Campus Climate 2010: Defining The Terms

As promised, I’m going to be reporting this week on the 2010 State of Higher Education for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People. This new study is a tome of information about the experiences of individuals on college campuses but also an important guide to understanding campus climate research. I won’t be sharing all of its contents; in fact, I strongly urge any professionals out there who work with higher education to purchase your own copy through Campus Pride.

While this is a thorough research study, there is still valuable (if not crucial) data through its pages that demonstrate a sense of urgency for our whole society. Universities are often seen as liberal, welcoming environments, but this exhaustive study shows that for members of the queer community, the campus climate is often anything but welcoming.

I will be offering various posts about it throughout the week, but I want to start today with a primer for how this research was conducted. Because of its scope and density, it can be hard to approach, and there is a lot to be learned simply from the methods of the researchers. I hope this post is a helpful guide for understanding the results.

Overlapping Identities

What makes this study so complex is that the sample has a variety of overlapping identities. It’s not quite as simple as having one control and one variable. There are numerous variables, and aspects of the sample overlap in ways that can be confusing at first.

For example, the 5,149 respondents included undergraduate students (46%), graduate students (17%), faculty members (10%), staff members (21%), and administrators (7%) from campuses in all 50 states. That means that throughout the results, “respondents” does not mean just students. Obviously, the data is analyzed to control for different roles on campus; however, most of the results speak to all respondents’ perceptions.

Consider, then, the different intersections of gender identity, gender expression, sexual identity, and race and it’s clear to see that there are a lot of different overlapping groups. This is all important to understand for folks who might think that campus climate is only determined by students, or for folks who think there are only two discreet groups: queer folks and non-queer folks.

Campus Climate

It is obviously important to define the concept of campus climate, since that is what is measured by this study. There is a very detailed review of how climate has been defined as well as the different ways it has (and hasn’t) been studied. I think the Transformational Tapestry Model conceptualized by Rankin and Reason (2008) offers the best understanding of this concept. Campus climate is defined as

current attitudes, behaviors and standards, and practices of employees and students of an institution.

According to the model, there are six independent, yet interconnected areas that influence campus climate:

» Access and retention (i.e., includes access to higher education and provision of the necessary supports for success and retention)

» Research and scholarship (i.e., includes encouragement of diversity in educational and scholarly activity)

» Inter- and intra-group relations (i.e., includes diverse student body with educationally purposeful interventions and interactions)

» Curriculum and pedagogy (i.e., includes diversity education and proactive educational interventions)

» University policies and services (i.e., includes university commitment to diversity and social justice through response to harassment, and written and behavioral policies)

» External relationships (i.e., includes acknowledgment of and response to external influences in society and government)

When a campus climate is perceived as negative, it can impact students’ educational performance, attrition, and adjustment, as well as the personal and professional development and retention of employees.

In terms of sexual identity, there has been limited study of campus climates, and in terms of gender identity (particularly for those outside the gender binary), there has been virtually none. This is by far the most comprehensive study of campus climates for LGBTQQ individuals.

Sexual Identity (LGBQ) and Gender Identity (Trans and GNC)

One of the most interesting things about this study is what it reveals about how individuals identify. Participants were asked a variety of questions with the opportunity to open answer any of them. They were asked about their birth sex, their gender identity, their gender expression, their sexual identity (the term they use), and who they are attracted to. This was then coded to create two general groups.

In terms of sexual identity, respondents were grouped as LGBQ or Heterosexual. Due to a small number of responses, respondents who identified as “asexual” or “don’t know” were not included in analyses regarding sexual identity. It is interesting to note here that while 53% of respondents were gay, lesbian or similar, 12.3% identified as bisexual and 15.8% identified as queer. This might surprise some who are unaware of the way “queer” is growing in popularity as a self-identifier. It was a more prominent term for students (about 20%), but was also used by faculty (11.2 %), staff (9.6%), and administrators (7.5%).

In terms of gender identity, respondents were grouped as men and women, transgender masculine spectrum (birth sex female), transgender feminine spectrum (birth sex male), and gender non-conforming (GNC). Another interesting note here is that more individuals identified as GNC (8.1%) than as transmasculine or transfeminine combined (5.4%). This speaks to the same sense of ambiguity achieved by the sexual identity of “queer.”

It’s important to note that sexual identity and gender identity are two separate breakdowns of the sample and are not mutually exclusive. There are likely respondents who would fall under both the LGBQ and Trans/GNC groupings as well as respondents who only fall into one group or the other. This is important to remember when analyzing the results in regard to these two identifiers.

Intersections with Racial Identity

This study also looks at the interactions of race with sexual identity and gender identity. A bit less than a quarter of respondents identified as one of the “People of Color” categories, which included “African, “African American/Black,” Alaskan Native, “Asian,” “Asian American,” Southeast Asian,” “Caribbean/West Indian,” “Latin American,” “Latino(a)/Hispanic,” “Middle Eastern,” “Native American,” and “Pacific Islander/Hawaiian Native.”

Respondents could identify with multiple identities. I think it’s helpful to see the care taken to create inclusive categories for these identities, which is the only reason I reproduce them here.

Harassment

I also want to offer the definition of the word “harassment” used by the study, as some may not understand the breadth of this term. Harassment is:

Exclusionary (e.g., shunned, ignored), intimidating, offensive and/or hostile conduct (harassing behavior) that had interfered with their ability to work or learn on their campus within the past year.

This is a slightly more nuanced definition from United States Code.

Forms of harassment revealed by the study include:

» Receiving derogatory remarks
» Feeling deliberately ignored or excluded
» Feeling isolated or left out
» Observing others staring
» Being singled out as a resident authority to their identity
» Feeling intimidated or bullied
» Fearing getting a bad grade because of a hostile classroom environment
» Receiving low performance evaluations
» Receiving derogatory written comments
» Being assumed of admission or hire because of identity
» Fearing for physical safety
» Being victim of a crime
» Being target of graffiti
» Being target of physical violence

What To Expect…

In the coming days, I’ll be writing with more detail about the study’s findings. Look forward to reading about what respondents are experiencing, what perceptions respondents have of campus climate, individual and institutional responses to campus climate, and potential best practices.

This is important research and I hope that my posts can make it more tangible for folks who won’t have access to the full study or who might struggle to wade through all the data.

If you have any questions about what I’ve shared so far, please feel free to include them in the comments.



I’m Sorry, NARTH, I’m So Sorry…

The Tenth Doctor on Doctor Who said “sorry” a lot, but when he said, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” it meant he knew something very sad about the people he was saying it to that they were not (and might never be) aware of.

To the National Association for the Research & Therapy of Homosexuality: I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.

I got this piddling email last night from the President of NARTH, one Julie Hamilton. If I could sum up the small treatise in one word, it would be “Nuh-uh!” I’ll let the abstract speak for itself:

The purpose of this article is to address misperceptions and/or misinformation regarding NARTH. Although some critics will remain skeptical and perhaps some even antagonistic, others desire accurate information. This article is written for the latter group, those who might be interested to know the facts about NARTH’s mission and purpose.

I have zero respect for NARTH (and I’m not just “skeptical” about it). But for the sake of argument, I’ll pretend to be someone desiring “accurate” information. However, my frame of reference will be the American Psychological Association’s report and resolution on reparative therapy from last August.

Let’s check out their claims:

NARTH is Not Anti-gay, nor is NARTH a Hate-Based Organization

Critics and antagonists have labeled NARTH, its leaders, and members as “bigots” and having “hatred” against homosexuality. Simply stated, these accusations are completely false. NARTH’s leaders value and esteem both those who have embraced homosexual identities as well as those who seek change of orientation or identity.

Actually, my understanding is that that’s true, not false. If you promote the idea that homosexuality is something that it makes sense to deny, then you’re promoting negative views on homosexuality. It’s right there in your name, NARTH; you suggest that homosexuality is something for which people need therapy. This only reinforces many of the hateful attitudes already present in our culture.

NARTH Recognizes Client Diversity

NARTH values the individual’s right to choose – both individuals who are comfortable with their homosexual identities and those who want to explore other options. NARTH acknowledges that some people are comfortable claiming a homosexual identity, and we respect their freedom to do so. At the same time, NARTH recognizes that others choose not to embrace a homosexual identity, are distressed by unwanted homosexual attractions, and would like to explore other options for their lives.

It’s deceitful to suggest that homosexual attractions are optional. All of the research the APA has done demonstrates that they are not.

In our culture, those who are dissatisfied with their unwanted homosexual attractions and choose to pursue change are often treated with disrespect, mockery and ridicule, as are the therapists who try to help them.

It could be because there is no valid research that supports what you practice and an overwhelming majority of professionals in your field reject the work that you do as flawed and hurtful.

NARTH Therapists Honor Client Self Determination: Clients Choose Their Own Goals while Therapists Avoid Imposing an Agenda

NARTH defends the rights of clients to seek treatment for unwanted homosexual attractions. Individuals who are dissatisfied with their unwanted homosexual attractions and enter therapy seeking change should be respected and not be coerced into embracing identities which clash with their deeply held values or religious beliefs.

Even the most deeply held values and beliefs are changeable. Sexual orientation is not. Besides, the APA found that the benefits of reparative therapy can also be provided “within an affirmative and multiculturally competent framework.” While people are entitled to hold onto their beliefs, it is deceitful to suggest that a coherence with those beliefs can be realized through therapy.

As the APA report said, “telic congruence based on stigma and shame is unlikely to result in psychological well-being.” In other words, it’s not always in patients’ interest to help them maintain beliefs that are incompatible with their sexual orientation.

Reorientation Therapy Includes Many Different Mainstream Approaches to Therapy

Reorientation therapy is simply psychological care aimed at helping clients achieve their goals regarding their sexual attractions, sexual orientations and/or sexual identities. Reorientation is not decidedly different from other therapies. There are many psychological approaches to helping clients with unwanted homosexual attractions. All approaches supported by NARTH are mainstream approaches to psychotherapy.

This is misleading. The APA resolved that mental health professionals should “avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts.” Any of NARTH’s efforts would fall into this category. NARTH itself falls into this category. After whining about language like “cure” and “conversion,” Hamilton makes this very point:

NARTH encourages its members to assist those who seek help for unwanted homosexual attractions, attractions which seldom occur in isolation from other issues commonly treated in therapy.

See? The help for “unwanted homosexual attractions” shouldn’t be to try to make them not homosexual; it should be to try to make them not unwanted.

While Success Rates are Similar to Some other Issues, Therapy for Unwanted Homosexuality Seems to be held to a Higher Standard

While studies on therapy for unwanted homosexual attractions seem to yield varying success rates, ranging from 30%-70%, these rates seem to be no different than success rates for many other therapeutic issues.

This is also misleading. After a thorough critical review of research, the APA resolved “that there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation.” Even the data that NARTH uses to defend its approach does not justify the suggestion that reparative therapy is “as successful” as other forms of treatment, as this point implies.

Therapeutic Attempts to Change Sexual Orientation are not found to be Harmful

Although the media and even some professionals have reported otherwise, the APA Task Force recently reported that the research on whether or not change attempts are harmful is inconclusive.

The word “truthiness” comes to mind. The study did in fact find there was evidence to indicate individuals experienced harm, including “loss of sexual feeling, depression, suicidality, and anxiety.”

Oh, and did you know that NARTH is quite transphobic? Given their eagerness to promote gender conformity, it shouldn’t be surprising, but read this:

On the note of harm, it interesting that it is considered acceptable within the mental health field to assist a five year old boy in identifying as a girl or to administer hormone treatment to a ten or twelve year old child to physically change the child’s biological sex, but offering talk therapy to an adult who would rather not be homosexual is thought to be harmful.

As I’ve already intimated, the main point of this document is to whine, “Whaaaaaaa!”

One more defensive point.

NARTH is Neither Right-Winged, nor is NARTH a Religious Organization

Although the critics often describe NARTH as a right-wing, religious organization, NARTH is neither right-wing, nor religious. Rather, NARTH is a scientific, secular organization.

This may be. I wouldn’t call NARTH scientific, given that they ignore an incredible wealth of science so they can blindly continue doing what they do. We also know that many (if not most (if not all)) reparative therapy outlets are housed in religious organizations.

In the end, NARTH’s attempts to not look anti-gay amount to nothing. Everything that they stand for is bunk, and the end effect is to perpetuate negative opinions of homosexuality.

NARTH is a joke and they are harming our nation. On a sadder note, they are doing great harm to themselves through their ignorant ideas. I’m sorry, NARTH, I’m so sorry.

If this brief refutation of their points has captured your interest, feel free to read the full NARTH document and the full APA Report. Compare their legitimacy for yourself.



Religion Motivates Racism: The Supporting Research

Yes! It’s another research study being featured on ZackFord Blogs! As per usual, I’ll break things down and share some highlights so you get the most out of the research without digging through the whole report yourself.

Today we’re looking at “Why Don’t We Practice What We Preach? A Meta-Analytic Review of Religious Racism” by Hall, Matz, & Wood, published December 16, 2009 in Personality and Social Psychology Review (hat tip: Joe.My.God.). The goal of this study is to look at how religiosity impacts racism. The results may or may not be surprising, but they’re certainly interesting.

Before we even look at the abstract, I just want to clarify what a meta-analysis is. In this study, the researchers looked at 55 studies conducted between 1964 (when the Civil Rights Act passed) and 2008 and developed measures to synthesize the results of all of those different studies into one cohesive report of conclusions. In other words, the report we’re reading today tells us what we can learn from 40 years of studies on the topic of religious racism.

The Abstract

Here’s the gist:

A meta-analytic review of past research evaluated the link between religiosity and racism in the United States since the Civil Rights Act. Religious racism partly reflects intergroup dynamics. That is, a strong religious in-group identity was associated with derogation of racial out-groups. Other races might be treated as out-groups because religion is practiced largely within race, because training in a religious in-group identity promotes general ethnocentrism, and because different others appear to be in competition for resources. In addition, religious racism is tied to basic life values of social conformity and respect for tradition. In support, individuals who were religious for reasons of conformity and tradition expressed racism that declined in recent years with the decreased societal acceptance of overt racial discrimination. The authors failed to find that racial tolerance arises from humanitarian values, consistent with the idea that religious humanitarianism is largely expressed to in-group members. Only religious agnostics were racially tolerant.

Basically, religious people see other races as other religions. Because they see their own religion as morally superior, they are more likely to see other races (religions) as morally inferior. Also, the more likely people are to conform and uphold tradition, the more likely they are to be racist. As we know from recent disaster relief efforts in Haiti, religious groups are more concerned with helping (or converting and then helping) members of their own religion, which reflects what the researchers found that humanitarian values do not motivate racial tolerance.

And yeah, did you see that last little part? The only group who was found to be consistently racially tolerant was the group that regularly questioned religion. Huh.

Read on for more detailed excerpts from the study!

Considering Religious Identity

First, consider the ways that simply identifying with a religious group might motivate racism (p. 3, emphases added):

To the extent that religion tends to be practiced within race, people of other races may appear to belong to religious out-groups. Thus, one basis for the religious identity–racism link is that race serves as a proxy for religious affiliation. Another reason for this link is that people who strongly identify with a religion may be ethnocentric in general. Especially when people undergo early socialization into a particular religion, they might develop a strong tendency to differentiate their own faith from others, and social categorization that contrasts an “us” as opposed to “them” might generalize to other social distinctions including race (Altemeyer, 2003). Further supporting race distinctions, people who appear to be different from the self may be judged to hold different values, perhaps values that are in competition for resources such as political representation or even religious converts. Such perceived competition promotes intergroup prejudice (Sherif, 1966). For example, religious fundamentalists discriminated against homosexuals and single mothers to the extent that these groups were judged to threaten their personally important values (Jackson & Esses, 1997).

It seems as though subscribing to religious belief motivates a characterization of “other” as “bad.” This fits with what Dahlia Lithwick wrote in Slate today about how people’s disgust with homosexuality leads them to condemn it (a worthwhile read itself).

Religious racism also correlates with fundamentalist religious beliefs as well as extrinsic religiosity (religion motivated by social status, security, and acceptance from others) (p.3, emphases added):

Like religion, racism is a set of beliefs that explain societal traditions, especially those associated with social hierarchies involving White dominance in America. Consistent with this reasoning, stronger values of social conformity and traditionalism are associated with greater intergroup prejudice (Schwartz, 1996). Similarly, political conservatives in the United States are more likely than liberals to endorse ethnocentrism and racism (Federico & Sidanius, 2002; Napier & Jost, 2008). Also relevant, the traditional values associated with the Protestant work ethic are central components of ambivalent racism (I. Katz & Hass, 1988) and have been linked with the expression of modern racism (McConahay, 1986) and symbolic racism (Tarman & Sears, 2005).

Studies have also shown that highly religious people “endorse benevolent values of humanitarianism, which reflect selflessness in relations with close others…but not universalism, which involves accepting diversity and expressing concern for the welfare of all people and nature” (p. 4). In other words, humanitarianism itself does not promote racial tolerance because it does not explicitly address out-groups.

Individuals who were intrinsically religious (i.e. “committed to religion as an end in itself”) were more overtly racially tolerant, but were not necessarily less racist (p. 4):

…intrinsically religious people may report racial tolerance largely because of a desire to appear nonracist (Batson & Stocks, 2005) but nevertheless may show racial prejudice when it is indirectly measured.

They talk the talk of tolerance, but they don’t walk the walk of tolerance.

The study also looked at agnosticism, or what they call a quest motivation (a spiritual quest or readiness to face existential questions,  acknowledge religious doubts, and accept change). This definition totally confirms my point of view that some clear distinctions can be made between agnosticism and atheism, though the study found that “quest and racial tolerance in the general population are best understood in terms of a lack of religiosity” (p. 4). The important piece here though is that there were positive associations between quest and racial tolerance.

Some Interesting Findings – Imagery, Cognitive Style, Doubt, and Sex Differences

Here are some of the other interesting ideas from the discussion and conclusion (p. 10, emphasis added):

A related reason why religious in-groups may be prejudiced toward dissimilar others is that the divine in religious worship is often imbued with in-group attributes. That is, religious figures are constructed in believers’ own images. As Xenophanes in the sixth century B.C. noted, “Greek gods were invariably fair skinned and blue-eyed whereas African gods were invariably dark skinned and dark-eyed (joking that cows would surely worship gods that were strikingly cowlike)” (quoted in Epley, Waytz, & Cacioppo, 2007, p. 865).

This discussion point reminds me so much of the movie Dogma (the linked clips have spoilers!). How different would Catholicism be with “Buddy Christ” instead of a crucifix? What if Jesus was black? What if God really was a woman? Imagery reflects and impacts believers in profound ways.

Here we see the way dualistic thinking or belief in one truth over other ways of thinking has profoundly negative consequences (p. 10):

Religious fundamentalism is associated with a rigid, dogmatic cognitive style that preferences one truth and way of being over others and thereby promotes in-group favoritism and out-group derogation. In support, the positive correlation between fundamentalism and prejudice disappeared after controlling for authoritarianism. Thus, the religious fundamentalism–racism relation plausibly was because of authoritarian beliefs as well as conformity values.

In other words, if you don’t believe that there is only one true set of answers to life’s questions, you’re less likely to be racist.

Their research found that “quest” more often reflected agnostic doubt about religion than it did a type of religion itself. Since it was the questioning agnostics who were more likely to express racial tolerance, this added to their conclusion that “religiosity is not associated with racial tolerance” (p. 11).

Another interesting metaregression used distinctions between men and women’s motivations for religiosity to confirm the way values and prejudice are related (p. 11, emphases added):

Additional support for our inference that basic life values underlie religious racism comes from supplementary analyses on the sex composition of the samples. Religious racism should vary with sex because women, compared with men, tend to hold stronger benevolent values that promote religiosity and stronger universalist values that promote tolerance toward out-group members (Schwartz & Rubel, 2005). ….

studies with higher percentages of women were more likely to report that religiosity promoted racial tolerance. In summary, analyses on the attributes of the participants in the original studies were consistent with our claim that basic life values underlie the religion–prejudice relation.

Conclusion

In addition to concluding that “the intergroup dynamics established by religious identification along with conventional life values appeared to drive religious racism” (p. 11), the researchers also defend the generalizability of their findings (p. 11, emphases added):

The participants in the studies we reviewed were predominantly White Christians in the United States. To what extent can our conclusions about religiosity and prejudice be generalized to other cultures and religious faiths? Given that divinities are accorded attributes of the religious groups and that all religions teach moral superiority, we anticipate that religious group identification is typically associated with out-group derogation. An additional reason to suspect that our findings hold across world religions comes from evidence that the conservative values that promote both religiosity and racism are stable across cultures and across religious faiths. …

Moreover, we found no relation between the endorsement of religious doctrine specific to the Christian faith and racial prejudice. It thus seems that the motives to be religious also are a motivator of racism, and these motives appear to be broadly applicable as a framework for understanding religious racism.

So, next time you hear someone arguing that religion can be a force for good in the world, ask them, “at what cost?” and use this study to support your argument. If we want to have a real conversation about “Science vs. Religion,” we can just look at the mounting evidence confirming the negative impacts of religion on society. It’s disturbing and alarming, but honestly, it’s not that surprising.

Some related posts:

» Society Is Better Off Without Religion: The Supporting Research (12/7/09)
» We Have To Stop Letting God Be A Crutch For Hate (11/6/09)



Some Day 9 Mid-Day Updates, Suspect Classes, and Mainstream Coverage

I have to say, today’s testimony is dull, because it’s clear what the defense is trying to do ad nauseam and it’s just not working. Dr. Gregory Herek is testifying on the following three points:

1. The nature of sexual orientation and how it’s understood in sociology and psychology.
2. The immutability of sexual orientation.
3. The stigma and prejudice against gays and lesbians and how that intersects with Prop 8.

Herek made it quite clear the beginning of his testimony that sexual orientation as a general concept has three intersecting components: sexual attraction, sexual behavior, and sexual self-identity. All the studies show that while there are some variations between how an individual identifies with all three, they usually align.

I often use the chart at right (click to embiggen) to help folks understand that there are a variety of independent components to gender and sex identities. Every individual might experience or identify differently with the various continua, but any combination can allow for a normal and healthy identity. Most important to note is that it’s not any “different” for “homosexuals.”

Despite this, the defense continues to cite ancient studies in hopes of demonstrating that there is no clear way to define “homosexuality,” and so there is no way to identify sexual orientation as a suspect class. Dr. Herek consistently reiterates the same working definition, but what’s important to note is that defining homosexuality is no different than defining heterosexuality. We certainly don’t make heterosexuals prove through a measure of their attractions or behaviors that they are heterosexual before they marry an opposite-sex partner.

An important comparison is religion. Religion is (or at least ought to be) freely chosen, but it is considered a suspect class. What “defines” a Christian? Would they have to prove their Christianity to the court? What if they had a revelation right in the middle of their testimony… would that be enough? Technically, I was baptized, so even though I’ve written extensively about my atheism, there are some people who would say I will always be “Catholic.” It frustrates me that the defense is wasting our time with this junk science when precedent shows that it really doesn’t do anything to impugn the plaintiffs’ case .

Anyways, that’s what’s happening today, and the plaintiffs will be rest today after some other videos they plan to show (which I suspect are more of the deposition tapes). Here are some other links to check out!

New York Times: Chinese Christians Are the Focus of Same-Sex Marriage Case – I don’t agree with the headline exactly, but it’s an interesting look at the religious groups William Tam works with.

More stories about William Tam’s testimony: Prop. 8 backer’s function in campaign disputed (SF Gate) and Going Hostile: Boies & Co. Attack Motivations of Prop. 8 Backers

Coverage of this morning’s testimony: Mid-day report: Day 9 Prop 8 trial (Keen News Service), Prop 8 trial witness: Being gay not a choice (Seattle Times)

And here are a number of great pieces on Huffington Post worth looking at today!

Mayor Jerry Sanders: Proud to Testify for Marriage Equality

Hak-Shing William Tam, Prop. 8 Backer, Claims Gays More Likely To Be Pedophiles

What Is Really on Trial in the Prop 8 Case? (Hint: “Knowledge.” Read the piece to find out more!)

Why Straight People Should Be Following the Prop. 8 Federal Trial

That last piece fits really well with my piece from earlier in the week, Why You Should Absolutely Care About The Prop 8 Trial (And How!). This weekend, I’ll also be working on a piece on why this case is important to atheists.

Check back later tonight for more updates on today’s proceedings, or as always, check the archive to catch up on the trial.



Protect Marriage, Day 5: Screw Scientific Inquiry (And Other Tidbits)

First, some tidbits about Protect Marriage.

It might not have any significance, but I have to point out that the Protect Marriage blog is under some odd management. There is a post stickied to the top about Monday’s temporary injunction by the Supreme Court. It’s been there all week. There was no replacement when the indefinite decision was delivered on Wednesday. It’s awkward and no longer relevant; it isn’t really even doing much for them. Also, their penultimate post from yesterday (Plaintiffs’ Witness Trend Continues) was bumped up above the post that only went up very late last night (Are We There Yet?). I checked to see if it had been tweaked in any way, but it was the same as before. Perhaps they realized how egregious the other post was and wanted to bury it a bit. Still, I find it all a bit peculiar.

I also have to mention with greatest disappointment that I was totally excluded from the “bloggers-only” update call they advertised for this evening. I had sent an email earlier in the week, and even followed up this morning with an incredibly polite voicemail. I didn’t even get a polite reply saying, “Sorry, this is only for people willing to spread our vitriol.” I was summarily ignored. I am SO curious what’s on that call. (Anybody want to set up a fake site to crosspost their spin so we can get access to these mysterious calls?)

Anyways, let’s turn now to the latest spin from Andy Pugno of Protect Marriage’s General Counsel. Only one update today, but boy is it a doozie. Today’s testimony and the tactics of the cross-examination show how clearly ignorant the defense is on all matters of scientific inquiry, research methods, and just general logic. Still, Pugno claims, “Plaintiffs Can’t Contradict Our Position.”

This morning’s session of trial found expert witness Dr. Michael Lamb, a child development psychologist put on the stand to testify for same-sex marriage, having to admit under cross examination by Prop 8 attorney David Thompson that there exists no body of substantial research that contradicts our claim that children are best raised by a married mother and father.

I want you to note two things about this opening paragraph. First, Pugno identifies (accurately) Dr. Lamb as a “child development psychologist.” That’s going to be important in a few paragraphs.

Second, note the complete fallibility of his argument: he boasts there is no proof for a negative. It does not matter whether there is any evidence actually supporting their claim that children are “best raised” by a married mother and father. It only matters if there is anything that proves that wrong. Hypothetically, the only thing that could prove that wrong is significant evidence that same-sex couples can raise children better than heterosexual couples, as opposed to just comparably.

In fact, he had to admit that the benefits known to flow to children of married parents are significantly stronger when the child has a biological connection to both parents—which is clearly something impossible for any same-sex couple to achieve.

That’s actually the complete opposite of what he did. I’ll talk more about this later in my roundup of the day, but the entire cross-examination involved the defense attorney citing a study decades older than the research Dr. Lamb was working with and trying to make the conclusion that because the conclusions are different, “science is wrong” (and yes, I’m actually quoting the attorney). Dr. Lamb pointed out that none of the studies found any significant difference between connections to adoptive parents and birth parents. Further, the defense was trying to use “fatherless” studies (which meant the father abandoned his heterosexual wife) to draw conclusions about lesbian couples (who would technically be “fatherless,” but had nothing to do with the studies they were citing).

As an adoptee myself, I took deep offense to the kinds of claims they were trying to make. I have incredibly loving parents and I don’t think of them as anything but my parents. To suggest, as Pugno reiterates here, that biological connections are “significantly stronger,” completely insults and invalidates adoptive families like mine in favor of some bizarre essentialist position that no studies reinforce.

Beyond some of his interesting opinions about adjustment of children raised by homosexual couples, it is noteworthy that Dr. Lamb based his expert testimony solely on research documents completed by others, as he has never completed a single study of his own on the subject.  Despite being offered as an expert in this case, he is not actually a clinical psychologist.  He has never treated children raised by gay couples. In fact he has never treated a patient at all.  He’s never interviewed a single child raised by gay men or lesbians, and his last interview of any child was more than 20 years ago.

Consider this: Do you have to administer therapy to be a psychologist? No. In fact, many psychologists don’t. They do this thing called “research,” where instead of regularly serving clients they “do research.” Just like other scientists, they design studies and collect data, data which then inform the work of the practicing psychologists. And as Pugno pointed out above, Dr. Lamb is a “child development psychologist.” And his specialty is meta-analysis, which means he studies ALL of the different research that is done and works to create more in-depth and solid conclusions, a synergy of knowledge if you will. I can’t imagine how that could possibly inform his expertise on—oh wait.

Get ready, because this next paragraph might be Pugno’s ultimate demise (though, not to any of his followers).

When you synthesize the hours of testimony provided this morning, two points come in to focus: the plaintiffs have done absolutely nothing to disprove the belief that the optimal social and personal outcomes of children are best achieved by being raised by their biological married parents, and that such a notion is a reasonable and rational reason for people to have voted for Prop 8.

Disprove the belief.

This is why I get frustrated with LGBT activists who are overly concerned with catering to religious communities. It is catering to religion that keeps us where we are. I write this blog to dismantle the privilege beliefs have, so that it’s not just good enough for people to believe. There has to be evidence to support.

WHERE IS THE BURDEN OF PROOF? If I say there is free ice cream and you say you don’t know of any free ice cream, that doesn’t automatically make me right. In fact, you would probably not believe there is free ice cream until you see (and receive) said free ice cream. At that point, beliefs are irrelevant, because we would know there is ice cream, and neither of us would have to believe it anymore.

If you say there are “optimal outcomes” to being raised by “biological married parents,” you have to show that there are, in fact, such outcomes. You can’t just believe it to be true. And in fact, all of Dr. Lamb’s testimony demonstrated that while having married parents is great, there is NOTHING that makes biological or heterosexual couples any better at raising kids. Thus, their argument is moot, regardless of how many times they repeat it.

Again, I will reiterate that the testimony of all the plaintiffs’ experts to this point—essentially a social policy debate—should instead be brought forward in a legislative or congressional hearing where it is the job of the legislative branch of government to make those decisions.  That is not what the courts are there for.

And to Mr. Pugno, I will suggest you open a history textbook (and do your best to overcome how bored you get). This is actually exactly what the courts are for. (Psst, that’s why you’re in court!)



How Long Until We Have Campus Atheist Resource Centers?

In my post yesterday, I argued that challenges to religious beliefs should be pursued despite the emotional defensiveness such challenges often spur. Such self-victimization is really a façade for cognitive dissonance, cognitive dissonance that is never addressed if we allow the defensiveness to sway us. Respecting faith has the consequence of reinforcing dualism and stifling an extremely personal form of cognitive development by allowing beliefs to go unchallenged. Is it possible to honor the racial, ethnic, and cultural intersections of our students’ worldviews while challenging the privilege many have to hold such worldviews unquestioningly? Yes, and I think we have to.

It shouldn’t be too long before the work of evolutionary psychologists like Hank Davis and Gregory Paul are synthesized with our existing models of cognitive and moral development. These are the kinds of questions we need to be asking: Can an individual ever truly appreciate social contracts and individual rights (Kohlberg’s 5th Stage of Moral Development) if that individual still believes that a God who intercedes in the course of events is the ultimate judge of morality? Can our students ever achieve reflective thinking if they still see religious beliefs as being on-par with scientific theories? How can we help students become contextual or even independent knowers if they still believe in divine knowledge bestowed upon the Earth by a deity?

While there is a lot of identity development encapsulated in the culture of religious worldviews, I foresee a day when higher education addresses religious beliefs independently as a matter of critical thinking and cognitive development. Rather than continuing to shelter students and helping them continue on the track they were already on with their beliefs, we ought to be encouraging them to consider not just what they believe, but why they believe it, how they came to believe it, and any implications that result from their believing it.

We’ve seen some very slight movement in this direction with a few (countable on one hand) campuses offering humanist chaplains. This seems like more of a blind accommodation for atheist students because the field of student affairs has done  little to even recognize atheists on campus (ask me for the Goodman & Mueller PDF), let alone research any conception of atheist student development. The focus continues to be on “spirituality” and “spiritual development”, which by word choice alone assumes there is such a thing as spirituality and also assumes that all students experience spiritual development. The latter claim is blatantly wrong, and the former sets a foundation for enshrining religious privilege in a field that so often prides itself on supporting social justice. We have a long way to go in unraveling this mess.

This all leads to the question I ask in the title: How long until we have campus atheist resource centers? Your first reaction to that might be to say it will never happen, because that would be “promoting religion.” Well, no, it would not be. Atheism—or perhaps more accurately skepticism—is not a belief system; it’s an approach to knowledge. Based on my understanding of skepticism juxtaposed with my understanding of student development theory, it’s quite a good approach too. In fact, many academic disciplines (the natural sciences, as an obvious example) already encourage and demand skepticism. It’s the foundation of inquiry! Why shouldn’t we promote it beyond the bounds of specific academic curricula?

Maybe the word “atheist” is making you uncomfortable. Check your religious privilege! A 2006 study from the University of Minnesota (ask me for the PDF) found that “atheists are more distrusted and despised than any other minority.” Just this past week, a new city councilor in North Carolina is trying to be removed from office just for being an atheist, because North Carolina is one of many states with laws still on the books prohibiting atheists from elected office. Clearly there is a case to be made that atheist students could use some support on campus. But, to be pragmatic, let’s call it a Skepticism Resource Center for now.

A model already exists for a Skepticism Resource Center. The parallels it would have with an LGBT Resource Center are uncanny. It would need to provide support for coming out (though it would probably help if we did some research on the atheist coming out process first). It would need to provide a library of resources. It would need to provide social opportunities. It would need to function as a safe space (for challenging questions!). It would need to providing enriching development opportunities for students who identify as nonbelievers (once we actually collect some research on atheist development). There would also be a need to educate the greater campus about these identities and why it’s important to respect skepticism and understand what we can all learn from it. Education and advocacy—yeah, we should know how to do that.

The only obstacle is our own unease with these issues. Education has lost its critical edge, with a recent study showing that undergrads majoring in education tend to be more religious. While the field of student affairs seems more and more eager to blindly subscribe to spiritual development, higher education takes a hands-off approach to religion in general. (The exception, of course, is religiously-affiliated universities who bend over backwards—even to the point of compromising ethical standards and academic credibility—to cater to religion.) Important opportunities for cognitive growth are lost and our own field flounders to truly understand the students we are serving and how to appropriately raise the level of challenge.

What will it take for us to recognize that atheism, skepticism, critical thinking, and cognitive development are all linked? What will it take for us to welcome such conversations at our conventions or on our campuses? Can we start to uncover the religious privilege we maintain by our silence or subscription to spirituality so that we can truly serve all of our students and maximize their potential?

How long until we have campus atheist resource centers?



Society Is Better Off Without Religion: The Supporting Research

Yesterday, I saw a link on the Richard Dawkins Foundation page for an article called “The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions” written by Gregory Paul for the Evolutionary Psychology journal.  Naturally, I was curious. Not everybody eagerly sits down to read a 30-page academic journal article, but I did. And it was worth it.

This study has the potential to be revolutionary. It certainly underscores the intention behind why I write this blog: to dismantle the privilege religion has over American society. This article is amazingly comprehensive and yet concise in its demolition of religious privilege. Having little concern for arguments over the existence of God, the study focuses on the effects of religiosity in society and implications about the nature of religious belief in humanity. The results are damning for the United States, which is far more religious than any of its fellow 1st-world countries.

It is important to note that this study has vital implications for the fate of our economy, our healthcare system, and our social policies.

If these issues are of any interest to you, I highly recommend reading the full article. (The PDF can be found at the link above; if it is no longer accessible there, please feel free to email me and I can share the file with you that way.) Knowing that many will not take that time, I want to offer a breakdown of what this study found. Below, I’ll parse out the abstract so it’s easier to follow, share some excerpts (with emphasis added for readability), and also share some of the interesting diagrams found in the study.

The Abstract

Here is a point-by-point extrapolation of the study’s abstract to help you understand the implications of the study.

Better understanding the nature, origin and popularity of varying levels of popular religion versus secularism, and their impact upon socioeconomic conditions and vice versa, requires a cross national comparison of the competing factors in populations where opinions are freely chosen. Utilizing 25 indicators, the uniquely extensive Successful Societies Scale reveals that population diversity and immigration correlate weakly with 1st world socioeconomic conditions

There is common belief among United States conservatives that diversity is a weakness and that immigration hurts our economy. Among many other findings, this study offers that population diversity and immigration are “too weak to be primary causes of the divergence in 1st world conditions” (p. 23). In other words, the United States’ low ranking on the Successful Societies Scale, or SSS (which uses “over two dozen indicators to assess and compare societal and economic indicators in the 1st world” [p.3]), cannot be blamed on its diversity or immigration. Read more discussion on this matter on p. 23.

…and high levels of income disparity, popular religiosity as measured by differing levels of beleif and activity, and rejection of evolutionary science correlate strongly negatively with improving conditions.

Take a moment and let that sink in. I’ll paraphrase it, in case that helps. Improving socioeconomic conditions are held back when there is financial inequality, religious privilege, and a denial of evolutionary science. (Needless to say, the United States features interestingly in this study as an outlier.)

The historically unprecedented socioeconomic security that results from low levels of progressive government policies appear to suppress popular religiosity and creationist opinion

So, when progressive government policy helps foster a society where citizens feel safe and comfortable, those citizens are more likely to let go of religion.

conservative religious ideology apparently contributes to societal dysfunction

That’s right. There is a correlation between conservative religious ideology and societal dysfunction.

…and religious prosociality and charity are less effective at improving societal conditions than are secular government programs.

So all those “faith-based initiatives” that President Bush supported (and that President Obama continues to support) tend to actually be less effective than government run programs.  More on this point in the excerpts below.

The antagonistic relationship between better socioeconomic conditions and intense popular faith may prevent the existence of nations that combine the two factors.

The United States is perhaps a telling example of how popular faith has held back socioeconomic development, while many of our peer nations show how their better conditions lead to the abandonment of popular faith. This begs the question of whether our “great nation” can move forward (particularly in this time of economic crisis) if we still “cling to guns and religion” (Obama wasn’t wrong) the way that we do.

The nonuniversality of strong religious devotion, and the ease with [which] large populations abandon serious theism when conditions are sufficiently benign, refute hypotheses that religious belief and practice are the normal, deeply set human mental state, whether they are superficial or natural in nature.

There are many who believe that humans are designed or have evolved to believe in supernatural forces. The results of this study suggest that religion is not something ingrained, but in fact a survival mechanism:

Instead popular religion is usually a superficial and flexible psychological mechanism for coping with the high levels of stress and anxiety produced by sufficiently dysfunctional social and especially economic environments. Popular nontheism is a similarly casual response to superior conditions.

I think that is so revelatory. The evidence shows that religion is a self-dependent spiral. Religion holds back socioeconomic development and weak socioeconomic development helps maintain religion. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why “conservative” and “religious” are interchangeable in American society and politics. Religious groups have to be conservative to maintain their control over society.

I don’t know about you, but I find this all to be extremely validating as an atheist and compelling as a social scientist. (Relating this to “spirituality” in higher education will be a who separate post, I expect.)

Excerpts – Implications for US Policies

I don’t think I could fairly capture everything in this study in a blog post, but there are a few passages I found that I think are worth highlighting. The first I want to share is a paragraph from page 24:

Among the prosperous democracies all but the U.S. have adopted most or all of a set of pragmatic progressive governmental policies that have elevated these nations’ societal efficiency, success and security while reducing personal levels of stress and anxiety. These include reduced socioeconomic disparity and competition via targeted tax and welfare strategies, handgun control, anti-corporal punishment and anti-bullying policies, protection for women in abusive relationships, intensive sex education that emphasizes condom use, rehabilitative incarceration, increased leisure time that can be dedicated to family needs, and perhaps most importantly job security and universal health care that make it difficult for ordinary citizens to suffer catastrophic financial failure. Social ills are correspondingly suppressed. As a member of the 1st world the U.S. is an anomalous outlier not only in its religiosity, but in social economic and political policies as well. Provided with comparatively low levels of government support and protection in favor of less restrained capitalism, members of the middle class are at serious risk of financial and personal ruin if they lose their job or private health insurance; around a million go bankrupt in a year, about half due in part to often overwhelming medical bills. The need to acquire wealth as a protective buffer encourages an intense competitive race to the top, which contributes to income inequality. The latter leaves a large cohort mired in poverty. Levels of societal pathology are correspondingly high. The evidence indicates that the modulation of capitalism via progressive policies is producing superior overall national circumstances compared to the more laissez-faire capitalism favored in the U.S.

As you might expect, the article goes on to draw connections to these patterns with religiosity, not unlike the connections regularly drawn in this blog. But that paragraph alone sums up the United States well, and pretty fairly, I might add. We hold ourselves back. I am often accused by some  of only being passionate about atheism because of LGBT issues. This is really not the case. Look at all those issues listed up there affected by religiosity. Consider how our very quality of life is impacted. While I have a separate passion just for LGBT issues, my antitheism is representative of the greater gamut of implications reflected by this study.

Excerpts – The Ineffectiveness of Faith-Based Initiatives and Anti-Atheist Bigotry

The abstract touched on the notion that religious prosociality is actually less effective than government programming (despite prevalent contrary mythology here in the states). The study goes into more detail about how and why this occurs and the implications here in the U.S. (p. 26-27):

The lack of theistic membership appears to be detrimental in a faith-based culture because religious institutions provide socioeconomic benefits not available outside the association [citations]. Individuals frequently profit from being members of one or more connected groups [citations]; the last two citations show that salutary group activities can be as simple as regular family dinners. Such social “clubs” can be private or governmental, religious or secular – in other words Putman’s “social capital” is more efficacious than “spiritual capital.” This is particularly true in a nation like the United States where government support systems are relatively weak in favor of private alternatives; belonging to religious “clubs” can provide benefits not available to those who are unable (often due to cost) or unwilling to join secular private cooperatives. In the secular democracies people belong to critical support groups, including the health care club, simply by being citizens, boosting overall general societal health to higher levels. Thus theistic Americans tend to be happier than nonreligious citizens, but the populations of secular western nations are about as happy as and healthier than the citizens of more religious America. The means by which citizens of irreligious democracies are coping without the aid of faith-based clubs has received little research attention.

It’s all about access. As the previous excerpt addressed, the idea of unrestrained capitalism and minimal government intervention allows for greater disparities in access. This is only exacerbated by the privilege of membership in the organizations (often religious) responsible for compensating for the lack of governmental support. The control this gives religious groups can, at times, be insurmountable. Nothing exemplifies this control more than the recent Manhattan Declaration, paired with the Catholic Church’s threatening ultimatum to pull out of Washington, DC charity work if same-sex marriage is legalized.

The study goes on to analyze the effects of anti-atheist bigotry (p. 27):

The high level of ill will held and discrimination practiced against nontheists by most Americans [citations] is another potential explanatory factor for their relatively poor status vis-à-vis more religious citizens. If this (also) under researched possibility is correct, then the Christian majority is contributing to the societal difficulties associated with nontheism that Christian advocates offer as evidence of the social inferiority of nontheism. In more secular advanced nations nonbelievers presumably flourish because they are much more numerous, and are more in control of the cultural and political power structures, to the degree that they do not suffer from serious intolerance.

I think that is an absolutely brilliant observation, with many parallels to other social justice precedents. How often has the minority group been blamed for not advocating enough for themselves? We saw it just recently when the census official said, “gay leaders need to keep advocating if they want to be recognized.” You can just see the argument playing out in their heads… We condemn nonbelievers, we don’t want to be condemned, so we’ll continue to condemn nonbelievers. Of course, if they stopped condemning nonbelievers, nonbelievers would not be condemned by anybody. Oh, logic is fun.

Excerpts – Psychological Roots of Religion?

I wanted to provide one more excerpt, this one to expand on the abstract’s claim that religion is a “superficial and flexible psychological mechanism for coping.” Rather than intellectually challenging beliefs directly (a la Dawkins and Hitchens) or examining the brain’s biochemical reactions to “spirituality,” this challenges religious belief and behavior on a broader, more inductive evolutionary scale (p. 27-28):

If deep religious devotion is either genetically programmed to the same extent as language or materialism, or the result of a supernatural connection with an intelligent creator entity, then religious belief and practice should remain similarly universal in all populations regardless of the environmental conditions they dwell in, unless an atheistic authoritarian government suppresses mass religiosity. Instead, the ease and speed with which hundreds of millions of westerners have voluntarily abandoned dedicated piety in recent decades indicates that religiosity is a standard, albeit not unanimous, psychological response to sufficiently dysfunctional environmental circumstances as outlined above, and is superficial enough to be readily abandoned when conditions improve to the required degree. This sociological based conclusion is in accord with, and potentially supported by, the similar inference arrived at by Inzlicht et al. (2009) based on examination of neurological activity associated with religiosity. Equally important to understanding the origin of opinion on religious matters is that popular democratic nonreligiosity is similarly casual and cursory in most nontheists (as observed by Zuckerman, 2008).

In view of the reduced levels of religiosity consistently extant in populations that enjoy secure middle class lives, it can be postulated that if socioeconomic conditions had been similarly benign since humans first appeared it is unlikely that religion would have developed to nearly the degree seen in actual human history, and atheism would have been much more widespread and possibly ubiquitous since the beginning. Materialism and language in contrast would still be omipresent. Ergo, strong religiosity has all the signs of being a natural invention of human minds in response to a defective habitat, and is neither supernatural, nor genetically preprogrammed to the same extent as are more deeply set language and material desire. Because spirituality is a relatively optional attribute more comparable to writing which is not fundamental to the human condition, it is not consistently more difficult for humans to be spiritual than nontheistic (partly contra Boyer, 2008), under certain environmental conditions the opposite can be true.

The article goes on to describe the many ways the mass loss of 1st world theism contradicts potential primary causes of popular religious devotion and offers a explanation of how humans evolved a powerful institution of religion. It is incredibly interesting reading that I encourage you to explore further!

Country-Comparison Diagrams

The study includes many charts comparing the different countries and how they rank in terms of religiosity and their score on the Successful Societies Scale (which considers, among other things, homicides, incarceration, suicides, mortality, life expectancy, sexually transmitted diseases, teenage births and abortions, relationships, drug use, and various aspects of the economy). Consult the full study to see all the various charts.

Below, I’ll close by showing how the charts that compare the prevalence of specific religious populations and practices to the countries’ SSS score. The first image shows the countries represented in the study (the capital letter is how they are represented on the chart). You’ll note that the United States is significantly lower on the SSS scale than all the other countries, and its religiosity reflects that. (Click on the images to make them bigger.)

Concluding Thoughts

I think there is so much to be said about this study. I hope, at the very least, that this post has helped you better understand the content of the study (and hopefully inspired you to read more of it). As I’ve alluded throughout the post, I think this study has profound implications for society, politics, economics, healthcare, and also the further study of psychology, sociology, anthropology, and certainly how we address “spirituality” in student affairs in higher education. I’m sure I’ll be referring back to this study often in future posts.

Doesn’t learning feel great??



I Think People Who Can’t Discern Between Sexual Orientation and Paraphilia Should Shut Up

Wow, harsh title. I guess I’m just tired of society being so ho-hum when people are just wrong in what they say. No, it’s not that they have a “different opinion.” They just have no clue what they’re talking about.

Here’s a quick primer. Everyone has a sexual orientation. Everyone. And it only means one thing. It means to which sex(es) a person is oriented. It’s right there in the name. You can be oriented towards males or females or potentially both or potentially those whose sex defies the binary. But, that’s pretty much it. It has been measured, documented, and defined over and over again and that is all that it means.

Guess what’s not a sexual orientation? Necrophilia. Death is not a sex. Here’s another one: pedophilia. Kids are not a sex. So guess what? Those are not sexual orientations; they never have been considered sexual orientations; and they never could possibly be confused for sexual orientations if you have any clue whatsoever what you’re talking about! They are called paraphilia and they are considered disorders and they have nothing to do with sexual orientation.

But you know who doesn’t know what he’s talking about? Oklahoma State Senator Steve Russell.

This bright gentleman is convinced the new hate crimes law hinders free speech and religious freedom. I wonder if he read it? Or did he just buy into the crap they were preaching at that pathetic rally they held on Monday? The law makes it pretty clear it can only be enforced for violent crimes, not speech. If he doesn’t think the government should be protecting special classes of people, why didn’t he oppose hate crime protections based on religion?

But here’s where Russell lets us know that it’s not just a difference of opinion, it’s ignorance:

“The law is very vague to begin with,” Russell said. “Sexual orientation is a very vague word that could be extended to extremes like necrophilia.”

No, you’re just wrong. You, sir, are JUST PLAIN WRONG! A lot of links show up in the ads on this site for online degrees. Senator Russell, please enroll in a Psychology 101 class before you open your mouth again about these issues. You’re hurting people.

You know who else is hurting people with ignorance? The Catholic Church of course! They’re good at that.

As you may recall, in response to the huge scandal of lots of little boys (and some girls) being sexually abused by priests…

In 2005, the Vatican issued a policy statement that men with “deep-seated’’ attraction to other men should be barred from the priesthood.

How convenient for the Church. They can use one thing that they’re wrong about as a scapegoat for another thing they’re wrong about. Too bad they weren’t smart enough to leave it at that. See, they commissioned this study and found just the opposite:

A preliminary report commissioned by the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops to investigate the clergy sex-abuse scandal has found no evidence that gay priests are more likely than heterosexual clergy to molest children, the lead authors of the study said yesterday.

We tried to tell them that, but I guess they needed to hear it for themselves. That’s right. There is absolutely no connection between having a sexual orientation toward other men and having a paraphilia for nonconsenting children.

I wonder if they’ll ever learn. I’ll let Dan Savage take us out…

According to the authors of the study the Church has to distinguish between sexual identity and behavior and be on guard against pedophile priests, not gay priests, “and to look at who the offender had access to when seeking victims.” This study is going to throw a serious wrench in the Vatican’s efforts to pin the whole clergy sex abuse scandals on teh gays.



Queer Equality Movement, Meet Your Enemy: Ignorance

I operate from the philosophy that the only way you can oppose LGBT equality is to not understand what sexual orientation and gender identity are. If you understand these concepts and the experience of people with minority identities and you continue to oppose them, you are truly a heartless fool.

The true enemy in our movement is ignorance (along with its good friend misinformation). There are some who simply do not understand the concepts and there are some who have been taught to misunderstand the concepts. Then there are those like Utah’s Paul Mero of the Sutherland Institute who attempt to unteach decades worth of biological and psychological research in one foul swoop (transcript below, hat tip JMG (apparently Chino Blanco at Pam’s House Blend originally posted this with his own transcript. I promise I didn’t copy!)):

The gloves must come off.

The fact remains that we don’t just disagree with you over the Common Ground Initiative, we disagree with you over nearly every motivating assumption that underlies the initiative.

We’re dealing here with two separate realities: one truth, one illusion. The intellectual, legal, and moral chasm between the two sides is so great that true common ground is nearly impossible to achieve. And so for my part anyway, I’m here to argue that the Equality Utah version of reality is an illusion.

The CGI bills constantly refer to sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is an illusion. It only exists in the minds of activists and their academics who need to explain away why people do what they do even when they don’t want to do it. There are no replicable scientific or medical studies about that issue of sexual orientation that exist. Nevermind that the only way they can be identified is through sexual behavior. There’s no reasonable argument to be made that subjective feelings or attractions toward another human being means anything deeper than what it actually is.

The truth is that we are born male and female with moral agency. Because it’s behavior, our sexual is always a choice, and any other sexual construct is an illusion. Your idea of rights is an illusion. With the backing of every miserable misanthropic philosopher of the post-enlightenment era, your initiative feeds on the unreasonable notion that you have these magically organic rights to do whatever you desire. These rights are usually couched in terms of equality, but because you constantly confuse what you do for who you are, your equality is illusory. You think your equality is about who you are, when it’s really only about what you do, and in terms of human behavior, there’s no equality as you try to imagine it.

Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?

My first pet peeve is that every time a group says “We disagree with you,” we have to automatically assume their argument has merit. Oh, they’re entitled to their opinions! Let’s be real: there is not one fact in that excerpt. NOT ONE.

Sexual orientation is not an illusion. Everybody has one and everybody experiences having one. Ask a group of 15-year-olds who they’re attracted to and every single one of them will be able to tell you, regardless of whether they’ve ever had sex. Sexual orientation has been observed and measured in countless studies and models over DECADES, most of which would be quite easy to find if you opened a single journal to look. And none of those studies would be worth considering if they weren’t replicable. There are even studies on hetersexual orientations! Yeah, everybody’s included! Sexual behavior is a choice, but orientation is not. There is a clear distinction there that any psychologist (except maybe the fake ones in NARTH) could easily articulate.

Sorry, I’m a compulsive debunker.

All that being said: this is our enemy. We need psychology classes to teach what we know about sexual orientation. We need to make sure that nobody graduates college (or even high school) without a basic understanding of the science of sexuality. We need to stand up to everyone who would call us biased or claim we’re indoctrinating and say, THIS IS WHAT WE KNOW. THIS IS SCIENCE.

Until we can undo the legitimacy that anti-gay opponents claim to have for their arguments, we will get nowhere.

I propose a mass education campaign. Let’s get PSAs on every cable channel, independent of any particular issue. “Do you know what sexual orientation is? You have one, you know?” Has anyone even considered that idea before? We shouldn’t have to hope people tune into “In The Life” or a rerun of MTV’s True Life to learn anything about it.

Education is our key. Until we embrace it, our movement will continue to flounder.



Don’t Wait On Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

In the run-up to this weekend’s National Equality March, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has become a hot issue.

Just last night, Lt. Dan Choi was on Anderson Cooper with the offensively delusional Elaine Donnelly of the anti-gay Center For Military Readiness, Representative Patrick Murphy held a Special Order Hour in the House of Representatives where many spoke against the policy, and even The Daily Show hammered Obama on not addressing it on their show.

Here’s some of the content that’s out there.

First, check out this conversation between Lt. Choi and Elaine Donnelly. I think it’s fair to say that Lt. Choi has really become the face of repeal, and unfortunately, Donnelly is very much the face of maintaining Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. This clip is pretty quintessential to how the arguments from both sides sound:

Lt. Choi has been very outspoken about his experiences. I highly recommend you listen to his story on The Moth podcast as well.

I think last night’s Special Order Hour in the House was a very uplifting hour of discussion by various congresspeople, including Rep. Walz of Minnesota, Rep. Polis of Colorado, and Rep. Baldwin of Wisconsin. Rather than embed an hour’s worth of floor speeches, I want to direct you to an important document: The Efficacy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by Col. Om Prakash (PDF). This essay won the 2009 Secretary of Defense National Security Essay Competition and pointedly addresses the issues. Here are two excerpts from the conclusion:

The 1993 “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law was a political compromise reached after much emotional debate based on religion, morality, ethics, psychological rationale, and military necessity. What resulted was a law that has been costly both in personnel and treasure. In an attempt to allow homosexual Servicemembers to serve quietly, a law was created that forces a compromise in integrity, conflicts with the American creed of “equality for all,” places commanders in difficult moral dilemmas, and is ultimately more damaging to the unit cohesion its stated purpose is to preserve. Furthermore, after a careful examination, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that unit cohesion will be negatively affected if homosexuals serve openly. In fact, the necessarily speculative psychological predictions are that it will not impact combat effectiveness. Additionally, there is sufficient empirical evidence from foreign militaries to anticipate that incorporating homosexuals will introduce leadership challenges, but the challenges will not be insurmountable or affect unit cohesion and combat effectiveness…

Based on this research, it is not time for the administration to reexamine the issue; rather, it is time for the administration to examine how to implement the repeal of the ban.

It is very exciting to see some growing momentum behind this issue, even though it is only one of many that we will be marching for on Sunday.

Hopefully, President Obama realizes that it is insulting to suggest that we wait any longer for this discriminatory provision to be lifted. Here’s some heat from The Daily Show:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Gay After Tomorrow
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Ron Paul Interview

Again, I implore you to join us this weekend as we march for equal rights!

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