Monday, August 15, 2011

Over 900 demand that Congress reject fraudulent anti-gay testimony

Over 900 members of the gay community and their allies sent a message to Congress demanding that it take a hard look at the people and groups called to testify against gay rights during its hearings.

These individuals all signed a petition through Change.org asking that Congressional leaders scrutinize the testimony given by religious right spokespeople and groups because the testimony could contain inaccurate and fraudulent information.

The petition is the brainchild of Alvin McEwen, blogmaster of Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters and a contributing writer on such sites as The Huffington Post, Alternet.org, Pam's House Blend, and LGBTQ Nation.

According to McEwen, the idea for the petition sprang from the July hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) when Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) called out Focus on the Family's Tom Minnery for distorting a government study to claim that heterosexual households are better at raising children than same-sex households.

While the blogsphere was abuzz about this incident, McEwen said he was concerned mostly about the times when religious right witnesses testifying in front of Congress were not called out on their distortions.

The petition points to two incidents. One was when Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage committed the same error as Minnery in an earlier Congressional hearing on DOMA this year.

The other incident took place in 2009 when Family Research Council head Tony Perkins cited information in front of Congress from pro-gay health sites to contend that homosexuality is a "deadly lifestyle." In doing this, Perkins omitted the fact that none of the sites implied that homosexuality was a "deadly lifestyle,"but rather that homophobia leads some gays into unhealthy behaviors.

"And unfortunately," McEwen said, "both Gallagher and Perkins got away with these distortions."

McEwen says that more attention should be paid to how religious right groups either rely on junk science or the distortion of legitimate science to back up their claims that homosexuality is somehow dangerous.

As further proof of this, McEwen points to at least 11 instances where legitimate researchers and physicians have complained about how religious right groups have distorted their work to make this case.

"The methods these organizations use against the gay community is highly skilled," McEwen said. "Usually they anoint 'policy experts' with no expertise other than the ability to repeat their false talking points. And these points are geared to exploit people's religious beliefs against homosexuality. It's common sense that if you believe homosexuality to be a sin, then it doesn't take much persuasion to make you believe that promiscuity, disease, drug abuse, pedophilia, and all sorts of negative behaviors are indicative of the homosexual orientation."

McEwen also points to several questionable techniques used by religious right groups, such as continuously changing the alleged number of sexual partners of gay men, referring to convenience sample studies which cannot be used to generalize about the entire gay community (such as the number of clients in STD clinics), citing books and studies about the gay community which were published over 10 to 30 years ago, and referring to negative health statistics about the gay community while omitting what is said about how homophobia plays a role in creating these negative health statistics.

For the longest time blogs, such as McEwen's, have been complaining about what the religious right does to the gay community through its distortion of science. Finally last year, there began to be some mainstream attention when the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization geared to fighting racism, homophobia, and other inequalities, called out several of these groups for spreading propaganda about the gay community.

However, for McEwen, it's not nearly enough. He said that groups like the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage, and Focus on the Family still have influence in the minds of some Congressional leaders. And he hopes that the petition will attract attention to how religious right groups lie about the gay community.

"Congressional leaders need to be aware of the actions of these groups they count on for credible negative information about the gay community," he said. "These groups and their affiliate organizations have been getting away with this sort of thing for years. I think it is probably one of the most missed stories in the history of journalism."

"It's extremely hypocritical for religious right groups to make a so-called Christian stance against homosexuality and then stoop to un-Christian methods to further that stance. Lies in the name of God are still lies."

Sign the petition here.


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