Like a desperate gambler who simply can’t make himself fold an obvious losing hand and instead increases his bet, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association apparently has concluded that the best defense for being caught in lies is to further inflate them.
The Southern Poverty Law Center last month published “Ten Anti-Gay Myths Debunked,” reviewing 10 of the most common untruths put forth by anti-gay activists who operate under the banner of so-called “pro-family” organizations. Fischer on Nov. 26 responded to that article with an essay of his own, claiming that the 10 myths identified by SPLC were, in fact, 10 unequivocal truths.
The problem was, Fischer’s vaguely sourced rejoinder was packed with demonstrable fictions, including references to outdated research and research the authors themselves insist doesn’t say what Fischer and his ilk claim it says. I pointed out several of those in a response to Fischer. (During an interview with independent talk-show host David Pakman [here and here], who challenged Fischer with the evidence I presented, Fischer actually argued that the studies did come to the conclusions he stated – never mind what the studies’ own authors said.)
On Dec. 16, Fischer again reiterated that the SPLC’s 10 myths were, in fact, truths – using the exact same misrepresented research as in his first essay. (He even cites again Columbia University researcher Robert Spitzer, who declares in an online video that his research didn’t conclude what Fischer claims it does.) But this time, Fischer goes a step further: Now he is distorting what the SPLC wrote, evidently hoping – once again – that readers won’t check his “facts.”
Fischer also deploys a coy bit of transposition in his latest essay: We labeled several allegations of anti-gay activists as myths because there was no evidence or logic to support them. But Fischer recasts those myths as affirmative statements that we failed to prove – positions we have never taken.
For example: Regarding myth no. 4, Fischer writes, “The SPLC falsely claims that homosexuals live just as long as heterosexuals.” Not true: What we stated was that there is no research that proves, as the pro-family groups claim, that gays live substantially shorter lives than straights. It is virtually impossible to even do such a study, as there is no scientifically feasible way to know who, among all those who have died, was gay (since not all homosexuals self-identify as such). Furthermore, to the degree that HIV-AIDS has shortened the expected life spans of homosexuals overall – if it has – it is the disease that kills, not the fact of being gay. (The New York City public service ad to which Fischer refers urges condom use during sexual activity to reduce the chances of disease transmittal – advice that is just as appropriate for heterosexuals). Fischer’s logic would be akin to saying certain African populations have shorter life spans because they are African, not because they are more exposed to malaria, tuberculosis and other health dangers.
Or consider Fischer’s statement regarding myth no. 9. He states, “The SPLC falsely claims that people are born homosexual. But not even homosexual researchers claim to have found the ‘gay’ gene” – as if we ever claimed there was such a gene. We wrote, “Modern science cannot state conclusively what causes sexual orientation, but a great many studies suggest that it is the result of biological and environmental forces, not a personal ‘choice.’”
Let’s examine more of Fischer’s latest crop of distortions. Fischer wrote of myth no. 8, “The SPLC falsely claims that homosexuals are not more likely to be mentally ill or to abuse drugs and alcohol.” That, simply, is a lie – we made no such statement. We wrote, “It is true that LGBT people suffer higher rates of anxiety, depression, and depression-related illnesses and behaviors like alcohol and drug abuse than the general population.” The myth, we stated, is the notion that simply being homosexual causes these conditions – which is what many pro-family activists claim. (They imply further that all one has to do is stop being gay and the mental health issues will magically vanish.) We explained: “Studies done during the past 15 years have determined that it is the stress of being a member of a minority group in an often-hostile society – and not LGBT identity itself – that accounts for the higher levels of mental illness and drug use.”
On myth no. 6: Fischer writes, “The SPLC falsely claims that hate crime laws will not lead to the jailing of pastors and others who criticize homosexuality.” He then cites the case of a Philadelphia grandmother arrested during a gay pride event along with 10 others in October 2004 – the so-called Philadelphia 11. The facts: the 11 protestors were arrested for refusing police orders to move and acting as a threat to the peace (all charges were later dropped). Police did also file hate-crime charges against the 11 for their anti-gay comments, but these were thrown out as unconstitutional – and properly so – by the courts. Fischer’s anecdotal example essentially proves the point: As long as the First Amendment stands, it will never be legal to arrest a pastor or anyone else merely for stating their religious beliefs.
In fairness, Fischer did correct one of his earlier misstatements: He properly identified the author of a scientifically unsound and outdated study on purported harm to children of same-sex parents as Australian, not Austrian.
There is a certain tedium in constantly having to rebut the ceaseless stream of falsehoods put forth by mouthpieces like Fischer. But there is far greater danger in allowing them to stand unchallenged: the chance that a lie repeated often enough might eventually be accepted as the truth. That, evidently, is the gamble Fischer is counting on.