Rick and Kay Warren condemn the denial of link between HIV and AIDS as promoted by the AFA’s Bryan Fischer

Early in January, Bryan Fischer, issues analyst with the American Family Association, threw his support behind the belief that HIV does not cause AIDS. On his daily talk show, Fischer hosted University of California, Berkeley professor, Peter Duesberg, who is the principle proponent of the theory that HIV is a harmless virus and that AIDS is the result of lifestyle choices, such as drug use and promiscuity, which weaken the immune system. Duesberg says that gay men are at special risk since they use drugs and engage in casual sex more so than other groups.

In a column on the AFA website, Fischer wrote:

So what is the cause of what we know as AIDS? What is the cause of this condition that is killing people? Duesberg’s answer can be found in one word: drugs.

And specifically, drug use connected with the kind of sex that is far too common in the homosexual community. While the average heterosexual has somewhere between seven to 14 sexual partners in a lifetime, it is not uncommon for homosexuals to have hundreds, even thousands, of sexual partners.

By partnering with Duesberg, Fischer brought AIDS denialism closer to the mainstream of evangelicalism. In response, Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren and his wife Kay issued a statement to me about Fischer’s and Duesberg’s denial of the HIV-AIDS link. The Warrens’ statement is powerful and decisive. It is reproduced here in full:

Since AIDS was first discovered in 1981, 30 years of non-stop scientific research by the US military, the medical community, our government, and by every international health organization has proven over and over, with countless irrefutable results, that ONLY people with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) develop AIDS.  To imply the disease is caused by anything besides HIV is quack science, like claiming the earth is flat, or the moon is made of cheese. Since 1985, when the virus that creates AIDS was isolated, every doctor on the planet, except Peter Duesberg, has known that HIV is the only cause of AIDS.

Duesberg’s denial of the entire body of research, and his rejection of thousands of scientific trials and papers, would be laughable if millions of lives weren’t at stake.  But his view is deadly.  Unfortunately, Duesberg convinced some people in Africa that HIV was not the cause of AIDS and as a result many people there needlessly became infected with the virus, and some have subsequently suffered and died.

It is frustrating – and frightening – for those of us in AIDS ministry to see someone like Dr. Duesberg play to people’s bias and prejudices.  For the past eight years we have worked with thousands of churches around the world and in America who have ministries to those infected and affected by AIDS.  No one deserves this illness, and we must not ignore those among us who are infected or affected by HIV and AIDS.  There are numerous ways to acquire the virus – sexual activity, blood transfusions, being born to an HIV positive mother, dirty needles –  but what matters isn’t  how a person became infected as much as how we will respond. People with living with the virus are people that Jesus created, loves, and died for. Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan teaches us that when you find someone bleeding on the side of the road, you don’t say “Was it your fault?” You just help them in love!

Let’s be very careful about what reality we deny; lives are at stake.

When the Warrens write that Duesberg convinced some in Africa that HIV and AIDS were not related, they are referring to the period of AIDS denial in South Africa from 2000 to 2005. In 2000, Duesberg was invited by South African President Thabo Mbeki to provide advice on AIDS policy. Subsequently, the South African government displayed antagonism toward AIDS treatment and prevention programs which involved anti-retro viral drugs (ARVs). Nicolo Nattrass, writing in African Affairs, said that President Mbeki questioned the science behind the epidemic. However, the consequences were devastating. According to a Harvard University press release and a study from the journal African Affairs, over 330,000 deaths could have been prevented if ARVs had been used. The Harvard release, citing a 2008 study, added that 35,000 babies were born with HIV due to failure to implement appropriate drug based prevention programs.

If anything, the African epidemic provides evidence counter to Duesberg’s theory. The epidemic there is driven by heterosexual activity. The stereotype about gay men spreading HIV via lots of drugs and sex is not applicable there.

Given what is at stake, the Warrens’ statement is important. The American Family Association has a sizable audience which includes GOP Presidential candidates. Confusion over something as basic as what causes AIDS could become a barrier to the progress made in ministry and treatment for those with HIV/AIDS. As the Warrens remind us, lives are at stake.

Bryan Fischer: Changing sexual orientation like scoring 100 points in a single NBA game

I bet Bryan Fischer would like to take this one back. Says the incomparable Mr. Fischer today comparing the change from gay to straight:

We know that it’s possible to bat .400 over the course of a major league season, because one man, Ted Williams, did it in 1941. We know that it’s possible to hit 73 home runs in a single season, because one man, Barry Bonds, did it in 2001. We know that it’s possible to score 100 points in an NBA game, because one man, Wilt Chamberlain, did it in 1962.

So what are the odds of your typical basketball enthusiast scoring 100 points in game? Of an NBA player? How about hitting over .400 in a baseball season? This analysis calculated somewhere between a 2.4 and 4.7% chance.
Of course, Fischer shows just how far he is willing to stretch the Jones and Yarhouse study by his title: Study proves gays aren’t born that way. The study says nothing of the kind and does not address causes in any way.
Fischer misuses the Jones and Yarhouse study to mislead his audience. Except that he may be closer than he realizes to getting the odds about right.

More history for dominionism deniers

I posted a piece at Crosswalk this afternoon titled Dominionism? What Dominionism? Here is the intro:

Some in the Christian Right have a memory problem. If I was diagnosing it, I would call it amnesia or maybe denial. They have forgotten who they are and from whence they came.
Christian reconstructionist Gary North has no such amnesia. He has been a fellow traveler with the Christian Right since the early days. In 2007, North wrote:
As a swing vote, the Christian Right can sometimes affect the outcome of the well-orchestrated, thoroughly entertaining Punch and Judy show that Americans call national politics. Prior to 1976, when Jimmy Carter openly campaigned as a Christian — the first Presidential candidate to do so since William Jennings Bryan — the Christian Right did not exist. I say this as a minor player in the construction of the Christian Right.
“I was able to wheedle my way into the speaker’s line-up at the three-day public meeting at which the Christian Right came into existence, the National Affairs Briefing Conference, held in Dallas in late summer, 1980. The Establishment did not note its existence, and its historians still don’t, but that was where Ronald Reagan told 13,000 new converts to politics, “You can’t endorse me, but I endorse you.” Those words served as a kind of political baptismal formula — infant baptism, I might add: babes in the woods.”
Those current Christian Right pundits who say that dominionism (various forms of the belief that Christianity and biblical law should form the basis for civil laws which apply to everyone) doesn’t exist are either unaware of their heritage or have selective memory. Reconstructionists (they believe Old Testament law should be the law of the land for all) have been on board in various ways all along, especially as a part of the move toward Christian schools and home schooling.

It seems clear to me that reconstructionists have continued to seek their beliefs and have some organizations within the mainstream of the Christian Right now (e.g., American Vision, Vision Forum, and Exodus Mandate). I don’t think the death penalty for blasphemy is coming back anytime soon but I am concerned about restrictions of freedoms of minorities given the influence of Bryan Fischer and David Barton.
The other issue for me is the erosion of the ability to dialogue with people of various viewpoints. The dominionists see their position as dictated by God. Thus, in a policy discussion, the dominionist can’t give up ground since it is holy. Opponents are not just incorrect, they are evil or as I quote in my article, one of the “enemies of God.” Who makes political deals with an enemy of God?

What dominionists would do with gays, part 2 – Enter Bryan Fischer

Right Wing Watch first reported that Bryan Fischer today answered my question from yesterday asking what dominionists would do with gays.

Fischer: Both of the cases that went to the United States Supreme Court that dealt with the issue of whether states should criminalize sodomy, and of course they still ought to be able to do it, every state in the union criminalized sodomy until 1962 and then forty nine states until 1972, then they began to fall like dominoes. But by the time of the founding until the late 20th Century, homosexual activity was a felony offense in the United States of America, there is no reason why it cannot be a criminal offense once again, absolutely none.

I think the Supreme Court would object to Mr. Fischer’s assertion that homosexual activity could be recriminalized.
See also:
See also Part 1 and Part 3 in the series about what dominionists would do with gays. Part 1 examines the differences between New Apostolic Reformation dominionists and the Christian Reconstructionist variety. Part 3 examines what one thread of dominionist (theonomic Christian Reconstructionists) would do with anyone who failed to keep Mosaic law – e.g., adulterers, blasphemers, idolators, disobedient children, etc.

AFA takes a stand on religious freedom

While this is not a perfect statement (see this post for a critique), the AFA decided to oppose Bryan Fischer’s narrow view of the First Amendment. Earlier this week, the AFA issued the following statement.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOR ALL 
An American Family Association Policy Statement 
The American Family Association celebrates Religious Freedom for all people and for all beliefs as one of the foundational values that make the United States of America a great nation.  
Historical Background 
America’s Founders disagreed how broadly the First Amendment extended Freedom of Religion.  Since James Madison, known as the Father of the Bill of Rights, insured that the Congressional debates over the Bill of Rights were conducted in secret, Americans must look to later sources to understand the positions taken by their Founders.  Thomas Jefferson and Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, whom Madison appointed to the Supreme Court and who later founded Harvard Law School, openly debated over the place of Christianity in American law.  Jefferson advocated a broad view that that all religions, not merely variations of Christianity, were to be protected.  In his autobiography Jefferson wrote: 
[When] the [Virginia] bill for establishing religious freedom… was finally passed,… 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. 
Joseph Story stated a contradictory view in his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States:  
The real object of the [First] 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.”  
Jefferson’s position has ultimately prevailed; under American law all religions enjoy freedom from government interference.  However Joseph Story’s view continues to have proponents, including Bryan Fischer, one of American Family Radio’s talk show hosts.   However, the American Family Association (“AFA”) officially sides with Jefferson on this question.   AFA is confident that the truth of Christianity will prevail whenever it is allowed to freely compete in the marketplace of ideas.  

In other words, on one of the fundamental issues the AFA speaks about, they have a spokesperson who takes the anachronistic view with which they disagree.
Now I would like to see the AFA come out and issue a statement regarding Bryan Fischer’s position on the nobility of displacing and eradicating indigenous people from the land. It appears that they now understand a little better that silence communicates consent. So now there are several statements they need work on.

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.

More on The Response: Did Hitler mimic the Indian reservations?

Here is a tale of two supporters of The Response.
John Benefiel is founder of the Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network and endorser of the upcoming prayer meeting, The Response, initiated by Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) and funded by the American Family Association. Benefiel has focused on repairing relationships with Native Americans. His reasons are spiritual. For instance, he teaches that Oklahoma’s high divorce rate is due to the fact that Oklahoma was once home to the Indian Territory, a place where the government broke covenants with Native Americans. Over the years, people have been inspired by dark forces to break their marriage vows because the government broke vows with the native nations of the land. Thus, the support for making amends with native people is not simply to do the right thing, rather the big picture is to clear the land of demonic influence so that Benefiel’s version of Christianity can take hold.
Bryan Fischer is an Issues Analyst for the AFA, the group funding the event endorsed by Mr. Benefiel. Mr. Fischer has said that Native Americas were morally disqualified from ownership of their lands because of their savagry and immorality. The AFA website provides Mr. Fischer a forum to say the Indians got what they deserved because they refused to convert to Christianity. Fischer and Mr. Benefiel surely seem to disagree about this matter.
Mr. Fischer also preaches that the Nazi party was full of gays, Hitler was gay and needed gays to enforce his evil intentions. According to Fischer, gays in the Nazi military gave the world 6 million dead Jews.  
Mr. Benefiel has something to say about Hitler and the Nazi era as well. Roll the tape:

The only reference to this possibility that I can find is John Toland’s biography of Adolf Hitler, where he wrote:

If we believe Bryan Fischer (which I don’t), then Hitler was some kind of gay and his brutality was because of it. Now we hear, from Apostle Benefiel and author John Toland, that the Nazis were inspired by the cruelty of the Christian nation America toward our indigenous people. Wow.
Benefiel and President Obama have something in common according to Fischer. According to Fischer when we consider America’s treatment of Native Americans, there are two conceptual options:

The template that the left has generated is that the displacement of indigenous tribes by European colonists and settlers was irredeemably evil. All the land which now comprises the United States was stolen from its rightful owners. Our very presence on this soil is a guilty, tainted presence. 
So the question is whether that template is right, or whether the displacement of indigenous nations was consistent with the laws of nature, nature’s God, and the law of nations and history. 
A lot is at stake here. If Americans believe that the entire history of our nation rests on a horribly evil foundation, then there is nothing to be proud of in American history, and our president is correct to identify America as the source of all evil in the world and to make a career out of apologizing for her very existence. 
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.

On the matter of native people and the evil perpetrated, Benefiel and President Obama are on the same page.   
Obviously making amends with Native Americans is a big deal to Benefiel. And to his credit, he has investigated and documented the evil treatment of indigenous people by the American government. However, given his belief in curses and apologies, it is hard for me to understand how he can endorse an event like The Response, funded by the AFA, which condones Bryan Fischer’s derogatory views of Native Americans as a race of people.   
One observation that I can make here is that Christian conservatives are not as monolithic a group as those outside the group think we are. Since I would be somewhere in there, the boundaries expand to even greater reaches.
It does raise for me a question about the intent of events like The Response. To which god are these folks praying? Are they praying to the one who demands an apology for evil done to Native Americans, or the one who empowered the Europeans to displace the indigenous people?
Well, at least The Response is bringing people of competing ideologies together.
(Thanks to Kyle Mantyla at Right Wing Watch for the tip.)
Video is derived from this sermon.

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.