Ted Cruz's Religious Liberty Guidelines Target Gays and Miss the Mark

Awhile back, Ted Cruz formed a committee to advise him on religious liberty issues. However, looking at their initial recommendations released yesterday, it appears the committee had a dual role — religious liberty and discrimination against GLBT folk.  Here is the press release from the Cruz campaign:
cruz logo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Alice Stewart, (202) 365-5654
News Release Catherine Frazier, (512) 751-5984
March 24, 2016
 Cruz Welcomes Initial Religious Liberty Recommendations from Advisory Council  
Cruz: “As We Celebrate Spiritual Freedom During Easter, We Remember that Religious Liberty is the First American Freedom”
HOUSTON, Texas – Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz today received initial recommendations from his Religious Liberty Advisory Council, formed last month to advise his campaign and future administration on policies to defend religious liberty domestically and internationally.
“During this Holy Week, as Christians prepare to celebrate spiritual freedom in Christ, we remember also that religious liberty is the first American freedom,” said Cruz. “I thank this learned and committed group of leaders for their wise recommendations, and as president I will be proud to work with them to protect our religious liberty. Defending religious liberty has been a lifelong passion, and I’ve been blessed to help win national victories, preserving the Texas Ten Commandments monument, the words ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance, and the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial.”
The recommendations comprise 15 initial actions, both legislative and executive, to emphasize and bolster the freedom of religion in the United States. Included are the following proposals:

  • Issue an executive order preventing the federal government from discriminating against Americans who believe that marriage is a sacrament between one man and one woman.
  • Reinstate thorough and protective conscience rights protections in federal healthcare programs.
  • Direct the Department of Health and Human Services to exempt all employers who object for moral and religious reasons from any contraception mandate.
  • Update and revise military regulations to reflect a robust constitutional understanding of the first amendment rights of military personnel, particularly chaplains.
  • Pass the First Amendment Defense Act “to prevent discriminatory treatment of any person on the basis of views held with respect to marriage.”
  • Direct the IRS to publicly clarify the generous rights of non-profits and religious leaders to engage in political speech without compromising their tax-exempt status.
  • Rescind executive orders which limit the government from partnering with faith-based non-profit organizations.
  • Order the Department of Education to issue guidelines which accurately address the rights of students, teachers, and other school personnel to live out their faith in a school setting.

“Our constitutional liberties should not be subject to the whims of the current administration,” Cruz continued. “Whether Hobby Lobby or the Little Sisters of the Poor, people of faith should not be made to bow down at the altar of political correctness. As president, I have pledged on my first day in office to rescind every single one of President Obama’s unconstitutional executive actions, and to direct every federal agency to respect and protect the religious liberty of every American.”
Yesterday, oral arguments were presented before the Supreme Court in the religious liberty case Zubik vs. Burwell, which includes the appeals of Little Sisters of the Poor and Priests for Life for their right to serve the needy without suffering conscience violations from government. As Cruz has often said, “Mr. President, if you’re litigating against nuns, you’re probably doing something wrong.”
More than 46,000 Americans have joined the campaign’s Faith and Religious Liberty coalition.
###

The 15 initial actions provide a few more specifics. These two seem to have nothing to do with religious liberty and everything to do with discriminating against gays.

Rescind Executive Order 13672, which had (without adequate religious exemptions) required certain federal contractors to not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. In the alternative, create significantly larger and robust exemptions for religious organizations and businesses falling under the authority of Executive Order 13672.
 
Direct all federal agencies to stop interpreting “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and/or“gender identity” where the term “sex” refers to a protected class in federal law. Prioritize this effort at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Department of Education,Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Housing and Urban Development.

It is hard to imagine how requiring government contractors to be fair to gays infringes on anyone’s religious liberty. Contractors should not be allowed to fire a gay person simply for being gay. Cruz and company have singled out gays as the only group who can be discriminated against under these recommendations.
These recommendations are inconsistent with Ronald Reagan’s beliefs about discrimination and gays. Reagan opposed job discrimination against gays and as California governor opposed a ballot initiative which would have forbid gays from becoming teachers.
I generally favor an expanded ability of healthcare providers to decline to participate in procedures which violate their conscience.
An interesting effect of some of these planks, if implemented in an unbiased manner, is that all adherents of all religions would be freer to proselytize on the job or in the military. Chaplains have been limited from proselytizing by military guidelines. Christian chaplains have complained that they can’t share the Gospel. However, these guidelines also keep non-Christian chaplains from trying to convert Christians. Cruz’s team would open things up for lots of efforts to convert soldiers to various faiths. Personally, I prefer restrictions on workplace “soul winning” as helping to prevent religious coercion from superiors.
On the whole these guidelines target gays and would create more opportunities for religious coercion on the job.
 

Marco Rubio Leads in Poll of Evangelicals; Donald Trump Ties with Hillary Clinton

World magazine is regularly polling 103 leaders/insiders regarding their views of the 2016 presidential contenders. This month Marco Rubio and  Carly Fiorina gained ground among the poll participants.
Rubio was considered first choice by 34.5% of the participants while Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Fiorina and John Kasich round out the top five. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump each got two votes to tie with 2.3% of the participants. Eighty-one percent said they would not vote for Trump, tops among GOP candidates.
Clearly, this group of evangelicals aren’t in sync with GOP voters being polled now. Trump leads the field with 23.5% in Real Clear Politics’ average of tracking polls.
See the World survey results here.
 

Glenn Beck to Appear at Ed Young's Fellowship Church on July 5

Glenn Beck will be interviewed at 11am Sunday morning at Fellowship Church near Fort Worth, TX. According to the website, the event will take place at the Hawkins/Allaso Ranch retreat center.
glennbeckfellowship
Fellowship Church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
It seems surreal to have an unabashed Latter Day Saint apologist address a Baptist congregation on Sunday morning.
 

Tony Evans Clarifies Statement About Stronger African-American Families During Slavery

About two hours ago, I received this statement apparently in response to the Christian Post article about Evans’ statements about slave families. The CP article triggered a post from me on the subject. Evans’ statement:
TonyEvansStatementSlaveFamiliesI never had or expressed a doubt that Evans condemned slavery or racism.
I offered my view in my post on the subject, linked to his full remarks in that post, and I am glad that Evans extended his remarks on the subject. Even though we don’t see this issue the same way, I want to thank Dr. Evans and A. Larry Ross Communications for sending this statement.

Ministers Warn Evangelicals About "Unholy Alliance" With NRA

Interesting presser comes across the wire this morning:

On Visit to Shooting Scene, Evangelical Leader to Warn of Unholy Alliance with NRA

Contact: Peggy Nienaber, National Clergy Council202-236-0953
ISLA VISTA, Calif., June 5, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ — The Reverend Dr. Rob Schenck, president of the Washington, DC based National Clergy Council, will speak at a news conference tomorrow, June 5, 2014, at 11:00 AM in Isla Vista, California, the scene of a recent mass shooting. In his remarks, Dr. Schenck will warn evangelical pastors and other church leaders against an “unholy alliance” with the NRA.
Schenck said, “Too many evangelical pastors default to the NRA position on guns. By doing so, these church leaders shirk their responsibility to form a biblical position on the life-and-death issue of gun ownership and use. If a Christian’s answer to gun violence in America is, ‘The NRA says,’ then he or she is wrong.”
Schenck is in the Santa Barbara area with Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney meeting with church leaders and family members of victims.
Details
News conference with representatives of National Clergy Council, Revds Rob Schenck and Patrick Mahoney
Thursday, June 5, 2014, 11:00 AM
In front of the Wall of Remembrance,
6549 Pardall Rd Ste C,
Goleta, CA, US, 93117
For information call 202-656-1252

I don’t know how many people this group represents or can influence but this is a reasonable warning. I appreciate something said in a similar press release yesterday:

Mahoney said, “It’s time for the Christian community, especially pastors, to stand up, speak out, and take action. We have spent so much time conducting funerals and comforting the grieving, now we must spend equal time working to avoid the next tragedy. If Christians don’t have answers to this problem, who does? My hope and prayer is that a national conversation on the connection between gun violence and mental illness will begin among pastors and other Christian leaders.”

 

Pentagon again addresses rumors of crackdown on Christians

Yesterday, the Pentagon issued another statement regarding the rumors of a crackdown on religious speech. The Hill picked up on the comments and I have the Department of Defense statement here. In response to queries from various sources, Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen sent along the following comments:

EEOC rules do not apply to military personnel.
There is no DOD wide policy that directly addresses religious proselytizing.  Furthermore, there is no effort within the department to make religious proselytizing a specific offense within the UCMJ, including under Article 134.
Service members may exercise their rights under the 1st Amendment regarding the free exercise of religion unless doing so adversely affects good order, discipline, or some other aspect of the military mission; even then, the Department seeks a reasonable religious accommodation for the service member.   In general, service members may share their faith with other service members, but may not forcibly attempt to convert others of any faith or no faith to their own beliefs.
Concerns about these issues are handled on a case by case basis by the leaders of the unit involved.

Again, these comments distinguish between proselytizing and simply speaking about one’s religious views. Even Rear Admiral William Lee, who has been quoted at length recently by right-of-center groups, said he opposes proselytizing (at the end of this speech). The issue and has always been about using one’s position or other means of coercion to impose beliefs or expectations of religious behavior.
Although not bound by EEOC rules, the DoD has responded to concerns about workplace conditions which create a hostile environment and to provide accommodations when necessary to allow first amendment freedoms while maintaining order and cohesion in the ranks.
 
 
 

NPR Segment on Changes at Exodus International

A segment on changes at Exodus is coming up on NPR sometime between 4:30 and 4:45pm. It should repeat again between 6:30-6:45pm.

I have a few lines but I am not sure who else is in on it.

Listen, learn and comment.

The audio will be posted at 7pm, but the transcript is here.

Rob Gagnon has emerged as a vocal opponent of Exodus. I am baffled by his approach, which seems to make grace conditional on one’s behavior or attitude.

I intend to write more about this next week. Gagnon says he thinks reparative therapy sometimes works. I suppose for some it can work to give them a way to think about their lives but the burden of proof is on NARTH and others who support the group to demonstrate some kind of categorical change. Nothing has come from NARTH that approaches good research strategies and as a result, NARTH is currently on the defensive. They have been fighting a defensive battle with no real offense. After awhile, if you have nothing to offer, people will look elsewhere.

Who drew more people than The Response?

Kind of a question and observation rolled into one: doesn’t it seem like some of the highly touted big Christian gatherings (prayer rallies, solemn assemblies, awakenings) have not lived up to expectations?
Last year, a big rally in MO called by Dutch Sheets was cancelled because of poor registration numbers, the various awakening meetings (Liberty Council, etc.) had smaller than expected numbers, and now The Response drew 30k in a stadium chosen because it seats 80k.
These are ramblings at this point, I might be wrong. However, along the way over the last couple of years The New Apostolic Reformation seems to have grown in influence with Christian public figures but the follow through has not been stellar. I have not looked into this carefully, so confirmation bias might be at work in me here.
I did take a quick look for events that have sold out Reliant Stadium as points of reference and found that the following filled up the place:
U2 
The semi-finals of the CONCACAF (soccer) Gold Cup
2010 ML Baseball All-Star Game
Selena
2011 NCAA Final Four
The Houston Texans every week
One could see in this comparison a decline in religion, and perhaps there would be some truth in that. However, I wonder if the histrionics of the AFA and their new apostolic partners are wearing thin.
A related thought: The Response was free; none of the events above were free. In fact, they are pretty pricey.

Sexual identity: APA sexual orientation task force report – Analysis

(First posted August 5, 2009)
Earlier today, the American Psychological Association governing board received the report of the Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Response to Sexual Orientation. The report and press release were embargoed until now. With this post, I want to comment on the paper and recommendations made by the Task Force.
Generally, I believe the paper to be a high quality report of the evidence regarding sexual orientation and therapy. The authors of the paper (see this post for the new release which contains authorship information) provide a very helpful discussion of the professional literature on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), potential benefits and harm and the role of religion and values in sexual orientation identity exploration. Before I get to a more detailed look at highlights, I want to note an important statement from the APA press release made by Task Force Chair, Judith Glassgold:

Practitioners can assist clients through therapies that do not attempt to change sexual orientation, but rather involve acceptance, support and identity exploration and development without imposing a specific identity outcome.

Dr. Glassgold here describes sexual identity therapy. In fact, as I will point out, the SIT framework is referred to positively throughout the paper. Whereas some evangelicals may be troubled by the negative view of sexual reorientation in this report, there is much here that clarifies important aspects of work in this field. The paper is long (130 pages) and so one post cannot capture all that is important. I want to start with what for me are the high spots, beginning with the abstract:

The American Psychological Association Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation conducted a systematic review of the peer-reviewed journal literature on sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) and concluded that efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm, contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates. Even though the research and clinical literature demonstrate that same-sex sexual and romantic attractions, feelings, and behaviors are normal and positive variations of human sexuality, regardless of sexual orientation identity, the task force concluded that the population that undergoes SOCE tends to have strongly conservative religious views that lead them to seek to change their sexual orientation. Thus, the appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic interventions for those who seek SOCE involves therapist acceptance, support, and understanding of clients and the facilitation of clients’ active coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, without imposing a specific sexual orientation identity outcome. (p. v)

While the paper takes a dim view of change efforts, the authors indicate that attempts to change have been viewed as helpful by some and harmful by others. This is a fair reading of the research. Given these assessments of the research, the stance the APA recommends is to provide supportive psychotherapy without imposing an identity outcome on the client. To get to this view, the authors review change literature, literature on outcomes and research regarding religion and sexual orientation. I want to briefly recap each section.
Efficacy of change efforts
The Task Force reviewed 83 studies that met basic standards for inclusion. They were not impressed with the methodological rigor of the body of research. Their conclusion:

Thus, the results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through SOCE. (p. 3)

Safety of change efforts
The Task Force provided a cautious and nuanced response to the question of harm or benefit from SOCE. I believe they are on target here. Some people report harm and some report benefit but there are no studies which allow conclusions about likelihood of either outcome for any given person. About safety, the press release notes:

As to the issue of possible harm, the task force was unable to reach any conclusion regarding the efficacy or safety of any of the recent studies of SOCE: “There are no methodologically sound studies of recent SOCE that would enable the task force to make a definitive statement about whether or not recent SOCE is safe or harmful and for whom,” according to the report.

Religion and change efforts
One of the highlights of the report is the discussion of religion and sexual orientation. The authors are to be commended for their balanced and thoughtful approach. I especially like the discussion surrounding the concepts of “organismic congruence” and “telic congruence.” On page 18, the paper summarizes these concepts well:

The conflict between psychology and traditional faiths may have its roots in different philosophical viewpoints. Some religions give priority to telic congruence (i.e., living consistently within one’s valuative goals) (W. Hathaway, personal communication, June 30, 2008; cf. Richards & Bergin, 2005). Some authors propose that for adherents of these religions, religious perspectives and values should be integrated into the goals of psychotherapy (Richards & Bergin, 2005; Throckmorton & Yarhouse, 2006). Affirmative and multicultural models of LGB psychology give priority to organismic congruence (i.e., living with a sense of wholeness in one’s experiential self (W. Hathaway, personal communication, June 30, 2008; cf. Gonsiorek, 2004; Malyon, 1982). This perspective gives priority to the unfolding of developmental processes, including self-awareness and personal identity.
This difference in worldviews can impact psychotherapy. For instance, individuals who have strong religious beliefs can experience tensions and conflicts between their ideal self and beliefs and their sexual and affectional needs and desires (Beckstead & Morrow, 2004; D. F. Morrow, 2003). The different worldviews would approach psychotherapy for these individuals from dissimilar perspectives: The telic strategy would prioritize values (Rosik, 2003; Yarhouse & Burkett, 2002), whereas the organismic approach would give priority to the development of self-awareness and identity (Beckstead & Israel, 2007; Gonsiorek, 2004; Haldeman, 2004). It is important to note that the organismic worldview can be congruent with and respectful of religion (Beckstead & Israel, 2007; Glassgold, 2008; Gonsiorek, 2004; Haldeman, 2004; Mark, 2008), and the telic worldview can be aware of sexual stigma and respectful of sexual orientation (Throckmorton & Yarhouse, 2006; Tan, 2008; Yarhouse, 2008). Understanding this philosophical difference may improve the dialogue between these two perspectives represented in the literature, as it refocuses the debate not on one group’s perceived rejection of homosexuals or the other group’s perceived minimization of religious viewpoints but on philosophical differences that extend beyond this particular subject matter. However, some of the differences between these philosophical assumptions may be difficult to bridge.

On this blog, we have frequently grappled with these differences. Many such discussions have sides talking past each other because different views of congruence are assumed to be determinative. In this CNN clip about the Task Force, Psychiatrist McCommon and I came to about the same conclusion regarding congruence.
There are different assumptions about what best constitutes the answer to the question: ‘who am I?’ This paper nicely addresses these assumptions and acknowledges that people who are deeply committed to a non-gay-affirming religious position may stay same-sex attracted but not identify as gay. As the paper notes, this is an acceptable alternative.
Clinical approaches
The authors consider the role of therapy and ministries groups as aspects of SOCE. What they say about support groups is interesting.

These effects are similar to those provided by mutual support groups for a range of problems, and the positive benefits reported by participants in SOCE, such as reduction of isolation, alterations in how problems are viewed, and stress reduction, are consistent with the findings of the general mutual support group literature. The research literature indicates that the benefits of SOCE mutual support groups are not unique and can be provided within an affirmative and multiculturally competent framework, which can mitigate the harmful aspects of SOCE by addressing sexual stigma while understanding the importance of religion and social needs. (p. 3)

In a nutshell, support groups can have benefit when the singular focus is not change of orientation. Our conversations here regarding the change versus congruence model is relevant. I think the kind of changes that are most common are ideological and behavioral. And when I say behavioral, I mean both cessation of unwanted behavior and also less preoccupation with seeking harmful sexual behavior. I think some people feel they have moved on the Kinsey scale because they have better self-control regarding same-sex behavior. These are good and important telic changes but they don’t represent the kinds of changes which reflect dramatic organismic shifts. Orthodox Christianity does not require organismic changes in order to pursue spiritual development.
Moving from ministry to clinical worlds, the application seems obvious to me. And perhaps it seems obvious since I have been advocating for this stance for several years now. The client sets the value direction and the outcome is not imposed.

In our review of the research and clinical literature, we found that the appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic interventions for adults presenting with a desire to change their sexual orientation has been grounded in a client-centered approach (e.g., Astramovich, 2003; Bartoli & Gillem, 2008; Beckstead & Israel, 2007, Buchanan et al., 2001; Drescher, 1998a; Glassgold; 2008; Gonsiorek; 2004; Haldeman, 2004, Lasser & Gottlieb, 2004; Mark, 2008; Ritter & O’Neill, 1989, 1995; Tan, 2008; Throckmorton & Yarhouse, 2006; Yarhouse & Tan, 2005a; and Yarhouse, 2008). (P.55)

It is heartening to see the SIT framework referenced here (and elsewhere in the APA paper) as one “appropriate application of affirmative therapeutic interventions.” In general, I think the APA strategies and the SIT framework are quite compatible.
Bottom line: The APA report will likely be quite influential for years to come. They call for more research on SOCE and a cautious, and I think accurate, interpretation of the research on reorientation. I believe the therapeutic strategies called for are akin to the SIT framework and clarifies nicely the appropriate stance of therapists. The report also respects the place of religion in identity development and exploration. These issues were not clear prior to this report.
In additional posts, I will deal with various aspects of the paper as well as media coverage. The press release is here and here on the APA website.