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Religion and homosexuality

Part 3: Lawsuit by conservative Christian groups.
Review of the TV ads 14 years later. What might
have been if opposing ads had been shown.

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This essay is a continuation from the previous essay

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Lawsuit by conservative Christian groups:

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors allegedly issued a letter that was critical of these TV ads. They also passed a resolution urging local TV stations to avoid showing the ads. The letter allegedly claims a "direct correlation" between the message of conservative Christian groups and "horrible crimes committed against gays and lesbians." A group of three fundamentalist Christian ministries,  the American Family Association (AFA) Kerusso Ministries, and the Family Research Council (FRC)  filed a defamation lawsuit against the city in late 1999-OCT. 

A spokesperson for the AFA, Stephen Crampton, said:

"They basically accused us of the murder of Matthew Shepard and other homosexuals...I think the city of San Francisco represents an increased hostility against religion, in general, and Christians, in particular, and what we hope here is to nip this trend in the bud." 

Matthew Shepard was a gay University of Wyoming student in Laramie, WY. He was tortured, crucified and then abandoned. Ultimately, he died at the hands of some homophobic young men. Russell Henderson is serving two life sentences after having pleaded guilty to Shepard's kidnapping and murder. Henderson was a Mormon, and may have been influenced by the church's teachings on homosexuality. He has since been excommunicated by his church. 1

A spokesperson for the FRC, Jan Larue, allegedly believes that these actions by the city have violated the 1st Amendment. She said:

"If this goes unanswered, this kind of hostility by government officials against people of religious beliefs will escalate across the country." 2

During 2000-JUN, a federal judge ruled in favor of the city, saying that the city was only doing its duty to address concerns for public safety. 

Brian Fahling, spokesperson for the American Family Association's Center for Law and Policy commented

"Nothing like this has ever happened in this country. This, really, is extraordinary and should give everybody great pause, because now we have a court decision -- a federal court decision -- that says governments can take official action condemning religious beliefs."

Yvette Schneider, spokesperson for the Family Research Council said:

"There are people who are not happy with their homosexual lifestyles and need to hear that there is a way out."

She said that the San Francisco action was symptomatic of a:

"... scary and threatening" cultural shift [in the U.S. that is of particular concern to] "Christians who believe what the Bible says -- that homosexuality is a sin...that people can leave any sinful lifestyle."

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2013: Many years later, a review of the anti-gay/pro-reparative therapy ads:

The ads seemed to imply that a homosexual can change their sexual orientation. There has been a gradual realization among religious and social conservatives that the, "ex-gay" movements seems to only have succeeded with two types of individuals:

  • Convincing homosexuals to remain celibate and lead a life of loneliness without a loving partner, and

  • Convincing bisexuals to decide to confine their relationships to opposite-sex partners only.

Successfully changing a homosexual or bisexual orientation to heterosexual appears to have succeeded in a miniscule percentage of cases, if any.

In the year 2000, the federal judge's rationale appeared to be that through misleading advertising, ex-gay groups promoted the idea that sexual orientation can be changed. This belief may well generate hatred among many heterosexuals against gays and lesbians who were unable to change their orientation via reparative therapy or who didn't try that form of therapy.

At the time, Exodus International was the main group promoting reparative therapy in the U.S.

As of mid-2012, influenced by:

  • an earlier change of leadership,

  • increased support among the North America┬ápublic towards equal rights for the LGB community,

  • increasing skepticism among the public generally -- including even some religious and social conservatives -- towards the effectiveness of reparative therapy and "pray the gay away" ministries, and

  • falling revenues,

Exodus International simultaneously made a number of reversals in their beliefs and policies.

  • They no longer teach┬áthat reparative therapy is effective.

  • They now teach than lesbian and gay adults will always have feelings of attraction to members of the same gender.

  • They now teach that reparative therapy can be dangerous.

  • They now teach that sexually active persons with same-sex attraction can still attain Heaven after death.

The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), a very small national organization of therapists and others, now appears to be the main promoters of reparative therapy in the U.S.

Another organization that promotes reparative therapy is Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH). They describe themselves as:

"... a non-profit international organization dedicated to educating the world-wide Jewish community about the social, cultural and emotional factors which lead to same-sex attractions." 3

What might have been if ads promoting different beliefs had been shown?

The full page ads in some of America's leading newspapers promoting reparative therapy -- plus the vociferous reaction to those ads -- probably cemented an idea in many parent's minds that persons with a homosexual orientation can lose their feelings of same-sex attraction and change their sexual orientation to heterosexual through reparative therapy and through faith in God.

In the 15 years since the ads were shown, a near consensus has developed among therapists, professional mental health organizations, religious liberals, secularists, etc. that reparative therapy is ineffective, is often damaging to the client, and occasionally induces suicidal ideation and even completed suicide. Many religious conservatives still believe that homosexual orientation is abnormal, unnatural, chosen, and changeable. But even religious conservatives are abandoning their beliefs, as evidenced by the reversal of their stand on reparative therapy within Exodus International.

One might speculate what the effect would be if different ads with entirely different content had been placed by a coalition of professional organizations like the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association. They would probably have emphasized that homosexuality is one of the three normal and natural sexual orientations, that an individual discovers it rather than choose it, that it cannot be "prevented," and that it is fixed -- or essentially fixed -- in adulthood. Such ads might have altered the beliefs of a significant percentage of parents. Instead of viewing their child's homosexuality as a choice, as offensive to God, as evil, etc. they might have viewed it in the same category as left-handedness, brown eyes, or red hair: something that simply happens for some people and not for others. It is beyond the individual's control. This different message might well have changed their response -- when their child came "out of the closet" -- from rejection to acceptance.

Today, about one in four parents in the U.S. throw their lesbian, gay, or bisexual children out of their house, typically as teens. As a result, about 40% of homeless teens are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or transsexual. Since about 5% of the teen population are lesbian, gay or bisexual while transgender or transsexual youth are relatively rare, the former are over-represented among the homeless by a factor of about 8 times.

A 2008 study reported in the journal Pediatrics concludes that:

"Higher rates of family rejection were significantly associated with poorer health outcomes [among the youth]. On the basis of odds ratios, lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were:

  • 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide,
  • 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression,
  • 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs,
  • and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse,

compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection. Latino men reported the highest number of negative family reactions to their sexual orientation in adolescence.

CONCLUSIONS. This study establishes a clear link between specific parental and caregiver rejecting behaviors and negative health problems in young lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults. Providers who serve this population should assess and help educate families about the impact of rejecting behaviors. Counseling families, providing anticipatory guidance, and referring families for counseling and support can help make a critical difference in helping decrease risk and increasing well-being for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth." 4

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Katherine Rosman, "Mormon Family Values," The Nation, 2002-FEB-25, Page 3, at: http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml
  2. Stuart Shepard, "Pro-family groups sue San Francisco,"  Focus on the family at: http://www.family.org/
  3. JONAH International's home page is at: http://www.jonahweb.org/
  4. Caitlin Ryan, et al., "Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes in White and Latino Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Young Adults," Pediatrics, 2009-JAN, at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org There are abstract, full text, and PDF file formats available at that URL.

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Copyright © 1998 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Latest update and review: 2013-JUN-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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