The big news from last week’s DOMA hearing was how Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) called out Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery for his distortion of a study.
Minnery cited a Department of Health and Human Services study to make the case that children do better in a heterosexual household as opposed to a same-sex household. Franken, however, proved that Minnery had distorted the study’s wording.
While everyone is reveling (with good reason) in this pivotal moment from the hearing, let’s not forget one thing.
What Minnery did was not an anomaly. His distortion was not a one-time thing from a lazy employee of an otherwise honorable organization.
Minnery’s misreading of study in order present a bad picture of same-sex households is commonplace in religious right data. Often times, religious right spokespeople will cite studies which have nothing to do with same-sex households in order to claim that these households are not the best place to raise children.
Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage committed this grievance last year by misrepresenting a study of abused children.
Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council committed the same intentional faux pas earlier this year by citing two studies, neither having anything to do with same-sex households.
And we’re not just talking about studies regarding households, either.When groups like Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, or the National Organization for Marriage aren’t busy scaring people with how the gay community wants to “recruit children,” they busy themselves distorting all sorts of legitimate data, creating conclusions that the researchers never intended or worked for.
We know this because at least 11 of these researchers complained about this. They include:
- National Institute of Health director Francis Collins, who rebuked the right-wing American College of Pediatricians for falsely claiming that he stated sexual orientation is not hardwired by DNA.
- Six researchers of a 1997 Canadian study (Robert S. Hogg, Stefan A. Strathdee, Kevin J.P. Craib, Michael V. Shaughnessy, Julio Montaner, and Martin T. Schehter), who complained in 2001 that religious right groups were distorting their work to claim that gay men have a short life span.
- The authors of the book Unequal Opportunity: Health Disparities Affecting Gay and Bisexual Men in the United States (Professors Richard J. Wolitski, Ron Stall, and Ronald O. Valdiserri), who complained that their work was being distorted by Focus on the Family.
- University College London professor Michael King, who complained that the American Family Association was distorting his work on depression and suicide in LGBT individuals.
- University of Utah professor Lisa Diamond, who complained that NARTH (the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality), a group which also share board members with the American College of Pediatricians, distorted her research on sexual orientation.
- Dr. Carol Gilligan, Professor of Education and Law at New York University, who complained that former Focus on the Family head James Dobson misrepresented her research to attack LGBT families.
- Dr. Kyle Pruett, Ph.D., a professor of child psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, who has also complained that Focus on the Family distorted his work.
- Dr. Robert Spitzer, Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University, who has consistently complained that religious right groups distorted his study to claim that the LGBT orientation is easily changeable.
- Judith Stacey, Professor of Sociology at New York University, who has had to, on more than one occasion, cry foul over how religious right groups distorted her work on LGBT families.
- Greg Remafedi, Professor at the University of Minnesota, who has complained several times about how religious right groups such as the American College of Pediatricians and PFOX have distorted his work, all to no avail. The American College of Pediatricians refused his request to remove his work from their site.
- And late last year, John Horgan, a science journalist and Director of the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology, became the 11th researcher to complain.
These are the reasons why many of us are celebrating Franken’s dressing down of Minnery. It revealed to so many what a lot of us in the gay community have known about the religious right for years – that all of their talk about “morals” and “values” and “personally held religious beliefs” are a dodge. They are a smokescreen which these organizations use to hide their deceptions.
When it comes to the gay community, the vast majority of religious right studies and data have been fallacious distortions designed to exploit fear, not educate.
It’s not unintentional. These folks – Maggie Gallgher, Peter Sprigg, James Dobson, et. al. – know that when they misrepresent studies, particularly in front of Congress, they are committing fraud but they don’t care as long as they can get away with it.
After last week, however, it will be more difficult for them to get away with it.