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Wed

11

Mar

2009

CPAC and Other Dark Messages from America’s “New” Conservative Religious Right: Part I
Wednesday, 11 March 2009 11:10
by Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.

Link to Part II is here.
The last days of February 2009 bore witness to the 36th annual Conservative Political Action Conference: a cavalcade of self-inflated caricatures dragging their lead balloons. The leaders of the conservative “movement” and their compatriots in the Religious Right thought they were celebrating themselves and their agenda, but they were really making fools of themselves while highlighting the darkness of their vision.

People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch also attended CPAC and posted brief reports – and the video clips to support them:

CPAC: Marriage Equality Will Create a Generation of Violent Criminals

February 26, 2009 - 6:09pm
The Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver explains to the CPAC audience that “same-sex marriage sets forth a fatherless policy” and says that you don’t need a bunch of scientific data to know that that is bad. After all, kids without fathers tend to fare poorly ... and if you need proof, all you have to do is take a look at the prison population.
Thus, the logic seems to go, letting two women get married will lead to a whole generation of fatherless children who will inevitably become violent criminals… [italics added]

Mr. Staver can always be counted on to concoct yet another ludicrous argument. If women getting married leads to a whole generation of fatherless children who inevitably become violent criminals, then, using Mr. Staver’s “logic,” two men getting married should be the ideal parenting ticket to a less violent society. Right?

Staver’s message, as usual, diverted attention for the issue at hand – the civil right to a civil marriage – and conjured the “protect the children” mantra used by all those who have no rational, cogent arguments, so they trot out “the children.”

Clearly, same-sex marriage poses no threat to heterosexual couples who wish to wed, nor does it in any way threaten “traditional families.” (The 50 percent divorce rate is already doing a fine job of that.) And how on earth could the legal recognition of a loving family possibly be “anti-family”?

Among the most virulent propagators of the “anti-family” ruse is Don Wildmon and his American Family Association. They simply cannot stand any sort of recognition by anyone for gay Americans and their families. They launch boycotts against companies that dare treat all employees equally or advertise in gay-related publications. AFA’s latest targets are PepsiCo and Campbell Soup. The latter drew the wrath of Wildmon because…


In the December, 2008 and January, 2009 issues, Campbell Soup Company bought two, two-page advertisements in the latest issues of the nation’s largest homosexual magazine, “The Advocate.” The ads promote their Swanson line of broth.



In one of the December ads, the Campbell Soup Company highlighted the lives of two lesbians with their son. The others feature New York City chefs. See the ads here.



Campbell Soup Company has openly begun helping homosexual activists push their agenda. Not only did the ads cost Campbell’s a chunk of money, but they also sent a message that homosexual parents constitute a family…

Aside from the fact that target-marketing is a common practice, what kind of “man,” what kind of “Christian” would deny that legally married parents and their child do not constitute a family? If ever there was an example of raw hatred and seething bigotry hiding behind religion, it’s Don Wildmon and his American “Family” Association.

Statistics from Massachusetts, May 2004, speak for themselves:

— 50 percent of the same-sex couples who applied for marriage licenses had been together for at least a decade;
— The most predominant age group was 40 to 49 years-old; the median age was 43;
— 40 percent of those female couples said they had children in their households.

Consider another allegation from Mr. Staver’s performance at CPAC: “that ‘same-sex marriage sets forth a fatherless policy’ and says that you don’t need a bunch of scientific data to know that that is bad. After all, kids without fathers tend to fare poorly ... and if you need proof, all you have to do is take a look at the prison population.”

Unfortunately for Mr. Staver, research carried out by academically credentialed, independent scholars does not support his contention. The American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology website posted this article in December 2005:

The kids are all right
Research shows that families headed by gay and lesbian parents are as healthy as traditional families, but misperceptions linger. …

The article concluded with “For a summary of research on lesbian and gay parenting, visit http://www.apa.org/pi/parent.html,” as well as suggestions for “Further Reading”:

American Psychological Association. (1995). Lesbian and gay parenting: A resource for psychologists. Washington, DC: Author.
Ariel, J., & McPherson, D. (2000). Therapy with lesbian and gay families and their children. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 26, 421–432.
Chan, R.W., Brooks, R.C., Raboy, B., & Patterson, C.J. (1998). Division of labor among lesbian and heterosexual parents: Associations with children's adjustment. Journal of Family Psychology, 12, 402–419.
Fulcher, M., Sutfin, E.L., Chan, R.W., Scheib, J.E., & Patterson, C.J. (in press). Lesbian mothers and their children: Findings from the Contemporary Families Study. In A. Omoto & H. Kurtzman (Eds.), Recent Research on Sexual Orientation, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Gartrell, N.G., Deck, A., Rodas, C., Peyser, H., & Banks, A. (in press). The national lesbian family study: Interviews with the 10-year-old children. Feminism & Psychology.
Snow, J.E. (2004). How it feels to have a gay or lesbian parent. New York: Harrington Park Press.
Wainright, J.L., Russell, S.T., & Patterson, C.J. (2004). Psychosocial adjustment, school outcomes, and romantic relationships of adolescents with same-sex parents. Child Development, 75, 1886–1898.

In particular, Mr. Staver might want to have a look at the work of Charlotte J. Patterson, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, Stephen T. Russell, professor of human development at the University of Arizona, and Jennifer Wainright who, at the time of the study, was a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Virginia.

They did a longitudinal, comparative study of children being reared by same-sex parents and those being reared by opposite-sex parents. Their findings were published in the December 2004 issue of the Society for Research in Child Development’s journal.

Patterson and her colleagues based their research on a sample of twelve-to-eighteen year-old adolescents from eighty-eight families drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Forty-four of the study participants were parented by same-sex couples and forty-four were parented by opposite-sex couples. The two groups were matched by demographic characteristics including age, income levels, social situations and other factors to ensure they were comparable. Pertinent results included:

— Teenagers of same-sex parents are developing as well as the children of opposite-sex parents;
— Good quality family relationships are more important contributors to successful development than family type;
— Teenage offspring of same-sex couples have similar dating and romantic relationship behaviors as children of opposite-sex couples;
— On measures of their psychosocial adjustment and school results, such as grades and test scores, both groups had similar outcomes, and their adjustment was not affected by the type of family – whether same sex or opposite sex parents.

Patterson’s research was, of course, contested by the conservative Religious Right, but then again, they themselves have a history of dismissing and/or cherry picking legitimate research to further their discriminatory goals. The statements and writings of James Dobson (Focus on the Family) document that history quite well.

James Dobson has a Ph.D. in child development. He advocates spanking. He was once known as “the Religious Right’s New Kingmaker.” The “king” he helped make was George W. Bush. As a prominent character in the Bush-Rove nightmare, Dobson 
set himself up as a religiously-based political dictator bent on getting us to support his personal view of legislated morality. And what’s even worse, Dobson goes to great length to use Scripture to support his view, and yet according to Time magazine he doesn’t even have any formal theological training. In short, Dobson, using his position as a radio psychologist, has set himself up as our moral authority and asks us all to blindly follow. [italics added]

Dobson’s misrepresenting and twisting of scientific research to suit his own purposes are legendary in academic circles. His December 12, 2006 Time magazine article, “Two Mommies Is One Too Many,” is a case in point, as Insider Higher Education noted:

When academics feel that their work has been distorted in the press, they frequently have to settle for griping to colleagues or writing a letter to the editor. But for Carol Gilligan, a prominent psychologist and author of In a Different Voice, a mere letter did not suffice. When she was alerted that James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, referenced her work in a Time magazine column, she denounced his interpretation of her research – posting her views Monday in a video on YouTube.

“I was stunned to hear that James Dobson quoted me in Time magazine,” Gilligan says in the video. “I had no idea. I was mortified.” She says that there is nothing in her research that would lead anyone to agree with Dobson’s claim that same-gender families are unhealthy for children.

Media Matters also covered Dobson’s deception and posted some of the letter Dr. Gilligan sent to the FOF chairman:

I am writing to ask that you cease and desist from quoting my research in the future. I was mortified to learn that you had distorted my work this week in a guest column you wrote in Time Magazine. Not only did you take my research out of context, you did so without my knowledge to support discriminatory goals that I do not agree with. What you wrote was not truthful and I ask that you refrain from ever quoting me again and that you apologize for twisting my work. …

Finally, there is nothing in my research that would lead you to draw the stated conclusions you did in the Time article. My work in no way suggests same-gender families are harmful to children or can't raise these children to be as healthy and well adjusted as those brought up in traditional households.

Dobson was also busted for “cherry-picking” and misrepresenting the research of psychologist Dr. Kyle Pruett. In his Time article the FOF chairman cited Pruett's 2001 book Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child to argue against same-sex child-rearing. Dr. Pruett was as incensed as Dr. Gilligan:

I was startled and disappointed to see my work referenced in the current Time Magazine piece in which you [Dobson] opined that social science, such as mine, supports your convictions opposing lesbian and gay parenthood. I write now to insist that you not quote from my research in your media campaigns, personal or corporate, without previously securing my permission.
You cherry-picked a phrase to shore up highly (in my view) discriminatory purposes. This practice is condemned in real science, common though it may be in pseudo-science circles. There is nothing in my longitudinal research or any of my writings to support such conclusions. On page 134 of the book you site in your piece, I wrote, “What we do know is that there is no reason for concern about the development or psychological competence of children living with gay fathers. It is love that binds relationships, not sex.”

“It is love that binds relationships, not sex.” But Mr. Staver and those who share his jaundiced views just can’t seem to get beyond the “sex” part. Perhaps that says something about them and their views.

But Mr. Staver certainly wasn’t the only politicized “expert” speaking at CPAC.

Link to Part II is here.
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