Distorting research, promoting hate, repeating history: business as usual for the American Family Association
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Oct 9, 2008, 00:12
and his American Family Association are notorious for their anti-gay rhetoric
and efforts to hurt, in any and every way possible, the families of gay and
given day, a significant number -- if not a majority -- of articles featured on
the AFA website are negative portrayals of or outright attacks on gay people.
These articles are the product of OneNewsNow, AFA�s propaganda organ
grotesquely masquerading as a �news� outlet: �News from a Christian
September, OneNewsNow featured an article, titled �Study: Homosexual lifestyle strongly linked to depression, suicide�:
A new study in the United Kingdom has revealed that
homosexuals are about 50% more likely to suffer from depression and engage in
substance abuse than the rest of the population . . .
These findings strongly support the results of similar studies conducted in the
United States, which have unveiled the severe physical and psychological health
risks associated with homosexual behavior. . . .
those good �Christian� values Wildmon says he defends, OneNewsNow distorted and
misrepresented the research, as Dr. Michael King, University College London�s Professor of
Primary Care Psychiatry and the lead author of the study, pointed out when he
denounced the OneNewsNow article:
�LifeSite News and OneNewsNow have misinterpreted our
review,� [Professor King] said.
�Evidence from around the world identifies the main stressors leading to mental
distress in gay and lesbian people as discrimination, prejudice, bullying in
schools and colleges, and the consequent need for many LGB people to keep their
homosexual identity secret, even from their families. . . .
�Discrimination on the
grounds of sexuality is even more devastating than other forms of
discrimination such as racism, as it reaches right into families and leaves no
refuge for its victims. . . .
�There is now abundant evidence that homosexuality is not itself a mental disorder
and that it is compatible with a healthy lifestyle.
�We shall only begin to see a reduction in mental distress and deliberate self
harm in LGB people when all sectors of society welcome them as equal and
Welcoming gays as equals is something Don Wildmon could never do. He
thrives on -- and makes his living by -- fostering hate and discrimination.
OneNewsNow conveniently ignored a contemporary study done by Dr. Simon Rosser, researcher and professor in
the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. His study was also
published in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. And what did Dr. Rosser�s study
. . . internalized homonegativity, not being
homosexual, predicted poorer mental health (particularly increased depression)
and worse sexual health. . . .
�This study is a missing link in our understanding of the relationship between
sexuality and health,� [Rosser] said. �It provides new evidence that negative
attitudes towards homosexuality, not homosexuality itself, are associated with
both poorer mental and sexual health outcomes seen in sexual minorities.
Conversely, positive attitudes towards homosexuality are associated with better
mental and sexual health.�
more than 150 years, scholars and educators have debated whether homosexuality
is an objective disorder or whether societal prejudice, not homosexuality,
leads to the elevated rates of depression, drug use, and HIV/STD epidemics seen
in studies of gay men, Rosser said. This study tested both theories.
�Given the debates in many religious denominations about homosexuality, and in
society about homosexuals and civil rights, it�s also timely,� Rosser said. �In
particular, the old advice to gay men to fight, deny, or minimize their
homosexuality likely only increases depression, greater isolation, and poorer
sexual health. In short, viewing homosexuality as a disorder is not only
inaccurate, it may be harmful as well.�
What �researcher� and
what �study� did OneNewsNow cite to support the �unveiled the severe physical
and psychological health risks associated with homosexual behavior�?
Drs. Paul and Kirk Cameron of the Family
Research Institute revealed in 2007 that research shows that the
lifespan of a homosexual is on average 24 years shorter than that of a
heterosexual. As a health threat, even smoking pales in comparison, as studies
show smoking can shorten one�s life by only 1 to 7 years on average. [link
Paul Cameron is a discredited �psychologist� who was expelled from the American Psychological
Association and condemned by the Nebraska Psychological Association and the
American Sociological Association. He has advocated facial tattoos for AIDS
victims and the castration, deportation to a former leper colony, and even the
extermination of homosexuals:
the 1985 Conservative Political Action Conference, Cameron announced to the
attendees, �Unless we get medically lucky, in three or four years, one of the
options discussed will be the extermination of homosexuals.� According to an
interview with former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, Cameron was recommending
the extermination option as early as 1983. --Mark E. Pietrzyk, News-Telegraph, March 10, 1995
Wildmon and the AFA -- as well as other �Christian� leaders and their
organizations such as Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council, James
Dobson and Focus on the Family, and �Lucky Louie� Sheldon and the Traditional Values
Coalition -- Cameron�s rants and raves constitute
did, momentarily, acknowledge truth -- �the Health 24 article suggested that homosexuals may
be pushed to substance abuse and suicide because of anti-homosexual cultural
and family pressures� -- but in the same sentence offered more preposterous
propaganda: �Homosexuals in the United States . . . die on average in their
early 50�s.� More
distortions meant to misinform the sheeple.
Demean gays. Make them feel sub-human. Make them social outcasts. And
convince others to join in the campaign. Those are the prime directives and modi operandi of the �Christian� Right.
As both the University of Minnesota and U.K. studies found, anti-gay rhetoric
like that spewed daily by Wildmon�s American Family Association, James Dobson�s Focus on the
Family, Tony Perkins� Family Research Council, Louis P. Sheldon�s Traditional
Values Coalition, and Peter LaBarbera�s Americans for Truth has a devastating effect on
people�s -- especially young people�s (�Homophobic
bullying is killing gay kids�) -- self-image. Rev. Wildmon and the others know the
effects of their anti-gay rhetoric, yet they continue unabated and uncaring.
The word that comes to mind is �Schadenfreude.�
Freedom of speech is one thing. Abusing it -- and hiding behind religion
to intentionally hurt others -- is another. Lisa Rayner said it best in her letter to
the editor of the Arizona
Fundamentalist pastors threaten mental health
September 14, 2008
I am concerned about the mental health of vulnerable young people who happen to
be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The ongoing discussions in the Daily
Sun about the proposed human rights ordinance that would include protections in
employment, public accommodations, housing and education for GLBT people has
brought out what I consider to be a very ugly clash between some fundamentalist
religious beliefs and GLBT people. Twice in two weeks, a local Christian pastor
has written letters which claim that �unrepentant homosexuals . . . will not
inherit the kingdom of God� (i.e. gay people will go to Hell) and quotes from
Leviticus saying that gays �shall surely be put to death.� Beyond obvious
questions such as, �Does this pastor believe that gays deserve the death
penalty?� are other equally troubling concerns.
I am a board member of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays --
Flagstaff. GLBT teenagers whose families attend fundamentalist Christian
churches in Flagstaff, and sometimes their parents, come to PFLAG Flagstaff
seeking help with coming to terms with their sexual orientation or gender
identity. These teenagers tell us that attending these churches leads to
depression, suicidal feelings and fear that their parents might evict them from
their home if their sexual orientation or gender identity were to become known.
Pastors of fundamentalist churches have a First Amendment right to preach
whatever they believe. However, I also believe that pastors and members of such
congregations bear some responsibility for the suffering of GLBT youth in their
�Some responsibility?� How about A LOT?
Wildmon�s and the AFA�s pathological obsession with gays was underscored
yet again in their recently issued �Voter Guide� for the 2008 presidential election.
With the economy in the toilet and the ongoing fiascos in Afghanistan and Iraq,
one would have thought these issues would top AFA�s Voter Guide, but nope. The
first issue listed is �Homosexuality,� followed by �Sanctity of Life.� The
third and last heading is �Other Key Issues.� It included (in the order listed
in the Guide): �Private Handgun Ownership,� �Allowing Parents to Exercise
School Choice,� �Immigration Reform and Border Security,� �Government Control
of Health care,� and �Reducing U.S. Dependency on Foreign Oil.�
Why would Wildmon and the other leaders of the Christian Right see
persecuting gays -- and �persecuting� is exactly the right word -- as the
number one social and political necessity?
They claim they�re just being faithful to the biblical Judeo-Christian
beliefs. But those Judeo-Christian beliefs also include Leviticus 24:10 (�Bring forth him
that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands
upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him�), Leviticus 20:14 that
sanctions burning sinners to death, and Leviticus 24:11-16 that calls for a
community gathering in order to stone to death those who plant two different
crops in the same field or wear garments made of two different kinds of
threads. And then there�s St. Paul�s New Testament edict in First Timothy: �suffer not a woman to teach, nor to
usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.� Clearly, Wildmon et al have a cafeteria approach to the
Bible: we can use that, but that won�t work, and we�ll just ignore that. The
claim that they�re just being faithful to their Judeo-Christian beliefs is
So why are
Wildmon and the rest of the leaders of the Christian Right so obsessed with gays?
The answers may be painfully simple.
predicated upon an US vs. THEM
mentality that requires someone or some group to condemn and rail against. Gays
fit the bill, and given that �sexuality� is involved -- Western religions are
also predicated upon a pathological attitude toward human sexuality -- gays
make the perfect target for self-serving moral outrage.
religion is just the means to real ends: money and power. Wildmon et al �earn� their living by fueling the
fires of bigotry and hate in the name of religion. As Bill Berkowitz pointed
out in his April 19, 2007 article, �Still cranky After All These
to AFA�s 2005 IRS 990 (its tax return), founder Donald E. Wildmon received
about $110,000 with benefits, plus over $30,000 in expense account and other
allowances -- including a housing allowance of over $31,000. AFA president Tim
Wildmon got about $100,000, and the organization�s secretary, Forrest Daniels,
received slightly more than $80,000.
The organization gives �scholarships� to any full time employee at �any
accredited college or university,� which added up to about $54,000 in
scholarships. As the blog Kevin�s Space
pointed out on March 30 , �the kids of
these people get their university education paid for, with funds that are
donated, supposed to fight for the family. But it is clear the people who
benefit are the Wildmon family.�
only assume Mr. Wildmon�s salary and perks have increased substantially since
2005, as have the assets of AFA. In his July 21, 2008 article, �Gay Marriage to End �Culture Wars�?,� Mr. Berkowitz noted that the
American Family Association
an annual budget exceeding $15 million and net assets of more than $30 million;
it feeds programming to nearly 200 radio stations, [and] employs about 100 at
its home-base� in Tupelo, Mississippi. Apparently selective Bible-thumping to
promote bigotry is a lucrative business.
by promoting bigotry and hate. That�s the Wildmon Way. For Wildmon and the rest
of the leaders of the Christian Right religion is a business that has nothing
to do with spirituality and everything to do with getting and maintaining their
financial, social and political power. That�s abundantly clear, as is the fact
that the history of Christianity is riddled with those like Wildmon who
perverted and used religion for their own self-serving purposes, which leads to
the next logical question.
history should have taught, and given Wildmon�s obvious deception, distortion,
and dishonesty, why do so many people buy into and support his business, as
well as those run by Dobson, Sheldon, Perkins, and LaBarbera?
might be found in the distinction between religion and spirituality, and the
blurring of that distinction fostered and exploited by leaders of the Christian
is inherently human, a quiet intrapersonal dialogue toward self-evolution,
enlightenment, and peace. When spirituality is institutionalized, it becomes
religion: loud, corporate, dogmatic, hierarchical, and hell
bent on social control by any means necessary. The word itself confirms the
anti-spiritual nature of religion:
n, [ME religioun, fr. AF religium, L religion-, religio
supernatural constraint, sanction, religious practice, perh. Fr. religare to restrain, tie back] 1a: the
state of a religious <a nun in her 20th year of ~> b (1): the service and
worship of God or the supernatural, (2): a commitment or devotion to religious
faith and observance. 2: a personal set or institutionalized system of
religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. 3 archaic: scrupulous conformity.
�Religare to restrain, tie back.�
Spirituality is a call to evolve, move forward. Wildmon�s version of religion
-- �scrupulous conformity� -- is a commodity sold to and bought by those who,
for whatever reasons, would rather not think for themselves, need to hate, and
fancy themselves warriors for �God.� Randall Terry identified and spoke directly to
that flock of sheeple when he exhorted them �to let a wave of hatred wash over
you. Yes, hate is good . . . Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a Biblical
duty, we are called by God to conquer this country.�
rhetoric coming from leaders of the Christian Right and the �Christian nation�
they want to establish bear a striking resemblance to what
was heard and happening in Germany in the 1930s.
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