The Franklin Prayer Myth that Refuses to Die: The Liberty Counsel Edition

photo-1469081790383-8a72f16ecb98_optI have come to believe that some historical myths will never die.
In this Liberty Counsel edition, Mat Staver and Matt Barber reinforce their mutual misunderstanding of this story, making the delegates to the Constitutional Convention prayer warriors. As I have documented previously, Franklin proposed daily prayers but the Convention delegates did not vote favorably on his motion. In fact, daily prayers were not thought necessary by most of the delegates.
Staver and Barber began by celebrating a recent federal appeals court decision allowing a Texas school board to open in student-led prayer. Then at 3:43, a female speaker said:

You know America was founded on prayer and prayer has been a common practice since the very beginning and I guess yo know Mat it reinforces what we do at Liberty Counsel to stand for these rights and stand for that privilege of prayer.
Mat Staver: Prayer, like I said, predated the First Amendment. How did it begin in our country as it results in these kind of meetings? It began with Benjamin Franklin during the early Constitutional Conventions. During those Constitutional Conventions where they were debating after the revolution what to do, what kind of form of government are we going to have. We had one view, we had another view, different states had, you know, the Virginia proposal, or this proposal or that proposal and they had as many opinions yes as they did no, so it started to fall apart. At that point in time, Franklin stood up and he has this famous speech where he talks about, ‘unless God builds the house, we’re not going to be any better off than the builders at Babel and that God governs in the affairs of men and have we now forgotten our most powerful friend or do we think we no longer need him. And he implored everyone from that point on to every time they deliberate, to begin their deliberations with prayer. They did. They had a long prayer, not just a short little 60 second, two minute prayer, but a long prayer meeting that was a turning point that ultimately brought America’s founding together and ultimately the United States Constitution and later the Bill of Rights which is the First Amendment and that’s why the Supreme Court said prayer’s been with us since the very beginning, the foundation of who we are. It cannot be unconstitutional, it was people who started prayer who later drafted the First Amendment and then continued to pray.

Matt Barber then quoted Franklin’s speech at the Convention. He then asked Staver, “How long did they pray Mat?” Staver said, “It took up several hours. It wasn’t just a little prayer, bless this meal and walk away.” Barber then said what happened doesn’t fit the narrative of the left.
What Really Happened?
In fact, what happened doesn’t fit Mat Staver’s narrative. Franklin did in fact make a motion asking for prayers before meetings, but his motion was never voted on. The Convention adjourned without any prayers. Only a few delegates wanted to vote in favor of Franklin’s motion. To address the facts, I am going to reproduce a portion of a prior post on this subject. In essence, Staver and Barber are calling James Madison a liar.
Madison recorded what happened next.

Mr. SHERMAN seconded the motion.
Mr. HAMILTON & several others expressed their apprehensions that however proper such a resolution might have been at the beginning of the convention, it might at this late day, 1.64 bring on it some disagreeable animadversions. & 2.65 lead the public to believe that the embarrassments and dissensions within the Convention, had suggested this measure. It was answered by Docr F. Mr. SHERMAN & others, that the past omission of a duty could not justify a further omission-that the rejection of such a proposition would expose the Convention to more unpleasant animadversions than the adoption of it: and that the alarm out of doors that might be excited for the state of things within, would at least be as likely to do good as ill.
Mr. WILLIAMSON, observed that the true cause of the omission could not be mistaken. The Convention had no funds.
Mr. RANDOLPH proposed in order to give a favorable aspect to ye measure, that a sermon be preached at the request of the convention on 66 4th of July, the anniversary of Independence; & thenceforward prayers be used 67 in yr Convention every morning. Dr. FRANKn. 2nd this motion. After several unsuccessful attempts for silently postponing the 68matter by adjourn; the adjournment was at length carried, without any vote on the motion.
[Note 15: 15 In the Franklin MS. the following note is added:–“The Convention, except three or four persons, thought Prayers unnecessary.”] (emphasis added)

In short order, two motions hit the floor. Franklin moved for daily prayers with a second by Roger Sherman. Then Edmund Randolph suggested a sermon followed by prayers. Franklin seconded that motion. Neither motion was voted on and the Convention adjourned. In fact, Franklin later noted that “The Convention, except three or four persons, thought Prayers unnecessary.” While I am sure at least some of the founders took God seriously, this story isn’t a good one to offer as evidence.
Staver and Barber also push the idea that the prayers turned the Convention toward compromise.
Well, first there were no prayer meetings so that is a problem for that narrative.
Second, the Convention didn’t come back after the July 4th recess all prayed up and ready to compromise. On July 10, George Washington wrote Alexander Hamilton (who left the convention after the recess) and said:

I thank you for your Communication of the 3d. When I refer you to the State of the Councils which prevailed at the period you left this City—and add, that they are now, if possible, in a worse train than ever; you will find but little ground on which the hope of a good establishment, can be formed. In a word, I almost dispair of seeing a favourable issue to the proceedings of the Convention, and do therefore repent having had any agency in the business.

The disputations continued even after Franklin’s motion. It was not until mid-July, with the threat of dissolution hanging over their heads, that the delegates reached a compromise. Even then, four delegates left the convention in protest (John Mercer, Caleb Strong, John Lansing, Luther Marton) and three delegates didn’t sign the Constitution  because it lacked a bill of rights (George Mason, Edmund Randolph, Elbridge Gerry). In the end, only 39 of the 55 delegates signed the document. The more parsimonious explanation for the consensus is that those with strong disagreement left the Convention.
Prayers before government meetings is a tradition and may continue to survive court challenges. However, the Franklin prayer myth isn’t necessary to defend such prayers. Staver and Barber should correct the record with their listeners so that error isn’t multiplied.
 
See also this post on Franklin’s prayer proposal.
 
 

Over the Top Reactions to Gays and the Duggars

I read two op-eds this morning which took the same approach to different groups.
First, Jenny Kutner at Salon demonized the religious beliefs of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar. Second, Matt Barber beat up on gays in an op-ed attacking the Boy Scouts of America’s president Robert Gates. Both authors, from opposing ideological perspectives, attempt to explain the factors behind child sexual abuse. Neither succeed.
Kutner finds the Duggars beliefs unacceptable and links the patriarchal beliefs to sexual violence. She ends her op-ed by saying, “Beyond that, though, there is the entire culture undergirding rape culture and victim-blaming, and the outcome is shaping up exactly as one would expect.” The implication is that Josh Duggar’s religious training directly contributed to his sexual offenses. 
On the other hand, Matt Barber leaves little doubt that he believes sexual abuse of boys is more likely if openly gay adult males are allowed to be scout leaders. He massacres social science data to craft a straw man which he savagely beats down. In fact, the consensus of social science research does not support his illusory correlation.  
Barber cherry picks his data and Kutner doesn’t offer any. The problem here should be clear. Both people have pre-existing views and they shape these vivid cases to support them. The confirmation bias is strong in these articles. In the face of horrific or confusing events, most of us fall back on our pre-existing biases and stereotypes instead of looking at the situation dispassionately.
It is certainly not wrong to inquire about the relationship, if any, between certain religious beliefs or sexual orientation and child abuse. Researchers should not be afraid to ask hard questions. Personally, I intend no defense of one or more Duggars. I reject the Quiverful movement and what I know of the Duggars’ beliefs about gender. I am inclined to agree that there could be problems in viewing women in keeping with Bill Gothard’s teachings.
My interest is in how we seek answers to important questions and how we discuss those important questions without demonizing entire groups of people. In my view, without research or evidence, Kutner’s incendiary language about religious beliefs is about as helpful as Matt Barber’s self-righteous rant about gay scout leaders.
 
 
 

Matt Barber Proposes Back Room Deal to Choose GOP Nominee

The grassroots are great except when they aren’t.
Matt Barber wants all the religious right candidates to go on holiday somewhere to “an undisclosed location,” fast and pray and then vote on who will run against Jeb Bush.  In a way, without the delegates, it would be the beginning of a Christian party choosing a candidate to run against the GOP and Democrats. Barber apparently thinks the problem with religious right candidates is that there are too many of them, not the fact that their message isn’t going to win over the nation.
And then if the Christian party wins, all the spoils goes to those guys who sacrificially supported the other guy.
The problem for the GOP is that any of the people Barber mentioned would lose large in the general election.
However, this “can the far right win?” question is going to be a big story line in the 2016 election so maybe those Christian right candidates should squeeze their egos into one room and hash it out. Let the GOP voters then decide if it is the Christian Party or the Republican Party.

BarbWire Article and Graphic Turns Opposition to President Obama in an Ugly Direction

As do other websites, Matt Barber’s “news” website BarbWire runs many articles which are provocatively titled. One late last week caught my attention, in part because of the irresponsible title and in part because the graphic misquotes President Obama.
The article claims Obama met with Islamic leaders to coordinate attacks on Christians. For some reason the word verbal is in brackets:

President Obama met with American Islamic leaders in early February at a secret White House meeting, and what those involved revealed through their subsequent actions is that Obama hosted that meeting in order to design and implement coordinated [verbal] attacks on Christians.

As it turns out, a Muslim comedian and two people in the administration seemed to say similar things about bad things done in the name of Christianity after this meeting. As far as I can see, the administration wants to keep the war on ISIS a political event and not collaborate with the opposition to make it into a holy war. In any event, as a Christian, I am not offended when people point out the truth that Christians have done horrible things in the name of Christ. I am grieved by that fact but don’t feel attacked.
In short, no individual Christian has been attacked via this so-called coordinated effort.
Also, someone at BarbWire included an image which misquotes Obama:
ObamaMisquoted
I don’t find anything like this on page 261 but on page 309 of Audacity of Hope, Obama has this to say about Arab immigrants:
obamaAoH
 
The President doesn’t focus on religion and pledges to oppose internment of Arab Americans. I would take the same position in the face of any such proposals.
The graphic misquotes Obama and takes his words completely out of context, leading to an implication at odds with what he said. The article doesn’t prove anything nefarious and certainly doesn’t prove that the President coordinated any attacks on anyone. The graphic is false, completely irresponsible and turns the article, such that it is, in an ugly direction. It should be removed.
UPDATE: Sometime in the middle of the night, Barbwire switched out the images. Now the one below leads off the article:
obamambsealplanB
 
The following editor’s note appears:

[Editor’s note:  the original featured image accompanying this article contained an inaccurate quotation.  We regret the error, which was  not the fault of the author.]

This is not much of an improvement as it makes it appear that Obama somehow represents organizations which support jihad. 
 

Institute on the Constitution Rep Argues Against the Constitution on Religious Test Clause

Institute on the Constitution Director of Operations Jake MacAulay today argued against the Constitution on Matt Barber’s Barbwire website.
MacAulay noted that seven states still have requirements that office holders in those states believe in a god.

There are seven states including Maryland with language in their constitutions that prohibits people who do not believe in God from holding public office.

Besides Maryland, the other six states with language in their constitutions that prohibit people who do not believe in God from holding public office are Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Such bans were declared unconstitutional by Torcaso v. Watkins in 1961.

Torcaso v. Watkins
No. 373
Argued April 24, 1961
Decided June 19, 1961
367 U.S. 488
APPEAL FOM THE COURT OF APPEALS OF MARYLAND
Syllabus
Appellant was appointed by the Governor of Maryland to the office of Notary Public, but he was denied a commission because he would not declare his belief in God, as required by the Maryland Constitution. Claiming that this requirement violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments, he sued in a state court to compel issuance of his commission, but relief was denied. The State Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the state constitutional provision is self-executing, without need for implementing legislation, and requires declaration of a belief in God as a qualification for office. Held: This Maryland test for public office cannot be enforced against appellant, because it unconstitutionally invades his freedom of belief and religion guaranteed by the First Amendment and protected by the Fourteenth Amendment from infringement by the States. Pp. 367 U. S. 489-496.

A South Carolina case addressed that state’s religious test by specifically referring to Article VI of the Constitution:

Silverman v. Campbell, 326 S.C. 208, 486 S.E.2d 1 (1997):  In this case, the South Carolina Supreme Court held Article VI, section 2 (“No person who denies the existence of the Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution) and Article XVII, section 4 (“No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution) of the South Carolina Constitution violated the First Amendment and the Religious Test of the United States Constitution by barring persons who denied the existence of a “Supreme Being” from holding office.  At that time, only two states, North Carolina and South Carolina, required a religious test for public office. Full Case Materials

It is clear the framers did not intend for religion to be a test because the Constitution forbids such tests. From Article VI, paragraph three 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.

In light of the Constitution’s clear statement here, consider this absurd statement from MacAulay:

So this constitutional requirement that an office holder must believe in God is a logical and consistent protection against those who might drive our constitutional republic in a bad direction.

This isn’t about discrimination or bigotry.  It’s about ensuring that those holding office in America are committed to the true, lawful, American philosophy of government.

Apparently, the Constitution got it wrong, according to the Institute on the Constitution’s Director of Operations. In his argument in favor of a religious test, he seems oblivious to the fact that the Constitution forbids such a test. In essence, MacAulay argues that the federal Constitution is wrong and does not represent the “true, lawful, American philosophy of government.”

This and other clear problems are why no school child should be confused and misled by the IOTC’s teaching on the Constitution via their inaccurately named American Clubs. That Matt Barber, who works at the Liberty University law school, posted this mess is another reason why no student should attend Liberty University’s School of Law.



 
 

Matt Barber Invokes Jerry Sandusky to Mislead Public About SB 1172

I get it. Matt Barber thinks gays are disordered and he opposes CA SB 1172.
Agree with the bill or not, one should not exploit a tragedy in order to mislead people about what the bill says.
Barber says the bill prevents counselors from helping kids who have been sexually abused. He writes at WND:

The critical importance of stopping SB 1172 and similar legislation springing up elsewhere becomes especially clear when one considers that such sexual confusion is frequently caused by sexual molestation at the hands of homosexual pedophiles like Jerry Sandusky (hence the moniker: “Jerry Sandusky laws”).

First of all the general link between homosexuality and child abuse he attempts to make is spurious. The Tomeo study he refers to (Archives of Sexual Behavior determined in a 2001 study…) is not accurate and the second author has acknowledged this.  That study or any other one finding a correlation between abuse rates and orientation can tell us nothing about causation.  If Liberty Counsel makes that argument in court, I hope the court gives them a lesson in research methods.
Second, the new law does not prevent counselors from helping kids who have experienced such tragedy. Here is what the law says:

(o) Nothing in this act is intended to prevent a minor who is 12 years of age or older from consenting to any mental health treatment or counseling services, consistent with Section 124260 of the Health and Safety Code, other than sexual orientation change efforts as defined in this act.

Treatment for sexual abuse recovery is not prohibited.  One does not need to tell kids that they can change their sexual orientation by healing from sexual abuse in order to treat the effects of sexual abuse.
Furthermore,

(b) (1) “Sexual orientation change efforts” means any practices by mental health providers that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.
(2) “Sexual orientation change efforts” does not include psychotherapies that: (A) provide acceptance, support, and understanding of clients or the facilitation of clients’ coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices; and (B) do not seek to change sexual orientation.

Barber also falsely says:

[The law] would have forced counselors to violate their oath to “do no harm,” compelling them to advise sexually confused children to adopt a “gay identity” they reject.

The law does not require a counselor to advise any clients, sexual confused or otherwise, to adopt a gay identity. The law simply says that counselors may help clients explore their their identity but does not prescribe an outcome. This law does not prevent clients from deciding they are gay or not gay. It simply prevents therapists from applying interventions that are explicitly designed to changed their sexual orientation.
It seems obvious that Barber’s objection here is based on the fact that he doesn’t understand the proper role of a counselor. Counselors don’t tell clients what identities they should adopt. Such paternalistic approaches would probably put a counselor at risk for a disciplinary action even without SB 1172.
I am not sure the law will pass constitutional muster and will depend in part on how the court rules on the professional-client speech issues. For this post, the merits of the law are not the point. Rather, an accurate description is at issue. Furthermore, exploiting one of the most heinous cases of our time is irresponsible.

Reading list for those who are dominionism deniers

As a public service for those Christian pundits who are having trouble seeing the dominionists in their midst, I am constructing a reading list of online reources. Since they sometimes partner with the authors and groups mentioned here, surely this list will help them spot the tell-tale signs of Christian folks who want to impose biblical law on those who do not believe in biblical law. My suggestions are provided in no particular order and I will add to them as I find suitable resources. Here is my first entry:
Ruler of Nations by Gary DeMar – Gary DeMar runs American Vision, a group that last year put on a worldview conference, sponsored in part by Liberty Law School. In his book 1992 Ruler of Nations, Gary DeMar wrote about the D-word:

The loss of dominion by Christians did not just happen. A study of our nation’s history will show that there was a time when the majority of the people were self-consciously Christian in their outlook. Even those who did not acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord still looked upon Christianity as the cornerstone of a Christian civilization. Over time, the idea of a Christian civilization waned. What was gained was soon lost, not by a military coup, but simply by the passivity of Christians. Dominion will not return through magic or even through a barrage of miracles. We cannot wait on dominion. It will not drop in our laps from heaven. There must be a starting point. Faithfulness is the word. (pp. 213-214)

DeMar does not call for violent overthrow of the government. Rather, he hopes like-minded people will run for office and vote to limit the size of government which will lead to a more biblical society. He explains:

Christians should run for office, in order to get power in the
various government hierarchies. Then they should vote against
every expansion of power and every tax hike and every bond
issue. The State must be cut back.
This is the battle: the belief that the State is the only important
government. As self-governed Christians, we must work to cut
back the unbridled power and authority of the State. Dominion in
the area of civil government does not mean that we desire the
escalating power base available to those who seek and hold office.
Rather, we should run for elected office to pull on the reins of
power, to slow the growth of power run wild.
But Christians must also recognize that we need a peaceful
transfer of power to a new Bible-based system of multiple authorities. They must recognize that God will drive out our enemies little by little, over many years (Exodus 23:29, 30). We are not to become revolutionaries. We are not to impose a top-down tyranny to ram the Bible down people’s throats. The goal is to use every means available to educate voters, and only then to transform their increasingly Biblical outlook into legislation. Mostly, it will be legislation abolishing past legislation. (p. 217).

The D-word shows up all over this book, and here are some steps to take to get it.

The first step in overturning the messianic State is to place ourselves under God’s law. We must meditate on the law. We must make the 119th psalm our hymn of obedience.
The second step is to teach our children the law (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7). We must demonstrate to them by our actions that we are self-governed by the law.
Third, we must proclaim the law to others. We must abandon the false theology that New Testament Christians are in no sense obligated to obey God’s Old Testament law. We obey the sacrificial law by baptizing people and eating the Lord’s Supper. We obey Biblical laws against murder, adultery, and many other capital crimes in the Bible.
Fourth, we must elect public officials who say they will vote for Biblical laws. First and foremost, this means voting to prohibit abortion. While few Christians are willing to go this far, the long term goal should be the execution of abortionists and parents who hire them. If we argue that abortion is murder, then we must call for the death penalty. If abortionists are not supposed to be executed, then they are not murderers, and if they are not murderers, why do we want to abolish abortion? In short, Christians must learn to think consistently. (pp. 217-218).

Believe me, most pro-life people would like to see abortion restricted but we don’t want the state to kill anyone. There is a tell-tale sign of a dominionist. Wherever the Bible invokes death, they want to do that now; like for gays, disobedient children, blasphemers, idolatry and so on.
Actually, this isn’t the first book on the list. I already examined a 2011 by Stephen Che Halbrook, titled God is Just: A Defense of Old Testament Civil Laws. Halbrook completed a shorter version of his book for his master’s thesis at Regent University. There are chapters defending the death penalty for gays, adulterers, blasphemers, disobedient children, etc., as well as descriptions of how one should set up stonings and burnings.
This is only a beginning. I will put up some more links soon.

AACC is not larger than the APA

Yesterday, Right Wing Watch pointed to a broadcast  from Liberty Counsel and a tweet from the same group saying that the American Association of Christian Counselors is larger than the American Psychological Association. Here is the still-uncorrected tweet:
As RWW pointed out, that is simply not true. The non-profit APA has “more than 154,000 members” and the for profit AACC has said they have “nearly 50,000 members” for several years.
There is another aspect to the claims made by Liberty Counsel that should be pointed out. Mat Staver said on the broadcast that the AACC has produced “the most definitive, most recent research that’s come out that says change is possible.” I assume he is talking about Jones and Yarhouse’s study of Exodus participants (and even there the changes were minimal and not in keeping with the claims made by Staver). However, the Liberty lawyers should also know that a more recent study published in Edification, a journal of the AACC, found that a group of heterosexually married sexual minorities reported no change on average in homosexual attractions.
I pointed this out in this post.

The SPLC hate list and the Nazi card

Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center published several articles devoted to identifying groups who perpetuate stereotypes and falsehoods about gays. In one of the articles, the SPLC articulated a list of ten myths about gays which they claimed the groups identified as hate groups willfully promote. Elsewhere, the SPLC updated the list of what they term anti-gay hate groups, adding several groups, some of which are well known social conservative organizations.

The reaction was slow but has started to emerge from the groups identified by the SPLC.  One such reaction comes from Matt Barber, Liberty University adminstrator and board member at AFTAH, who wrote an op-ed for the Washington Times, titled “SPLC: The wolf who cried ‘hate.

The SPLC criteria for inclusion as a hate group were at one time somewhat vague.  Now, with the ten-myth criteria, it becomes easier to identify the types of public statements which the SPLC views as promoting bias toward gays. One myth I have written about is the Scott Lively inspired claim that gays animated the Nazi party. In fact, the SPLC referred to a couple of posts on this blog by my friend and colleague, JonDavid Wyneken, history professor at GCC (part 1 & part 2). Referring to claims made in Lively’s book, The Pink Swastika, SPLC’s Evelyn Schlatter and Robert Steinback wrote:

The Pink Swastika has been roundly discredited by legitimate historians and other scholars. Christine Mueller, professor of history at Reed College, did a line-by-line refutation of an earlier (1994) Abrams article on the topic and of the broader claim that the Nazi Party was “entirely controlled” by gay men. Historian Jon David Wynecken at Grove City College also refuted the book, pointing out that Lively and Abrams did no primary research of their own, instead using out-of-context citations of some legitimate sources while ignoring information from those same sources that ran counter to their thesis.

More recently Bryan Fischer, speaking for another newly added hate group the American Family Association, said

Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.

These are false claims which have been addressed multiple times by experts and primary sources. These are the kinds of claims which led the SPLC to place the AFA on their list.

And so it is stunning to see one of Matt Barber’s arguments in defense of the groups recently named to the hate group list. In fact, the argument is the big finish to the Washington Times column I referred to above. He says:

So, center-right America: If you happen to believe in the sanctity of natural marriage and that, as a culture, we’re best served by honoring the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic of our forefathers, you’re now an official “hater.”

Of course, the tired goal of this silly meme is to associate in the public mind’s eye mainstream conservative social values with racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism. The ironic result, however, is that, as typically occurs with such ad hominem and hyperbolic attacks, the attacker ends up marginalizing himself and galvanizing his intended target (I’m rubber, you’re glue and all that).

Hence, beyond a self-aggrandizing liberal echo chamber, the SPLC – and by extension the greater “progressive” movement – has become largely, as it stews in its own radicalism, just another punch line.

It’s often said that the first to call the other a Nazi has lost the argument.

Congratulations, conservative America: They’re calling you a Nazi. Carry on.

Exactly. By Barber’s reasoning, then, the AFA and Scott Lively have lost the argument since the Nazi card has been played repeatedly by members of the SPLC’s hate list.

There is another strange twist in Barber’s op-ed. He says this:

The ironic result, however, is that, as typically occurs with such ad hominem and hyperbolic attacks, the attacker ends up marginalizing himself and galvanizing his intended target (I’m rubber, you’re glue and all that).

The groups which now populate the SPLC list specialize in ad hominem and hyperbolic attacks. Claims that gays die 20+ years early, that they are child abusers, that they are inherently diseased, and responsible for the Holocaust are the kinds of ad hominem and hyperbolic attacks which lead thoughful people, liberal and conservative, to question the credibility of those making the claims.

Christian groups should care about nuance and bearing honest witness. They should avoid misleading stereotypes and strive for accuracy in fact claims. When they don’t, they hurt the church and the good work that others are doing. Being designated a hate group is a serious matter and one which should cause reflection about the charges and not reckless defensiveness.

For more posts debunking the thesis advanced by the American Family Association and The Pink Swastika, click here…

PFOX: What’s good for the District of Columbia is not good for the nation

In 2002, the Christian support ministry, Parents and Friends of Ex-gays (PFOX) applied to the National Education Association for a booth in their annual convention exhibit hall. Despite having space at the convention and initially cashing the PFOX check for the application fee, the NEA rejected the PFOX application. The NEA said PFOX’s views of sexual orientation were at odds with those of the NEA.

Given that the NEA is based in Washington DC, PFOX filed a discrimination complaint against the NEA with the DC Office of Human Rights. The basis of the alleged discrimination was the sexual orientation of the members of PFOX. To support its action, PFOX relied on the fact that in DC, sexual orientation is included in the Human Rights Act. The definition of sexual orientation in the DC HRA is

“Sexual orientation” means male or female homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality, by preference or practice.

In May, 2005, the DC OHR ruled that there was no discrimination in the NEA action. However, with an appeal from PFOX, the OHR allowed a review. After another denial, PFOX filed suit in the Superior Court of DC in May, 2008. On June 26, 2009, Judge Maurice Ross affirmed the decision of the DC OHR that there was no probable cause for PFOX’s discrimination complaint. According to Ross, the NEA had not unlawfully discriminated against PFOX by excluding the group from the NEA exposition hall.

Despite losing the case, PFOX issued a press release claiming victory. In his ruling, Judge Ross evaluated the claim of discrimination in light of the DC statute. Ross found that ex-gays are covered by the DC law due to the inclusion of sexual orientation. Ex-gay as a term did not need to be included in law since the term, however defined, relates to an adult sexual practice or preference. Continue reading “PFOX: What’s good for the District of Columbia is not good for the nation”