White Evangelicals Stand with Trump

Are evangelicals moving away from Trump?

Family Research Council leader Tony Perkins wrote yesterday that any suggestion evangelicals are deserting Trump is wrong. He cited research from the Pew Foundation as a support.

Contrary to media reports, Perkins said white evangelicals, young and old, are sticking with Trump and also sticking with their evangelical identification. He took his information directly from a Christian Post article which reported on a speech given by Pew Foundation’s  Alan Cooperman. One fact that Perkins didn’t report is that evangelical voters are becoming more accepting of gays and same-sex marriage, even as they are becoming more pro-life and supportive of the Republican party. This is a trend I have written about previously.

Regarding Trump, white evangelicals gave him a 71% approval rating. For Perkins, this is a source of happiness; for me, it is a discouraging fact. According to Cooperman, those who attend church frequently are more likely than infrequent attenders to support him.

Something that Perkins doesn’t mention that concerns me is the wide gap between white and black evangelicals. Just 11% of black millennial Protestants identify as Republican whereas 77% of white millennial evangelicals do. While I don’t know what this means, the difference is stunning. On the big political issues of the day, religious similarity isn’t a unifying force. It is a big problem for me that the leader of a group purporting to research the Christian family doesn’t report this as a problem for the church.

This difference jumps out at me more than anything else in this report about Cooperman’s presentation. In general, blacks and whites see many issues differently in the culture. White evangelicals want to believe that the gospel unifies. Those opposed to social justice initiatives claim the gospel is enough to unify. However, in practice, that doesn’t seem to be working out. Instead of crowing about political victories, I think white evangelical leaders should be grieving and listening to our minority brothers and sisters.

 

On Presidents Day, Family Research Council Incorrectly Quotes Presidents

Like these…
(Update: Since I posted these tweets, FRC has taken down the George Washington quote. Clean up the Lincoln quote and they will be almost back where they started.)


Mt. Vernon’s website lists this as a spurious quote.


The Lincoln quote is probably made up but FRC and President Obama have something in common.
Apparently, this bogus quote has been taken down.


Monticello gives this a thumbs down.
They also have a Reagan quote which sounds like Reagan but I can’t find a source for it.

Politico: David Barton's Political Usefulness Trumps Scholarship For Evangelical Groups

Politico’s Stephanie Simon has an eye-opening article out today regarding David Barton and his evangelical supporters. Although I don’t agree that Barton’s reputation has fully bounced back, the article correctly reveals the disappointing pragmatism that plagues some Christian organizations. I will have more on this article in a separate post.
This section is especially disturbing:

Focus on the Family, meanwhile, edited two videos on its website featuring a lengthy interview Barton gave to Focus radio. The editing deleted a segment in which Barton declares that Congress printed the first English-language Bible in America — and intended it to be used in schools. That’s one of Barton’s signature stories — it’s a highlight in his Capitol tour — but historians who have reviewed the documentation say it’s simply not true. Focus also cut an inaccurate anecdote about a contemporary legal case, which Barton cited to make the point that society today punishes people of faith.
Asked why the videos were edited, Carrie Gordon Earll, a senior director of public policy at Focus on the Family, at first said they had not been, though before-and-after footage can be publicly viewed on websites archiving Focus broadcasts. Earll then said she could not comment beyond a statement noting that Focus “has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with David Barton” and respects his “broad base of knowledge” about early American history.
In an interview with POLITICO, Barton said his remarks were sometimes taken out of context but defended his scholarship as impeccable.

A subset of the evangelical historians who raised issues with Family Research Council brought these problems to Focus on the Family’s attention this summer. In a post later today, I will point out which sections were removed without notice. It is shocking that Focus initially denied they had edited the material. Why is David Barton’s reputation so important that a Christian group would resort to subterfuge to cover it up?
 

Lt. General Jerry Boykin Backs Out of Conference Sponsored by Institute on the Constitution (UPDATED – IOTC Appears to be Out)

UPDATE (8/9/13) – Alex Seitz-Wald also wrote about this situation and added some detail, including the fact that Glenn Beck had been promoting this conference.
See additional update following the post…
Yesterday, in my post on the radicalization of the League of the South, I linked to a conference sponsored by the Institute on the Constitution. I noted that

…several  mainstream evangelicals are speaking in September at a conference sponsored by IOTC and held at a major mega church in Texas.

If you click the links you will go to something called the Founding Faith Conference 2013 (now unavailable without a password). Until earlier today, Lt. General Jerry Boykin was slated to be a key speaker at the conference. However, I learned earlier this afternoon via a source at the Family Research Council (where Boykin is an executive vice-president) that Lt. General Boykin recently became aware of ties between the Institute on the Constitution and the League of the South and, as a result, has backed out of the conference.
For sure those ties are real. Founding Faith Conference speaker David Whitney is the chaplain of the Maryland chapter of the League of the South. At the 2013 conference of the League of the South, IOTC founder and director Michael Peroutka’s was selected to join the League’s board of directors. Then, at the end of his speech, Peroutka, pledged the resources of the IOTC to the efforts of the League.  Watch:

 
UPDATE (8/8/13) – IOTC is now missing from the sponsor page on the conference website (screen cap earlier today) and David Whitney is no longer listed as a speaker (screen cap earlier today). At this time, I don’t know what that means for the other speakers, except to note that they are still listed.
At the end of the Salon piece, Margaret Andrews supplied a statement about her response to Boykin’s departure. I can add that I contacted her on 8/6 before I wrote anything about the conference. She did not make any obvious changes until the afternoon of 8/8, after Boykin disclosed his intention to exit.
 

What Should David Barton Do About The Capitol Tour Video?

In light of David Barton’s tacit admission that he has made multiple errors of fact in the Capitol Tour video, it is worth considering how he should respond. Thus far, he has simply edited out some errors and replaced the audio with updated information. The consequences are that new viewers of the video will assume that Barton presented the new information at the time of the tour and that viewers of the prior video will not have the benefit of what was altered. In addition, some historical errors remain in the altered video.
In the Capitol Tour video, you also have the awkward situation of participants in the 2007 tour saying they have been misled by the left when in fact they had just been misled by their tour guide — who now implicitly acknowledges it.
Something just doesn’t seem right about this manner of handling the situation, so I went to the ethical standards for historians for guidance about a more proper response.
Standards for Historians: Accuracy, Integrity, and Trust
The American Historical Association’s standards place a high value on accuracy, integrity and trust. Some statements from the standards of that organization are relevant.

By practicing their craft with integrity, historians acquire a reputation for trustworthiness that is arguably their single most precious professional asset. The trust and respect both of one’s peers and of the public at large are among the greatest and most hard-won achievements that any historian can attain. It is foolish indeed to put them at risk.
All historians believe in honoring the integrity of the historical record. They do not fabricate evidence. Forgery and fraud violate the most basic foundations on which historians construct their interpretations of the past. An undetected counterfeit undermines not just the historical arguments of the forger, but all subsequent scholarship that relies on the forger’s work. Those who invent, alter, remove, or destroy evidence make it difficult for any serious historian ever wholly to trust their work again.
Historians should not misrepresent their sources. They should report their findings as accurately as possible and not omit evidence that runs counter to their own interpretation. They should not commit plagiarism. They should oppose false or erroneous use of evidence, along with any efforts to ignore or conceal such false or erroneous use. (emphasis added)

Seems to me that this standard does not support the obscuring of errors but supports full disclosure. When information that has been presented is determined to be erroneous, such knowledge should not be hidden.

Teaching is basic to the practice of history. It occurs in many venues: not just classrooms, but museums and historic sites, documentaries and textbooks, newspaper articles, web sites, and popular histories.
Good teaching entails accuracy and rigor in communicating factual information, and strives always to place such information in context to convey its larger significance. Integrity in teaching means presenting competing interpretations with fairness and intellectual honesty.
The political, social, and religious beliefs of history teachers necessarily inform their work, but the right of the teacher to hold and express such convictions can never justify falsification, misrepresentation, or concealment, or the persistent intrusion of material unrelated to the subject of the course. (emphasis added)

Historians recognize that websites and public presentations of history perform a teaching function beyond the classroom. As such then, standards of accuracy and integrity are no different for web and public historical presentations.
The standards for historians recognize that historians will engage in advocacy positions, but they require historians to maintain the same standards for accuracy, integrity and trust. According to the standards,

Public discussions of complex historical questions inevitably translate and simplify many technical details associated with those questions, while at the same time suggesting at least some of the associated complexities and divergent points of view. While it is perfectly acceptable for historians to share their own perspectives with the public, they should also strive to demonstrate how the historical profession links evidence with arguments to build fair-minded, nuanced, and responsible interpretations of the past. The desire to score points as an advocate should never tempt a historian to misrepresent the historical record or the critical methods that the profession uses to interpret that record.  (emphasis added)

Historians have a responsibility to make sure that the historical information is accurate and represented properly. When errors are discovered, historians have a responsibility to publicly admit and correct the errors. All writers make errors and there is no shame in correcting them. The problem comes when the corrections are not clearly identified and fully corrected. Millions of people have been misinformed (the Capitol Tour video had over 4 million views) and they are now ill equipped to defend their views on history and religious liberty. Barton has a daily radio show and a busy website. He certainly has the means to alert people that he has misrepresented several key claims relating to the founders and founding era. The question is, will he do it?
Having asked this question, I am aware that I am not a historian by training. I invite academic historians to weigh in on the broader question of what duty historians have to publicly acknowledge and correct errors. To me, the duty seems obvious but I am quite curious about how the standards should be applied.
 

What if NARTH was a scientific organization?

Yesterday, I pointed out that most members of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) are not mental health professionals or scientists. Even though the name of the organization promotes research and therapy, three-fourths of the members are not trained or credentialed to do either activity.
Despite the constituency of the group, NARTH is promoted by religiously conservative groups as a scientific organization. One example of this is an appearance in July of this year by NARTH President Julie Hamilton on Washington Watch Weekly, a radio program of the Family Research Council. FRC has taken a lot of heat, from me included, about the information they disseminate about sexual orientation. Some of that criticism should also be directed at the sources of their misinformation. As this interview illustrates, one such source is NARTH.
Tony Perkins sets up the interview by referring to the then current controversy over Marcus Bachmann’s counseling clinic and the allegations that he provides reparative therapy. Then he gets to the interview:

There’s a bigger agenda here. They [gay advocates] want to discredit anything that has to do with Christianity. But there’s something even more troubling here. And what they are doing is that they are trying to discredit a type of therapy that’s based on scientific research and that’s why I’ve invited my next guest to join me. Dr. Julie Hamilton is the President of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, or NARTH. NARTH is a professional scientific organization that offers hope to those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction. They’re not a Christian organization per se, they are focused on the science to help people who want to escape the lifestyle of homosexuality. Dr. Hamilton is also featured by the FRC’s new documentary, The Problem with Same-Sex Marriage and you can find out more about that at FRCRadio.org.

After the introduction, he gets to the bottom line:

Perkins: It’s no surprise to us that faith based counseling is under attack but what does the scientific research say about sexual orientation and an individual’s ability to change it?
Hamilton: The research is clear that people are not simply born gay and that people can change in the area of their sexual orientation.

After some conversation about client self-determination, the interview returns to what research says about change therapy.

Perkins: Now in the wake of this attack on Congresswoman Bachmann and her husband Marcus, we see a number of quote-unquote experts, counselors parade out on cable networks, and I’ve not seen, it’s certainly not a debate, it’s one-sided and they’ve all said, ‘well, all of this type of counseling, the reparative therapy, the idea that people can come out of the lifestyle, that’s been disproven, it’s been rejected and that is harmful and should not be allowed.’
Hamilton: Ok, that’s simply not true. What’s missing from the discussion is what research really reveals. Recently, NARTH releases a landscape survey and an analysis of 125 years of data. So basically we looked back 125 years of case studies, reports and research studies looking to answer the question, is change possible? And what we found is that over the last 125 years, change of sexual orientation has been documented in the scientific literature. And so we know looking at that that for years it has been clear, and even in the recent studies it has been very clear, that people can and do change in the area of behavior as well as attraction. So, and the other thing that we looked at in our landscape review was whether or not change attempts were harmful. And we found very clearly that there is no established report of harm to individuals that therapy tends to be more helpful to people and that it is not a harmful thing. There’s no, and even the American Psychological Association did admit in a report in 2009 that there is not enough evidence to claim that it’s harmful.

There is a lot wrong with Hamilton’s defense of change therapy. First, she glosses over the fact that even the most charitable reading of studies of orientation change find that most participants aren’t successful. Second, she cites the NARTH review which dismisses the flaws in the studies conducted over those 125 years of research. In the NARTH review, George Rekers is cited and we now know the rest of the story about his failed research on gender variance and his own personal issues. The work of William Masters and Virginia Johnson is cited despite the fact that none of Masters’ co-workers have come forward to say they ever saw any of the conversion therapy clients claimed by Masters. Even Masters’ wife and co-author, Virginia Johnson had questions about the existence of the conversion cases.
Some therapists who produced case studies of cure simply made up the cases (e.g., Cornelia Wilbur in collaboration with journalist Flora Schreiber). Many of those old studies were aversive therapy studies where electric shock was used to provide pain in association with same-sex attraction. While some people reported changes, there is very little follow up to find out if they remained changed or simply adapted to the shocks. These methods were discontinued for ethical reasons. NARTH continues to tout studies of approaches no one uses now to bolster their claims. I could go on, but I’ll stop after I note that Hamilton did not mention the studies that find minimal or no change, like the Edification study where the same-sex attracted member of mixed orientation marriages reported no change in attraction on average.
What if NARTH’s representatives disclosed the problems with the research in their public statements? What if they were candid and reported that some of the old studies are flawed to the degree that they cannot be used? What if these representatives disclosed that many of those who report change continue to be attracted to the same sex? Or also mentioned that some studies find no change? What if the differences in results for men and women were disclosed? Or the existence of bisexuality was included in the discussion of what the reported changes mean? What if they reported data from studies discrediting reparative therapy?
Can you imagine a 125-year landscape review of autism or childhood schizophrenia produced in the manner NARTH touts its survey? NARTH reps would be on the radio bringing back cold, distant refrigerator mothers as the cause.
It is possible that groups like the Parents Action League, ACPEDS, and Defend the Family International (Scott Lively) could find some other way to promote their views, but if NARTH was a scientific organization it wouldn’t be NARTH.

SPLC myth #4: Homosexuals don’t live nearly as long as heterosexuals

As anticipated, the groups identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “hate groups” have reacted with defensive distraction. Instead of responding directly to the charges made by the SPLC, they have organized a significant effort to change the subject. Called Start Debating/Stop Hating, the website   consists of endorsements from some prominent conservative activists, politicians and ministers. The website also asks visitors to sign a petition which reads:

“We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with Family Research Council, American Family Association, Concerned Women of America, National Organization for Marriage, Liberty Counsel and other pro-family organizations that are working to protect and promote natural marriage and family. We support the vigorous but responsible exercise of the First Amendment rights of free speech and religious liberty that are the birthright of all Americans.”

That sounds fine until you realize that the SPLC did not place groups on the list because they favored “natural marriage and family.” There are other unlisted organizations (e.g., Focus on the Family, Alliance Defense Fund) which clearly and publicly oppose gay marriage.  The SPLC clearly stated reasons why the new groups, including the FRC and the AFA were listed. The issue is a systematic effort to vilify gays, such as this gem from American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer:

Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews. Gays in the military is an experiment that has been tried and found disastrously and tragically wanting. Maybe it’s time for Congress to learn a lesson from history.

That is SPLC myth #5. For this post, I am going to look at myth #4 which focuses on the claim that gays don’t live as long as straights. I have addressed this before extensively and so I am only going to point out again that the groups and their defenders are changing the subject instead of addressing actual problems in the information they present to their constituents.

A recent case in point is a column by Bryan Fischer of the AFA where he did exactly what the SPLC complained about in myth #4. Watch:

While drugs have been found to mitigate the damage done by HIV, there is no cure. Once someone contracts it, he has it for life, a life often tragically shortened by between eight and 20 years, according to the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Smoking will cut six to seven years from the lifespan of the smoker, meaning a cigarette habit is less dangerous to human health and longevity than gay sex.

Given the reference, I assume he is referring to the 1997 study by Hogg et al in the International Journal of Epidemiology which found the following:

In a major Canadian centre, life expectancy at age 20 years for gay and bisexual men is 8 to 20 years less than for all men.

Does Mr. Fischer have a get-off-the-hate-list-free card because he cited a peer reviewed journal? Those who really want to support these groups might be inclined to stop right there and cease their investigation of the question. Indeed, that is what the American College of Pediatricians do on their Facts About Youth website. They say:

The only epidemiological study to date on the life span of gay men concluded that gay and bisexual men lose up to 20 years of life expectancy.

I have pointed out to the people who put that website together that Hogg et al is not the “only epidemiological study to date on the life span of gay men” but they have not changed their website. In any case, the point is that people who count on these organizations for accurate information would not get it by trusting them and reading their claims.

The Hogg et al study was conducted using data from 1987 – 1992 when AIDS claimed many lives. In 2001, Hogg et al countered the incorrect use of their study – the same study that Bryan Fischer and ACPED cites as current information – by noting that life expectancy had improved significantly, saying:

In contrast, if we were to repeat this analysis today the life expectancy of gay and bisexual men would be greatly improved. Deaths from HIV infection have declined dramatically in this population since 1996. As we have previously reported there has been a threefold decrease in mortality in Vancouver as well as in other parts of British Columbia.

This is not reported on the ACPED site nor is it referred to by Bryan Fischer. Why not? If these groups were interested in presenting accurate information in debating and not hating, then why not present the whole picture?

However, there is more. A more recent 2008 studyby Danish epidemiologist Morten Frisch and statistician Henrik Brønnum-Hansen found that the trajectory of gay mortality is improving there to the point where, according to these researchers,

Despite recent marked reduction in mortality among gay men, Danish men and women in same-sex marriages still have mortality rates that exceed those of the general population. The excess mortality is restricted to the first few years after a marriage, presumably reflecting preexisting illness at the time of marriage. Although further study is needed, the claims of drastically increased overall mortality in gay men and lesbians appear unjustified.

The authors found that mortality improved dramatically with the introduction of antiretroviral treatments and while the mortality rates were still not as favorable for gays and lesbians, they were not compatible with the claims of a 20 year difference. Indeed, the Danish researchers found that the mortality picture of married GLB people is improving over time.

More research needs to be done and these studies need replication but the accurate picture is that life span differences are not dramatic and are not comparable to those produced by smoking. If anything, the mortality picture is improving substantially, not declining. If this new effort from the FRC is supposed to be about debate and dialogue then, please discuss this.

Here is a question:

Why haven’t the groups (or their supporters) singled out by the SPLC disclosed the update provided by Hogg et al in 2001 or the study by Frisch and Brønnum-Hansen in 2008?

Regarding mortality, the truth is more in line with what Hogg et al noted in their 2001 update:

It is essential to note that the life expectancy of any population is a descriptive and not a prescriptive mesaure. Death is a product of the way a person lives and what physical and environmental hazards he or she faces everyday. It cannot be attributed solely to their sexual orientation or any other ethnic or social factor. If estimates of an individual gay and bisexual man’s risk of death is truly needed for legal or other purposes, then people making these estimates should use the same actuarial tables that are used for all other males in that population. Gay and bisexual men are included in the construction of official population-based tables and therefore these tables for all males are the appropriate ones to be used.

In addition to avoiding information inconsistent with their premise, the groups identified by the SPLC often use the information they do disclose in an incorrect manner.  If these groups want to debate, then I suggest they use all of the information available and they use it in accord with accepted scientific standards. For instance, generalizing from Hogg et al in 1997 to all gay people everywhere in 2010 is improper and can easily lead to charges of purposeful negative stereotyping. Instead of changing the subject, I would like to see these groups change the way they defend their views.

Pro-life Congressman blasts Family Research Council over election attack ads

A pro-life Congressman is speaking out about the decision of the socially conservative Family Research Council to run ads attacking him just prior to last week’s election. The first Vietnamese American to serve in Congress, Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA) was unseated last week by pro-choice Cedric Richmond. Rep. Cao, who has a solid pro-life voting record, was attacked by the Family Research Council on conservative talk radio due to his votes in favor of including sexual orientation in hate crimes law and his support for repealing the military ban on gays serving openly.

About the ads, Rep. Cao told me late yesterday:

For a conservative Christian organization to attack a Republican pro-life candidate in a general election is as ignorant as it is inexcusable.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported last week that FRC bought ads on the conservative talk radio station WRNO, known locally as “Rush Radio” due to the conservative nature of the programming. The ad attacked Cao’s votes on gay issues, saying his record “places your personal liberties at jeopardy.”  

Several pro-life activists I spoke with declined to comment. The National Right to Life Committee did not respond to several requests. However, one pro-life activist denounced FRC’s actions. Psychologist Rachel MacNair, Vice-President of Consistent Life, a pro-life think tank, told me that

FRC sabotaged the pro-life cause — not just in losing a vote in Congress, but in the far deeper matter of public persuasion for the ultimate goal of making abortion unthinkable.

Can you be pro-life and moderate or supportive on gay issues? Public opinion polls show that the public is become more moderate on gay issues while growing more negative toward abortion.  If these trends continue, pro-life political groups may need to decide which social issue is more important to them. In the case of Rep. Cao, FRC’s anti-gay sentiment trumped support for a pro-life Congressman, one FRC endorsed in 2008.

Earlier today, FRC Action president Tony Perkins issued a statement to me defending the move to oppose Cao.

First, FRC Action is not a Republican organization. We are a conservative Christian organization that advocates for the family based upon biblical values and truths.  Many of the problems we face today in America are the result of Republican leadership.

When Cao first ran in 2008, he sought my support and promised to be a conservative, morally based vote for the family.  I endorsed him in that race and because of the unique situation with Jefferson under indictment and no other viable Democrat in the race, Cao won.  In the last two years he has amassed one of the worst voting records of any Republican in Congress on our issues.  By the way, the homosexual community masquerading as Republicans in New Orleans decried our ad against Cao because he was pro-life.  Cao was at best a pro-life vote, under pressure. 

Cao was the lone Republican who voted for the government takeover of healthcare when it first passed the House.  A lot of time and energy was spent on getting him to vote against the measure when it came back to the House from the Senate with taxpayer funding of abortion included.  It he was truly pro-life, he would have been leading the charge against President Obama’s plan; instead he was meeting with him in the White House.  Secondly, we are not a single issue organization that only focuses on the life issue.  We look at where Members stand on life, marriage, family and religious liberty.  Cao’s score on FRC Action’s vote scorecard was 62, lowest of the Louisiana House delegation.  His score was lower than Charlie Melancon, the one Louisiana Democrat in the House.

Cao repeatedly voted for key provisions of the homosexual agenda including: Hate Crimes, the overturning of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” even though military leaders said don’t do it.  The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was when he recently helped the Log Cabin Republicans (homosexual Republicans) raise money for their political operation.  It was the Log Cabin Republicans that recently filed a lawsuit against the military in an attempt to force them to allow open homosexuality in the military, which military leaders have said could potentially undermine their ability to accomplish their mission.  The Log Cabin Republicans succeeded at the district court level and for one day the military was forced to change their policy and even had to recruit homosexuals.  That case is currently on appeal. 

I also wanted to send a very clear message to Republicans across the country; if you take a stand against the family, we will take a stand against you.  These squishy Republicans need to know that we will come after them, just like the Democrats. 

For his part, Congressman Cao disputes aspects of Perkin’s account. According to Taylor Henry, Communications Director for Rep. Cao, the Congressman “did not personally solicit the endorsement of FRC.” In fact, Henry told me, “Congressman Cao does not recall ever meeting Tony Perkins” and he “did not make any promises to Perkins.” Henry said he cannot speak for the 2008 campaign staff so there may have been some contact at that time but Congressman Cao made no personal commitments to vote with the FRC. 

Regarding his votes on hate crimes and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Henry said Congressman Cao voted in keeping with his views that gay people should receive equal protection under the law.

See also FrumForum on this story.

Michael Brown responds to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: Are evangelicals obsessed with homosexuality?

On Tuesday, I posted a link to a column in the Washington Post by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach about a debate he had with Michael Brown, head of the FIRE School of Ministry, regarding the topic: Is Homosexuality America’s Greatest Moral Crisis? I did not watch the debate since I read up on the Rabbi and believed I already agreed with him. I have had many discussions with Michael Brown and those affiliated with him and know we are far apart.

After I published the post, Dr. Brown contacted me saying that the Rabbi had misrepresented him and the debate. Just this afternoon, the Washington Post published Brown’s rebuttal and I agreed to post a link to it in the interest of fairness. I have no plans to watch the debate to fact check. Interested readers can read both sides and decide whether or not to invest the 3 hours. From Brown’s post:

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is not only “America’s most famous rabbi” and my frequent opponent in public debates. He is also a dear personal friend, which is why I was more than a little mystified to see his editorial, published one day after our November 1 debate.

The title of that debate, as proposed by Shmuley but not to my liking, was, “Is Homosexuality America’s Greatest Moral Crisis?” In my opening comments, I answered this question in the negative, stating that America’s greatest moral crisis was certainly not homosexuality but rather the lack of the knowledge and consciousness of God, because of which every area of society suffered.

I also explained that what two gay men did in private was between them and God and was certainly not our greatest moral crisis, and I stated emphatically that rampant heterosexual divorce had done more to destroy marriage and family than all the gay activists combined. I then addressed the church’s sins against the LGBT community, for which I have publicly apologized a number of times. (Those reading Shmuley’s report on the debate would not have a clue that I made any of these statements.)

Boteach made the case that evangelicals now put too much emphasis on winning the culture war against gays. Brown disagrees:

As to the alleged evangelical obsession with homosexuality (an accusation raised through the debate by Shmuley), I asked the almost entirely evangelical audience to respond to four questions: How many of them heard a sermon in the last year on the importance of marriage? Virtually every hand went up. The importance of devoting time and energy to the raising of their children? Same response. The dangers of sexual sin (and/or pornography)? The same response again. A sermon about gay activism? Not a single hand!

The truth be told, there is no “gay obsession” in evangelical churches, and, where pastors and leaders are concerned about the effects of gay activism, they are hesitant to speak up, lest they be branded intolerant bigots, homophobes, Hitlers, or jihadists, not to mention accused of inciting violence against gays.

While I mean no disrespect to his audience, I am not going to trust that they are a representative sample. I certainly disagree with Brown about the obsession of some evangelicals with homosexuality. Worldnetdaily is obsessed. Sally Kern said homosexuality was a greater threat than terrorism and certain evangelicals promoted Rallies for Sally. Brown’s contention seems odd when writing about a debate over homosexuality being the greatest threat to morality. About being labeled Hitlers, perhaps Brown does not read Bryan Fischer’s love notes to gays where he blames them for the deaths of 6 million Jews. In the name of Jesus, the American Family Association’s Fischer does some pretty good branding of his own. If such people are criticized sharply by gays, it is not hard to see why.

Here’s another example of how a focus on homosexuality has distorted social conservatism. The Family Research Council actually ran ads against LA Rep. Joseph Anh Cao, Vietnamese-American who voted against Obamacare because he was not convinced abortion funding was excluded from the bill. His pro-life position is firm and yet FRC ran ads against him because of Cao’s support for equal rights for gays. Guess who was elected in Cao’s district? His opponent, Cedric Richmond, a pro-choice Democrat. I wonder if NARAL sent FRC a thank you note.