The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

AFA’s Fischer Recycles Lies in Support of Anti-Gay ‘Truth’

By Robert Steinback on December 2, 2010 - 12:33 pm, Posted in Anti-LGBT, Extremist Propaganda

For those who perpetrate lies about gays and lesbians, old habits are apparently hard to break.

Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association’s loquacious director of issue analysis for government and public policy, responded on Nov. 26 to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s publication a few days earlier of “10 Myths,” a debunking of 10 of the most-often recited untruths that anti-gay activists use against LGBT people. (At the same time, the SPLC announced that it would be designating the AFA as a hate group.) Fischer’s essay declared the 10 lies to be “10 truths.”

In doing so, he mangled the very truth he claims to present.

Take, for example, Fischer’s rebuttal of SPLC’s myth No. 1, “Homosexuals molest children at far higher rates than heterosexuals.” Fischer writes, “Absolutely true. Homosexuals comprise perhaps two percent of the population, yet according to the Journal of Sex Research, homosexual pedophiles are responsible for 33% of all child sex offenses. Homosexuals molest children at at least 10 times the rate of heterosexuals.”

Fischer displays the sly predilection of anti-gay activists to cite legitimate research as supporting their claims when the researchers themselves explicitly reject them. Fischer is referring to a 1989 Journal of Sex Research article by the late researcher Kurt Freund, who concluded that homosexuals were not any more disposed to pedophilia than heterosexuals — a finding exactly opposite to what Fischer suggests.

Fischer constructs the 33% figure from Freund’s research by assuming that every case of men molesting boys is committed by a “homosexual” man — a conclusion rejected by virtually all legitimate sex researchers. As Freund said, since most pedophiles have no sexual interest in adults of either gender, terms like “homosexual” and “heterosexual” don’t apply at all. It is the child’s prepubescent nature, not his or her gender, that attracts this type of “fixated” pedophile, most of whom will prey on children of either gender. Freund and other researchers have found that those pedophiles who are capable of forming sexual relationships with other adults — so-called “regressive” pedophiles who only resort to pedophilia when under stress — overwhelmingly identify themselves as heterosexual.

Or consider SPLC’s myth No. 2, “Same-sex parents harm children.” Fischer wrote: “Research indicates that children raised by homosexuals experiment with sexually aberrant behaviors at a higher rate than children raised by heterosexuals and at earlier ages, and do worse, according to a 1996 study by an Austrian sociologist, in nine of 13 academic and social categories compared to children raised by heterosexual married couples. A 2001 article in American Sociological Review reported that children raised by lesbians are more likely to engage in homosexual behavior and are ‘more sexually adventurous.’”

Fischer identifies neither report by name — and for good reason.

In the first instance, he is referring to an obscure 1996 study by Sotirios Sarantakos, an Australian, not Austrian, researcher. Anti-gay groups frequently cite this article — yet the article, the journal that published it, and Sarantakos himself, are all but impossible to locate online.

Other social scientists have reviewed Sarantakos’ study. Richard Redding, associate dean for academic affairs at Chapman University School of Law, writing in the Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy, warned that its conclusions “must be viewed with caution, however, as they are based on a qualitative study involving the reports of teachers who were not blind as to whether children came from heterosexual or homosexual households.” In other words, accounts were gathered from the observations of teachers who knew in advance which students came from which households — and thus could have been influenced by that knowledge.  Jenni Millbank, a professor at the University of Technology, Sydney, was more blunt. Testifying before an Australian parliamentary committee, Millbank described Sarantakos’ work as “a perfect example of almost everything that you can do wrong with methodology.”

The other study Fischer cites was conducted in 2001 by professors Timothy J. Biblarz of the University of Southern California and Judith Stacey of New York University (pdf). Fischer neglects to mention that Stacey became so annoyed by how anti-gay groups like Focus on the Family, then headed by James Dobson, were misrepresenting her research, that she publicly denounced them in a video posted online in 2007. Fischer also ignores that the authors updated their research in 2010 (pdf), concluding that “At this point no research supports the widely held conviction that the gender of parents matters for child well-being.”

In an E-mail to Hatewatch this week, Stacey blasted Fischer’s misuse of her research. “They are misrepresenting our 2001 article … by cherry-picking out of context one finding we mentioned that came from one very small British study,” she wrote. “Even so, their claim that children raised by lesbians are more sexually adventurous is also inaccurate. In the small study we mentioned … it was only the daughters who were sexually active a bit earlier than daughters of straight moms. Boys raised by lesbians were less sexually active than sons of straight moms! Our interpretation was that IF this tentative finding were to be replicated, it suggested that lesbians were transmitting a more egalitarian, single standard of sexual behavior to daughters and sons compared with the conventional double standard of sex being more permissible for boys. Moreover, it turns out that the … finding has NOT been replicated. In fact, a new study finds kids raised by lesbians from birth to be less sexually active!”

In response to SPLC’s myth No. 4, “Homosexuals don’t live nearly as long as heterosexuals,” Fischer wrote: “According to an extensive study of the homosexual community in Vancouver, B.C., [Canada] active participation in the homosexual lifestyle will rob an individual of a significant portion of his life span. Say the researchers, ‘[L]ife expectancy at age 20 years for gay and bisexual men is 8 to 20 years less than for all men.’ In fact, they observe that participation in the homosexual lifestyle knocks life expectancy for a Canadian male back to what it was in 1871.”

Again, Fischer ignores that the authors of that 1997 study updated it in 2001, pointing out that advances in treatment of HIV-AIDS even at that point had significantly improved the expected longevity of those infected, which would inevitably narrow any gap between gay and straight life spans caused by the disease. Moreover, the authors explicitly rejected the attempts of anti-gay organizations to construe the 1997 observations to justify denigration of gays.

“These homophobic groups appear more interested in restricting the human rights of gay and bisexuals rather than promoting their health and well being,” the authors wrote in their 2001 update. “It is essential to note that the life expectancy of any population is a descriptive and not a prescriptive measure. Death is a product of the way a person lives and what physical and environmental hazards he or she faces everyday. It cannot be attributed solely to their sexual orientation or any other ethnic or social factor.”

“I am aghast that the misrepresentation of these data continues,” Steffanie Strathdee, associate dean of global health sciences at the University of California, San Diego, and one of the authors of the two reports, told Hatewatch in an E-mail this week.

Fischer claims SPLC’s myth No. 10, “Gay people can choose to leave homosexuality,” is disproven by many so-called ex-gays, and adds: “Even Dr. Robert Sptizer [sic], who led the effort to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973, now admits as much.” Well, that’s not true, either. Spitzer, a highly regarded researcher at Columbia University, concluded that while it may be possible for certain highly motivated homosexuals to switch sexual orientation, cases of actual conversion from gay to straight were “probably extremely rare.” Spitzer, too, recorded an online appeal asking anti-gay organizations to stop misrepresenting the results of his research.

Fischer must know that the very material he cites to support his claims, doesn’t. He also has to know how scholarly researchers have denounced the misrepresentation of their work. So why does he continue to assert otherwise?

Evidently, for a man who has also argued that gays should be subject to legal sanctions, that Muslims should be prohibited from serving in the U.S. armed forces, and that repealing the U.S. military’s ban on openly gay service members would promote goose-stepping gay Nazis in America, “truth” is little more than Play-Doh to be molded and stretched to fit one’s preferred ideology.

  • Philip

    Thank you so much for publishing this! Of all the religious right propagandists, Fischer irks me the most. No matter what the situation, he always seems to have the most vile and inflammatory rhetoric ready. His latest article about the “Feminization of the Medal of Honor” really got my blood boiling.

    Again, thank you for publishing this, and thank you for your tireless efforts to promote justice, freedom, and equality.

  • Michael Nemcik

    Thank you SPLC for your tireless work of putting a spot light on the obviously transparent lies of those who hate, the LGBT community, especially the AFA, NOM, et al. I do not use the word ‘hate’ lightly, as I am convinced these folks feel justified in their actions due strictly to their ultra restrictive,faith based interpretation of how human beings should lead their lives. And since it is becoming increasing harder for them to advance their cause by mis-quoting the bible, they sadly are scrapping the barrel to find even the weakest scientific explanation to back them up. I fear there is more to come, as their desperation fails to bear fruit with the passage of DADT, and the repeal of prop 8, and the almost certain furhter advancement of LGBT rights.

  • David Hart

    While not rebutted, Fischer’s claim that 2% of the population is gay is sheer Cameron nonsense. In the 2008 exit polls, 5% of voters self-identified as gay. Some recent studies have gone as hight as 10%. It’s not that gays are strangely increasing in number. Rather, more gays are comfortable being openly gay.

    Oh, and Lee; Israel is far more progressive on gay issues than the United States. Gays in Israel will probably enjoy marriage equality before gays in the US.

  • David Hart

    Robert George’s numerous affiliations deserve some attention. His American Principles Project created the Iowa judge recall in concert with AFA. His American Innocence Project had a video on its sight by George that floated the gays are a threat to children meme. This in reaction to the Kevin Jennings nomination. He repeatedly claimed that Jennings was a danger to the “innocence” of children. George has also stated that sexual orientation is a choice in contrast to “skin pigmentation.” George is reportedly a member of Opus Dei and there are a number of NOM/Opus Dei connections.

    Ultimately, George is no different from Fischer. Yet he enjoys the credibility of his association with Princeton University. Endowed chair or not, I wonder what the University’s reaction would be if George was spewing this kind of hatred about Jews or blacks.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Lee, the SPLC isn’t located in Israel, so it’s irrelevant. Apparently the only racism or homophobia you care about is that which is practiced by Jews, yet you seem to think these are virtues if practiced by others.

  • Difluoroethane

    As far as “goose-stepping gay Nazis in the United States” go, we had some of those back in the 1970s:

    Of course, Fischer’s claim that repealing DADT would lead to gay Nazis is ridiculous. The group I just mentioned (led by Russell Veh) was active in a time when the military was even more restrictive than in the DADT era. Even closeted gays risked being “outed” and kicked out of the military back then. That didn’t stop Veh’s group from operating (and, eventually, dying out).

  • Rob Tisinai

    Sorry for the self-promotion, but your readers might find this video helpful when it comes to the gays/pedophiles debate.

  • R Lavigueur


    I think you’re attempting to show that (Jewish) Israel is more homophobic than (Christian) America, but that’s going to be a pretty hard sell. Though Israel’s actions against Palestine have been a nightmare of human rights abuses, that doesn’t translate to homophobic hate.

    It’s no more illegal for a same sex couple to marry in Israel than it is for an atheist couple to marry, since Israel has no civil marriage for gays or for straights. This is inexcusable discrimination, but on the other hand, the gay partners of Israelis can get residency permits, something the partners of gay Americans cannot, and will not so long as Republicans have their way.

    Gay Israelis married outside the country, like straight Israelis who had a secular wedding elsewhere, are also recognized as married by the state, something that American same sex couples married within America are prevented from achieving under DOMA. Israel further allows openly LGBT troops in all branches of its army, and has since 1993, something prohibitted for American gays and lesbians under DADT and illegal for American transgender people even if DADT gets repealled.

    Finally, until you manage to pass ENDA, Israel’s probably ahead of most of America in employment equality as well. At least in comparison to Israel, America’s prejudice is definitely real.

    Regardless of the inadequacy of your example, a simple look at the SPLC’s stated purpose would show you that the organization “monitors hate groups and extremists throughout the United States and exposes their activities to law enforcement agencies, the media and the public.”

    Israel is not the United States no matter how closely allied, Fischer on the other hand is a true American bigot of the exact kind the SPLC has worked to combat.

  • Lee

    Why don’t you guys talk about how in Israel it is ILLEGAL for two gay Jews to marry one another? How about talk about the REAL PREJUDICE in the world?

  • Robert Steinback

    To R Lavigueur,

    Thank you for the additional detail regarding Spitzer’s work. Spitzer acknowledged many of the methodological difficulties of his own study. My impression has been that since Spitzer could not produce reliable data conclusively proving that reparative therapy never works (and since proving a negative is a virtual scientific impossibility anyway), he simply covered himself by saying that reversing sexual orientation MIGHT be possible — but in any case, would be extremely rare. Anti-gay groups have seized upon that slender reed of “might” to deceptively assert that Spitzer completely reversed his earlier beliefs.

    Robert Steinback, deputy editor, Intelligence Report/Hatewatch

  • R Lavigueur

    Excellent work by the SPLC for refusing to let Fischer’s deceptions go unchallenged, it seems like in the lack of any evidence that actually supports their claims, these anti-gay groups simply cite academics whose studies have little relevance and who often drew opposite conclusions.

    For those who might be interested in Spitzer’s study, it is important to note that, while it seemed to show that some people could change their sexual orientation, it was filled with methodological flaws that render his findings essentially impossible to draw real conclusions from. This is important, since anti-gay groups are likely to continue to cite his findings despite his objections to the mischaracterization of his findings, in which change in sexual orientation was potentially possible for a small percentage of gays and lesbians.

    Spitzer made use of an extremely unrepresentative sample for his work, in which 97% were Christian, 95% white, and for 93% religion played a major role in their lives and values. Research was conducted by phone interview without participants given a consent letter ensuring anonymity or the protection of their identities. With 76% of the men in the sample married (to women) and most active in conservative religious communities. Some of his sample were actively involved in ex-gay ministries, where the pressure to at least claim a change to heterosexuality is extremely strong.

    More importantly though, Spitzer measured the change from homosexual orientation to heterosexual orientation based on a 100 point scale, with 0 being only heterosexual desires and 100 being only homosexual desires. Any participant with a score above 20 was deemed homosexual, with those who scored 21 seemingly considered every bit as gay as those who scored 90.

    Generally speaking, most non-homophobes would consider someone who’s about twice as attracted to women as he is to men to be, at most, bisexual, and certainly wouldn’t agree that such a person restricting their sexual behaviour and (reported) desires to women demonstrated that homosexual individuals could change their sexuality. Spitzer, however, made no acknowledgement that more fluid sexualities or sexual identities exist, nor did he bother to further examine and qualify claims such as heightened feelings of masculinity in men or exactly which markers of sexual desire changed during therapy and which were static.

    The result is a study which, while latched onto by the ex-gay movement, offers far more questions than answers and is too methodologically disorganized and faulty to answer any of them, much like the rest of the research that Fischer relies upon above.