It’s always tempting to characterize religious leaders like James Dobson and Pat Robertson as wingnuts, mere fruitcakes who aren’t meant to be taken seriously. To do so would not only be dangerous but would ignore the facts that (a) millions take their every word quite seriously and (b) they have a lot of influence in the corridors of power, much of it behind the scenes.
They don’t care if their opponents mock them. For them it is par for the course to be ridiculed repeatedly in the public square by ‘Godless liberals’. This is a sign of their supposed righteousness and the justice of their cause. And it removes the need to engage in serious dialogue with their opponents based on empirical evidence and established standards of truth telling.
In Religion Gone Bad, Soulforce founder Mel White makes a strong argument that powerful religious right leaders are not at all stupid. They know that a lot of what they say (about homosexuals, for instance) is utter crap and flies in the face of accepted truth. They keep on saying it regardless because their word makes it true for their countless followers. Telling lies in the name of Jesus galvanizes the troops and greases the fundraising coffers.
The latest such example is Dobson's shameless attack on Mary Cheney and Heather Po in the December 18 issue of TIME Magazine. In an article entitled 'Two Mommies Is One Too Many', Dobson makes the blatantly false claim (which he must know to be a complete sham) that “the majority of more than 30 years of social-science evidence indicates that children do best on every measure of well-being when raised by their married mother and father.” He goes on to say that same-sex parent families are “another untested and far-reaching social experiment”.
The social science evidence, far from corroborating Dobson’s views, completely disproves them. Years of research data have overwhelmingly demonstrated that the gender of parents has no bearing whatsoever on the developmental wellbeing of children.
Soulforce is mounting a petition drive to ask TIME Magazine to check Dobson’s facts on gay and lesbian parenthood. They quote Dr. Christopher Martell, President of the Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Issues at the American Psychological Association (APA):
Over and again the data show that a loving and safe home environment is important, not the gender of the parents. The mainstream research is so clear on this matter that the American Psychological Association's resolution on Sexual Orientation, Parents, and Children, which was adopted by the APA Council of Representatives in July, 2004, states: "the APA supports the protection of parent-child relationships through the legalization of joint adoptions and second parent adoptions of children being reared by same-sex couples."
The American Psychological Association, one of the world's largest mental health organizations, would not have supported the protection of legalized adoption by gay and lesbian parents if the data had suggested that children were at risk in such households.
TIME Magazine should require that contributors such as Dobson refrain from making misleading statements, or they should contextualize such statements by printing them alongside evidence from credible, peer reviewed research.
Sign the petition here.