Landmines in abortion reporting

landmineThe Washington Post has a religion-heavy article on Nicaragua’s therapeutic abortion ban. Until a few weeks ago Nicaragua permitted abortions to be performed on women who had been raped, whose babies were abnormal or who faced medical risk, according to reporter N.C. Aizenman. Abortion opponents claimed that the loophole for therapeutic abortions was being abused.

Stories about abortion and the laws that govern it are very difficult to write. Unfortunately, mainstream media don’t have an excellent track record with handling the issue fairly. This could be because they are overwhelmingly supportive of abortion on demand. We’ve discussed this before, needless to say.

Our story today begins with a tragic anecdote about Jazmina Bojorge, a five-months-pregnant woman who died in a hospital there recently. Proponents of legal abortion say she died because the law forbade her from having an abortion to save her life. But the hospital director says that’s wrong on two points:

Julio César Flores, director of the hospital, countered that the new legislation, which took effect Nov. 19, hadn’t even been signed into law when Bojorge arrived for treatment. Her death, which remains under investigation by Nicaraguan medical authorities, “has nothing to do with the abortion law,” he said. “These charges are being made by people who are taking advantage of what happened.”

So the director of the hospital says the law wasn’t even in effect when she was admitted and that Bojorge’s death had nothing to do with the abortion law. So what does the caption that accompanies the story say? It says:

Rosa Rodriguez shows a photo of her daughter, Jazmina Bojorge, who died when denied a therapeutic abortion.

I mean, it’s one thing to use an anecdotal lede extremely sympathetic to one side of a contentious debate. It’s another thing to use an anecdote that fails to hold water. But to caption the piece with new information that is contradicted in the story takes it to a new level. Yes, some abortion advocates have diagnosed from a distance that the fetus should have been killed to save the life of the mother, but it’s not backed up by the medical staff treating her. The caption shouldn’t take sides, should it?

The rest of the piece discusses the influence of Roman Catholic and evangelical church leaders, including Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, in pushing for the ban on therapeutic abortion. Let’s look at how it characterizes the debate:

On Oct. 6, Obando, [Archbishop Leopoldo] Brenes and various evangelical pastors led tens of thousands of citizens in a march to the National Assembly to demand a repeal of the exception for therapeutic abortions. Legislators obliged, fast-tracking consideration of the ban under procedures normally reserved for national emergencies.

Every major medical society in Nicaragua opposed the proposed ban. Their concerns were echoed by Nicaragua’s health minister and a long list of foreign embassies and international organizations such as the U.N. Development Program.

Gee, I wonder what foreign service staff writer N.C. Aizenman wants us to believe here about which side should have been listened to. I love that the foreign agents are unnamed and the addition of the scare phrase “normally reserved for national emergencies.” Just in case you didn’t get the point that the pro-lifers were bad people. The legal analysis isn’t substantiated by any source. You just have to trust the reporter.

nicaragprotestIt would be interesting to see how the reporter would handle the issue if the story were reversed. Let’s say the abortion opponents were the foreign influences and the abortion supporters were citizens.

Do you think the story would similarly situate the two sides, nudging the reader to support listening to foreign embassies and ignore the voice of the people?

The Post story fits the pattern for much abortion reportage, though. Mainstream media, as was reported in a Los Angeles Times study 16 years ago, tend to use language and images that frame the entire abortion debate in terms that implicitly favor abortion-rights advocates, quote abortion rights advocates more favorably and often than abortion opponents, and ignore stories favorable to abortion opponents. One last paragraph to highlight:

Advocates for greater access to abortion argued that even that law was too restrictive, prompting an estimated 32,500 women to get illegal and potentially unsafe abortions in Nicaragua every year and accounting for 16 percent of the more than 100 maternal deaths here annually, according to a 2002 ministry study. By contrast, the Health Ministry recorded only six legal abortions in Nicaragua last year.

A law banning abortion prompts people to have illegal abortions in the same manner a law banning rape prompts people to rape illegally. You may personally think either action is fine, and you may personally think either action should be legal and protected. But that’s not the point. Neither rape nor abortion is something an individual must do. Making either action illegal does not force the illegal action.

It’s also interesting that Aizenman says there were only six legal abortions in Nicaragua last year. A BBC report last week — very heavy on the religious angles — says there were 30,000 therapeutic abortions last year. I wonder if something was lost in translation.

Aizenman should follow the lead of other reporters who’ve successfully tackled the difficult subject: Keep personal opinions out, pick anecdotes carefully, quote liberally and describe situations in the sparest way possible. Otherwise these abortion stories will continue to be landmines.

In praise of valid news angles

megachurch 02Can you believe it was less than one month ago that we first discussed coverage of Ted Haggard’s fall from prominence? As November has progressed, we have seen quite a few stories related to the ordeal. The early days of the story focused on the hypocrisy angle, about which I highlighted an alternate view.

The schadenfreude/gloating stories thankfully were kept to a minimum and many outlets — Denver media in particular — have done an excellent job of finding valid news angles.

Old Man Mattingly highlighted an excellent piece that ran in the Rocky Mountain News last week on Gayle Haggard. Eric Gorski at The Denver Post began considering the story of New Life Church and Haggard’s future:

Even under normal circumstances, replacing the charismatic founder of a successful institution is a challenge. The circumstances behind Haggard’s fall are extraordinary, but the road ahead for New Life Church is not one it alone will travel.

Just as the country braces for societal changes with the aging of the baby-boom generation, the American success story that is the evangelical megachurch also sits at a crossroads, facing a future without the leaders responsible for its success.

Gorski takes New Life’s succession plan — or lack thereof — and puts it in a larger context. He looks at how other megachurches have replaced their charismatic leaders, with greater or lesser success. My favorite part was the sidebar with details on the process by which a new pastor will be found. Apparently New Life Church held its first membership meeting in its 21-year history on Monday night.

megachurch the gameThe Post also had an interesting story addressing Haggard’s path to recovery. Gorski spoke with Larry Magnuson, chief executive of SonScape Ministries, a retreat for pastors:

“We are not very good as a church with knowing how to do restoration,” Magnuson said. “We either want to sweep it under the rug and say it’s no big deal or we want to make it impossible.

“Evangelicals are great at doing. We are those who are working in the world. As evangelicals, we are not very good wrestling with the inner life, who we are and what’s going on in the inside.”

This theological statement could be explored much more. Veteran Courier-Journal religion reporter Pete Smith had two pieces on Kentucky megachurches on Sunday. One article dealt with the political activism of some churches. Consider the following from the second article on the increase in size and number of megachurches:

Some ministers credit part of the success of such churches to sermons that carry a practical message.

Natalie Anderson of Georgetown, Ind., said she attends Northside in part because it provides “a real-life message that you can apply.”

Juxtapose the last two excerpts against each other. Interesting, eh? Perhaps some enterprising reporter will explore the tension between practical messages and the tendency to avoid the inner life.

Looking down the road

polygamyisutahsomeIn 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Texas law against sodomy. “Freedom extends beyond spatial bounds. Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court.

Justice Atonin Scalia disagreed with the decision — and even more so with the reasoning behind it. The court wrote the ruling so broadly, he argued, that the current social order would be massively disrupted. Since the court didn’t “cabin the scope of its decision,” state laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity would also be attacked, Scalia predicted.

High-profile efforts to introduce same-sex marriage have been covered frequently. Jon Pomfret, writing for The Washington Post, looked at what progress has been made on the first of Scalia’s list: bigamy. He talks to various polygamists, including “Valerie,” about their efforts to legalize polygamy. Valerie, by the way, insists that she’s “just like you and me.” I love that meme. Anyway:

Valerie and others among the estimated 40,000 men, women and children in polygamous communities are part of a new movement to decriminalize bigamy. Consciously taking tactics from the gay-rights movement, polygamists have reframed their struggle, choosing in interviews to de-emphasize their religious beliefs and focus on their desire to live “in freedom,” according to Anne Wilde, director of community relations for Principle Voices, a pro-polygamy group based in Salt Lake.

In their quest to decriminalize bigamy, practitioners have had help from unlikely quarters. HBO’s series “Big Love,” about a Viagra-popping man with three wives, three sets of bills, three sets of chores and three sets of kids, marked a watershed because of its sympathetic portrayal of polygamists. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which voided laws criminalizing sodomy, also aided polygamy’s cause because it implied that the court disapproved of laws that reach into the bedroom.

The piece focuses on the positive, but does mention the child rape that happens in some polygamous communities. It also discusses the Mormon roots of the practice. Pomfret says that state authorities adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in recent years.

One reason was that the politically powerful Mormon Church, while officially opposing polygamy, did not want the bad press strict enforcement might bring. Another reason was that law enforcement was worried that isolated polygamist communities would erupt in violence if raided. An internal memo at the Arizona attorney general’s office in 2002 spoke of a “Waco-level problem” among the polygamous communities along the Utah state line.

For such huge claims, it would help to have some substantiation. If you’re going to say the Mormon Church was able to get law enforcement officers to stop enforcing the law in order to bolster the church, you need some support. Also, if you have that information, that would make a fantastic story. But no one from the LDS is quoted.

Other than that, the piece is fine. A colleague of mine described it as “surfacey,” noting that none of the polygamy sources mentioned on ReligionLink‘s polygamy page was quoted. What the piece does do is offer a starting point for discussion.

Whether or not polygamists are successful in using the Lawrence decision to help legalize bigamy, their efforts need to be covered. In general it would be helpful for reporters to look down the road at more marriage stories.

If fundamentalist Mormons succeed in overturning laws against bigamy based on the First Amendment instead of the Fourteenth Amendment as in Lawrence, what would be some of the unintended — or intended — consequences of such a decision?

If gay marriage is legalized, will that help formally sanction families such as the ones profiled in The New York Times last week — with multiple female and male partners? How might that affect family law, the tax code and inheritance laws?

If barriers to marriage are lowered, would there be an incentive for non-intimate couples or groupings to marry for benefits? If so, would that change how companies confer benefits? If companies cease offering benefits for partners, would that affect whether — for instance — one spouse is able to stay home and raise offspring?

Writing stories about how arcane our marriage laws are, as many reporters do, is fine. But it would be nice to see more in-depth reporting about the consequences of changes to marriage laws.

She blinded me with science

science religionBack in December of last year, a federal judge ruled against a Dover school board including intelligent-design theories in curriculum. The ruling basically said that intelligent design is religion-based and therefore false science. Mainstream coverage pounced on this. I raised a question about the coverage then:

Why is it that people have such an easy time seeing into the hearts of intelligent design proponents and discovering nefarious religious motivations but never question the religious motivations of evolution proponents?

Well, George Johnson had a fantastic piece in The New York Times that surveys religious attitudes of various scientists who attended a conference on science and religion. The article is so well-written and has so many juicy parts that I’m having trouble picking which ones to excerpt.

Johnson’s experience writing about science and religion shows. He wrote Fire in the Mind: Science, Faith, and the Search for Order a decade ago. He’s won the Templeton-Cambridge journalism fellowship in science and religion. And he’s written numerous articles on the subject.

For this article, Johnson covered a Science Network event referred to by some as an anti-Templeton conference on science and religion. Most of the numerous speakers Johnson quoted expressed a great deal of animosity toward religious belief:

Dr. [Steven] Weinberg, who famously wrote toward the end of his 1977 book on cosmology, “The First Three Minutes,” that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless,” went a step further: “Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.”

He quoted the noted atheist Richard Dawkins, but many other scientists also expressed anti-religious views, including Harold Kroto, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carolyn Porco.

Somewhere along the way, a forum this month at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., which might have been one more polite dialogue between science and religion, began to resemble the founding convention for a political party built on a single plank: in a world dangerously charged with ideology, science needs to take on an evangelical role, vying with religion as teller of the greatest story ever told.

Here’s what Porco, a research scientist at the Space Institute, proposed:

“Let’s teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty. It is already so much more glorious and awesome — and even comforting — than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know.”

darwin fishJohnson provides perspective on the story, detailing efforts by the Templeton Foundation to smooth over differences between science and religion. He explains that more prominent believing scientists were invited to the conference but didn’t attend. And he quotes evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala, a former Roman Catholic priest, pooh-poohing efforts to fight six billion people finding meaning and purpose in life. When physicist and nonbeliever Lawrence Krauss argues that science does not make it impossible to believe in God and that nonbelievers should stop being so pompous, Dawkins explodes.

“I am utterly fed up with the respect that we — all of us, including the secular among us — are brainwashed into bestowing on religion,” he said.

While many reporters have been enamored with Dawkins and his colorful quotes, Johnson goes on to quote two religion-opposing scientists in response, including anthropologist Melvin Konner.

“With a few notable exceptions,” he said, “the viewpoints have run the gamut from A to B. Should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?”

His response to [doctoral student Sam] Harris and Dr. Dawkins was scathing. “I think that you and Richard are remarkably apt mirror images of the extremists on the other side,” he said, “and that you generate more fear and hatred of science.”

There are many other things in the article — notably allegations against some believers — that are left unanswered, but the piece is properly limited to the people and ideas expressed at one conference.

More than a few atheist and non-religious commenters here have suggested previously that Richard Dawkins is equivalent to Christians’ Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell. Reporters run to them ad nauseum whether they deserve it or not.

This article showed debate with Dawkins. The debate was over tactics rather than underlying views, but in the crusade to win converts to their belief system, scientists’ tactics are important. It’s nice to have a well-written look at the same.

Situation normal

gay fatherI like to believe my reading comprehension skills are adequate. But my confidence was dampened when I read The New York Times Magazine‘s advocacy journalism piece on gay parenting. The mash note ran 8,000 words, which was at least 2,000 too many.

I had serious trouble keeping track of the characters in the article. My problem wasn’t just that each of the three family groups profiled was a bit complex, what with sperm donors, sexual partners, and extended families. It was that reporter John Bowe thought pronouns would be enough to identify various members of the complicated tree. Sometimes, though, the complexity of the family alone was enough to make me read the same paragraph three times over. Read, for instance, about an interracial lesbian couple, one member of which was impregnated by an opposite-race gay man, who later split up and moved on:

The black woman has a new female partner. The white woman is now living with a man, and the two have had their own child. So, as [gay sperm donor] R. said, between the one child that R. has with the black mother, the twins borne by the white mother with a black donor and the newest, fourth, child born to her with her new male partner, all of whom have some sort of sibling relation to one another, things can be a little confusing. “They’re quite a little petri dish of a family, as you can imagine,” R. told me. The children go from the white mother, who lives in a SoHo loft, to their black mother, who lives in a nice, middle-class row house in Crown Heights. On weekends, they often visit the white mother’s family’s country estate. “I’d say they’re like divorce kids,” he said. “They’ve got a family that split up; they go back and forth.” But the kids love both their mothers, and though the relationships may seem confusing to outsiders, there is certainly no lack of people in their lives who care about them — something many “straight” families can’t claim.

You really have to love that last line. See, the confusion is not only not a problem, it’s actually better than many straight families’ situation.

It’s not that I’m surprised that Bowe — who cowrote the excellent movie Basquiat, penned an introduction to a book of Ted Rall cartoons and published advocacy pieces for The American Prospect — would write such a biased piece, but who does it serve? Wouldn’t New York Times readers be better off with balanced coverage of this hugely divisive issue? Wouldn’t New York Times editors get a much more interesting piece by having a reporter with a different perspective tackle it? Who needs an echo chamber?

Many individuals or movements that advocate for liberalization of family law — be they homosexual-marriage proponents, homosexual parents or polygamists — argue that their lifestyle is normal, even boring. I’m not making a value judgment about whether that is a good or bad thing, it’s just a common refrain used by the groups. Bowe makes that his overarching theme:

  • Gay parents are motivated not “by ideology but by a deep, and frankly conventional, desire to have children,” says a New York University professor.
  • “Considering how many heterosexual parents are overworked, divorced or otherwise unavailable, [gay donor Mark says], children with lesbian and gay parents are “lucky.”

I mean, I appreciate that The New York Times considers children of complex gay parentage to be lucky, but you think there might have been some room for a differing view in the rambling piece.

Finally, Bowe offers this vignette, which reinforces his theme:

P.J., David and Bobbie’s co-parent, is an X-ray technician with a bawdy and infectious sense of humor. Mark’s co-parents, Candi and Jean, one of whom is a former prison guard, were more reserved. Eight conversations were juggled as children came and went, screaming, laughing, crying, demanding juice boxes, spilling juice boxes, getting sand on the frosting on their mouths and so on.

Bowe clearly is a talented writer. But a story devoid of opposing perspectives on a controversial topic does not deserve to be in a major mainstream paper — even if all mainstream papers are turning into publications with all gay news all the time.

A few bad men

megachurchWhen the Ted Haggard sex scandal broke, Lexington Herald-Leader religion reporter Frank Lockwood posed an interesting question:

But why is it that many of the biggest names in the Pentecostal movement — over and over again — end up disgracing themselves and the church as a whole?

Now that the daily updates are less dramatic, it will be interesting to see how reporters step back and analyze some of the underlying stories. AP religion writer Rachel Zoll wrote an interesting analysis of whether New Life Church will survive the scandal. She notes that big-name preachers are nothing new. What is new is that so many are closely tied to a single church, such as Rick Warren at Saddleback and Joel Osteen at Lakewood Church.

Haggard’s removal as pastor of New Life was swift, but Zoll writes that most megachurches have boards stacked with relatives, friends, personal lawyers and others who are reticent to contradict the leader. (For an excellent analysis of how one megachurch handles its oversight, I commend Eric Gorski’s Denver Post piece on Heritage Christian Center.) Zoll delves into one difference between some megachurches and churches with denominational affiliations:

Nearly all megachurches are independent from a denomination — an asset for their flexibility, but a liability when it comes to checks on power. By contrast, mainline Protestant denominations vet clergy credentials and have elaborate systems of church tribunals, similar to civil courts, that discipline errant ministers.

This is an excellent point for discussion, although I’ll note that the vetting of clergy credentials and other checks are not unique to mainline Protestant denominations. One of the main benefits of forming a denomination of like-minded believers is for the training and vetting of clergy.

New Life members must decide whether they wish to belong to a church without the charismatic leader, Zoll writes. She quotes one expert saying the congregation’s emphasis on social groups might save it:

But Randall Balmer, a Barnard College historian of American religion, said megachurches are so wrapped up with their pastor that New Life inevitably has hard times ahead. Without any creed or denominational identity for the church to cling to, attendance will eventually drop by half or more, he predicted.

“You have a kind of cult of personality that confuses the faith with a particular individual,” said Balmer, author of “Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America.” “I just think it’s very difficult to recover from this sort of thing.”

What a meek subtitle! The thing is that this last point is the most provocative of the piece. And yet this is how her piece ends. It would be interesting to get some response from others. I’m also interested in how his prediction will pan out.

Cheaper by the dozen

bigfamilyOf the topics that are both universally experienced and wildly controversial, procreation has to rank near the top. Kudos to Eileen Finan at Newsweek for a remarkably balanced piece about a landmine-prone issue. (And thanks to reader Jon Swerens for letting us know about the article.) In an online-only piece, she looks at a movement of Protestant Christians opposed to birth control of any kind:

It’s hardly a typical scene from the suburbs. The Bortel home outside San Antonio, Tex., counts 12 members — parents David and Suzanne and their 10 children, ranging from 13 months to 15 (the 20-year-old married and moved away) — all crammed into a four-bedroom house that trembles constantly with activity. Everything revolves around the home: Dad works there, the kids are schooled there, the youngest three were born there. The family uses a 15-passenger van to get around, and at night, the kids climb into multiple sets of bunk beds.

David and Suzanne hear the same questions repeatedly. So for the record: No, they’re not Catholic. Yes, they’ve heard of birth control. And no, they’re not crazy. In fact, they’d happily welcome a twelfth child. “It’s about obedience to God,” says David, 38. “The Bible says that God is the only opener and closer of the womb.”

The Bortels form part of the “quiverfull” movement, a small but growing conservative Protestant group that eschews all forms of birth control and believes that family planning is exclusively God’s domain. The term derives from Psalm 127:

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.

Judging from the high rate of birth control use by American families and the declining size of the average American family, I have no doubt that the Bortels’ statement would be met with impassioned replies. Still, it’s so nice to read a story in which the reporter just permits the featured players to describe their theology in their own words.

Journalists seem to spend so much time covering how people control their family size but very little time covering whether people control the same. It’s refreshing to see a story on what is certainly a small but significant movement.

Archery2Finan’s story gives a comprehensive overview of the Quiverfull movement before showing how opposition to birth control is growing among some evangelicals:

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has become one of its most prominent advocates. “If a couple sees children as an imposition, as something to be vaccinated against, like an illness, that betrays a deeply erroneous understanding of marriage and children,” says Mohler. “Children should be seen as good by default.” His stance isn’t as extreme as that of quiverfull followers; for instance, he condones the use of condoms for married couples in extreme circumstances, like illness.

Still, Mohler’s views are considered “an oddity” in mainstream Baptist circles, according to Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Land admits, however, that Mohler has certainly expanded his following. “He is seen as the popularizer of a position that is still very marginal, but 15 years ago, it wouldn’t have even been discussed,” says Land, adding that he knows of at least two former students who had reverse vasectomies after hearing Mohler’s arguments.

Movements usually are not limited to one bureaucratic group, which is why I’m surprised when reporters write a trend story around single groups. I appreciate how Finan broadens it to show how underlying principles or values are not neatly contained in organizational boundaries — even in a piece ostensibly about a single group. I also appreciate how she shows debate within the Christian community. She also speaks to opponents of the movement.

I wonder if there’s some reason I’ve seen an uptick in coverage of opponents of birth control. Kathryn Joyce, former managing editor of The Revealer, had a piece in this week’s The Nation on the same. As she is writing for a liberal magazine, we may not be surprised that Joyce takes a much harder look at the movement, but it still includes some great reportage — and meatier criticisms — between uses of the word “fundamentalist” and allegations of racism.

On hypocrisy

hypocrisyWhen Mike Jones went to the media with claims that New Life megachurch pastor Ted Haggard had paid him for sex and meth, he said he did so because of Haggard’s hypocrisy. Jones said he felt that Haggard was a hypocrite because he preached against homosexual behavior while also engaging in it.

The hypocrisy slur has been lodged against Haggard far and wide.

Two recent essays in First Things question the hypocrisy claim. While First Things is a religious journal, reporters on the Haggard beat — or any subsequent scandal story — should read them. Robert Miller argues that people aren’t hypocrites because they violate a moral norm in which they profess to believe:

Hypocrisy is a much worse form of moral wrongdoing. It’s a certain kind of lying, and so can be done only consciously and intentionally.

. . . Ted Haggard, I am sure, always believed that homosexual conduct was wrong, always wanted to avoid such conduct, and always regretted engaging in it after he did so. He found himself experiencing very powerful desires contrary to the values he sincerely believed in, desires he wished with all his heart he could have escaped from, desires he refers to as a “repulsive and dark” part of his life against which he has been warring for a long time. Sometimes, contrary to his wish, he gave in to those desires. This makes him weak, not a hypocrite.

Richard John Neuhaus added to the comments by providing a modern example of hypocrisy. German novelist Günter Grass loudly proclaimed for years that any of his countrymen who was affiliated with Nazis should be ostracized, more or less. And yet he had willingly served in the Waffen-SS and had hidden that fact. Neuhaus says false accusations of hypocrisy show a “naive indifference to the reality of the conflicted self.”

Kevin Simpson and Eric Gorski’s piece for The Denver Post uses the Haggard scandal as a jumping-off point to discuss homosexual behavior and its causes:

Although the nature versus nurture debate — biology versus psycho-social factors — has simmered for years, most recent research has pointed toward sexual orientation being hard-wired into humans, at least to some degree, said Anthony Bogaert, a psychology professor at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, who studies sexual orientation development.

What’s so interesting about this story and so many others that deal with the “root causes of homosexuality” is the underlying assumption that an individual who engages in both heterosexual and homosexual behavior is, well, obviously and unequivocally gay. Take Ted Haggard. Here is a man who has been married to a woman for decades and has five children. He also, allegedly, paid a man for sex for three years. Isn’t it interesting that so many people assume that combination means he’s gay? You bake one loaf of bread, it doesn’t mean you’re considered a baker, but for some reason we think differently about sexuality. But only in one direction — men in homosexual relationships who’ve slept with — or even been married to — women aren’t considered straight.

Anyway, what’s missing from the whole Denver Post article is the view of some Christians that homosexuality — whether or not it is genetically influenced or some product of cultural influences — is not the best expression of God’s plan for sexual desire. The absence of that information or perspective makes the rest of the article — which more or less condemns evangelical efforts to assist homosexuals in modifying their behavior — ring hollow.


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