Monday, June 26, 2006
by Wayne Besen
I have yet to visit Focus on the Family's massive "campus" in Colorado Springs - a place so large it has its own zip code. But each year, thousands of fundamentalists traipse through this tourist trap to bow to King James. The people I know who have visited say that pictures of the group's leader, James Dobson, hang ubiquitously while tour guides reverently refer to him as "Dr. Dobson."
"I felt like I was in North Korea and Dobson was playing the part of Kim Jong Il," a friend recently told me. "Call it what you will, but this was a form of idolatry."
While I'm sure the toady tour is mesmerizing, what I really want to do is slip past security and into the bowels of the building where a trap door must exist that leads to "The Fib Factory."
In this liar's lair, I picture a team of butch women and effete men - ex-gays in their Homosexuality and Gender Department - hooked up to polygraph machines. These "experts" are asked by Dobson to say whatever comes to mind about homosexuality. Whenever a red light flickers, signifying a bald faced lie, Dobson turns to his personal assistant and says -- "Write that down -- we have a new talking point."
This scenario is fiction, but so is this group's alarming propaganda. Dobson's maddening mendacity is only surpassed by his capacity for audacity. The hocus pocus from Focus is spreading like a plague of locusts, while their fallacies are finding their way into municipalities.
This week, my organization, Truth
Wins Out, caught the right wing's 800 pound gorilla in two white lies as large as New Hampshire's White Mountains.
The group grossly distorted a study by a Canadian researcher that showed teenage lesbians had a higher rate of suicide attempts. Unconscionably, Melissa Fryrear, a spokesperson for Focus on the Family, blamed
gay activists for causing the deaths, saying that teaching self-acceptance caused the young women to be suicidal.
"Regrettably, they think they have to embrace homosexuality because pro-gay advocates told them that they were born gay," said Fryrear.
This interpretation of the data "baffled" Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc, the Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia, who conducted the study.
"Nothing in the brief results we presented or in our overall study could lead to such conclusions," she said after I contacted her and showed her how Focus on the Family portrayed her study results. "Population surveys cannot determine cause and effect, they can only suggest possible links. Even so, other researchers have not found these sorts of links, and neither have we."
Press, a wire service, interviewed Sawwyc and she expressed further alarm on how her scholarly work had suddenly ended up as culture war fodder for the Focus foxhole.
"The research has been hijacked for somebody's political purposes or ideological purposes and that's worrisome."
Realizing that she was caught in a calumny, Fryrear invoked the work of Dr. Robert Spitzer, a Columbia University researcher who had published a 2001 study on sexual orientation. The Focus spokeswoman said in the article that Spitzer's research linked contemplating suicide to unwanted attractions to the same sex.
I contacted Spitzer the next day and it turns out that his work had also been
distorted. He sent me a statement outlining his dismay over the way Focus on the Family misrepresented his study.
"Unfortunately, Focus on the Family has once again reported findings of my study out of context to support their fight against gay rights," said
Spitzer. "Although a third of the subjects in my study reported having had serious thoughts of suicide related to their homosexuality, not one of them blamed the gay rights movement's advocating a 'born-gay' theory of homosexuality as the cause of their suicidal thinking."
Fryrear essentially tried to dig herself out of a hole caused by distorting the work of one researcher by twisting the work of another. Isn't there something in the Bible about not bearing false witness? Just another day at the Fib
Factory, I guess.
Focus on the Family has always been truth challenged and taken special delight in mocking science. Remember, this group also started The Family Research Council, a Washington lobby that ironically does virtually no original research.
In Focus on the Family's mammoth "campus" there are hundreds of employees. But is there a single person there who knows a centrifuge from a centerfold or a test tube from a boob tube? All they understand is the science of spin, which can lead to embarrassing sin, as James Dobson learned this week.