Friday, August 21, 2009

Religious right tries to smear the American Psychological Association

Not happy with the American Psychological Association (APA) coming out against reparative (ex-gay) therapy, some religious right members are now accusing the organization of bias and "approving of pedophilia."

Religious right online publication Lifesite News has come out with a piece, The Psychological Profession and Homosexuality: Lunatics Running the Asylum?, which I guess is supposed to "nail" the APA.

Well I'm sure it does to those not informed enough to look at some of the charges. Those who are informed enough can see several errors with Lifesite News' wannabe smear piece.

Let's see if I can break this down. The piece says the following:

The APA's latest report, done by a task force composed of psychologists with long records of homosexualist activism, also claims as "scientific facts" that "same-sex sexual attractions, behavior, and orientations per se are normal and positive variants of human sexuality-in other words, they are not indicators of mental or developmental disorders" and "no empirical studies or peer-reviewed research supports theories attributing same-sex sexual orientation to family dysfunction or trauma."

These unbelievable statements fly in the face of more than a century of scientific, peer-reviewed
studies and clinical observation that indicate that much homosexual behavior originates in deficient family relationships and is associated with a wide range of diseases and pathological behaviors.

A century of scientific and peer-reviewed studies? Hardly.

If one would click on the link, it would take him (or her) to one source: What Research Shows: NARTH's Response to the APA Claims on Homosexuality.

NARTH stands for National Association for the Research & Therapy of Homosexuality and the piece in question comes from NARTH's Journal of Human Sexuality.

According to the online publication Box Turtle Bulletin:

The Journal of Human Sexuality is actually a booklet published by NARTH themselves. In fact, it’s structured more like a book than a journal, with only one article whose title matches the title on the front cover. This journal is billed as “volume 1,” and was, according to its acknowledgment, conceived back when Joseph Nicolosi was still president at NARTH. At this rate, I would expect volume 2 to show up sometime in 2011.

This is very similar to another stunt pulled by George A. Rekers in 1996. He too created a one-off journal, also called The Journal of Human Sexuality which seems never to have made it to a second volume. It looks like NARTH decided to recycle Rekers old idea.

And as for this new journal’s “peer reviewed” status? Well, I guess when you have a paper written by an anti-gay activist posing as a therapist, and you send that paper off to other anti-gay activists posing as therapists, all of whom are members of your tight little NARTH club with no possibility of an actual independent review taking place, then maybe I would have to concede that the effort was “peer reviewed.” Unfortunately, that’s not the definition accepted by the scientific community.

This publication is not a dispassionate study of changes in sexual orientation. It is a cannon-blast of anti-gay animus in a long 94-page screed, a veritable anti-gay propaganda omnibus touching on all sorts of unrelated subjects including HIV/AIDS, alcohol and drug abuse, violence, psychiatric disorders, and “promiscuity as the new social norm.” As far as anti-gay propaganda goes, there’s little that’s missing here.

So that's distortion number 1.

Distortion Number 2:

The Lifesite News piece also says:

Studies have shown that homosexuals disproportionately come from families in which sons or daughters lack a healthy relationship with one or both of their parents, or in situations in which the homosexual was the victim of child sex abuse by a same-sex adult.

Homosexual behavior is also statistically associated with a host of diseases, disorders, and pathological behaviors, including
venereal and other diseases, promiscuity and unstable relationships, anxiety disorders, depression and suicide, alcoholism and drug abuse, domestic violence, pederasty, and early death.

Notice that the Lifesite report includes links to all of these claims. However, many of these links are to dubious sources:

The "unstable relationships" link connects to an inaccurate Family Research Council piece, Comparing the Lifestyles of Homosexual Couples to Married Couples. I broke down the flaws of that piece, including unfair comparisons between unmarried lgbt couples and married heterosexual couples and a reliance on outdated work, here.

The "pederasty" link connects to a NARTH report on a book published in the late 1970s, The Gay Report.

The Gay Report cannot be considered as indicative of the sexual habits of the lgbt community for a number of reasons that I laid out in this link, including the fact that the authors of The Gay Report were only working with 5,400 responses from questionnaires they sent out regarding lgbt sexual habits.

They even said so themselves:

We agreed at the outset not to pretend that these percentages represented the practices and views of all gay people—they reflected only our respondents.

The "depression and suicide" and "early death" links connect to work by discredited researcher Paul Cameron.

Distortion 3:

Even when the Lifesite News piece does connect to legitimate sources, it leaves out crucial details as to what these sources are actually saying:

Even the homosexual Gay and Lesbian Medical Association admits that homosexuals suffer disproportionate rates of disease and self-destructive behavior.


Following are the health issues GLMA’s healthcare providers have identified as most commonly of concern for gay men. While not all of these items apply to everyone, it’s wise to be aware of these issues.

GLMA's piece also places the blame of certain behaviors on society' s homophobia towards lgbts, like in the case of depression and anxiety:

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. Culturally sensitive mental health services targeted specifically at gay men may be more effective in the prevention, early detection, and treatment of these conditions.

Distortion 4:

The Lifesite piece also refers to the study by Dr. Robert Spitzer as proof that reparative therapy works:

Dr. Robert Spitzer, who has been been called the "architect" of the American Psychiatric Association's normalization of homosexuality in the 1970s, provoked outrage from the homosexualist establishment when he admitted in 2001 that his own investigations had convinced him that sexual reorientation therapy can work.

His study, published in the peer-reviewed Archives of Mental Health in 2003, found that a majority of his sample of 247 people had developed heterosexual urges or had ceased to be predominantly homosexual after only one year of therapy. None of the subjects said that they had been harmed in the process.

After presenting his paper before the American Psychiatric Association in 2001, Spitzer said: "I'm convinced from people I have interviewed...many of them...have made substantial changes toward becoming heterosexual. I came to this study skeptical. I now claim that these changes can be sustained."

Of course Lifesite omitted the following:

In 2001, psychologist Robert Spitzer published a controversial study that seemed to claim that small number of people can change their orientation from gay to heterosexual.

In 45-minute individual telephone calls with 143 “ex-gays” and 57 “ex-lesbians,” Spitzer asked them 60 questions dealing with their feelings and behavior before and after they allegedly changed their orientations. They also talked about their strategies, feelings and motives for changing. Many of these individuals were referred to Spitzer by “ex-gay” groups.

When Spitzer’s findings were made public, the anti-gay industry lauded him, making sure to mention that he was one of the principle people who led the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 decision to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

Spitzer himself went on record declaring that he was “appalled” at how his work was being simplified. He also published a column in the May 23, 2001 edition of The Wall Street Journal. He said that “complete change is uncommon.”

In addition, in a 2006 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Spitzer said that he now believes that some of those he interviewed for his study may have been either lying to him or themselves. - Ex-Gays Seek a Say in Schools, Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2006

In addition to all of these distortions, the Lifesite piece also attacks one Dr. Theo Sandfort for research he conduted, calling him a supporter of pedophilia The piece also links Sandfort to the APA by calling attention to the fact that he has been a "fellow" of the organization since 2002.

Now I am not aware of the research that was conducted by Sandfort and I have emailed him on clarification as to what in the world is Lifesite talking about.

I have had correspondence with Dr. Sandfort before regarding religious right distortion of his work.

I find it ironic that the religious right is attacking Dr. Sandfort seeing that in the past, various groups (including PFOX) has distorted his work to claim that homophobia does not play a part in the bad life choices that some gays make.

So all in all, rather than using credible information, Lifesite relies on smears and distorted science to make the case against the APA.

Unfortunately to some people, those smears and distorted science will go a long way.

Related posts:

Another professor cries foul over religious right misrepresentation of research

How religious right groups distort legitimate research to demonize the gay community

Another flawed piece of work courtesy of the Family Research Council

More homophobic lies from the Paul Cameron Poland tour

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1 comment:

Andy Armitage said...

Fascinating blog, Alvin. I don't have an email address for you, but would love you to contact me with a view to your writing something for the UK's Gay & Lesbian Humanist magazine, which I contribute to and have editorial input into. You can see it at, and its associated blog at Both those address will tell you something about us, and maybe interest some of your readers, too. My email address is andrewjarmitage[AT] Look forward to hearing from you. - Andy.