Tuesday, December 19, 2006
by Wayne Besen
University lecturers left their classrooms this week to lecture Focus on the Family's James Dobson to tell him he has no class. The tenured were teed off and staged a revolt because they were revolted by how Dobson had perverted their work in TIME magazine. In a guest column
criticizing Mary Cheney, Dobson justified his trashing of gay families by citing the work of renowned researchers. But instead of allowing their work to be distorted, the scholars hollered and told Dobson to stop lying for the Lord.
The first professor to profess her displeasure was Dr. Carol Gilligan, a renowned psychologist and author of In a Different Voice. Gilligan has also taught at Harvard and University of Cambridge and has more degrees than a thermometer. She is so well-respected that Dobson tried to justify his argument against same-sex families in TIME by citing her work. The devious goal of Dobson was to force reasonable people to think, "If a learned scholar likes Gilligan says gay families are harmful, maybe Focus on the Family is right."
The problem was Dobson deliberately got it wrong. I contacted Gilligan and she was "stunned" and "mortified" by the way Dobson had manipulated her research. Indeed, she wrote a letter to Dobson demanding that he "cease and desist from quoting my research in the future."
"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," continued Gilligan in her letter
and reiterated in a video airing on You Tube
. "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."
A second researcher I contacted was Dr. Kyle Pruett
, professor at Yale University School of Medicine and the author of Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child." Pruett was also unaware that Dobson had butchered his scholarship.
"You cherry-picked a phrase to shore up highly, in my view, discriminatory purposes," wrote Pruett in a letter to Dobson. "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 (about same-gender families)."
If this wasn't embarrassing enough, this week, Angela Phillips, author of "The Trouble With Boys," and professor at Goldsmiths College in London, said she was "incensed"
to find she was misquoted in another Dobson article.
"It has come to my attention that my book 'The Trouble with Boys' has been seriously misrepresented in writings by James Dobson," she wrote to Focus on the Family. "I would be grateful if you could publish this letter prominently on your website."
Of course, Dobson will never apologize to Dr. Gilligan or stop using Dr. Pruett's research or place Professor Phillips' letter on his website. As long as his organization is raking in nearly $150 million a year and he is on the White House's speed dial, Dobson will mock the truth with mendacity. Bearing false witness is his modus operandi.
In June, Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia, said Focus on the Family twisted her study
on lesbian teen suicide.
"The research has been hijacked for somebody's political purposes or ideological purposes and that's worrisome," Saewyc told CBC news. Focus on the Family justified its lie by misquoting the work of Columbia University's Dr. Robert Spitzer, who felt it necessary to respond.
"Unfortunately Focus on the Family has once again reported findings of my study out of context to support their fight against gay rights," said Dr. Spitzer
Feeling the heat of international condemnation, Dobson turned to character assassination on his webpage this week, suggesting his accusers were hostage to "liberal groupthink." I suppose, as a group, these acclaimed scientists do think that misrepresenting science is wrong. And, of course, it is worth noting that Dobson respected these very researchers enough to quote them last week. He only changed his tune after they upbraided him for unethical and unprofessional conduct.
Focus on the Family's big "ah ha" moment was more like a "ha ha" moment, as it was quite laughable. They pointed out that I was the one who first contacted all of the professors. But, Focus neglected to say that if Dobson had been honest, I wouldn't have had to make these calls. Finally, Focus on the Family derided Dobson's detractors as name-callers. However, some of Dobson's fiercest critics have come from the far right.
In October, former ultraconservative Rep. Dick Armey (R-TX) said that Dobson is a "real nasty bully" who commands a "gang of thugs."
I would agree that his organization more often acts like Crips than Christians. It is time to take the Dramamine, as Dobson is about to spin legitimate criticism in the same dishonest way he spun the actual studies he is being criticized for distorting.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
by Wayne Besen
A couple of weeks ago I railed against the Religious Right for turning Santa Claus into a wedge issue with their obnoxious and offensive "War on Christmas" initiative. Through a pressure campaign, extremist groups forced major retailers, including Wal-Mart and Walgreen Co. to replace inclusive "Happy Holiday" greetings in stores with the more in-your-face "Merry Christmas."
While I love the joyous "Christmas spirit," my main point was that the insidious purpose behind this campaign was to force non-Christians into paying homage to the right wing's pale-skinned, suburban, Republican Jesus. After all, if you are Jewish, and a well-meaning, broad grinned store clerk bellows, "Merry Christmas," how else can you reply but, "Merry Christmas?"
Well, you can get into a tit-for-tat by barking "Happy Chanukah," but that tactic gets tiresome and silly when you are snarling at a store employee that has been ordered to greet you that way.
In response to this column, several letter writers pilloried me by claiming I was a big liberal crybaby who was reading too much into this campaign. The last thing the fundamentalists would ever want to do, they pleaded, was force their beliefs on anyone. The issue, they said, was about religious freedom and allowing God back into the public square.
The question is, whose God?
The Leviticus-spouting loons are now up in arms because Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., has said that he wants to take his Congressional oath with his hand on the Koran instead of the Bible.
This makes perfect sense, considering a Muslim taking an oath with his hand on the Koran has infinitely more meaning to him than using another religious text. The question is why any rational person would object to this reasonable request? Unless, of course, the hidden agenda is to send a message to religious minorities that Christianity is the supreme religion in America.
The American Family Association - a group behind much of the War on Christmas farce - wasted no time launching a campaign against Ellison. The AFA breathlessly urged supporters to "take action" by bullying members of Congress to "pass a law making the Bible the book used in the swearing-in ceremony of Representatives and Senators."
Again, why would a Christian group want to compel a Muslim to swear on the Christian holy book?
Right wing columnist Dennis Prager answered this question on AFA's website by ranting that Ellison's use of the Koran "undermines American civilization." It is interesting that the same hysterical verbiage used to prohibit same-sex marriage has now become a club against others who disagree with the fundamentalists.
Prager went on to make the outrageous claim that only one holy book represents America, even though there are literally thousands of religious belief systems in this nation.
"Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is," wrote Prager. "Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress."
So, there you have it in a nutshell. The "War on Christmas" and the "War on Gay Marriage" and the "War on Rep. Ellison" are cut from the same intolerant cloth. If you donâ€™t submit to the will of the right wing, the penalty is persecution and exclusion from civil society.
If you want to shop in December, you will say Merry Christmas and listen to Silent Night. If you want your relationship recognized, you will marry a person of a gender approved by the AFA's Bible. If you desire serving this nation in Congress, you must swear by a book you don't believe in. Sounds like a free country, doesn't it?
Prager and his ilk have a poor understanding of America and seek to make this nation the Christian version of Iran. The only time Prager makes sense is when he argues that if we allow Ellison to take an oath on the Koran, it will open the door to other religious texts in such ceremonies. But so what if this happens? It would only strengthen America and our tradition of religious freedom.
In the same vain, the family of an American soldier recently killed in action had to continue fighting for his rights even after his death. They wanted to have on his marker the Wicken symbol denoting his spiritual belief. Although his family's wishes were upheld, they should not have even been questioned.
In America, there can be no religious test for patriotism or public office, but that is exactly what busybodies like Prager are proposing. If this ruinous vision ever prevails, America, as we know it, will have ceased to exist. And I swear by that, on whatever book I so choose.