Tag archives: LGBT

Zuckerberg’s Two-Faced Support of “Free Expression” and Censorship of Therapy

by Peter Sprigg

August 4, 2020

Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) grilled the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook about censorship of conservative voices online in a congressional hearing July 29. He asked each if they were “concerned about the ‘cancel culture’ mob and what it’s up to.”

Here is what Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said in reply:

Yes, Congressman. I believe strongly in free expression. Giving people a voice is an important part of what our services do, and I’m very worried about some of the forces of illiberalism that I see in this country that are pushing against free expression. I think that this is one of the fundamental democratic traditions that we have in our country. And it’s how we make progress over the long term on a number of issues. And our company is committed to doing what we can to protect people’s voice.

If Zuckerberg means what he said in his sworn testimony to Congress, step one would be to immediately reverse his company’s decision to “cancel” all content supportive of sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts (SOCE or GICE)—usually referred to by its critics as “conversion therapy.”

According to news reports, on July 10, a spokesperson for Facebook and Instagram, Tara Hopkins, their public policy director for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, issued a statement saying that Facebook would remove all content promoting so-called “conversion therapy.” CNN reported that this was an expansion of Facebook’s “existing policies on hate speech worldwide.”

Ms. Hopkins reportedly said,

We don’t allow attacks against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity and are updating our policies to ban the promotion of conversion therapy services.

It’s puzzling that an offer to help willing participants achieve their own personally-chosen goal of overcoming unwanted same-sex attractions or becoming comfortable with their biological sex would be considered an “attack against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

On the other hand, it seems logical that “attacks against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity” would include attacks upon people who self-identify as ex-gay based upon their sexual orientation (as well as attacks against people who formerly identified as transgendered but who have de-transitioned based upon their gender identity).

But Facebook’s new policy is not prevention against attacks on individuals self-identifying as ex-gay—it is apparently the successful result of them. The announcement of the new policy follows a systematic campaign of social media attacks upon a U.K. man named Mike Davidson and his organization Core Issues Trust (CIT). These attacks were waged precisely because of Davidson’s self-identified sexual orientation as ex-gay.

It is particularly ironic that Mr. Davidson is being accused of “hate speech,” given the communications he has received from his critics:

CIT’s Facebook page has been barraged with pornographic images — some suggesting pederasty — from activists posting to CIT’s account. . .  

A phone text received by Mike Davidson, who leads both groups, told him, “Kill yourself… I hope you drop dead.  I hope you and your family are raped and killed. Do it. Kill yourself. Just do it.”

Ms. Hopkins of Facebook goes on:

We are always reviewing our policies and will continue to consult with experts and people with personal experiences to inform our approach.

I’m not aware of Facebook consulting with any therapists who actually conduct sexual orientation change efforts—although they would seem to be the people with the most “expertise” on the subject. Nor does Facebook seem to have consulted with people whose “personal experiences” include having benefited from undertaking sexual orientation change efforts. Facebook’s “approach” will not be “informed” if they listen to only one viewpoint.

Another news report, in the LGBT publication the Washington Blade, says:

Mathew Shurka, co-founder of Born Perfect, a project run by him and the National Center for Lesbian Rights that is dedicated to ending conversion therapy, worked with Instagram and Facebook to create a system to identify content promoting the practice.

Shurka is an LGBT activist who has told legislatures a far-fetched tale that when he attended a weekend retreat with an ex-gay ministry called Journey Into Manhood, “Not everyone walked out alive.” As the National Task Force for Therapy Equality has noted,

Perhaps the most disturbing part of Shurka’s testimony is that no one, not even the press, asked him why he didn’t report the so-called “deaths” that occurred during his experience with Journey Into Manhood. Surely, if a crime, suicide, or homicide had occurred, a police report would have been filed. Yet, these stories continue to be recorded as testimony in front of state legislatures and printed in gay activist media outlets . . .

So Facebook consulted with a political activist on only one side of a controversial issue (one of dubious credibility), and then announced a sweeping new policy of complete censorship without even consulting the other side.

Now, an article posted by Media Matters suggested some organizations they think Facebook should censor under the new policy. To illustrate its point, the article featured some of the social media content these organizations have posted. Ironically, the 17 (!) posts effectively debunk much of what is usually said by those seeking to ban SOCE.

One of them said,

My change has meant I have been able to fulfill my desire to remain with my wife and family . . .

Is this an unworthy goal? Can any sensible person call it “hate speech?”

Another one said,

It is … unethical for therapists to impose their agendas on clients.

One would think that would be a key point of common ground with critics of SOCE. Is it “hate speech?”

Another one said,

This therapy does not attempt to change an individual from being gay to straight, but rather it helps an individual to heal from past hurts and fear.

Again, heavy-handed attempts “to change an individual from being gay to straight” are what the critics are concerned about. This post ought to be reassuring. Does Facebook consider it “hate speech?”

I’ve learned of at least one Christian ministry in the U.S. that has had their entire Facebook page removed as of July 23. It’s called “Healing for the Soul.”

What does Facebook have against “Healing for the Soul?”

More to the point—where’s the “aversion therapy?” The electric shocks? Where’s the coercion—especially of minors? Where are the sweeping guarantees of immediate, total transformation? Where are the licensed mental health providers saying all you have to do is “pray away the gay?” Where’s the “shaming” of people with same-sex attractions? Where are all the horror stories that are regularly trotted out to justify imposing unprecedented legal restrictions upon the goals of private psychotherapy?

Where’s the “homophobia?” Where’s the “hate?”

It seems pretty clear to me that the reason the LGBT activists are concerned about what’s on Facebook is not because people are finding “lies” about “conversion therapy” there—it’s because they are afraid people may find the truth, unfiltered by the distortions of LGBT activists and their lackeys in the “mainstream” media.

The Silence of the Libs in Bostock

by Peter Sprigg

July 14, 2020

I, together with colleagues, have already commented several times on the outrageous opinion authored by Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch in the case of Bostock v. Clayton County. (See an initial response co-authored by Mary Beth Waddell, another here, and separate pieces analyzing the problems with the decision regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.)

Gorsuch, together with Chief Justice John Roberts and the Court’s four most liberal justices (Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan), ruled that the prohibition on discrimination “because of … sex” found in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends also to discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” The decision leapfrogged the democratic process by granting to homosexual and transgender persons special protections not granted by a majority of states nor by Congress, despite proposals to do so going back decades.

The three dissenting justices produced two dissenting opinions. Justice Samuel Alito wrote one with which Justice Clarence Thomas joined, while Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote separately. They did a thorough job of dismantling Justice Gorsuch’s astonishing claim that he was merely interpreting the plain language of the 1964 statute in granting this sweeping victory to the LGBT movement. Between them, the 82 pages of dissent were two and a half times as long as the 33-page Gorsuch opinion.

But what I found in some ways even more interesting was what the four liberals who concurred with Gorsuch said.

Nothing.

Not one of the Court’s four most liberal justices wrote a single word in concurrence. None saw fit to wax eloquent about what the decision would mean for Americans who identify as LGBT—ironically, only the two dissenters did that. Justice Alito wrote:

The updating desire to which the Court succumbs no doubt arises from humane and generous impulses. Today, many Americans know individuals who are gay, lesbian, or transgender and want them to be treated with the dignity, consideration, and fairness that everyone deserves.

Justice Kavanaugh went even further, implying that if he were a legislator, he would have voted for a bill to do what the Bostock decision did:

[I]t is appropriate to acknowledge the important victory achieved today by gay and lesbian Americans. Millions of gay and lesbian Americans have worked hard for many decades to achieve equal treatment in fact and in law. They have exhibited extraordinary vision, tenacity, and grit—battling often steep odds in the legislative and judicial arenas, not to mention in their daily lives. They have advanced powerful policy arguments and can take pride in today’s result.

Yet the four liberal justices, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, wrote not a single word.

In my opinion, there is a profound cynicism in that. The silence of the liberals confirms, more eloquently than anything they could say, the chief criticism of their philosophy. To them, only the result matters, not the reasoning.

The exact same thing happened five years ago in the Supreme Court’s last “landmark” decision on LGBT rights—Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Court declared unconstitutional state laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In that 5-4 decision, the Court’s “swing vote,” Anthony Kennedy, wrote a nebulous opinion declaring, “The Constitution promises liberty to all … to define and express their identity.” All four of the dissenting justices wrote separate opinions detailing their objections; but not one of the liberals wrote a concurring opinion.

A few days later, a writer in the liberal New Republic hit upon why, pointing out that Kennedy’s “opinion in Obergefell is, logically speaking, kind of a disaster.” The writer, Brian Beutler, believed that “his ultimate holding was the correct one. But the price of admission for Court’s four liberals was to join a muddled, unconvincing opinion.”

Beutler seemed to shrug and say there was no other choice:

But as long as Kennedy is the Court’s “swing” justice, he will frequently be the liberal justices’ best hope for good outcomes, and they will feel compelled to defer to him, even if he’s unable to marshal arguments that stand the test of time.

Justice Kennedy has now retired—but in Bostock, it was Justice Neil Gorsuch who did the liberals’ dirty work for them.

Justice Gorsuch’s Bostock opinion was of a completely different style from Kennedy’s in Obergefell. Gorsuch claimed to be strictly applying the principles of “textualism,” a judicial philosophy most closely associated with the late Justice Antonin Scalia. According to Gorsuch, his decision “follows ineluctably from the statutory text.”

Of course, Justice Samuel Alito demolished this claim in his dissent, writing:

The Court’s opinion is like a pirate ship. It sails under a textualist flag, but what it actually represents is a theory of statutory interpretation that Justice Scalia excoriated––the theory that courts should “update” old statutes so that they better reflect the current values of society.

In any case, the Supreme Court’s four most liberal justices are not “textualists.” A writer for Slate, Richard L. Hasen, expressed the liberal contempt for “textualism” and its sibling “originalism” in 2018, decrying the “bankruptcy” of “a kind of formalism which resuscitates the moribund idea that judges do not make law in part through value judgments, but instead find law through neutral principles.” (The Constitution, I guess, is “moribund”—either dying or obsolescent.)

However, Hasen noted, “liberal lawyers trying to get progressive results at the Supreme Court have already begun trying to pick off conservative justices through a calculated embrace of the theories.” In fact, he calls this “the model for what liberal lawyers are going to need to do,” noting that “because at least some of the [conservative] justices actually believe they are applying neutral principles … , they can be persuaded to vote against conservative positions . . .”

This approach seems to have worked in the Bostock case, “picking off” both Justice Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts.

The complicity of the four liberal justices in this cynical strategy is demonstrated by their silence.

How Do We Authentically Love Our LGBT-Identifying Neighbors?

by Laura Lee Caum

July 1, 2020

Who am I to judge?” For many years, this has been the common response from well-meaning Christians in the Gen Z generation when it comes to conversations regarding the moral status of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. This response should not be surprising, as it comes from those who were raised in a pluralist society heavily influenced by postmodernism and secularism.

While members of the Baby Boomer generation are generally surprised by aspects of the LGBT movement, the majority of Americans in the Millennial and Gen Z generations are quite comfortable with the moral changes happening in the country. This is in large part due to the timing of the movement. By the time those of us in the Gen Z generation were graduating high school, significant changes in law and policy had already been enacted. For example,“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” had been repealed, many states had already legalized same-sex partnerships/marriages, and the Senate had voted to allow those who identify as homosexual to serve openly in the military. Furthermore, Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states, was decided when many of us were just beginning to pay attention to the political and public policy debates happening in our country.

In light of the overwhelming support among the younger generation for same-sex marriage, how should younger Christians respond? How should we engage on this sensitive moral issue that we believe the Bible speaks clearly to? These are important questions that younger Christians committed to the authority of God’s Word must consider and speak clearly to. What follows are my thoughts on how Christians in the Gen Z generation can provide a thoughtful yet faithful response.

First, it is important to realize that many supporters of the LGBT movement are not strangers to the church. In fact, many of them sat under biblical preaching for years. One could then raise the question: why would faithful churchgoers readily neglect the truths of the Bible? While each situation is unique, allow me to suggest two reasons.

First, they may have watched media coverage of a number of spiritual leaders march with hateful signs or yell hateful things at those who identify as LGBT. Those few spiritual leaders who take such action twist Scripture to their own liking. Thinking they are advocating for morality, these spiritual leaders are actually failing to act with love toward those who identify as LGBT. This failure can lead to the hearts of many LGBT supporters to degrade into resentment, creating a separation between themselves and the church.

On the other side of the spectrum, the second reason faithful churchgoers are now readily neglecting the truths of the Bible is that some spiritual leaders have taken a “love everyone” approach. This approach is radically different from the “fire and brimstone” style but has the same damaging affect. The blanket statement of “love everyone” neglects the justice and truth that Jesus taught. It instead teaches the young member that their only role is to “love” their friends who identify as LGBT. The young member then concludes that they can love without the guidance of the church, and their place in the pew eventually sits empty. What then should the church do to retain these members and speak the whole message of the gospel?

The most compelling example of combining love and justice is found in John 8. For those unfamiliar with this story, this passage tells the story of a woman caught in the act of adultery. The religious leaders of the day bring her before Jesus and proudly proclaim, “Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.” Those who preach a fire and brimstone message would applaud this dedication to the law. The religious leaders then ask Jesus his opinion on what should be done with the woman. Obeying the Proverb to be slow to answer, Jesus eventually replies, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

If the story ended here, spiritual leaders who preach a “love everyone” message would be ecstatic. But the story doesn’t end here. As the religious leaders slowly walk away, Jesus asks her if there is anyone left to condemn her. No one is left. In a brilliant moment of combining the truth of God and the grace he offers, Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” That is the approach spiritual leaders should take. God is both just and merciful, and both must be preached. A sermon that follows this guideline condemns homosexuality for what it is, which is a distortion of the good gift of sexuality. This same sermon, however, should encourage a peaceful and loving attitude towards those in the LGBT movement.

To Christians who are tempted to sacrifice morality on the altar of supporting the LGBT movement, take a moment and reevaluate what love actually is. Though our culture has tried to combine the two, love and lust are radically different. One is selfless and live-giving while the other is selfish and destructive. Truly loving someone means instructing them in the way of truth. Jesus prevented the woman in John 8 from being stoned, but also instructed her to leave her life of sin. That is love. Love is not changing your social media profile picture to a rainbow flag, or marching during “Pride Month.” Examine the love that Jesus expressed, and do the same.

Pride Month forces Christians to examine themselves. Are we actually preaching the gospel, which combines truth and love? Ask yourself: Am I reaching out to those who struggle with homosexuality and loving them as Jesus does? How will I advocate for legislation that defends natural marriage and the family? We must answer these questions. We must act. Love requires that of us. Christians have no excuse to passively sit back and say, “Who am I to judge?”

Laura Lee Caum is a Communications intern at Family Research Council.

Gorsuch Misses Meaning of Sex and Sexual Orientation

by Peter Sprigg

June 24, 2020

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has rocked the legal world in a set of three cases consolidated under the name of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia by declaring that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Gorsuch accepted the argument that the law’s prohibition of discrimination “because of … sex” demands this result, because “homosexuality and transgender status are inextricably bound up with sex.”

However, Justice Alito pointed out in dissent, “‘Sex,’ ‘sexual orientation,’ and ‘gender identity’ are different concepts.” When the Civil Rights Act was adopted, Alito said, “[I]t was as clear as clear could be” that discrimination because of sex “meant discrimination because of the genetic and anatomical characteristics that men and women have at the time of birth.”

Virtually all the critics of the Bostock decision have cited this problem—that Justice Gorsuch erred in his interpretation of the word “sex” in the Civil Rights Act (or of the entire phrase, “discriminate because of sex.”)

I would go even further. I would argue that Justice Gorsuch fails to understand “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as well.

Let’s look at the concluding, summary sentence of his opinion:

An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.

My question is not just, “What does ‘sex’ mean?” but, “What does ‘being gay or transgender’ mean?”

The answer is not as obvious as it may seem. As I have been pointing out for years in my writings on human sexuality, neither sexual orientation nor gender identity are unitary concepts. Both, depending on the context, may refer to a person’s feelings, a person’s behavior, a person’s self-identification, or some combination thereof.

In the case of sexual orientation, a person may express romantic or sexual attractions toward persons of the same sex (feelings); a person may engage in sexual acts or sexual relationships with a person or persons of the same sex (behavior); or a person may either think or say publicly, “I’m gay” (self-identification).

While many may assume that all three elements of sexual orientation go hand in hand, it’s abundantly clear from social science research that they are not always consistent with each other in one person. A person with same-sex attractions may choose not to engage in homosexual conduct and may not identify publicly as “gay.” Is it meaningful—or respectful—to insist that such a person really “is” gay? A person may both experience same-sex attractions and engage in homosexual conduct, but may still choose not to identify as “gay.” Or a person might experience same-sex attractions and self-identify as gay, but choose to remain sexually abstinent. It’s also well-known that in unique social contexts—such as prisons—some individuals may engage in homosexual conduct even though they are neither attracted to the same sex nor “gay”-identified.

How many of the three elements must be present to say that someone “is” gay? All three? Two of the three?

In Justice Gorsuch’s opinion, he seems to lean toward attractions (feelings) as the defining characteristic—he speaks of a man who is “attracted to men” being discriminated against “for being homosexual.” (LGBT activists do something similar when say, as shorthand, that people should not be discriminated against for “who they love.”) Ironically, however, the discrimination alleged by the two plaintiffs in the sexual orientation cases reportedly occurred when they publicly identified themselves as gay. Gerald Bostock did so implicitly by joining a gay softball league; and Donald Zarda doing so explicitly in a comment about his sexual orientation to a customer.

Yet, as I have also often pointed out, when people (such as socially conservative Christians) express disapproval of homosexuality, it is virtually always homosexual behavior which is considered most problematic. “Discrimination” because of a person’s feelings alone would be hard to pull off, given that feelings are invisible. It is only when they are manifested overtly in sexual behavior—or in public self-identification which is taken as an indicator of sexual behavior—that “discrimination” is even possible. (I notice that Justice Gorsuch did not hypothesize about disparate treatment of a male employee and a female employee, “both of whom have sex with men.” Perhaps he would have considered it unseemly.)

LGBT activists would argue that discrimination based on any of these grounds—homosexual attractions, behaviors, or self-identification—should be illegal. But remember, the case was about the meaning of discrimination “because of sex” in a 1964 law—not about what LGBT activists wish was the law.

The fact that “sexual orientation” is defined by a shifting and uncertain mix of feelings, behaviors, and self-identification is one more proof that not only is it not the same characteristic as sex, it is not even the same type of characteristic as sex. “Sex” is not defined by feelings, behaviors, or self-identification. It is defined by biology—as Justice Alito said, by “the genetic and anatomical characteristics that men and women have at the time of birth.”

The Civil Rights Act simply does not apply.

Why Bostock Will Never Have the Final Word On Human Sexuality

by David Closson

June 19, 2020

Our rapidly changing moral landscape presents a daunting challenge for Christians committed to biblical sexual ethics. The LGBT movement continues to challenge centuries of norms concerning the family, marriage, and human sexuality. And a recent Supreme Court decision means legal definitions and understanding regarding human sexuality are changing, too.

Secular progressives often criticize conservative Christians for their alleged obsession with sexual ethics. But secular and progressive elites are increasingly forcing the issue, insisting everyone embrace their worldview and the full spectrum of LGBT policy positions or face social ostracizing, public shaming, loss of jobs, or other increasingly dire consequences. Those in positions of cultural and political influence are willing to use the coercive power of government to accomplish their political objectives. This was evident this week in the U.S. Senate as Democrats argued for the immediate passage of the Equality Act, legislation that represents one of the greatest threats to religious liberty ever introduced in Congress. It would gut our nation’s flagship religious liberty law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was passed nearly unanimously by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a 6-3 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County. The majority ruled that employment discrimination “on the basis of sex”— prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be understood to include actions based on sexual orientation and gender identity. By reinterpreting the statute in this way, the Court essentially rewrote civil rights law.

Many conservatives were surprised by the decision and considered Justice Neil Gorsuch’s majority opinion to be a betrayal of the originalist and textualist approach he had previously insisted guided his judicial philosophy. As both Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh pointed out in their respective dissents, the majority opinion authored by Gorsuch imposed a meaning that would have been foreign to those who authored the Civil Rights Act and ignored the plain meaning of the statute.

The consequences of the Bostock decision will play out for many years. In the immediate future, there are significant questions about how the ruling will affect religious liberty. Can religious institutions such as colleges and seminaries continue to have have sex-separated dormitories and housing? Are sex separated private spaces like bathrooms, locker rooms, and changing facilities now discriminatory? Will women athletes be forced to compete against biological males in both scholastic and professional sports? Will employers be forced to cover treatments and surgeries that are not medically necessary and that are in opposition to their religious beliefs on human embodiment?  

Originalism and textualism are methods of interpreting the law. But as theologically conservative Christians, we hold to a form of originalism and textualism when reading and interpreting Scripture—the historical grammatical method. In other words, we believe God’s Word is authoritative, infallible, and inerrant. Because the Bible is “breathed out” by God, followers of Christ are called to obey and align their lives with it (2 Tim. 3:16). In order to obey and align our lives with the Bible, we must read and interpret it.

The historical grammatical method of interpretation means we take seriously the grammar and syntax of the words and phrases that appear in the Bible because we want to know what the text says and what it means. We also want to place the text in its historical context. The Bible was written in a culture that is very different than our own. To understand many of the stories, we need some understanding of the ancient world in which it took place. Although this process of reading the Bible takes effort, there is no other faithful way to read Scripture.

As theologically conservative Christians, we know our views on marriage and sexuality are increasingly unfashionable and go against the cultural zeitgeist. But we hold to these views anyway, because we believe the Bible’s teachings about marriage and human sexuality are clear.

Transgender activists posit a distinction between the biological reality of sex and the subjective, internal feeling of gender identity. The biblical worldview, however, affirms the goodness of the material creation and the human body. In fact, the doctrines of creation, incarnation, and bodily resurrection provide strong theological affirmation of our physical bodies. Genesis 1:31 says that everything God created, including the human body, is “very good.” In other words, our bodies (including our maleness or femaleness) are essential, integral components of who we are.

In a world disordered by the fall, the goodness of the body may be difficult for many to affirm, and the church should show grace to those who struggle with accepting their bodies. But Christians must also speak the truth in love and stand on our convictions, which biology and anatomy support.

Christians cannot and should not compromise their Bible-informed beliefs about human sexuality. Why? Because we believe in the authority of God’s Word. And because we believe the Bible’s teachings are what is best for society and individual flourishing.

The real reason theologically conservative Christians disapprove of the LGBT movement has nothing to do with wanting to deny people rights or oppressing a group of people. Our convictions come from our compassion for them and our concern about the consequences of certain chosen behaviors. Both the Old and New Testaments prohibit homosexual conduct, and since God created us “male and female” (Gen. 1:27), we have no right to recreate ourselves any more than the clay has the right to tell the potter what to do (Is. 45:9).

As evidenced by the muted outcry to the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday—even among many conservative groups—conservative Christians are increasingly on the periphery when it comes to our convictions on human sexuality. Christians, especially pastors, will continue to face mounting pressure to compromise—or at least downplay—the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. However, we cannot compromise our beliefs because we are committed to Scripture. While the Court’s decision is deeply discouraging, we do not give up. We know that we are advocating and fighting for timeless truths revealed to us in Scripture.

So, let us continue to articulate a biblically robust, theologically informed perspective on how Christians think about the major issues facing our nation in order to promote the true flourishing of individuals and of society.

Supreme Court’s LGBT Ruling Is Not “the Law of the Land” - and Congress Should Act to Make that Clear

by Peter Sprigg

June 19, 2020

On June 15, in a set of three cases consolidated under the name Bostock v. Clayton County, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” is a form of discrimination “because of … sex”—which was prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Justices Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh both wrote powerful dissents (Alito’s being joined by Justice Clarence Thomas) pointing out that the Court was effectively rewriting legislation (properly the role of Congress), not merely interpreting it, as the Court is supposed to do.

Some members of Congress have responded to the Bostock decision by calling it “the law of the land.” For example Rep. Bill Foster, an Illinois Democrat, issued a statement saying, “No American should face discrimination by an employer because of who they are or who they love, and I applaud the Court for … making that the law of the land.”

Even more troubling was a statement from Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. According to an article in Politico, he responded to the Court’s rewriting of the Civil Rights Act by saying, “It’s the law of the land. And it probably makes uniform what a lot of states have already done. And probably negates Congress’s necessity for acting.”

But is this true? Is Justice Neil Gorsuch’s opinion for the Court in Bostock now “the law of the land?”

The phrase “the law of the land” has ancient roots in the history of law. But in the United States, the term is explicitly defined by the U.S. Constitution. Article VI, Clause 2, states:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States … ; and all Treaties made … under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land . . .

That’s it. The Constitution, the “Laws of the United States,” and treaties constitute the “Law of the Land”—not Supreme Court decisions. While Supreme Court decisions may serve as binding precedent for the interpretation of the law for as long as those precedents stand, defenders of our system of government should always remember that only the written words of the Constitution, the laws, and treaties themselves are the actual “Law of the Land.”

Nevertheless, when the Supreme Court issues a ruling on constitutional grounds, it is sometimes referred to colloquially (but still inaccurately) as “the law of the land.” The reason is the relative difficulty of overturning such a decision. Generally speaking, the Supreme Court’s interpretation and application of the Constitution can only be overturned by a constitutional amendment or by a new decision of the Supreme Court. This is a difficult task, requiring the approval of two thirds of both Houses of Congress and three quarters of the states.

Many historic Supreme Court decisions, such as the 2015 Obergefell decision redefining marriage and the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision permitting abortion, were based on a reading (however strained) of the U.S. Constitution. The Court’s recent ruling in Bostock was different—it involved only the interpretation of a statute passed by Congress (the Civil Rights Act).

This is an important distinction. When a court—even the Supreme Court—misinterprets a statute, as it did here, not only is it not “the law of the land,” but it is fully within the power of Congress to correct the Court’s error by enacting a new law. In fact, Congress has done so on several occasions.

Sen. Grassley was wrong to say Bostock is now “the law of the land” —Congress writes our laws, not the Supreme Court. He was also wrong to say that “it probably makes uniform what a lot of states have already done.” Only a minority of states had made “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” protected categories in their state civil rights laws, and Congress had consistently refused to do so at the federal level, despite dozens of attempts.

In saying the decision “probably negates Congress’s necessity for acting,” Grassley may have been referring to the Equality Act—an LGBT rights bill approved by the Democratic-controlled House last year. Instead, Democrats are only accelerating their efforts to pass this sweeping bill, which goes well beyond the Supreme Court’s decision. Indeed, just yesterday, Senate Democrats were giving impassioned floor speeches about the need to foist the anti-freedom Equality Act on America—in their words, to override the “religious excuses” of the faithful.

The real “necessity for acting” that still lies with Congress is to correct the Supreme Court’s erroneous interpretation of the law, and preserve the power of Congress, not the Court, to write the “Laws of the United States.”

FRC Opposes Guidance Attacking Sexual Orientation Change Efforts in Virginia

by Peter Sprigg

December 12, 2019

Editor’s Note: The following is a comment submitted on December 11, 2019 by Peter Sprigg on behalf of Family Research Council in opposition to a proposed regulation against so-called “conversion therapy” by the Virginia Board of Medicine.

I write in opposition to the proposed “Guidance Document on the Practice of Conversion Therapy,” and urge the Board not to adopt this policy.

Policy Statements Are Not Science

The guidance document is correct in stating, “Leading professional medical and mental health associations have issued position and policy statements regarding conversion therapy/sexual orientation change efforts …” However, “position and policy statements” are not the same as actual scientific findings. Unfortunately, “position and policy statements” are often the product of a highly-politicized process that is not representative of the professional population for whom they claim to speak.

Consider the first organization cited in the guidance document, the American Medical Association (AMA). According to a 2012 media report, there are 1.2 million physicians and medical students in the United States. Only 17 percent (217,490) are members of the AMA. (The AMA claims “approximately 250 thousand members” as of December 31, 2018.) Furthermore, AMA “position and policy statements” are not voted on by their entire membership, but rather adopted by a “House of Delegates” which consists of only 640 members as of June 2019. That means only one-quarter of one percent of all AMA members—and only a little more than one in every two thousand U.S. doctors—approve AMA position and policy statements.

The AMA press release announcing the new House of Delegates policy stated, “The AMA heard testimony, including first-hand accounts, regarding the significant harms triggered by conversion therapy …” Unfortunately, it has been documented that such “first-hand accounts” by LGBT activists are often implausible and sometimes demonstrably fabricated. What was not included in the AMA press release was any indication that the organization had undertaken a systematic review of the scientific evidence regarding either the effectiveness of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) or their alleged harms.

Concessions by the American Psychological Association

By contrast, the American Psychological Association (APA) did undertake a systematic review ten years ago. Although the resulting task force report was critical of SOCE, it did not call for legislative or regulatory restrictions on the practice. In fact, the APA made concessions that undermine the case for government intervention. For example:

1) Opposition to SOCE is based on the belief that people are born gay as a result of a “gay gene” or some other biological factor present at birth.

However, the APA admits that “there is no consensus among scientists” about what causes homosexuality, and that “nurture” may play a role.

2) Opposition to SOCE is based on the belief that sexual orientation is fixed and unchangeable.

However, the APA has acknowledged that “for some, sexual orientation identity … is fluid or has an indefinite outcome” (see page 2).

3) Opposition to SOCE, especially for children and adolescents, is based on the belief that individuals, especially children or adolescents, are often coerced into undergoing therapy (e.g., by parents).

However, the APA acknowledges that some people, including children and adolescents, may experience “distress” about having same-sex attractions and consider such feelings to be unwanted (see page 9).

The APA has also acknowledged that concerns about potential coercion could be mitigated by implementing a system of “developmentally appropriate informed consent to treatment” (see pages 74, 79, and 87).

4) Most of the therapy bans that have been enacted or proposed are specifically targeted at minor clients.

However, the APA acknowledges that there has been virtually no actual research done on SOCE with children or adolescents (see pages 33, 72-73, and 76).

5) Opposition to SOCE is premised on the belief that it has no benefits for the clients who undertake it.

However, the APA acknowledged, “Some individuals perceived that they had benefited from SOCE …” (see page 3).

6) Opposition to SOCE is based on the claim that it is always (or at least usually) harmful to clients.

However, the APA admits that there is no “valid causal evidence” that SOCE is harmful (see page 42).

7) The APA acknowledges that licensed mental health providers (LMHP) should “respect a person’s (client’s) right to self-determination,” allow the client to choose her or his own goals, and “be sensitive to the client’s … religion.”

However, legislative or regulatory restrictions on SOCE directly violate this core ethical principle of client self-determination.

A Literature Review of Studies Alleged to Show Harm from SOCE

When a recently-published book included an appendix titled, “Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles and Academic Books on ‘Conversion Therapy’ Outcomes that Include Measures of Harm,”[i] I set out to do a literature review (soon to be published) of this list of 79 sources. I discovered that a number of them make no reference to SOCE being harmful at all—it is inexplicable how they ended up on such a list. Of the remainder, approximately half are literature reviews or opinion pieces—not studies of actual SOCE participants.

All the entries that did study SOCE participants had significant methodological weaknesses, such as a lack of random sampling. Almost all of these studies represent anecdotal evidence only (via retrospective self-reports). Only one of the 79 sources used the gold-standard social science technique of a prospective and longitudinal design (that is, enrolling subjects at the beginning of or early in their therapy experience and interviewing the same individuals at different points in time to identify changes). That study found,

The attempt to change sexual orientation did not appear to be harmful on average for these participants. The only statistically significant trends that emerged … indicated improving psychological symptoms …” (emphasis added)

The most frequently cited article purporting to find harm from SOCE is a 2002 article by Shidlo and Schroeder. They asked respondents if they felt that “this counseling harmed you or had a negative effect,” and then followed up with a checklist of symptom areas. Oddly, the authors said in their article, “We do not report here on the frequency of responses to these items.” Because of this “qualitative” approach, the authors explicitly acknowledge,

The data presented in this article do not provide information on the incidence and the prevalence of failure, success, harm, help, or ethical violations in conversion therapy.”

Ironically, the one number that was reported—suicide attempts—showed that 25 participants had attempted suicide before “conversion therapy,” but only 11 had done so after such therapy. This would seem to suggest that SOCE is effective at reducing the risk of suicide, rather than increasing it as is sometimes alleged.

Conclusion

The evidence compiled so far regarding SOCE is either scientifically inconclusive or suggests that SOCE benefits those who seek treatment. It indicates a need for better and more extensive research on SOCE outcomes and techniques. The current state of research provides no valid scientific support for a draconian legislative or regulatory policy that would infringe upon the freedom of both clients and therapists to pursue the voluntary goal of sexual orientation change.

Unelected government officials should not insert themselves into the doctor/patient relationship, especially when relying on the politicized “policy statements” issued by a tiny minority of health professionals—statements that are unsupported by research and that are heavily qualified or even contradicted by the APA. I urge you not to adopt the proposed “Guidance Document on the Practice of Conversion Therapy.”



[i] “Appendix C: Measures of Harm: Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles and Academic Books on ‘Conversion Therapy’ Outcomes that Include Measures of Harm;” in Christopher Doyle, The War on Psychotherapy: When Sexual Politics, Gender Ideology, and Mental Health Collide (Manassas, VA: Institute for Healthy Families, 2019), pp. 365-74. The book’s author says that he received this list from A. Lee Beckstead (p. 107); but it is unclear whether Beckstead himself compiled the list.

Federal Judge Strikes Down Tampa Therapy Ban

by Peter Sprigg

October 8, 2019

In a major victory for the personal freedom of young people with unwanted same-sex attractions to seek professional help to achieve their goals, a U.S. District Court judge in Florida has struck down a local ordinance in Tampa, Florida that outlawed sexual orientation change efforts (so-called “conversion therapy or reparative therapy”) for minors when conducted by licensed professionals.

In Vazzo v. Tampa, U.S. District Court Judge William F. Jung, a 61-year-old Trump appointee who has been on the bench for a year, struck down the law and issued a permanent injunction against its enforcement. Plaintiff Robert Vazzo, a licensed marriage and family therapist, was represented in the case by Liberty Counsel.

Judge Jung chose not to directly address federal constitutional issues of free speech under the First Amendment, which has been the focus of other court challenges to therapy bans. Instead, he ruled that local governments in Florida had no authority to legislate on this issue because of an “implied preemption doctrine,” declaring, “The City Ordinance is preempted by the comprehensive Florida regulatory scheme for healthcare regulation and discipline.”

Judge Jung wrote that “substantive regulation of psychotherapy is a State, not a municipal concern,” and pointed out that “Tampa has never regulated healthcare substantively in any other way before” this ordinance was adopted in 2017.

Not only are local governments not authorized by Florida law to regulate the provision of mental health care services, but they are hardly competent to enforce such regulations. Judge Jung noted this in the following passage (emphasis added; citations omitted):

The City’s Department of Neighborhood Enhancement (formerly Code Enforcement) enforces the Ordinance. Although this is the City Department that usually enforces code violations like overgrown weeds and unpermitted contracting, the City’s Neighborhood Enhancement director testified that he would take any suspected violation of the SOCE Ordinance to the City Attorney before issuing a notice of violation. The Assistant City Attorney tasked as representative on this matter has been a lawyer for four years but has no training in counseling, therapy, or medicine; and stated that the City would consult Webster’s Dictionary to understand the terms in the Ordinance. If contested, the City would employ a “special magistrate” to adjudicate the alleged violation as a code enforcement proceeding. The City’s special magistrates are unpaid volunteers appointed by the mayor. The City has no plan in connection with the Ordinance to appoint someone who is a licensed mental health provider.

Not only would the enforcers of such a law be incompetent to do so, but the enactors of it did so in ignorance:

The main sponsor of the Ordinance on the council was unaware of the difference between talk therapy and aversive practices, and testified that council and participating staff are untrained in the mental health field.

Judge Jung’s reliance on “preemption doctrine” may help fuel other efforts to overturn (or lobby against) other local therapy bans across the country. Although 18 states have passed state-wide therapy bans, passing such local ordinances in more liberal urban areas is a tactic therapy opponents have employed in conservative states that have refused to adopt state-wide legislation.

However, Judge Jung’s opinion in the case is not so narrowly written as to be applicable only to local ordinances. For example, he ruled that the ordinance encroached upon at least five principles of state law in Florida which would apply to any proposed state therapy ban there (and possibly in other states) as well:

  • Florida’s Broad Right of Privacy” (“The Florida Constitution’s privacy amendment suggest that government should stay out of the therapy room.”)
  • Parental Choice in Healthcare” (“… [W]ith very few exceptions, parents are responsible for selecting the manner of medical treatment received by their children … until age 18.”)
  • Florida’s Patient’s Bill of Rights” (“A patient has the right to access any mode of treatment that is, in his or her own judgment and the judgment of his or her health care practitioner, in the best interests of the patient, including complementary or alternative health care treatments . . .”)
  • Florida’s Endorsement of Alternative Healthcare Options” (“It is the intent of the Legislature that citizens be able to make informed choices for any type of health care they deem to be an effective option … including … treatments designed to complement or substitute for the prevailing or conventional treatment methods.”)
  • Florida’s Well-Established Doctrine of Informed Consent” (“When the patient is denied the ability to exercise or even consider informed consent, the patient’s personal liberty suffers.”)

The judge’s decision also cited abundant evidence in the record of the case demonstrating scientifically how weak the case for any such therapy bans is (source citations omitted):

• Minors can be gender fluid and may change or revert gender identity.

• Gender dysphoria during childhood does not inevitably continue into adulthood.

• Formal epidemiologic studies on gender dysphoria in children, adolescents, and adults are lacking.

• One Tampa expert testified there is not a consensus regarding the best practices with prepubertal gender nonconforming children.

• A second Tampa expert testified consensus does not exist regarding best practices with prepubertal gender nonconforming children, but a trend toward a consensus exists.

• Emphasizing to parents the importance of allowing their child the freedom to return to a gender identity that aligns with sex assigned at birth or another gender identity at any point cannot be overstated.

• One cannot quantify or put a percentage on the increased risk from conversion therapy, as compared to other therapy.

• Scientific estimates of the efficacy of conversion therapy are essentially nonexistent because of the difficulties of obtaining samples following individuals after they exit therapy, defining success, and obtaining objective reassessment.

• Based on a comprehensive review of this work, the American Psychological Association 2009 SOCE Task Force concluded that no study to date has demonstrated adequate scientific rigor to provide a clear picture of the prevalence or frequency of either beneficial or harmful SOCE outcomes. More recent studies claiming benefits and/or harm have done little to ameliorate this concern.

• No known study to date [looking at 2014 article] has drawn from a representative sample of sufficient size to draw conclusions about the experience of those who have attempted SOCE.

• No known study [looking at same 2014 article] has provided a comprehensive assessment of basic demographic information, psychosocial wellbeing, and religiosity, which would be required to understand the effectiveness, benefits and/or harm caused by SOCE.

• Although research on adult populations has documented harmful effects of SOCE, no scientific research studies have examined SOCE among adolescents.

• With extraordinarily well-trained counseling “in a hypothetically perfect world” it may be an appropriate course of action for a counselor to aid a gender-dysphoric child who wants to return to biological gender of birth.

• There is a lack of published research on efforts to change gender identity among childhood and adolescents.

• As of October 2015 no research demonstrating the harms of conversion therapy with gender minority youth has been published. In 2018 an article was published on youth but causal claims could not be made from that 2018 report.

The Tampa ruling comes on the heels of New York City’s recent decision to repeal its adult therapy ban for fear of a negative precedent from a court case challenging it. Together, these two events have given welcome evidence that the days of such freedom-denying therapy bans may now be numbered.

Will Your Child Be Forced to Celebrate Sex Politics 15 Times This School Year?

by Cathy Ruse

September 30, 2019

Powerful forces are pushing your child’s public school to celebrate sex politics this year—15 times!

How many of these events have made it onto your school’s calendar? Find out today.

For the 2019-2020 School Year:

1. Banned Books Week (September 22-28, 2019) – Includes books that have never been banned, but have been the subject of parental concern because of age-inappropriate sexual content.

2. Ally Week (September 23-27, 2019) – Pressures students to declare themselves “allies” of students or teachers who identify as LGBT.

3. Bisexual Awareness Week (September 16-23)

4. LGBTQ History Month (Month of October 2019) – Labels historical figures as LGBT, even when they never identified as such.

5. National Coming Out Day (October 11, 2019)

6. International Pronouns Day (October 16, 2019) – Ignores the fact that forced declaration of one’s own pronouns, or false pronouns for others, violates free speech and religious freedom.

7. Spirit Day (October 17, 2019) – Encourages students and teachers to wear purple, and highlights LGBT bullying (even polite dissent can be characterized as “bullying”).

8. Transgender Awareness Week (November 12-19, 2019)

9. Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20, 2019)

10. No Name-Calling Week (January 20-27, 2020)

11. Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31, 2020)

12. Day of Silence (April 24, 2020) – Known as the “high holy day” of LGBT activism.

13. International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (May 17, 2020)

14. Harvey Milk Day (May 22, 2020)

15. LGBTQ” Pride Month (June 2020)

Parents: You have the legal right to withhold and refuse consent for your child to participate in school events, assemblies, classes, or activities that violate your beliefs.

Your family’s faith and beliefs deserve respect. Demand it.

Remember, LGBTQ lobbyists are getting their “high holy days” on the school calendar even while many school districts are scrubbing Christmas Break for “Winter Break,” Easter Break for “Spring Break,” and Columbus Day for “Indigenous People’s Day.”

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln: The philosophy of the public school in one generation will be the philosophy of the culture in the next.

Imagine what could happen if government schools just focused on providing an excellent education!

Thanks to Mission America for assembling the calendar events. Read here for more details.

The Real “Fairness for All” is Freedom from Government Coercion

by Peter Sprigg

September 12, 2019

Concerns about religious liberty are one of the chief obstacles to passage of “non-discrimination” laws that would make “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (“SOGI”) into protected categories at the local, state, and federal level. Only 20 of the 50 states have enacted SOGI protections for both employment and public accommodations, and a comprehensive (and radical) federal bill, the Equality Act (H.R. 5), has stalled in the Senate since its passage in May by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.

Utah Rep. Ben McAdams, a Democrat who voted for the Equality Act, recently told that state’s Deseret News that he thinks the bill “still needs work”—and he supports a so-called “compromise” called “Fairness for All.” The theory is that both “LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rights” and “religious liberty” could be protected by enacting a single bill that includes both SOGI protections and religious exemptions.

The model for “Fairness for All” proposals at the federal level is the “Utah compromise” that was adopted by that state’s legislature in 2015. It added SOGI protections to the state’s nondiscrimination laws regarding employment and housing (public accommodations were omitted), while creating exemptions for religious non-profit organizations and protections for some employee speech.

Unique factors in Utah—notably, the power and influence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which endorsed the “compromise”—make it doubtful whether this approach could be replicated elsewhere. LGBT groups at the national level seem determined to press forward the existing Equality Act, which contains no religious liberty protections and explicitly strips away those that might be asserted under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Nevertheless, because some may be tempted to believe that such a “compromise” provides a “win-win” solution in the clash between LGBT rights and religious liberty, it is important to reiterate why we believe this would be a serious mistake.

First, the fundamental presumption behind “Fairness for All” is that there is a balance or symmetry between “rights” or “protections” for people who identify as LGBT and “rights” or “protections” for people of faith. This is a fallacy. The “free exercise” of religion is guaranteed by the First Amendment, but there is no provision of the Constitution that references sexual orientation or gender identity.

The fundamental rights found in the U.S. Constitution—such as freedom of speech and the press and the free exercise of religion—do not place any limits on the actions of private individuals and organizations; on the contrary, they protect such actions against interference by the government. “Civil rights” laws that bar discrimination in employment and public accommodations, however, do not merely limit the government; they place a restriction upon the action of private entities (such as small businesses) in carrying out their private activity.

There is a place for non-discrimination laws (especially regarding characteristics that are clearly inborn, involuntary, and immutable, such as race). However, the burden of proof in every case must rest on those who seek to increase the number of categories or characteristics protected under such laws. That’s because the extension of laws against private discrimination is less a “win-win situation” than a “zero-sum” game. When one (such as an employment applicant) wins more protection, another (the employer) actually loses a corresponding measure of freedom.

The most publicized cases highlighting the clash between LGBT non-discrimination laws and religious liberty in recent years have involved businesses in the wedding industry that are owned and operated by Christians who prefer not to participate in the celebration of same-sex weddings. (Although one such business, Colorado’s Masterpiece Cakeshop, won an important decision at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018, the decision was on narrow grounds and did not settle this area of the law.) It is not clear that religious liberty protections in any proposed compromise legislation would protect these businesses.

The wedding industry cases are by no means the only context in which this conflict arises, however. There have been cases challenging the right of Christian adoption agencies to decline to place children with same-sex couples; cases where Christian counseling students were punished for declining to affirm and support homosexual relationships; and cases in which Christian employees of government agencies were fired for privately expressing disapproval of  homosexual conduct. It is not clear that any of them would be protected by such “Fairness for All” proposals.

Further, “gender identity” protections would undermine the rights of organizations and businesses to set dress and grooming standards or have separate private spaces (e.g., in bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, dormitories, etc.) for biological men and women. These rights stand ready to be compromised by “Fairness for All” proposals.

Family Research Council believes that combining religious liberty and special privileges for sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOGI) is unsustainable, for three primary reasons.

1)      It is wrong, in principle, to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories, because they are unlike historically protected categories such as race. Historically, protections were reserved for characteristics that are inborn, involuntary, immutable, and innocuous, such as race, and/or in the U.S. Constitution (such as religion). None of these criteria apply to the choice to engage in homosexual conduct or the choice to present one’s self as the opposite of one’s biological sex.

2)      There is no religious exemption that would be acceptable to LGBT activists and would also be adequate to fully protect against all the likely threats to religious freedom.

3)      Non-discrimination laws always implicate moral beliefs. They send the message that it is morally wrong to disapprove of homosexual or transgender conduct. For such laws to be endorsed by citizens who believe that it is morally wrong to engage in homosexual or transgender conduct is a logical contradiction.

What would truly reflect “Fairness for All” would be to reject SOGI laws containing special privileges, and allow real religious liberty—the freedom to hold to one’s personal beliefs and to act on them without government interference or coercion.

  • Page 1 of 3
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
Archives