October 7, 2006

Child Abuse and Christian (Right) Science

Posted at 3:54 pm (Pacific Time)

Although Christian Right groups are highly suspicious of science in matters such as evolution and the origins of the universe, they like to argue that scientific research strongly supports their claims that homosexuality and pedophilia are linked.

The Family Research Council has produced what is perhaps the most extensive attempt to document this claim. It is an article by Timothy J. Dailey titled Homosexuality and Child Abuse.

With 76 footnotes, many of them referring to papers in scientific journals, this screed’s facade of scholarly rigor gives it some degree of truthiness. A careful check on what the sources actually say, however, belies this impression. Specifically, its central argument — that “the evidence indicates that homosexual men molest boys at rates grossly disproportionate to the rates at which heterosexual men molest girls” — doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

I’ve recently updated and expanded the section of my web site devoted to Facts About Homosexuality and Child Molestation. It now includes a detailed review of the main sources cited by Dailey and the FRC to support their claim. Some of the new material is summarized below. For more background and context for interpreting the studies, please see my web site.

In brief, the scientific sources cited by the FRC report don’t support their argument. Most of the studies they cited did not even assess the sexual orientation of abusers. Two of the studies explicitly concluded that sexual orientation and child molestation are unrelated. Only one study (Erickson et al., 1988) might be interpreted as supporting the FRC argument, and it failed to detail its measurement procedures and did not differentiate bisexual from homosexual offenders.

Here are my comments on the 9 main sources cited in the 2004 version of the FRC article.

1. Freund et al. (1989). Heterosexuality, homosexuality, and erotic age preference. Journal of Sex Research, 26, 107-117. As the FRC concedes, the findings from this study contradict their argument.Its abstract summarizes the authors’ conclusion: “Findings indicate that homosexual males who preferred mature partners responded no more to male children than heterosexual males who preferred mature partners responded to female children.”

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Copyright © 2006 by Gregory M. Herek. All rights reserved.

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October 6, 2006

Foley Scandal: Antidote to Potential NJ Backlash?

Posted at 12:44 am (Pacific Time)

The New Jersey Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision this month in Lewis v. Harris, the case challenging that state’s marriage laws.

Many gay rights attorneys are hopeful the Court will rule that same-sex couples have the right to marry in the Garden State. Such a ruling, however, could motivate conservative Christians nationally to come to the polls in large numbers in November, thereby foiling the Democrats’ hopes of taking control of one or both houses of Congress.

Now the Mark Foley scandal has created new uncertainty about the potential impact of a favorable New Jersey decision.

Is it possible that conservatives’ disgust over the Republican leadership’s handling of the scandal could neutralize their opposition to marriage equality? Might they stay home on election day, despite their concerns about marriage equality in New Jersey?

Or would a pro-gay ruling by the NJ Court revitalize conservatives and get them to the polls to vote Republican after all — especially in states with anti-marriage measures on the ballot?

Those states include Virginia, where Republican incumbent George Allen faces a strong challenge in the Senate race. Might Allen’s reelection chances be boosted by a pro-gay decision in New Jersey?

It seems likely that one important factor would be whether cultural conservatives believe Republican candidates deserve their votes despite the Foley debacle, or whether they now see Republicans as no better than Democrats on their issues.

Of course, if the Court rules against same-sex couples, the marriage equality issue will probably lose some of its national potency, at least in the 2006 elections. (Though it’s likely to remain important in the states with ballot measures.)

For now, however, the New Jersey ruling’s potential effect on the election outcome remains anyone’s guess.

Copyright © 2006 by Gregory M. Herek. All rights reserved.

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October 3, 2006

Anti-Gay Groups: Trying To Change The Subject

Posted at 11:14 am (Pacific Time)

As I anticipated in my Saturday post, antigay activists and their supporters have been seizing on the Foley scandal as an opportunity to link being gay with being a pedophile.

According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins issued a statement yesterday in which he complained that neither Republicans nor Democrats “seems likely to address the real issue, which is the link between homosexuality and child sexual abuse … ignoring this reality got the Catholic Church into trouble over abusive priests, and now it is doing the same to the House GOP leadership.”

An editorial in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal made a similar linkage, arguing that the Foley scandal should increase liberals’ support for the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay scoutmasters.

Just to repeat what I wrote on Saturday: The ranks of child abusers, pedophiles, and sexual predators include people of all sexual orientations (and, as explained on my website, many child molesters don’t even have a true adult sexual orientation). The same goes for people who engage in sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct in the workplace: They can be straight, gay, or bisexual.

But none of these groups are disproportionately likely to behave badly. A person’s sexual orientation isn’t related to his or her propensity for sexual abuse or engaging in other reprehensible acts.

Stereotypes routinely portray denigrated minority groups as a threat to the majority’s most vulnerable members. The myth that gay men are child molesters fits this mold. Predictably, it is being touted now by conservatives who’d like to shift the national discussion from questions about the congressional leadership to the more comfortable turf of gay-bashing.

Copyright © 2006 by Gregory M. Herek. All rights reserved.

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October 1, 2006

The Lighter Side of Paul Cameron

Posted at 10:31 am (Pacific Time)

Paul Cameron, the antigay activist and discredited psychologist who was declared persona non grata by the American Psychological Association back in the 1980s, continues to promote discrimination under the guise of science. My website includes extensive critiques of some of his “studies.”

Although Cameron is taken seriously by some of the Christian Right, most people are able to see his work for what it is. For a great example, see The Daily Show‘s Jason Jones skewering Cameron’s arguments for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on September 18. A portion of the “Tangled Up In Bleu” clip is available on The Daily Show’s website.

[The links for this post were updated on June 3, 2008.]

Copyright © 2006 by Gregory M. Herek. All rights reserved.

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