The Evangelical Blackout of Sexual Orientation Research, Part 2

Last week, I commented on what I see as an evangelical blackout of sexual orientation research by Christian media and organizations. While I stand by that viewpoint, the situation is actually worse than a blackout. The blackout is selective; some new research is reported. However, the studies reported and the way they are reported seem designed to create a slanted picture.

A case in point. Currently, on the NARTH (National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) website, scientific advisory board member, Chris Rosik, reviews a new report from Gartrell, Bos and Goldeberg about lesbian parenting recently published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. The headline for the review is

New Study: Daughters of Lesbian Parents More Likely to Engage in Same-Sex Behavior and Identify as Bisexual

This is definitely a new study. The blackout is not total, but as I will demonstrate, it is selective. NARTH ignores the hard science involved in the brain scan studies but finds one aspect of a small longitudinal study of lesbian parenting to report. Now that you read the headline, read what Rosik says about how the study can be used.

While this small study is valuable as a starting point for longitudinal research into same-sex parenting, professionals and policy makers should be very wary of making any meaningful conclusions from its findings.  Serious methodological limitations also argue against making sweeping generalizations.  As is the case for the vast majority of studies in this area, the sample size is quite small, constituting only 78 adolescents.  The sample of lesbian parents is self-selected and appears to be different from the general population on important demographics such as socioeconomic status and educational attainment.  Demand characteristics (i.e., external influences such as political goals that might motivate study participants to respond in a particular manner) are not considered or assessed by the study’s authors with respect to the lesbian mothers or their adolescent children.

And then…

Certainly the Gatrell, et al. (2011) study provides some intriguing though entirely non-generalizable findings that are consistent with the hypothesis that non-heterosexual experiences and identities are more common among daughters of lesbian families than those raised in heterosexual families.

First, Rosik reports, via headline, the finding that would be of concern to religious conservatives but then in the article says one cannot make such generalizations. If one cannot generalize beyond the sample, then why report the finding as if one could?

The study also found that no children were abused in lesbian homes. This finding is in contrast to heterosexual families where abuse is reported (26% of teens report physical abuse by a parent or caregiver according to national surveys). Since NARTH is commonly represented in cases against same-sex parenting, and such information is relevant to their membership, why was that fact not a part of the headline?

Another interesting finding in the study was that boys were less likely to have been sexual involved with girls in lesbian families than in straight families. Isn’t that what abstinence educators want to promote?

My point here is that NARTH leaders do keep an eye out for new research, however, their reporting of them is selective. And then when they choose to review a study, their review is selective.

I have established that NARTH is a key source of information for Christian right organizations. When some relevant studies are ignored, and others are selectively reported, it seems clear to me evangelicals are poorly served by the organizations they count on for information.

Misconceptions in sexual identity ministry

I also blog on Crosswalk.com and publish articles there occasionally. A recent one regarding misconceptions in sexual identity ministry has not been getting great reviews over there, which is I suppose to be expected given the content. Here is one section which should surprise no regular readere here:

One – All gay people are attracted to the same sex because they did not bond with their parents or were sexually abused.
Untold pain and confusion has been caused to parents and their same-sex attracted children by well-meaning writers and counselors who promote this unsupported view of homosexual origins. The usual evangelical narrative is that persons attracted to the same sex did not get sufficient bonding or love from the same-sex parent and seek these experiences in the present via sexual relationships from members of the same sex. For males, the concept of an over involved, smothering mother is often thrown in as an additional family factor. In addition, claims have been made that most if not all same-sex attracted people have been sexually abused.
The truth is that research on causal factors in sexual orientation is still in the early stages. However, we do know from experience that there are many same-sex attracted people who had loving homes and were not sexually abused or otherwise mistreated as children. On the other hand, some say they believe their sexual desires were shaped in some way by unhappy growing up experiences. What we cannot identify with any certainty is why any given individual experiences same-sex sexual attractions. Recent research on twins suggests that pre-natal factors are associated with same-sex attraction, as are individual environmental experiences which vary among homosexuals. The best we can say at present is that different pre- and post-natal factors may operate differently in different people. For now, not only is it unnecessary to pigeon hole people, it can be harmful and intensely discouraging for parents and children alike to pursue therapy for non-existent problems of bonding or parenting. Where abuse or bonding problems exist, they should be addressed but successfully dealing with issues from the past will not of necessity lead to sexual reorientation.

I then take on change within the context of evangelical doctrine. The comments let me know how large the gaps still are.
UPDATE: The Christian Post also published this article. The comments section is again quite lively.

Religion and the 2008 election

I am compiling some data regarding special interest voting, religion and the 2008 election. This post serves as an open forum for readers who see polls or data regarding various interest groups (e.g., pro-life, those not favoring gay rights, Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, etc.). Just add them to the comments section. I will be adding to the post throughout the day and evening.
First up is Christianity Today’s Evangelical vote map. There you can find a compilation by Ted Olson of how the Evangelical vote went from state to state. Looks like the percentage of Evangelical vote is more like the Kerry election than the Clinton years.
Looking at this, I do not see much benefit for McCain to have run on an even more socially conservative platform than he did. He seemed to keep that aspect of the coalition together. And clearly Sarah Palin helped energize that base.
Here is an analysis from Richard Baehr at American Thinker. He looks at the data and says white voters stayed home and minorities voted in record numbers. I have to add that his observation that California, New York and Illinois accounted for the lion’s share of the vote difference between Obama and McCain might say something about how blue those states have become.
And the youth vote…
This article from LifeNews indicates that the Catholic vote went for Obama.
Weekly churchgoers went for Obama a bit more than for Kerry:

Despite heavy religious outreach by Obama, exit poll results suggested white evangelicals voted for John McCain 74 to 25 percent, roughly similar to 2004 results. The gap among weekly churchgoers, however, closed a bit: McCain beat Obama by a 54-44 percent margin, compared to George W. Bush’s 61-39 percent win with the group in 2004.

The New York Times reports gains for Obama over Kerry among younger evangelicals and in important swing states (e.g., CO). My impression is that Obama will have a relatively short window of opportunity to solidify these gains. If he doesn’t deliver on the concerns of the younger set, we may see quite a backlash next time around.

Obama says faith-based is okay if it isn't entirely based in faith

I am not sure my headline captures it but it is close. In this New York Times article, Barack Obama is shown Zanesville, OH (near my old stomping grounds) promoting a kind of faith based initiative. After all the reading, I think the issue at odds is whether faith-based groups should be able to take Federal money if they can discriminate in hiring by only hiring people who support the faith on which the group is based. John McCain and most conservatives say such groups should be able to participate if they can control the hiring and Obama says no, groups cannot exclude people of other or no faith from working in their organizations.
I think Obama is very smart. He is courting Evangelicals by speaking an Evangelical dialect. Many rank and file Evangelicals would not support his bottom line positions but his public ideological opponents of late are attacking him without lifting up the alternative in corresponding positive tones. Until Evangelicals begin to promote McCain instead of merely attack Obama, the Illinois Senator is going to scoop up interest and possibly support among moderate Evangelicals where McCain could be strong. Mr Obama is seizing the opportunity.

APA declines to meet with religious coalition

I will have more to say about this in due time, however, while it is current, I wanted to post this Citizen link article regarding the APA sexual orientation task force.

In a nutshell, the APA solicited opinion from gay advocacy groups in regard to the sexual orientation task force mandate but thus far has declined to meet with a large religious coalition which asked for a meeting regarding that mandate. The letters to the APA are linked in this report.

For the record, Clinton Anderson and the APA GLBT office is open to conversation with callers and has been responsive to my inquiries and input. I do not want to imply otherwise. And I know that the task force is aware of a diversity of views. However, that being said, I do think it would be productive for the APA leadership to have a formal sit-down with those representing a major US demographic group.

From meddling to preaching; two important articles on shifts in Evangelicalism

David Kirkpatrick has a lengthy analysis of shifts in evangelicalism in yesterday’s New York Times. Called “The Evangelical Crackup,” the article describes what appears to be a shift in evangelicalism away from political activism.

And then the Rocky Mountain News describes a similar shift underway at Focus on the Family with the advent of Jim Daly as head of the organization.