|Peter Sprigg, Family Research Council|
Today, the Family Research Council bragged in its Washington Update about testimony given by spokesman Peter Sprigg in New Hampshire. The testimony in question had to do with a bill banning ex-gay therapy for children. Ex-gay therapy is controversial in that it is supposed to be able to change one's sexual orientation.. States, such as California, Oregon, and New Jersey have passed laws against the practice, citing critics who contend that it is actual harmful. But FRC and other religious right groups have pushed back with testimony at legislative hearings:
In New Hampshire, it's double-your-trouble with two bills meant to take away freedom under the mask of "tolerance." The first is a bill that bans sexual reorientation therapy for children under 18, robbing parents of a crucial choice to help their confused kids. As if that weren't bad enough, liberals are also trying to award special rights on the basis of gender identity -- including using the government to punish businesses that designate bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers for men only and women only. FRC's Peter Sprigg was on hand in the Granite State to testify before the legislature on both attacks on locals' liberty. As he explained, the attacks on reorientation therapy usually have nothing to do with their effectiveness and everything to do with politics. And, as Peter points out, there is abundant anecdotal evidence that such therapies work. . . . Even the increasingly liberal American Psychological Association admits that "participants reporting beneficial effects in some studies perceived changes to their sexuality, such as in their sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual behavior, [and/or] sexual orientation identity." (To read Peter's full testimony, click here.)
I read Sprigg's testimony and found a few problems with his sources and claims.
The first one is the following:
. . . there is abundant anecdotal evidence that such therapies work. Many people say that they have been helped by such therapies to change from predominantly homosexual attractions, behaviors, or identity to predominantly heterosexual ones.
There is also scientific evidence. The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality has cited “600 reports of clinicians, researchers, and former clients – primarily from professional and peer-reviewed scientific journals” which show that “reorientation treatment has been helpful to many.”
The link which Sprigg alludes to doesn't exist. It's a broken page. My guess is that Sprigg is unaware of this because he has given the same talking points, almost word for word, before (more on that later). But for the record, the group he cites, The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, is a discredited organization. It has been criticized on more than one occasion about its attempt to funnel anti-lgbt junk science via astroturfing. This was pointed out by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2012:
In 1995, for example, NARTH featured Scott Lively, co-author of The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, at its annual conference. Lively’s book argues that the Nazi Party recruited gay men because of their inherent savagery and that gay men largely orchestrated the Holocaust — a claim roundly rejected by all reputable historians. NARTH has also promoted the work of Paul Cameron, who remains director of the Family Research Institute despite being ejected from the American Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association (ASA). The ASA declared, “Dr. Cameron has consistently misinterpreted and misrepresented sociological research on sexuality, homosexuality, and lesbianism.” One NARTH critic, a former member, says these associations are the results of work that has been patterned to conform to an ideology.
SPLC also points out the times NARTH has come under fire for one member, Gerald Schoenewolf, seemingly justifying slavery and another, George Rekers, caught coming back from a vacation with a 20-year-old male escort.
Citing bad sources isn't the only offense Sprigg is guilty of. He cited a 2009 American Psychological Association Task Force report, Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, to make this claim:
The findings in this bill declare that a 2009 APA task force “concluded that sexual orientation change efforts can pose critical health risks.” That exaggerates the task force findings; here is an excerpt of what the APA task force actually said [emphasis added]: “We conclude that there is a dearth of scientifically sound research on the safety of SOCE. Early and recent research studies provide no clear evidence of the prevalence of harmful outcomes among people who have undergone efforts to change their sexual orientation or the frequency of the occurrence of harm because no study to date of adequate scientific rigor has been explicitly designed to do so. Thus, we cannot conclude how likely it is that harm will occur from SOCE.”
So has it been scientifically proven that SOCE poses “critical health risks?” One would be hard-pressed to conclude that, given the numerous qualifying statements above: “a dearth of scientifically sound research”; “no clear evidence”; “no study to date of adequate scientific rigor”; “we cannot conclude how likely it is.”
I've written about Sprigg's citation of legitimate science on more than one occasion, thereby discovering that he has a habit of cherry-picking, i.e. omitting crucial parts of information. This time is no different.
The APA report is 140 pages and Sprigg didn't say from what page he pulled his passage. Luckily I managed to find the passage in full.
Sprigg cited it in a 2013 piece he wrote, Why Science Doesn't Support Orientation-Change Bans:
We conclude that there is a dearth of scientifically sound research on the safety of SOCE. Early and recent research studies provide no clear evidence of the prevalence of harmful outcomes among people who have undergone efforts to change their sexual orientation or the frequency of the occurrence of harm because no study to date of adequate scientific rigor has been explicitly designed to do so. Thus, we cannot conclude how likely it is that harm will occur from SOCE. However, studies from both periods indicate that attempts to change sexual orientation may cause or exacerbate distress and poor mental health in some individuals, including depression and suicidal thoughts."
The irony is that Sprigg's next paragraph in his 2013 piece is the exact one in his testimony in New Hampshire, thereby giving credibility to a charge of deliberate cherry-picking:
Has it been scientifically proven that SOCE causes harm? One would be hard-pressed to conclude that, given the numerous qualifying statements above: "a dearth of scientifically sound research"; "no clear evidence"; "no study to date of adequate scientific rigor"; "we cannot conclude how likely it is." The statement that SOCE "may" cause distress (not "has caused," "will cause," or "often causes") is about as weak as it could possibly be-amounting to little more than speculation.
Also, I should point out that his claim that the New Hampshire bill exaggerates the finding of the task force is also inaccurate. As the task force report shows in its table of contents, there is a detailed breakdown on the harms of ex-gay therapy.
Sprigg's bad testimony is a perfect example as to why SPLC declared his organization, the Family Research Council, to be a hate group. It has nothing to do with religious beliefs, but a willingness to distort, distract, and deceive while using religious beliefs as a cover.
It's something to remember because thanks to the last year's presidential election FRC has its immoral claws of influence deeply set into the White House. Rather than simply raising hell about it, the lgbt community should also show the reasons WHY the hell needs to be raised.