Monday, August 13, 2012

Regnerus was approached to do anti-gay parenting study by Witherspoon Institute

A new article about the anti-gay parenting study created by University of Texas Mark Regnerus gave some new details about how the study came to being.

And these details should lead to more questions.

First, a little background

Earlier this year, Regnerus published a study which claimed that children in same-sex households face several problems. Conservatives and the religious right quickly lauded this study. But many others pointed out errors in the study's conclusion and methodology. In fact, over 200 professors and researchers signed a letter condemning it.

A chief complaint has been where Regnerus received his funding.  According to Wayne Besen of the group Truth Wins Out, the head of the study, Mark Regnerus, received a $695,000 grant from the Witherspoon Institute for the study

The Witherspoon Foundation is affiliated with Princeton professor Robert George. At the Witherspoon Foundation, he is a Herbert W. Vaughan Senior Fellow  George is also a founder and chairman emeritus of the National Organization for Marriage, an organization whose goal is to stop marriage equality.

Since Regnerus's study was published, NOM and the Witherspoon Institute has been pushing it steadily.  According to the Huffington Post, Maggie Gallagher, the former president of NOM and other groups associated with the organization have widely publicizing Regnerus' work:

Gallagher has been especially active in promoting the study, writing three posts about it on the website of the conservative National Review.  She penned a column for the conservative Town Hall under the headline, "The Gay Murphy Brown Effect."

Gallagher's Culture War Victory Fund, which was incubated at the American Principles Project, a group founded by Robert George in 2009, promoted the same articles that NOM did on its blog.

Another NOM-connected group, the Love and Fidelity Network, also promoted the study.

The Love and Fidelity Network shares an office with the Witherspoon Institute. Gallagher and George, the founders of NOM, are on the Network's advisory board. Luis Tellez, who founded the Witherspoon Institute with George, is also on the advisory board of the Love and Fidelity Network.

For its part, the Witherspoon Institute wrote a lengthy analysis of Regnerus' study under the headline, "The Kids Aren't All Right: New Family Structures and the 'No Differences' Claim."

The Witherspoon Institute also launched a website featuring Regnerus' data.

Regnerus has insisted that the study's funders had nothing to do with its outcome.  But this is where the new information comes in from The Statesman newspaper in Texas.

According to an article which appeared on Thursday, Regnerus was approached to do the study by a member of the Witherspoon Institute. This is noted at least two times in the article:

1. The Witherspoon Institute approached Regnerus, a sociologist, about doing a study on gay parenting and contributed about $700,000 to his project, according to Regnerus and Luis Tellez, president of the Princeton, N.J.-based institute. The Bradley Foundation, based in Milwaukee, supplied $90,000 for the work, according to Regnerus. The Bradley Foundation did not respond to requests for comment.

The grant — the largest the Witherspoon Institute has ever given for faculty research — came with no strings attached and no pressure for a particular outcome, Tellez says.

2. In the case of the Regnerus study, Witherspoon solicited Regnerus for the work, according to Tellez, the institute's president. Tellez said he sought money to help pay for the study from liberal philanthropists as well as Witherspoon's mostly socially conservative contributors. But no liberal individuals or groups gave money for the project, he said.

Regnerus, in an email to the Statesman, said, "the plan for the particular study that was carried out was generated by me, with the help of a variety of consultants."

Tellez said he approached Regnerus for the study because he had met the scholar at events sponsored by Witherspoon and found him to be "a darn good scholar, a careful scholar, (and) easy to work with."
"We knew that (the study) would probably, one way or the other, be a disappointment to some people. It would disappoint us, or donors, or people on our left," Tellez said, later adding, "We let the chips fall where they may."

Sorry but I have a hard time believing, in spite of the assurances, that the Witherspoon Institute, a conservative organization with a specific agenda, would approach someone to do a study and freely give what it calls "the largest grant given to faculty research" if it didn't have expectations of what it would be receiving.

Certain questions need to be asked of the parties involved in the creation of this study - specifically why did the Witherspoon Institute want to create such a study and what did it hope to accomplish?

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James Savik said...

So this was a study commissioned to "discover" the people who funded its per-conceived biases and the conclusions were already made regardless of the findings

Woodstock said...

You left out this quote from The Statesman article- "Regnerus, for his part, has continued to stand behind the results, even as an internal draft audit by Social Science Research, the journal that published the study, found "serious flaws" in the peer review process and concluded the journal never should have published his report." Sure looks like the publisher had an agenda to generate buzz (when confronted with that charge, the editor admitted as much). I guess they subscribe to the adage "There's no such thing as bad publicity." Perhaps it didn't occur to them that the magazine's reputation and integrity would take a nosedive over this.

Anonymous said...

Well also the university of Texas is doing a peer review of the paper because he admitted to not doing a lot of the research that is stated in the paper.

here is the link:

Gregory Peterson said...

One thing that can be done is to examine the intellectual integrity of the Witherspoon Institute.

Bernie Keefe aka OneOfTheWatchers said...

Good work Alvin!

Gregory Peterson said...

I don't think this posted to be reviewed, so I'll try again.

It turns out that a Witherspoon Institute book easily available to me. "The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market, and Morals by by Robert P. George & Jean Bethke Elshtain, editors. 2006."

So, I picked it up and started to read "Soft Despotism and Same Sex Marriage" by Seana Sugrue. She is an Associate Professor of Politics at Ave Maria University

I'm not an academic; I'm an eccentric artist. I also haven't had the time to read the essay completely, and don't have the time to go through the essay point by point.

But a quick impression so far is that Sugrue doesn't seem to realize (I hope) that in her zeal to defend heterosexual privilege, she is defending THE privileged against the "soft despotism" of minority rights.

She ignores the historical context in which the upper class John Locke wrote and presumed about marriage. Locke is talking about marriage, she is talking about "family. A family back then was embedded in a patriarchal unit generally called a household. A household could be just the nuclear family, but more often the nuclear family was embedded in the household...and the father in the nuclear family wasn't necessarily the patriarch of the household.

A household, especially an upper class one, could consist of more than one nuclear family, widows and widowers, the latter could be patriarchs, siblings, uncles and aunts who weren't the marrying kind, orphaned minors related in some way, apprentices in the family business, and servants...hired, indentured, enslaved.

So, today's typical other-sex marriages and families are the result of a an earlier "radical redefining" of marriage and family.

Sugrue is also not above name calling and showing her lack of knowledge about biology when she called same sex couples raising adopted children, "parasitic."

Oh right, that's just what parasites do, Sugre,...use their own resources to raise children to adulthood who aren't their biological offspring.