Lyle Shelton’s ‘red herring’ consequences to same-sex marriage

Lyle Shelton of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has done a fine job building straw men from supposed “consequences” of same-sex marriage legislation.

He has been pushing this shadowy notion for well over a year, using the interim time to select a favoured stable of consequences. As a constant face for the No campaign he has recently been offering these quite doubtful consequences as reason to vote No in the upcoming plebiscite. To hear Shelton tell it, oppression of select freedoms is absolutely certain. To hear others tell it he is talking nonsense. Offering red herrings. He’s certainly doing what many do when the evidence doesn’t favour their position and opinion.

Mainly, work hard at divergence. Draw attention away from the actual matter at hand. As has been recently pointed out by Nick Greiner more than one billion people live in countries where same-sex marriage is a reality. Keeping this in mind we can see that even with the stable of starring consequences the ACL and Shelton are offering a paucity of examples to defend the No Campaign. More so we should revisit his approach from last year to grasp how little has changed. As Independent Sydney M.P. Alex Greenwich notes, Lyle Shelton rarely talks about marriage with respect to the same-sex marriage debate.

On July 26th 2016 Shelton appeared on Sky News and was asked by Paul Murray to explain the No case. Mr. Shelton is no stranger to dodging an answer to questions, instead getting his own point across. He replied, “This is essentially about three things, Paul. It’s a package deal that comes with a bunch of other things”. He then went on to stress that “gay couples have equal status with heterosexual couples under law that has existed since at least 2008”. He again pressed the “package deal” point, contesting that “if we change the definition of marriage, Safe Schools comes under the banner of the rainbow flag and rainbow political agenda”.

His evidence? “You’ve got to look no further than Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews, one of the biggest proponents of gay marriage, he’s forcing Safe Schools into his schools”. Then freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion appear to be under threat. Changing the definition of marriage “in Commonwealth law weaponises state based anti-discrimination law”. He mentioned the case of Archbishop Julian Porteus. An anti-discrimination complaint was lodged in November 2015 against the Archbishop with respect to his “Don’t Mess With Marriage” booklet.

The third problem is about “what we do to children”. Shelton contended “that mothers don’t matter to a baby anymore. That’s what same-sex marriage says in law and culture”. Later he contends that “we won’t be able to stop commercial surrogacy, which is deeply unethical, if we change the definition of marriage. It is a definite flow-on effect”. He “cannot get anyone from the gay lobby to deny that commercial surrogacy is not next”. The Australian Christian Lobby argue that commercial surrogacy is another part of the “package deal” with same-sex marriage.

The next day he ran much the same by Steve Price on 2GB. According to Shelton same-sex couples enjoy the same lifestyle as heterosexual couples. If we redefine marriage, we redefine parenting. There will be “flow on effects” including gender ideology via the Safe Schools programme, which (you guessed it) is “a package deal with same-sex marriage”.

Shelton is now frequently referring to “radical LGBTIQ” education as a result of Safe Schools. It’s rather tiring researching his presentation. He will launch into the “consequences” that he insists loom before us. Every interview. Often two or perhaps three times. Although this is of course far more palatable than the May 2016 blog piece in which he wrote on Safe Schools. Including;

The cowardice and weakness of Australia’s ‘gatekeepers’ is causing unthinkable things to happen, just as unthinkable things happened in Germany in the 1930s.

Despite using a range of “consequences” to same-sex marriage to defend a No vote, it is Safe Schools that entirely make up the first No Campaign TV advertisement. The ad’ was commissioned by the Coalition for Marriage which is led by the ACL. The ABC report in part;

Claims legalising same-sex marriage will lead to sweeping education reforms are “patently ridiculous”, Education Minister Simon Birmingham has said after the release of the first national TV ad from the No campaign.

He continues to rattle off the other consequences he has firmly committed to memory. Although as I mentioned, with one billion people living in countries with same-sex marriage enshrined in law, his sample is strikingly tiny. He still mentions Archbishop Julian Porteus from Tasmania. He never misses a chance to remind listeners that in March 2016 Bill Shorten promised the Guardian Australia’s Why Knot? event that Labor would not alter discrimination legislation to please opponents to same-sex marriage. The Guardian reported;

Labor will oppose any attempt to extend discrimination law exemptions to allow people who object to same-sex marriage to deny goods and services to gay couples.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten made the pledge at Guardian Australia’s marriage equality event Why Knot in Sydney on Thursday.

Responding to a questioner who asked him to rule out allowing bakers not to sell cakes to gay weddings, Shorten said Labor would oppose such discrimination law exemptions and repeal them at the earliest available opportunity if they passed.

“It’s not allowed now under the current law – why would we water down existing laws? We don’t need to water down anti-discrimination law to keep some people [who oppose same-sex marriage] happy.”

Shelton has summed this up as “cake makers and wedding service providers losing freedoms”. Furthermore he frequently refers to Senator James Paterson to reinforce the “loss of freedoms” consequence. The Guardian recently reported in part;

Parliament must decide how to protect religious freedom if same-sex marriage is legalised, and cannot wait until the marriage equality postal survey is finished, the Liberal senator James Paterson has said.

The Victorian senator has called for an overhaul of anti-discrimination law to allow service providers to refuse gay weddings, telling a religious freedom forum in Perth on Thursday there will be no time to deal with the issue after the survey is finished.

Constantly, along with Shorten and Paterson, Mr. Shelton will also mention Alex Greenwich to complete his trio of politicians whose individual conduct apparently confirms the consequence of eroded civil liberties.

A staple discrimination consequence often presented to Australians is that of Irish cake makers Daniel and Amy McCarthy. In 2014 bakers at the family run company, Ashers, refused to make a cake with the slogan Support Gay Marriage, above an image of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie. The customer was gay rights activist Gareth Lee. By May 2015 a Belfast High Court ruled the company guilty of unlawful discrimination based on grounds of sexual orientation. Ashers paid £500 plus court costs.

Nonetheless in a few weeks the UK Supreme Court will hear arguments over two days to consider the initial judgement. One must wonder however just how much consideration will be placed on the argument that certain messages in icing pose a risk to the soul. As Pink News reported last May;

The bakers claimed in a legal brief that God considers it a sin to make cakes with pro-gay messages on, but multiple courts have upheld the decision against them.

Now with the UK Supreme Court taking an interest this apparent consequence may prove inconsequential to those who are essentially discriminating against others. The attention has already resulted in a significant increase in profits. As of last May Ashers reported an increase of £200,000.

Another “consequence” raised by Mr. Shelton is truly a case of having your cake and eating it too. He’d have his audience believe Oregon couple Aaron and Melissa Klein are innocent bakers that had their right to protect their beliefs crushed. However it was the decision of the Klein’s to not serve same-sex customers due to religious beliefs, then close their shop and move their business to home. The attention to this case led to a Wikipedia page, Sweet Cakes By Melissa.

In July 2015 Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries confirmed in a final order an administrative court’s decision to fine the couple. They were fined $135,000. However along with a number of other news outlets, Pink News reported in March this year the couple wanted to overturn the judgement. There also appeared to be strange activity around the finances raised;

The Christian bakery in Oregon that waged a court battle against anti-discrimination rules are now trying to avoid paying legal costs – despite donors giving them several times the full amount.

The owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa came to national attention when they claimed it would be “sinful” to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, launching a legal battle against the state’s equality laws.

After losing the long-running court case last year, bakers Melissa and Aaron Klein were ordered to pay $135,000 in costs and damages .

More than  $400,000 was raised online after the anti-gay American Family Association (AFA) rallied its supporters to donate to Sweet Cakes to cover the fine.

It could still be several weeks at least until the appeals judges hand down a ruling.

Mr. Shelton loves to tell us of the consequence that befell 71 year old Washington grandmother Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts. Stutzman refused to provide floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding based on her religious beliefs. A lower court found she had violated the state’s anti-discrimination laws. Last February Washington’s state Supreme Court agreed with the lower court’s ruling. Robert Vischer argues here that the court erred in its decision. The Attorney General outlines his case below (bold mine);

Fighting discrimination before the state Supreme Court

I will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. I had another opportunity to uphold our anti-discrimination laws recently, this time before the Washington State Supreme Court.

My office filed the lawsuit in 2013 against Arlene’s Flowers and its owner and operator, Barronelle Stutzman, for discrimination over the refusal to serve a same-sex couple seeking to buy wedding flowers, a service she and her business provided to opposite-sex couples.

Last year, a Benton County Superior Court judge ruled that Stutzman’s actions violated the state Consumer Protection Act. Before I filed our lawsuit, I sent a letter to Ms. Stutzman asking her to agree to stop discriminating, in which case my office would not seek fines or penalties. Ms. Stutzman declined that offer. She lost the ensuing lawsuit and pursued an appeal, which the Supreme Court heard in November.

Washington law is clear: Businesses cannot discriminate. If you serve opposite-sex partners, you must serve same-sex partners equally.

Recently there has been a development that reinforces how tenuous this case is to the argument of “consequences” coming from Shelton. Indeed the development itself suggests that the ACL is at best sloppy and at worst deceptive with the full import of its claims. On July 14 this year, The Daily Signal reported;

Less than one month after the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would review the case of a Colorado baker who declined to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding celebration because of his religious beliefs about marriage, lawyers asked the high court to combine it with a similar case involving a florist from Washington state, The Daily Signal has learned.

On June 26, the Supreme Court announced it would hear the case of Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. In 2012, after refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding celebration, he was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union and charged with violating the state’s anti-discrimination law.

The case of baker Jack Phillips is also listed on the ACL website. One hopes if the reviews are successful that this consequence will be accurately reflected on the website.

We constantly hear from Mr. Shelton that in Canada, father Steve Tourloukis lost the right to remove his children from “radical sex education programs which became compulsory after marriage was redefined”. It is reported that the Ontario Superior Court of Justice upheld the School Board’s decision to deny permission to remove children from class to avoid what Tourloukis had labelled “false teachings”. It is reported in part;

The Board took the position that it was not possible to know, in advance, what does or does not amount to a “false teaching”, and that permitting the applicant’s children to be withdrawn from classes where certain topics are taught would be contrary to the values of inclusion and student well-being that underline a number of Ministry and Board policies, including the Board’s Equity Policy. The Board also argued that granting the accommodation requested by the applicant could lead to feelings of exclusion by students, including the applicant’s children.

Another “consequence” of same-sex marriage legislation that Shelton has on high rotation is that Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven wants priests and pastors who refuse to wed same sex couples to “find another job”. Shelton opens a June 27th blog post with;

With Australian same-sex marriage activists saying there are no consequences to changing the definition of marriage, the Swedish Prime Minister (pictured) has warned priests to perform gay marriages or “find another job”.

Interestingly the quote “find another job” is part of a link to an article that doesn’t present such a dismissive phrase. Because Löfven didn’t say this. This hasn’t stopped Shelton claiming so constantly on TV and radio. What the Swedish PM actually said in this regard is reported as follows in the article Shelton links to;

We Social Democrats are working to ensure all priests will consecrate everyone, including same-sex couples,” Lofven told Kyrkans Tidning magazine.

“I see parallels to the midwife who refuses to perform abortions. If you work as a midwife you must be able to perform abortions, otherwise you have to do something else… It is the same for priests,” he said.

Another constant from Shelton is the London based Jewish Vishnitz Girls school. He tells his audience that it faces closure “because it won’t teach its students that gender is fluid”. The Independent reported in part on June 26th, 2017;

A private faith school in London has failed its third Ofsted inspection for refusing to teach its pupils about homosexuality.

Inspectors visiting Vishnitz Girls School in north London last month said the Orthodox school does not give pupils “a full understanding of fundamental British values”, The Telegraph reported.

[…]

Ofsted makes clear that schools are not expected to “promote” ideas about sexual orientation or gender reassignment, but they are expected to “encourage pupils’ respect for other people, paying particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the 2010 Equalities Act”.

Perhaps one of the most strikingly misleading claims from Lyle Shelton is a post in the ACL blog headed, You Won’t Believe The Latest Consequence Of Same-Sex Marriage In Canada.

A new law in Ontario, Canada, threatens to take children from “abusive” parents who do not agree with them changing their gender.

Australian Christian Lobby Managing Director Lyle Shelton warned that if the gender diversity requirement was removed from the Marriage Act, pressure would build for similar law here.

Ontario’s Minister of Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau said his Bill 89, passed last week, designated parents who did not agree with their children’s chosen gender as “abusive”.

The wording here is designed to mislead readers into believing that a new law has been passed solely to label parents who do not agree with their child’s gender change as “abusive”. And that should parents not agree with the gender change there is a risk the children will be taken. But is this really what Bill 89 is claiming? The Explanatory Note includes;

The paramount purpose of the Act — to promote the best interests, protection and well-being of children — remains unchanged from the current Act.

The additional purposes of the Act are expanded to include the following:

         To recognize that services to children and young persons should be provided in a manner that respects regional differences wherever possible and takes into account,

                physical, emotional, spiritual, mental and developmental needs and differences among children and young persons;

                a child’s or young person’s race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, family diversity, disability, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression; and

                a child’s or young person’s cultural and linguistic needs.

         To recognize that services to children and young persons and their families should be provided in a manner that builds on the strengths of the families wherever possible.

The Bill in total is extensive. 352 sections (containing subsections) within 13 parts. After the preamble the second reference to gender, for example, is mentioned (in the Bill proper) in Paramount purposes and other purposes. It is found in Part 1, Section (1), subsection iii, as below;

Part 1 (1)  The paramount purpose of this Act is to promote the best interests, protection and well-being of children.

(2) The additional purposes of this Act, so long as they are consistent with the best interests, protection and well-being of children, are to recognize the following:

(3) Services to children and young persons should be provided in a manner that,
[…]
iii.  takes into account a child’s or young person’s race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, family diversity, disability, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression,

The term “abusive” does not appear in the Bill copy to which Shelton has linked. There are 16 matches to “gender” and 35 matches to “abuse”. It is quite clear from reading the text surrounding these terms that removal of children would be from a demonstrably abusive environment. Exactly what constitutes abuse is well defined. Merit for Shelton’s claim that children would be taken from parents who simply do not “agree” with their child’s gender is lacking.

I find it concerning that Shelton makes this contention in such a fickle manner. The psychological challenges experienced by LGBTIQ adolescents subject to unwanted gender bias or bigotry are well documented. As are many tragic outcomes in some cases where proper support is denied. Society itself must be confident that the rights of children and adolescents will be protected in this regard.

Fortunately this Bill strives to build on the strengths of families “wherever possible” and seeks to promote “the best interests, protection and well-being of children”. It is patently clear that reference to gender identity and sexual orientation is a very small part of what makes up a child’s or young person’s identity. Australia has nothing to fear from Canada’s protection of children because the nation has same-sex marriage legislation.

A number of the other “consequences” listed above are to be revisited by Supreme Courts and one is presently subject to appeal. Others demonstrably discriminate. Indeed there will always be those seeking to draw attention to themselves, or as was said in the case of “Washington grandmother” Barronelle Stutzman, seeking her fifteen minutes of fame. Shelton constantly embellishes and misleads to create the illusion of unjustified, socially restrictive “consequences”.

Shelton’s manufactured concern about a “package deal” and demonstrably unlikely “consequences” is puerile and immoral.

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Andrew Denton on Assisted Dying

Earlier this month Andrew Denton presented what might be called his findings on the need for assisted dying, or voluntary euthanasia in Australia. Without this legislation one Victorian per week suicides to escape pain. Just one state. These mainly “elderly violent suicides” are composed in the book Denton released on August 10th titled The Damage Done.

Denton has travelled to Belgian, The Netherlands and Oregon where assisted dying legislation exists in law. Whilst there are differences and similarities in these laws it was what such legislation is not that is most striking to the Australian situation at present. There is no sign that the many horrors organised opponents insist will accompany such legislation exist.

No slippery slope. No sanctioned killing of the disabled, the elderly, the sick or the frail. No sign of greedy family members metaphorically marching a family member to an early unwanted demise. The legislation itself presents this from happening by ensuring the decision is that of the individual in question.

An individual must be of sound mind, enduring intolerable suffering, aware of the consequences of their decision and checked and double checked by separate, independent physicians. There are many reasons why the fear conjured by self-appointed moral guardians is simply fallacious. Not least, in their own words, organised planning to distort facts and feed the public and legislators unrealistic images as to what assisted dying would mean.

Denton presents the primary four “myths” that sustain opposition to the much needed and compassionate legislation that would see assisted dying a right in Australia. These are demolished with more than enough hard evidence gleaned from where assisted dying is legal. Furthermore these points and many more are embellished. Australians it seems, are fed deception. With over 80% in favour and under 10% in opposition to assisted dying the orchestrated abuse of power denying public will is thunderously immoral.

It’s important Australians understand that we were once world leaders in such legislation. Assisted dying existed in N.T. under the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995. The Liberal Party’s Kevin Andrews (“a leading member of the conservative Lyons Forum, dubbed by some ‘The God Squad'”) and Labor’s Tony Burke, assisted by powerful fellow Catholic busnessmen undermined the will of the N.T. public, ultimately having the law repealed. Their harmful work continues today. 28 attempts have been made in the last 20 years to pass assisted dying legislation.

Denton argues the two politicians have “engineered” a denial of evidence. He covers this dynamic, the reality of assisted dying legislation and the importance of palliative care. A significant number of patients who meet eligibility requirements and whose cases satisfy safeguards for assisted dying ultimately do not take life-ending medication. In Oregon this figure is 40%. What this tells us is that the peace of mind that comes with knowing one has control over their end is powerful indeed.

What we often call euthanasia is not “killing”. It is assisted dying. It is dying with dignity. I do urge finding the time to listen to Denton’s material.

 – Andrew Denton: The Damage Done. The price our community pays without a law for assisted dying

© National Press Club of Australia, 10 August 2016

© ABC Lateline, 10 August 2016


Andrew Denton investigates the stories, moral arguments and individuals woven into discussions about why good people are dying bad deaths in Australia – because there is no law to help them.

Don’t Mess With Anti-Discrimination Laws

A fortnight ago Australians learned that the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) was urging the federal government to set aside anti-discrimination laws during the marriage equality plebiscite. This would facilitate free speech for the “no side” which was, according to ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton, fearful of being prosecuted if they expressed their views on same sex marriage.

According to Fairfax, Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission described it as “a disgraceful way of dealing with the issue”. Suggesting the ACL failed to understand how the anti-discrimination law worked, she added. “It’s an outrageous proposition and it’s highly misguided.”

In a radio interview with Jon Faine on Melbourne’s ABC 774 Shelton raised the example of the rather unambiguously titled “Pastoral letter” Don’t Mess With Marriage (below at 1 minute mark).

… at the moment we’ve seen the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference taken to the Tasmanian Human Rights Commission because someone felt offended by a very gentle, and respectful booklet just explaining Christian teachings on marriage.

Speaking to Fairfax about the same case Shelton is quoted as saying those who argued against same sex marriage faced a “constant threat of quasi and full-blown legal action”. Apparently as Shelton sees it these laws are not fair. State anti-discrimination laws have “such a low threshold” and thus, according to Shelton, the ACL is very concerned about fairness during the campaign.

The “gentle and respectful booklet”, as Shelton labelled Don’t Mess With Marriage was published in November last year. It points out on p.13 that:

Respecting a child’s dignity means affirming his or her need and natural right to a mother and a father. And there are countless reliable studies that suggest that mothers and fathers enhance – and their absences impede – child development in different ways.

[…]

‘Messing with marriage’, therefore, is also ‘messing with kids’. It is gravely unjust to them.

Lyle SheltonLyle Shelton

A few pieces of this “gentle and respectful” wisdom require an entire paragraph in large font. Don’t think the fact that many children are happily raised in single parent families might get in the way of the ACL “Christian teachings on marriage”.

There is a big difference, however, between dealing with the unintended reality of single parenthood and planning from the beginning artificially to create an ‘alternative family’ that deliberately deprives a child of a father or a mother. (p.13)

Same-sex friendships are of a very different kind: to treat them as the same does a grave injustice to both kinds of friendship and ignores the particular values that real marriages serve. (p.9)

Under a photo of a sad child staring expressionless into space with disheveled hair and wearing a singlet is the heading Consequences of redefining marriage. Large font paragraphs sum up:

But if the civil definition of marriage were changed to include ‘same-sex marriage’ then our law and culture would teach that marriage is merely about emotional union of any two (or more?) people. (p.14)

Husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, will be seen to be wholly interchangeable social constructs as gender would no longer matter. (p.14)

As always with such bigotry we’re reliably informed there is “sociological research” or simply research to back the claims. One citation mentioned on page 16 is M. Regnerus (2012): How different are the adult children of parents who have same sex relationships? His methodology and conclusions are condemned by a number of experts in this fact check from Equality Matters.

Indeed there was no comparison of same sex couples raising a family to heterosexual couples raising a family. Rather the criteria used is whether a parent had ever had a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex. The parent subjects were in fact part of a failed heterosexual union. Only a minor part of the sample spent “more than a few years living in a household headed by a same sex union”.

D. P. Sullins’ Emotional problems among children with same-sex parents: difference by definition is cited. It is also the subject of Emma Green’s Using Pseudoscience To Undermine Same-Sex Parents. Green notes:

This is not a new argument. Especially in the past decade, as gay marriage has been legally recognized in many states, a small number of scholars have claimed that kids of same-sex parents are exposed to more potential harms than kids of straight parents. This, in turn, has been used to argue against gay adoption and marriage.

In 5 Things to know about the new “gay parents are bad for kids study” Democratic Underground lay out how poorly data collation was conducted by Sullins, and note a lack of controls or adjustments for ambiguous variables (Point. 2). They ask in point five, So why bother authoring a study that is very obviously flawed?

This is essentially the problem with the deeply offensive Don’t Mess With Marriage. Children are the innocent victims of same sex marriage. They are to endure a “grave injustice”. Also the booklet is sprinkled with apparently awful outcomes for individuals and institutions across the globe. Again the tone is that same-sex marriage has a victim count.

So why would any objection be raised against Don’t Mess With Marriage, if Shelton deems it “a very gentle, and respectful booklet just explaining Christian teachings on marriage”? We find out in this Australian Women’s Weekly article that the “anti-gay” scribe was handed out to Catholic school children. 56 schools in Canberra according to Canberra Archbishop Christopher Prowse. Students discovering sexual orientation and gender or aware they are gay attend these schools. One mum stressed she was “furious”.

Referring to “sociological research” to quietly pass the buck to justify emotionally destructive and psychologically harmful biases might be intended to lend academic integrity to organised bigotry. Yet it appears any such consensus as put forward doesn’t exist.

The American Psychological Association published a statement on June 11th 2012. It includes:

On the basis of a remarkably consistent body of research on lesbian and gay parents and their children, the American Psychological Association (APA) and other health professional and scientific organizations have concluded that there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation. That is, lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children. This body of research has shown that the adjustment, development and psychological well-being of children are unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish.

[…]

In fact one study which did have the religious right unsettled was the 2014 University of Melbourne (Australia) study by Crouch et al. Parent-reported measures of child health and wellbeing in same-sex parent families: a cross-sectional survey (Full paper). Abstract Conclusions read:

Australian children with same-sex attracted parents score higher than population samples on a number of parent-reported measures of child health. Perceived stigma is negatively associated with mental health. Through improved awareness of stigma these findings play an important role in health policy, improving child health outcomes

Lyle Shelton’s appeal to antiquity is one for those who love to dig through history. In defending the request for an “override” of anti-discrimination laws Shelton claimed,

…those in the “no” camp were not seeking to say anything bigoted, but to put forward the “millenia-old” argument that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

A History Of Same Sex Marriage by William Eskridge Jr., offers a markedly different view of marriage, history and culture. There are the fascinating accounts of fourth century Christian martyrs and Roman soldiers St. Sergius and St. Bacchus. Perhaps married lovers as John Boswell concluded – to much criticism. Or simply “made brothers” via adelphopoiesis. Or as others postulate was the Christian tradition of adelphopoiesis the ideal vehicle to allow a same sex union in all but name? Nonetheless the real answers would lie in a firm grasp of history and anthropology.

Still, it matters little what is “millenia-old”. Appeals to antiquity are regarded as logical fallacies because in all their forms they are bankrupt of evidence to persuade. Today in our present social climate the denial of same sex union requires discrimination and frequently, bigotry. Expecting “override” of anti-discrimination legislation hints at the tone of argument the conservative religious movement would like to get away with.

The ACL should be ashamed they feel justified in making such a request.

 

Pseudoscience and Christian bigotry

First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s [pregnancy] really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

US Republican Senator Todd Akin, August 19th 2012

Some doctors have told me that health outcomes are worse for gay and lesbian people, and gay activists themselves point to health problems. I mean this in the widest sense, not just HIV-AIDS but rates of cancer, alcoholism and other disease.

Sydney Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen, September 10th 2012

An interesting article headed When did it become okay to bag Christianity? was published in Mamamia recently.

The author recounts hearing what appears to be a fairly unjustified anti-theistic rant directed at Christians, then poses some queries as to why such criticism is common. Common in various media and comedy sketches. Of course this applies also to drama, casual discourse, public debate and genuine lobbying for equal rights.

Perhaps the question should have been phrased differently, or presented as an observation. Christianity particularly, has practitioners adhering to many different practices, beliefs and intention. Regrettably there are those who ignore the privacy of faith and wield their version of Christianity as if it were authoritative. Or worse, an absolute truth or blueprint for life. Everyone’s life.

It is this constant song of demand that the only life we know be discarded in servitude or demoted to a test run that sustains a deep and painful wound in the Australian psyche. The strange mix of fundamentalism and patronising insistence that others must live by an unwelcome moral code is at once offensive and utterly absurd. The intellectual paucity upon which it rides is truly astonishing.

Yet it is the message of Christianity as put forward by those in a position to command media attention, those who lobby or horrifically as revealed in recent years, those who seek to indoctrinate our children at public schools. The scale of material wealth enjoyed by the institutions that protect and nurture this archaic message and sadly defend those known to have abused so many children is not lost on Australians.

That religious institutions based on Christianity and the faith of Christianity are not one and the same, is not always clear. This may explain why it’s seemingly “okay to bag Christianity”. On the most recent episode of Q&A on Australia’s ABC, Aussies were treated to some splendid bigotry and misogyny from Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen. Such views would and do disgust many Christians. He also spoke of the message of Jesus Christ and the positives associated with this. This view would be celebrated by all Christians.

Therein lies much confusion and the source for criticism of Christianity. It may not be Christianity in it’s entirety or individual Christians that are intended to be “bagged”. Yet the inordinate wealth, control and unwanted influence afforded truly unpleasant individuals based upon what is essentially a belief in magical beings, does not sit well with the progressive 21st century mind. Christianity remains a most irritating influence and/or manifestly detrimental force for so many that “bagging” or mocking, is not surprising.

The divisive and deceptive nature of many messages pushed out by Christian identities is reflected in the above comments. In both instances we see an appeal to authority. Toss in the claim some doctors have said this or that and apparently one has the opportunity to trot out whatever bigoted opinions one would like to be fact. In both cases it backfires because “doctors” in general say nothing of the sort.

Hence no proper research was attempted but the faux impression of having sought informed consensus is bravely put forth. Worse, these are smart men so this author will assume they knowingly lied. I hasten to add Jensen followed with, “I do not know whether there is sound evidence for this or not”. Which far from saving him should rightly raise questions about his access to Google or who on earth advises him. At the time, the claim had already been in the headlines for five days.

Hiding behind dodgy “research” is nothing new for Christian bigotry. The myth that homosexuality and paedophilia are linked has been the topic of bogus, offensive, pseudoscientific and at times bizarre reporting. Quite benign findings are breathlessly reported as evidence of children in danger from gay men. For example, one source from the US Family Research Council (Advancing faith, family and freedom) is cited:

In The Gay Report, by homosexual researchers Karla Jay and Allen Young, the authors report data showing that 73 percent of homosexuals surveyed had at some time had sex with boys sixteen to nineteen years of age or younger.

The wording seeks to convey that gay men have overwhelmingly had sex with teens, whereas “at some time” conveniently distorts consensual legal sex. Exactly the type of findings we’d expect with heterosexuals.

An in depth article by Mark E. Pietrzyk, Homosexuality and child sexual abuse: science, religion and the slippery slope, followed the 2006 resignation of US Congressman Mark Foley. We read in part in the conclusion:

A number of recent studies and articles have attempted to discredit the gay rights movement by linking homosexuality to pedophilia.  These writings have either cited articles in the scientific literature alleging to show that homosexual males are more inclined to molest children than heterosexual males, or they have attempted to demonstrate an inevitable trend toward toleration of pedophilia by employing the “slippery slope” argument.

However, the very scientists that are cited in support of the contention that gays are more likely to be molesters explicitly reject the idea that homosexuals pose a disproportionate threat to children.  […]

In fact, the Judeo-Christian tradition and many other religious traditions tolerated and even affirmed pedophilic relationships for centuries.  The contemporary taboo against such relationships developed only a little over one hundred years ago…

On Q&A Jensen was lending credence to Australian Christian Lobby head Jim Wallace’s argument that the “gay lifestyle” leads to death 20 years earlier than heterosexual estimates. Perhaps relying on Modelling the impact of HIV disease on mortality in gay and bisexual men, published in 1997, Wallace certainly chose to ignore the important follow up paper, Gay life expectancy revisited, by the same authors.

They open with this paragraph:

Over the past few months we have learnt of a number of reports regarding a paper we published in the International Journal of Epidemiology on the gay and bisexual life expectancy in Vancouver in the late 1980s and early 1990s. From these reports it appears that our research is being used by select groups in US and Finland to suggest that gay and bisexual men live an unhealthy lifestyle that is destructive to themselves and to others. These homophobic groups appear more interested in restricting the human rights of gay and bisexuals rather than promoting their health and well being.

Wallace might like to buttress his bigotry with the solidly debunked “gay obituary study” published by the head of Family Research Council (a documented Hate Group) Paul Cameron, with Playfair and Wellum. Choosing only obituaries these guys “concluded” gay men die at 43. I’m sure this came as quite a shock to all the living gay men from the same generation over 43 years of age. Especially as the sample had no living subjects and further skewed it’s results by sampling only urban openly gay men.

Today, with antiretroviral drugs mean life expectancy from the time of diagnosis with HIV is over 40 years. So, these chaps had to zero in on a particular time period and ignore living subjects. Average age of death from AIDS was around 40 years. 20% of gay men would die of AIDS in the period before drug treatment. According to Steven Ross, even if we crank that up to 50% Cameron’s mean lifespan of 43 years requires healthy gay men to die at 46. Said differently, if healthy gay men died at 70 those with AIDS would need to die at 16.

Then there’s the group of bigoted evangelicals I personally enjoy catching out in their abuse of science. The conservative anti-drug lobby continues to produce junk science arguing measures to control blood borne virus spread have failed. They remain at the forefront of efforts to undermine the methodology of expert panels who conclude illicit drug prohibition tactics in present form are quite damaging. An assorted group of Christian fundamentalists bent on faith based practices, it is quite sad to see them attack Christian run faith based charities.

When Drug Free Australia published an attack on research supporting Vancouver’s safe injecting site under the guise of science, Mark Wainberg, professor of medicine and director of the McGill University AIDS Centre concluded in part:

In my view, the allegations that have been made by ‘Drug Free Australia’ are without merit and are not based on scientific fact. In contrast, it is my view that the work that has been carried out by the team of Thomas Kerr et al is scientifically well-founded and has contributed to reducing the extent of mortality and morbidity in association with the existence of the safer injection facility. . . . The University of British of British Columbia should be proud of the contributions of its faculty members to the important goal of diminishing deaths due to intravenous drug abuse.

Thus in all three examples the demonstrable abuse of existing science or presentation of pseudoscience to justify or defend outright discrimination is clearly demonstrated. The quest for abstinence – forced if need be – in all it’s forms certainly leads to bigotry.

Clearly the discrimination and abuse levelled at members of the LGBTI community has a demonstrable impact on health and lifestyle. For gay Christians or those raised in Christian families the effects of bigotry can be negatively life changing. If Wallace was honest he would admit that his identified lifestyle problems of drug abuse, self harm and suicide would reduce without his bigotry.

If HIV is of genuine concern he would accept stable, monogamous relationships and of course marriage, reduce the risk of not knowing the HIV status of a partner. Instead he prefers to cite a Danish study that found brief relationships of around 18 months. He might not let on this was a sample of young men aged 18-21 years. In fact same sex civil unions are rather boringly unlikely to differ from the general population.

Wallace’s claims are surely demonstrably false. What is more shocking than Jim’s predictable bigotry is his attempt to link choice to sexual orientation. In arguing that smoking reduces lifespan by up to a decade and we educate children not to smoke, he’s suggesting we should similarly educate about the dangers of the “gay lifestyle”.

Of course as Jim tells it he was misrepresented by “gay activists”. Just as his anti-Islamic, homophobic ANZAC Day tweet was a misrepresentation by “twitter activists”. In both cases Aussie Christians vocally distanced themselves from him and his mess. His knack for denial is almost impressive.

Fortunately this debacle will have a notably positive outcome. More children being educated not to listen to Jim Wallace and the outmoded Australian Christian Lobby.

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