs of the United States against Indian tribes in the history of the United States in order to bring healing to this land; and

(7) commends the State governments that have begun reconciliation efforts with recognized Indian tribes located in their boundaries and encourages all State governments similarly to work toward reconciling relationships with Indian tribes within their boundaries.

(b) Disclaimer- Nothing in this Joint Resolution–

(1) authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or

(2) serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.

In my view, the silence from the AFA makes them culpable for the views of Bryan Fischer. Removing the article with the explanation given by Fischer was no acknowledgement of the offense. Fischer then followed his first column with one suggesting that if only native people had followed Pocahontas example, they would not have suffered the genocidal policies of the US government. Until the AFA addresses these issues, they have lost any moral authority they may have had.

The Trail of Tears remembered

The Trail of Tears was a low point in American history when the United States government brutally carried out a systematic removal of Native Americans from locations throughout the South to the Indian Territory (now eastern Oklahoma). Broadly the forced removal began in 1830 with the signing of the Indian Removal Act and culminated in the forced death march of the Cherokee in 1838 and 1839 where 4,000 of an estimated 17,000 travelers died. The last Cherokees arrived in present day Oklahoma in March, 1839.

The Trail of Tears has been obscured in the retelling of American history. It seems obvious that the American Family Association does not grasp the significance of the event and has spread misinformation to their millions of listeners and readers about the relationship of the United States and native peoples.

This is not a partisan issue. In 2004, conservative Senator Sam Brownback authored a resolution apologizing to the Cherokee and other native people for the Trail of Tears. It was not passed until 2009 and signed by President Obama on December 19, 2009. According to the American Family Association and Bryan Fischer, the US had nothing to apologize for.

In a small way, I want to remember this sad and regrettable time in our history. We must never forget the consequences of supremacist thinking and pledge, never again.

The first print is called the Shadow of the Owl.

The one below is titled “Trail of Tears” Robert Lindneux, 1942. Granger Collection New York, NY.

 This one is attributed to Max Standley.

I am unable to find the creator of the following stunning portrait.

This article on the CNN website from November, 2010, provides a narrative of the US treatment of Native Americans.

In 1838, Gen. Winfield Scott arrived in Georgia and began rounding up those Cherokees who would not leave willingly. Some 16,000 members of the tribe were herded into makeshift prisons. Scott’s men seized women and children first to guarantee that the men would come out of hiding to protect them.

The Cherokees were then forced into wagons, often at bayonet point. As they left their ancestral land, some saw Georgians digging up family graves, looking for silver jewelry. For five months, they were jolted along the route from Georgia to Oklahoma that became known as the Trail of Tears.

Northern missionaries who shared the ordeal testified to families wrested from their homes so suddenly that they had nothing to protect them against the freezing winter rains. Pneumonia and exhaustion carried off the old and the very young. Although estimates vary about how many did not survive, wagon trains stopped every day for rough burials along the roadside.

As the US apologized to ancestors of indigenous people, I believe the AFA owes them an apology for these recent articles from Bryan Fischer. If Sam Brownback can see the need for reflection and remorse, then surely the AFA can see the need to publicly recant and apologize for this Fischer authored statement:

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. 

What is also sad is the effort to shift the responsibility for the atrocities to those who suffered them.

Other posts on this topic:

Does the AFA agree with Bryan Fischer about Native Americans? – 2/28/11

Native American columnist blasts Bryan Fischer’s “ugly article” – 2/24/11

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

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?