A Christian right catfight over civil rights and another costly Bush initiative to promote discrimination
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Feb 19, 2006, 17:03

The Montana News Association headline read �Focus on the Family Founder, James Dobson, Losing Credibility with Christian Conservatives; Dobson Trying to Cover Up His Support of Gay Endorsement of S.B. 166 �Reciprocal Beneficiaries� Bill.� So what�s S.B. 166?

[It] would grant to gay partners and others many of the legal rights currently reserved to married couples. These rights would include property-sharing, decision-making powers over funerals and organ donations and, potentially, health-care policy benefits. If adopted, the proposed legislation could force employers to cover gay partners.

A Denver Post editorial said pretty much the same thing. Their headline read �A fresh focus on domestic partners: Focus on the Family is supporting legislation to provide expanded legal benefits for heads of untraditional households including gay couples�:

We were pleasantly surprised last week when Focus on the Family expressed its support for state legislation that would provide expanded legal benefits for same-sex couples and other non-traditional households. . . .

Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs-based organization of conservative Christians, has endorsed a measure by Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, that would expand legal benefits to non-married heads of households, no matter the orientation of the couple.

Dr. Paul Cameron, chairman of the Family Research Institute (FRI), went ballistic over Dobson�s comments. Before getting into why, consider Dr. Cameron�s reputation. This assessment comes from the psychology pages of the University of California-Davis website:

Psychologist Paul Cameron has used his own studies to claim that homosexuals threaten public health, social order, and the well-being of children. His conclusions are generally at odds with other published research, and objective indices show that his work has had no apparent impact on scientific research on sexual orientation.

Although Cameron has been criticized in the popular press, extensive scientific critiques of his group's research have not been widely available. Those that have been published have been brief or appeared in obscure journals. This inattention by the scientific community is perhaps not surprising, given the poor quality of the Cameron group�s data and the low prestige of the journals in which they have been published. Most scientists have simply ignored the Cameron studies.

Another organization agrees and has evidence to back up their claim that �Paul Cameron is . . . the least credible of the various psychologists, medical doctors, and associated professionals which actively collaborate with the Religious Right, and attempt to lend a veneer of scientific respectability to the Religious Right's anti-gay propaganda.�

As for Cameron�s Family Research Institute, its website proudly proclaims that FRI �was founded in 1982 with one overriding mission: to generate empirical research on issues that threaten the traditional family, particularly homosexuality, AIDS, sexual social policy, and drug abuse. FRI believes that published scientific material has a profound impact, both in the United States and around the world.�

Quality research published by reputable scholars in respected professional journals does have an impact, but Dr. Cameron�s �published scientific material� is suspect, to say the least, and as UC-Davis pointed out, is of poor quality and �simply ignored� by reputable psychologists, scientists, and the academic community at large.

In touting the work of Cameron and his fellow �researcher,� the FRI website included this bizarre blend of fact and pure fiction: �The �gold standard� of science is published research, not books about research per se, but rather scientific articles in peer-reviewed publications. On this score, only about 1% of Ph.D.s and M.D.s ever publish such articles.� [italics added]

While it is quite true that published, peer-reviewed research articles are �the gold standard,� it is preposterously absurd to claim that only �1% Ph.D.s and M.D.s ever publish such articles.� Every Ph.D. at every college and university in this country -- especially those working toward tenure or promotion -- will confirm the same fact. Peer-reviewed scholarly publications in respected academic journals are not an option. They�re a requirement.

In his on-air radio comments, Dobson was more than justified in sarcastically questioning that Cameron �calls himself a researcher.�

The catfight continued:

Dr. Dobson quoted a press release FRI issued that said of him: �During the confirmation fight over Harriet Miers, Dobson, in a somewhat ambiguous manner, told his radio audience that he was in favor of gay rights.� Dr. Dobson replied: �That�s a complete fabrication. What I said is that I am in favor of gay rights in the sense that homosexuals should not be treated unfairly under the law.�

However, in October 2005, after a reference to Harriet Miers� statement that she believed in gay rights, Dobson said on his radio broadcast �You know what? I do. I don�t believe that homosexuals should be denied a job. I don�t believe that they should not be able to buy a house. I don�t believe that they should not have the same rights everybody else does. I just don�t believe that there should be special rights given to homosexuals that are not given to everybody else.� [italics added]

Isn�t civil marriage a civil right given to just about �everybody else�? In its 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declared �marriage� is �one of the basic civil rights of man� and that the freedom to marry is �essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness.�

Moreover, the whole �gay rights� argument is a semantic ruse. Activists are not fighting for �gay rights�; they�re fighting for �equal civil rights.� But that�s something Cameron vehemently opposes as he made so very clear in his quoted comments: �If Dr. Dobson believes that homosexuals should not be denied a job or housing because of their bedroom behavior, then he stands with the gay rights crowd on this issue. . . . He can�t give homosexuals protections currently enjoyed only by certain specified groups . . ." [italics added]

In other words, Dr. Paul Cameron aggressively advocates and passionately supports discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans in employment, housing, and everywhere else it could be applied.

To be sure, James Dobson is no friend or ally of the gay community or equality. He is and has been a vitriolic -- and often unhinged -- opponent of same-sex marriage as was made clear in his book Marriage Under Fire and his October 2004 statement that allowing loving, monogamous same-sex couples to wed would not only �destroy marriage. It will destroy the earth.� His Focus on the Family organization has its own faith-based �ex-gay program� called �Love Won Out� which, according to Witness Magazine, �Masks [a] Message of Hate.�

So-called �ex-gay� aversion and reparative therapies have been denounced as �harmful,� �dangerous� and �unethical� by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers.

The American Psychiatric Association�s position statement is particularly pertinent in relation to both Cameron and Dobson. It states, in part, �efforts to repathologize homosexuality by claiming that it can be cured are often guided not by rigorous scientific or psychiatric research, but sometimes by religious and political forces opposed to full civil rights for gay men and lesbians.�

In fact, the American Psychiatric Association has endorsed same-sex marriage as a way of promoting what it and the American Psychological Association call �mental health.� A recent article published in the peer-reviewed, highly respected (�gold standard�) Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health agreed: civil marriage would boost the mental and physical health of gay and lesbian people.

Without anything but the Bible -- that was also once used to justify slavery and, later, segregation -- and the pseudo-science of �researchers� such as Cameron to support their pro-discrimination campaigns, could it be that Dobson and another infamous leader of the evangelical Christian Right are beginning to see the proverbial writing on the wall: �civil rights and equality always win�? Or is it more likely they have self-serving political motives?

On August 24, 2005, The Washington Blade ran a story about �Conservative leader calls housing, employment for gays �basic rights.�� That �conservative leader� was none other than Jerry Falwell.

Falwell, who in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, blamed the terrorist attacks on �the pagans, the abortionists, and the feminists and the gays and lesbians,� and who describes himself as �very conservative,� told [Tucker] Carlson [on the August 5 edition of MSNBC�s �The Situation with Tucker Carlson�] that if he were a lawyer, he too would argue for civil rights for gays.

�I may not agree with the lifestyle,� Falwell said. �But that has nothing to do with the civil rights . . .

When Carlson countered that conservatives, �are always arguing against �special rights� for gays,� Falwell said that equal access to housing and employment are basic rights, not special rights.

�Civil rights for all Americans, black, white, red, yellow, the rich, poor, young, old, gay, straight, et cetera, is not a liberal or conservative value,� Falwell went on to say. �It�s an American value that I would think that we pretty much all agree on.� . . .

�Like most Americans, it seems Rev. Falwell has reached the conclusion that everyone deserves basic rights,� said [Joe] Solmonese [president of the Human Rights Campaign]. �I hope he also supports legislation that would deliver on these values.� [italics added]

Paul Cameron would, of course, disagree that all Americans deserve the same and equal civil rights, as would Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition -- whose hypocrisy and anti-gay campaigns are legendary -- and Don Wildmon of the American Family Association, who boycott any company that treats its gay and lesbians employees equally or any organization that advocates equal civil rights for all Americans.

A few days after his appearance on �The Situation with Tucker Carlson,� Falwell seemed to reaffirm his stance for civil equality in an interview with the Lynchburg (Virginia) News & Advance newspaper, as reported by

�I have always believed that all Americans should have basic human rights,� Falwell told the paper. �I�ve made it clear that I don�t consider the right to fair housing or employment a conservative or liberal value. Those are American values.�

However, in that same interview Rev. Falwell exposed himself:

�I don�t think homosexuals should be granted a special minority status,� he told the paper. However, he said that gays, including teachers, should not be denied jobs solely because of their sexuality. . . ."Every American should be allowed to work wherever he or she wishes as long as they obey the law.� [italics added]

That�s sounds good, but it�s a Falwellian ruse -- one that Dobson also used in his �equality� comments -- because it remains legal in 38 states to fire workers because of their sexual orientation.

And just for the record, a �minority� is defined as �a part of a population differing from others in some characteristics and often subjected to differential treatment.� Gays and lesbians -- approximately 2-4 percent of the total U.S. population -- definitely fit the definition. As was noted in an October 3, 1837, edition of U.S. Magazine and Democratic Review, �Though we go for the republican principle of the supremacy of the will of the majority, we acknowledge, in general, a strong sympathy with minorities, and consider that their rights have a high moral claim on the respect and justice of majorities.� How far we have and haven�t come since 1837.

I don�t think Mr. Solmonese or anyone else is holding their breath for Falwell or Dobson to join the Human Rights Campaign�s battle for equal civil rights for all Americans. So why did they make statements that seem to contradict their previous theocratic efforts and successes? There�s no doubt that the Republican Party has slowly but definitively been �hijacked� by the radical Christian Right. As the president of the Alamo City Republican Women�s Club accurately observed in 1993, �The Grand Old Party is more religious cult than political organization.�

Perhaps Dobson and Falwell are just being self-serving, as usual, and using diversionary tactics to distance themselves from an administration already caught promoting overt discrimination in the workplace, something few Americans (with the exception of Paul Cameron, Lou Sheldon and Don Wildmon) agree with or support.

As Bush�s second term fails more miserably than his first, even party stalwarts are waking up and taking a step back. Dick Polman�s report in the Philadelphia Inquirer on February 12 told the tale:

Conservatives love to quote Ronald Reagan at every opportunity, to invoke him as the exemplar of their ideology. But in their winter of discontent, many on the right are breaching Reagan�s 11th commandment, which decrees that no Republican shall ever speak ill of another.

And the target of their ire is President Bush. . . .

The bashing has been quite intense in recent days. Commentator Jonah Goldberg, miffed that Bush has piled up record deficits and boosted the size of government, writes that Bush �is spending money like a pimp with a week to live.� . . .

(Christian) right on cue, Goldberg�s observation was confirmed in an article that appeared in the Christian news service Agape Press and in this report from

With leaders of some of America�s leading anti-gay marriage groups looking on President Bush has signed legislation giving $500 million [total cost of the program is $750 million] to faith-based programs to promote and strengthen opposite-sex marriage. The provision is part of the deficit reduction bill . . . [italics added]

How does one reduce the ballooning budget deficit by spending $500 million on a faith-based program designed to promote discrimination?

Under the law faith-based groups are able to circumvent local and human rights laws that are supposed to protect LGBT workers.

Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary Wade Horn said that the financial windfall is not intended to specifically oppose same-sex marriage, although the President is a major supporter of a proposed amendment to ban gay marriage in the Constitution.

Horn said, however, that none of the money could be used to promote or support same-sex marriage in Massachusetts where gay marriage is legal. The money also could not be used to support gay families where civil unions or domestic partnerships are allowed. [italics added]

So much for the equality of legal marriages in the Bush theocracy. Horn�s statement also exposes the sham and scam of the Christian Right�s and the Bush administration�s �pro-family� initiatives.

And how transparently duplicitous for Mr. Horn to say religious groups that receive federal funding for marriage programs will not be allowed to proselytize or to discriminate against participants based on their �faith perspective� when it is precisely that �faith perspective� that is the basis for their -- and the Bush administration�s -- discrimination against gays and lesbians, especially when it comes to civil marriage.

As Chief Justice Margaret Marshall of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court wrote in the landmark decision, whether the barrier to marriage is �skin color� or �sexual orientation . . . history must yield to a more fully developed understanding of the invidious quality of the discrimination.�

Mr. Polman�s observations continued:

Yet another, former Reagan domestic-policy adviser Bruce Bartlett, is releasing a book this month titled Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy.

The vibes here the other day at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference were particularly toxic. . . . Even Rick Perry, who succeeded Bush as governor of Texas, rebuked Bush . . .

There�s a big conservative faction that thinks Bush is wrong for believing he can bring peaceful democracy to Iraq and the rest of the Middle East . . . There�s a conservative faction that believes Bush is wrong to conduct warrantless surveillance of Americans; ex-Rep. Bob Barr, who led the early fight for Clinton�s impeachment, suggested here that the Bush plan violated federal law . . .

Rep. Bob Barr was absolutely correct when he suggested that Bush�s domestic spying was a violation of federal law. The Pentagon recently acknowledged that, at least in relation to peace activists and gay Americans:

Pentagon admits improper spying
Ann Rostow, PlanetOut Network
Thursday, February 9, 2006 / 12:32 PM

SUMMARY: The Defense Department admits some of its clandestine investigations of terrorist threats dealt "inappropriately" with some protesters.

The Department of Defense has admitted that some of its clandestine investigations of foreign terrorist threats dealt �inappropriately� with peace activists and gay protesters, said Sen. Carl Levin.

Mr. Polman also noted in his Philadelphia Inquirer article that �there�s a big conservative faction that is alarmed about Jack Abramoff, the confessed felon who morphed from Republican activist to corrupt superlobbyist. They see Abramoff as a symbol of the special-interest establishment.� Time magazine�s on-line edition recently featured a picture of Abramoff with Bush, the pro-discrimination, special interest president.

An article entitled �How Abramoff Funded The Anti-Gay Agenda� appeared on the website of (Similar articles also appeared in the Washington Post and San Francisco Chronicle.) The article�s opening was just the beginning of the expos�:

One aspect of the corruption and bribery mega-scandal shaking Washington that is swirling around conservative lobbyist Jack Abramoff . . . and which hasn�t gotten much mass media attention: how a lot of dough from Abramoff-controlled slush funds went to leading homophobes from the religious right.

Some of that money went to one of America�s premier homophobes -- and crusader against internet gambling -- Rev. Lou Sheldon, founder and chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition:

Abramoff did more than hire anti-gay luminaries as Rev. Lou Sheldon (head of the Traditional Values Coalition) and Ralph Reed (former head of the Christian Coalition [and current candidate for Georgia lieutenant governor]) with money from Abramoff�s clients and front groups to lobby for special interests. Abramoff also funded an anti-gay group close to the lobbyist�s best buddy and biggest water-carrier, Rep. Tom Delay -- the U.S. Family Network -- with laundered money that has been traced to Russian oil interests. [links added]

According to the InfoShop article, �Sheldon�s Traditional Values Coalition received at least $25,000 from an Abramoff client, eLottery -- an online lottery company.� [italics added]

Warlord Bush, his domestic spies and his homophobic, anti-equality, special-interest, hypocritical theocratic supporters have consistently and persistently betrayed and disgraced the very essence of what America once stood for: equal civil rights for all citizens regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, or sexual orientation.

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