Thursday, December 02, 2010

AFA's Bryan Fischer tries to refute hate group designation, gets smacked down HARD

Editor's note - This post inaccurately named Mark Potok as the author of the SPLC piece. The author was Robert Steinbeck

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association (AFA) is not happy that the Southern Poverty Law Center declared the AFA to be an anti-gay hate group and he is especially distressed that his comments was listed as a big reason for this designation.

So recently, he took it upon himself to try and refute a key portion of SPLC's reasoning - a list it compiled of the 10 top myths spread about the lgbt community by organizations like the AFA. Fischer claimed that SPLC's Top Ten Myths list was false and the things his organization (and other religious right groups designated as anti-gay hate groups) say about the lgbt community are in fact true.

Fischer should have kept his mouth shut because Robert Steinbeck of the SPLC took his phony refutations head on.  Steinbeck does not answer all of Fischer's refutations because the ones he does answer are enough to cast doubt on the rest of Fischer's claims.

Fischer - TRUTH # 1

Homosexuals molest children at far higher rates than heterosexuals.

Absolutely true. Homosexuals comprise perhaps two percent of the population, yet according to the Journal of Sex Research, homosexual pedophiles are responsible for 33% of all child sex offenses. Homosexuals molest children at at least 10 times the rate of heterosexuals.

Steinbeck - Fischer displays the sly predilection of anti-gay activists to cite legitimate research as supporting their claims when the researchers themselves explicitly reject them. Fischer is referring to a 1989 Journal of Sex Research article by the late researcher Kurt Freund, who concluded that homosexuals were not any more disposed to pedophilia than heterosexuals — a finding exactly opposite to what Fischer suggests.

Fischer constructs the 33% figure from Freund’s research by assuming that every case of men molesting boys is committed by a “homosexual” man — a conclusion rejected by virtually all legitimate sex researchers. As Freund said, since most pedophiles have no sexual interest in adults of either gender, terms like “homosexual” and “heterosexual” don’t apply at all. It is the child’s prepubescent nature, not his or her gender, that attracts this type of “fixated” pedophile, most of whom will prey on children of either gender. Freund and other researchers have found that those pedophiles who are capable of forming sexual relationships with other adults — so-called “regressive” pedophiles who only resort to pedophilia when under stress — overwhelmingly identify themselves as heterosexual.

Fischer - TRUTH # 2

Same-sex parents harm children.

Research indicates that children raised by homosexuals experiment with sexually aberrant behaviors at a higher rate than children raised by heterosexuals and at earlier ages, and do worse, according to a 1996 study by an Austrian sociologist, in nine of 13 academic and social categories compared to children raised by heterosexual married couples.

A 2001 article in American Sociological Review reported that children raised by lesbians are more likely to engage in homosexual behavior and are "more sexually adventurous."

Steinbeck - Fischer identifies neither report by name — and for good reason.

In the first instance, he is referring to an obscure 1996 study by Sotirios Sarantakos, an Australian, not Austrian, researcher. Anti-gay groups frequently cite this article — yet the article, the journal that published it, and Sarantakos himself, are all but impossible to locate online.

The other study Fischer cites was conducted in 2001 by professors Timothy J. Biblarz of the University of Southern California and Judith Stacey of New York University (pdf).

. . . In an E-mail to Hatewatch this week, Stacey blasted Fischer’s misuse of her research. “They are misrepresenting our 2001 article … by cherry-picking out of context one finding we mentioned that came from one very small British study,” she wrote. “Even so, their claim that children raised by lesbians are more sexually adventurous is also inaccurate. In the small study we mentioned … it was only the daughters who were sexually active a bit earlier than daughters of straight moms. Boys raised by lesbians were less sexually active than sons of straight moms! Our interpretation was that IF this tentative finding were to be replicated, it suggested that lesbians were transmitting a more egalitarian, single standard of sexual behavior to daughters and sons compared with the conventional double standard of sex being more permissible for boys. Moreover, it turns out that the … finding has NOT been replicated. In fact, a new study finds kids raised by lesbians from birth to be less sexually active!”

Fischer - TRUTH # 4

Homosexuals don't live nearly as long as heterosexuals.

According to an extensive study of the homosexual community in Vancouver, B.C., active participation in the homosexual lifestyle will rob an individual of a significant portion of his life span. Say the researchers, "[L]ife expectancy at age 20 years for gay and bisexual men is 8 to 20 years less than for all men." In fact, they observe that participation in the homosexual lifestyle knocks life expectancy for a Canadian male back to what it was in 1871.

Steinbeck - Again, Fischer ignores that the authors of that 1997 study updated it in 2001, pointing out that advances in treatment of HIV-AIDS even at that point had significantly improved the expected longevity of those infected, which would inevitably narrow any gap between gay and straight life spans caused by the disease. Moreover, the authors explicitly rejected the attempts of anti-gay organizations to construe the 1997 observations to justify denigration of gays.

“These homophobic groups appear more interested in restricting the human rights of gay and bisexuals rather than promoting their health and well being,” the authors wrote in their 2001 update.

. . .“I am aghast that the misrepresentation of these data continues,” Steffanie Strathdee, associate dean of global health sciences at the University of California, San Diego, and one of the authors of the two reports, told Hatewatch in an E-mail this week.

As I said before, Steinbeck did not answer all of Fischer's refutations because he didn't need to. Steinbeck was able to point out Fischer's bad errors in the refutations that he did address. And his answers does cast doubt on Fischer's entire piece. How can Fischer's seven other refutations be believed when he made such egregious errors on the three which were addressed?

But because I like to butt in, allow me to address a refutation that Potok didn't.

Fischer - TRUTH # 8

Homosexuals are more prone to be mentally ill and to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Even the pro-homosexual Gay and Lesbian Medical Association admits that homosexuals "use substances at a higher rate than the general population," have "higher rates of alcohol dependence and abuse," and are subject to higher rates of "depression and anxiety." Homosexual activists attempt to blame homophobia for this, but the same trends are evident even in Scandinavian countries where homosexuality has received virtually unanimous societal approval for decades.

Me - Fischer omitted the fact that the GLMA clearly say that these behaviors are not indicative of the lgbt orientation but reactions to homophobia of society:

GMLA: Depression and anxiety appear to affect gay men at a higher rate than in the general population. The likelihood of depression or anxiety may be greater, and the problem may be more severe for those men who remain in the closet or who do not have adequate social supports. Adolescents and young adults may be at particularly high risk of suicide because of these concerns.

GMLA: Research indicates that lesbians may use illicit drugs more often than heterosexual women. This may be due to added stressors in lesbian lives from discrimination. Lesbians need support from each other and from health care providers to find healthy releases, quality recreation, stress reduction, and coping techniques.

Fischer's claim about Scandinavian countries is a distortion of a study by Dr. Theo Sandfort which looked at the mental health of gay men in the Netherlands.  And Fischer is not the first religious right figure to distort this study.

This is what Sandfort told me in a  Jan. 2009 email. At that particular time, PFOX (an "ex-gay" group) was distorting his study:

There is a difference between the U.S. and the Netherlands in terms of acceptance of homosexuality. That does not mean that there is no homophobia (and homophobic damage) in the Netherlands. It is not clear how difference in climate affects the prevalence of mental disorders. We don't know the final answers, but in the U.S. as well as the Netherlands, homophobia is related to mental health problems.

He also commented on how the religious right distorts his work:

"They use data to promote their moral convictions without truly understanding what the issues are. They are not interested in understanding how people's lives are affected by their social environment."

It is clear that the SPLC designation has struck a nerve amongst these so-called Christian, pro-family groups. Unfortunately, it's not enough for them to at the very least address the charges.

But does anyone really expect them to? After all, that would be showing actual values and morality, two things which Fischer and the rest of his ilk lack in abundance.

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1 comment:

ColdCountry said...

I do not understand how he - or anyone else - can continue to stick to their arguments when their lies are spread out in front of them and picked apart. These people are not stupid. Well, some of them *hint*Pete*hint* might be, but by and large, I don't think they are. What are they so very afraid of that they risk everything by clinging to lies?