Scientifically Unsound, Totally Political
The Media Research Center keeps trying to defend discredited "conversion therapy" aimed at turning gays straight, but the sources its writers cite are questionable at best, if not discredited themselves.
By Terry Krepel
The Media Research Center's occasional ventures into the subjects of medicine and psychology tend to be ill-advised -- for instance, its baseless fearmongering over the HPV vaccines such as Gardasil over alleged side effects and the idea that it would somehow encourage teenage promiscuity. (Research has proven the vaccine to be safe and effective.)
Now, the MRC is taking a stand on the practice of so-called conversion therapy to try and change a person's sexual orientation -- specifically, to turn homosexuals "straight" (somehow, never the other way around). And as with HPV vaccines, the MRC is letting itself be driven by its right-wing (and anti-gay) ideology instead of science.
A March 2017 MRC post by Dawn Slusher noted that an episode of the TV series "Greenleaf" touched on the subject of "conversion therapy" intended to turn a gay person straight feels the need to speak up for the practice:
There has been much rancor over gay conversion therapy programs for decades, but the topic has again been hotly debated as of late with Vice President Mike Pence’s support for such programs as well as Ken Blackwell, Domestic Policy Advisor to the Trump Presidential Transition Team. ABC’s 20/20 revived the debate in an exposé last week, as well. Though judging by the reviews, the exposé leaned heavily in favor of those who demonize such programs.
For these "facts, statistics and answers," Slusher cited Brothers Road, a pro-conversion therapy group that claims criticism of conversion therapy are "opinion, not science" and which in turn cites the virulently anti-gay group NARTH in support, and self-proclaimed ex-transgender woman Walt Heyer, a current fave of anti-gay activists who admits he was misdiagnosed as transgender.
Slusher then went on to rant:
If we are supposed to accept those who believe being gay isn’t a choice, why then are we not allowed to accept those who believe it is? If women in this country are allowed to take the life of their unborn child in the name of “freedom of choice,” why then can’t a gay man or woman have the right to choose conversion therapy without the threat of the government shutting down such programs?
Nicolosi was a founder of NARTH, which tells you all you need to know about him and his motivations. And if are "good and successful programs" for conversion therapy as Slusher claims there is, why have none surfaced during various state hearings to ban the practice that use a scientifically valid, replicable method that does no harm to the client? And why didn't Slusher cite any in her post? Perhaps because such programs don't exist.
"Greenleaf" touched upon the subject again in a later episode -- and Slusher was there to denounced its treatment. I a May 4 post, Slusher lamented that the show allowed the main character, Kevin, to "succumb to his desires":
Signs were there that Kevin was attracted to family friend and Calvary’s legal counsel Aaron (William H. Bryant Jr.), but May 4th’s episode left no doubt. As the two got closer and closer, physically and emotionally, on the couch while watching TV, Kevin brushes his hand against Aaron’s leg and Aaron pats Kevin on the back, leaving his hand there to linger and turn into a flirtatious massage. Before long, they are passionately making out, as the scene ends with Aaron removing Kevin’s belt.
As before, Slusher's evidence that "many Christian men have found success with conversion therapy" boiled down to Brothers Road and Walt Heyer.
Slusher never explained why one's homosexual desires must be suppressed, and she never mentioned that the reason why "the other side that’s never talked about" is never talked about is because it really doesn't exist to any notable extent and, again, there's no rigorous science to back it up. Suppression isn't exactly "conversion," after all.
Attacking Olympic skater to defend Pence
The MRC even brought its defense of the practice into its coverage of the Olympics. It doesn't like Olympic skater Adam Rippon for two specific reasons: 1) he's gay, and 2) he has criticized Vice President Mike Pence for what can reasonably be interpreted as his endorsement of conversion therapy.
In a Jan. 17 post, Jay Maxson whined that USA Today did an article on Rippon, "a gay figure skater who's angry that Vice-president Mike Pence will lead Team USA in the opening ceremonies. Maxson even tried to defend the discredited practice: "Forty-one states permit conversion therapy for people struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction, but [USA Today reporter Christine] Brennan tried to portray the VP as a pariah for supporting their choice."
On Feb. 8, Gabriel Hays huffed about the Rippon-Pence contretemps: "More controversy has erupted between Mike Pence and another openly gay U.S. athlete at this winter’s Olympic games, all in the name of tolerance and homosexual acceptance. It’s one small step for gays, and one giant, exasperated 'Oh, shut up!' for the rest of normal America." Hays is not telling Pence to shut up, by the way; he uncritically repeated an overly forceful denial from Pence's press secretary that Pence ever supported conversion therapy.
Maxson returned on Feb. 13 to complain that "Rippon and his media friends ... are portraying Pence as the champion of this therapy, which nine liberal states have outlawed."
Defense doesn't stop, gets weirder
Still, despite the serious lack of scientific evidence to support conversion therapy, the MRC is still trying to defend the practice. The latest to try it is Robert Oscar Lopez, an instructor at Southern Baptist Seminary, in a Jan. 18 NewsBusters post complaining about coverage of the issue.
Lopez complained about the "cliched and vague styles" used by critics of the therapy, then pushes the unsupported claim that apparently all gay people were sexually abused:
The U.S. Dept. of Justice reports that 17% of males are sexually abused as minors, overwhelmingly by other males. Nobody claims that 17% of all men are gay, so tens of millions of men will have homosexual history but not necessarily a homosexual future. One must wonder if “authentic” or “loving” policies should silence discussion with such men about their conflicted feelings and anger over what has happened. Many, including therapists and former homosexuals whom I have interviewed (see here, here, here, and here) see a valuable message to offer such individuals: the act of abuse does not define them forever.
Nor should a entire group of people be dismissed as abuse victims as a way to deny their sexual identity, but Lopez missed that part.
From there, Lopez attacked a Univision report on conversion therapy for not conforming to anti-gay attitudes:
[Anchor Ilia] Calderón’s characterization of the issue starts out by implicitly accepting the often-repeated claim that homosexuality is an “orientation” - a part of a person’s identity like race, sex, or religion. Experts still have no strong evidence from science or cultural history. Direct testimonials vary. Some people never changed their sexual patterns while others who engaged in homosexual activity went on to live normal heterosexual lives (I count among the latter.) Neither Calderón nor Univision correspondent Danay Rivero acknowledge in their reporting the fact that many who seek “conversion therapy” suffered trauma or want to overcome obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors that are themselves harmful.
Lopez goes on to claim that "Pickup describes himself as an authentic reparative therapist, as opposed to the quackery so often reported and vilified by the liberal media." Actually, Pickup does engage in quackery; not only is he a board member of the virulently anti-gay group NARTH (as highlighted on his own website), he was (and maybe is) a senior staff member for the Mankind Project, which runs a purported "New Warriors Training Program" conversion therapy program that involves participants going naked at one point to affirm their masculinity, or something.
Lopez then insists -- again without basis -- that Hispanic boys are more likely to turn gay because there aren't enough men around, thus purportedly making them prey for gay recruiters:
Also lost in their coverage is the special risk to their target audience: Latinos are more likely than non-Latino whites to be fatherless, incarcerated, or in placement by Child Protective Services. These are situations that tend to coincide with less than constant supervision and potential misconduct by a high-risk individual who can get them alone (for example, a mother’s boyfriend).
We'll pass on Pickup's so-called therapy, and so should everyone else. We'll also pass on Lopez's self-published anti-gay gay erotica while we're at it.