Monday, January 31, 2005

Oops All Gone

The recall blog's posts seem to flit before your eyes, ephemera passing through a frail winter's sunbeam. First they tried to imply that the school board was hiding the report, then they said oops, we made a mistake, and now they have deleted the post altogether.

Yeah, well, we've all done that, said something stupid -- don't you wish real life had a delete button on it?

But the other thing. Was it yesterday, or Saturday? They posted this whole explanation about how they had to use fake names on the blog, because their lives were being threatened, and they have families. I should've saved that one. It was so weird at the time that I couldn't even think of anything funny to say about it. Then they took it down. Then they put it up. Then they took it down.

Now it's down.

Hey, ya wanna see something funny?

Look at this blog: American Coprophagia (don't ask what it means). They kept a fun record of some of the more amusing messages from the recall message board, before they had the good sense to make it private so the rest of the world couldn't see the crazy stuff they were saying.

Listen, people, it's not that the recall people are being threatened. Read these messages, which these guys have been good enough to archive, just because they have a good sense of humor. The people who are aligned with this "movement" to keep any mention of gays out of the school curriculum are ... [I've given up the search for a word to put here].

They want people to feel sorry for them, so they blog that they're being threatened, but then they know that we know it's not true, so they take it down. But then they really do want us to think everybody's being mean to them, so they put it up, but of course even they can see how silly it sounds, so it goes down again. Some of this is just too weird.

Recall Blog Oops

The recall group's blog has retracted their comment about the BOE hiding the report.

They say:
Update: Oops. Our mistake. The document is still available at (Recall group blog)

Well, yes it is, isn't it?

Look, we're not here to make fun every time somebody makes a mistake. But here ya got a gang of conspiracy theorists who are trying to convince the world that the "gay agenda" is out to recruit public school students into its nefarious sodomistic nightmare by teaching them some simple, obvious facts about sexual orientation, and they go out on the Internet implying that the Board of Education is part of the scandalous plot to undermine all that is virtuous by concealing the One Document that contains the True Plan ...

... well, yeah, we make fun of that.

People, follow the link, read the document, make up your own mind.

Bush Misunderestimates Gay Parenting

This morning's New York Times has an article that asks some questions about a remark President Bush made the other day.
Are children worse off being raised by gay or lesbian couples than by heterosexual parents?

Responding on Thursday to a question about gay adoption, President Bush suggested that they were.

"Studies have shown," Mr. Bush said in an interview with The New York Times, "that the ideal is where a child is raised in a married family with a man and a woman." Experts Dispute Bush on Gay-Adoption Issue

Now, this is funny. You hear people say this all the time, "studies have shown" this or that. It seems to me it has become more of an off-handed way of supporting common sense than an actual citation of any scientific research. Studies show that a low fat diet is good for your heart, or studies show that kids who play outside are healthier, or studies show that people who don't express their emotions are more likely to have problems later in life... you know, you don't ever ask "Hey -- what studies?"

But after Bush said this, some people did ask what studies. And the answer was that there really aren't any studies that show that "the ideal is where a child is raised in a married family with a man and a woman."

But of course that's not the whole story.

The Times continues:
But experts say there is no scientific evidence that children raised by gay couples do any worse - socially, academically or emotionally - than their peers raised in more traditional households.

The experts, who cross the political spectrum, say studies have shown that on average, children raised by two married heterosexual parents fare better on a number of measures, including school performance, than those raised by single parents or by parents who are living together but are unmarried.

But, said Dr. Judith Stacey, a professor of sociology at New York University, "there is not a single legitimate scholar out there who argues that growing up with gay parents is somehow bad for children."

Dr. Stacey, who published a critical review of studies on the subject in 2001 and has argued in favor of allowing adoption by gays, added, "The debate among scientists is all about how good the studies we have really are."

Indeed, that is the debate. You find some gay people with kids, you interview them, administer a survey, whatever, you add up the results. So what?

The definitive critique of this research, not mentioned in this particular article, was put out by a Rockville couple, both PhD's, who do social-science research, often for conservative organizations such as the Heritage Foundation. Robert Lerner, now acting Commissioner of Education Statistics, and his wife, Althea Nagai, reviewed the methodology of a number of studies of gay parents, and found all of them lacking in terms of methodology -- research designs, sampling, measurement, statistical testing, etc. Their paper (which can be found online HERE) is a seminar in how to find the problems in social-science research.

I would be almost sure that Bush, who appointed Lerner to the Commissioner's position, was thinking of Lerner and Nagai's report when he made his comment.

But, as they say in the article, the argument is over whether the research is sound and valid, not whether gay parenting is inferior. And even Lerner and Nagai don't go so far as to comment on that, only on methods.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Recall Blog Exposes BOE Cover-Up

Woo hoo! The recall group is blowing the whistle on a big conspiracy. Seems that the Board of Education has taken down the report, so the public can't read about the new sodomy-promotin' curriculum that will turn all our kids into perverts.

Here's what they say:
Missing link?

The new sex-ed curriculum used to be available at the MCPS Board of Education website ( But this link now has a picture of a gopher poking up out of a hole asking the web surfer, "Take a wrong turn?"

Why not allow the public to view the new curriculum the BOE voted on?

Luckily, the CRC has this public document on it's [sic] website at Recall Group Blog

I tried that link, and I, too, was shown the Great Gopher of Disappointment.

Why not allow the public to view the new curriculum the BOE voted on? they ask.

I would re-phrase the question. I would say, Why not try the correct URL?

Try this one:

The Board of Education didn't move the document, it isn't hidden, the public can still read it. The recall group just left off part of the URL.

Here, I'll make a short one for you:

That works.

Gee, it wouldn't be like the folks at to get all upset over nuthin', would it?

Evolution debate enters ‘round two'

‘Intelligent design' backers offer option
This is what we are going against, and it's a much more delicate and subtle attack than it was back in the day...Now they try to pass the belief in an intelligent design as a plausible scientific explanation...that just happens to be based on faith. Well, that's not what we know about science as we know it, and probably the standards of science would and should be revised, and in fact they are rather periodically, because that's what science is about: selfcorrecting itself, and taking notice from the occurrances in the natural world.
“There are only two options,” said Harris, who is leading this year's fight. “Life was either designed or it wasn't.”

That's not the point, evolution defenders reply. Science is about searching for natural explanations of the world, they say, and has no room for a theory based on faith.

The public will join the debate beginning Tuesday, when the first of four public hearings on new science standards will be held in Kansas City, Kan.
Harris and seven other members of the 26-member committee instead propose students be “more adequately informed” on evolution.

The eight submitted a proposal to the state Board of Education. One recommendation was to change the definition of science. The current definition, they say, limits inquiry because it allows only “natural” explanations. They want it to be more objective and to allow students “to follow the evidence wherever it leads.”

Evolution supporters said such a change would shake science at its foundation.

“Intelligent design claims it's a mistake to limit science to naturalistic explanations,” said Kenneth Miller, a biologist at Brown University who has written science textbooks used in Kansas and elsewhere.

“But what other kinds of explanations are there? The straightforward answer — which is very clear from their document but they never quite frankly have the courage to use the word — is supernatural explanations. … It means supernatural explanations in Kansas will now be part of science.”

Intelligent-design proponents deny that. They say design can be detected without introducing a designer.

If Kansas adopted the proposed changes from the group of eight, it would go further than any state had gone in adopting a position endorsed by supporters of intelligent design.

Sex Education Woes

Sunday, January 30, 2005 - 8:21:02 PM

Texoma schools may need to re-evaluate their sex-ed programs. As KTEN's Noelle Newton explains...students studying one type of curriculum are doing the opposite of what they're being taught.

Abstinence only programs don't seem to be very effective on the behavior of teens according to a new study.

A state-sponsored study by Texas A and M University researchers indicates that abstinence-only programs like those promoted by the bush administration don't seem to be working on teens in the president's home state. The ongoing study is the first evaluation of the abstinence programs across the state of Texas.

It found that students in almost all high school grades were more sexually active after undergoing abstinence education. Researchers don't believe the programs encouraged teenagers to have sex, but they say the programs apparently did not interfere with customary trends among adolescents.

We wanted to know what Texomans thought.
“It seems to work. Some kids are still doing it, but it think they're using a condom,” Dimitri Morton, Denison High student.
“Before they would just say, hey if you're gonna do it at least be safe about it. Evidently, the abstinence only isn't working right now. Maybe they need to change it back,” Gene Willman.

The results are based on a ten-page questionnaire filled out anonymously by junior high and high school students. The study examined five programs in more than two-dozen schools.

The researchers admit the study does have flaws, making it hard to tell if the teens would've shown an even greater increase in sexual activity if they hadn't had abstinence education.
-Noelle Newton, KTEN News

Saturday, January 29, 2005

God Hates Swedes???

I had forgotten, when I wrote the earlier post about the bigoted Swedish preacher who hates gay people, that this bigoted American preacher hates gay people and Swedes. Fred Phelps, the Baptist minister who runs the web site, felt very, very good about the recent Asian tsunami, because it killed thousands of Swedes who were vacationing there.

This so pleased him that he started a new web site, Here's a sample from his web page:
Fags have a 3 point agenda: 1) decriminalize sodomy, 2) add fags to the protected classes as victims like blacks, and 3) criminalize Gospel preaching against fags. Sweden's doom is now irreversible!

With the imprisonment of Ake Green, Swedes have allowed the filthy sodomite agenda to be completely fulfilled. See our monument to Pastor Green here.

With this act, Sweden has drawn to it the wrath and mocking of God!

"I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;
When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you" (Proverbs 1:26-27)

"He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision" (Psalm 2:4).


I came across this site by way of a blogger who calls himself The Bad Methodist. I enjoyed his commentary on the Swedish preacher dilemma:
Personally, I come down on the side of free speech. Most intelligent people, even those who think homosexuality is a sin, can make the distinction between two consenting adults of the same gender in a mutally loving relationship and pedophiles and people who would "rape animals." Speeches like this tend to show the speakers for the idiots they are and do a lot more harm to the anti-gay agenda than rational conservatives who don't use ludicrous non-sequitors to state their case. Take a look at Fred Phelps, who creates gay rights supporters every time he opens his mouth. No offense to Sweden, but I'll take free speech because I think it does the job better than any statute can.

Right, let the bigots say whatever they like. People can tell the difference.

Is There a 'Gay Gene'?

New Genetic Regions Associated With Male Sexual Orientation Found

This article from WebMD talks about new research regarding the genetical predisposition of homosexuality. What we have found more interesting in this debate it's not the fact that most people agree on the probable genetic foundation of homosexuality, but that the group that believes homosexuality is a sin just focus on the fact that people could just abstain, because "we are all called to chastity" -never mind if we want to ignore that call and have a fulfilled life following our own truth, and our own sense of self and identity.

It's important to remember, also, that homosexuality was demeed a sin, long before genetics as a field of study came in to being, and if the people who oppose homosexuality now accept the genetical component of it it's only due to its inevitability...They would look way too ignorant, otherwise.

Jan. 28, 2005 - The genes a man gets from his mother and father may play an important role in determining whether he is gay or not, according to a new study likely to reignite the "gay gene" debate.

Researchers say it's the first time the entire human genetic makeup has been scanned in search of possible genetic determinants of male sexual orientation. The results suggest that several genetic regions may influence homosexuality.

"It builds on previous studies that have consistently found evidence of genetic influence on sexual orientation, but our study is the first to look at exactly where those genes are located," says researcher Brian Mustanski, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
New Targets for Gay Gene Research

Elliot S. Gershon, MD, professor of psychiatry and human genetics at the University of Chicago, says the study represents an important step forward in understanding how genes affect human sexual orientation.

"It is worth testing genes within a region of linkage to see if one of them has a variant that is more frequent in men who are gay than in men who are not," says Gershon, who is also currently involved in another study of gay brothers and genetic influences on sexual orientation.

"This report adds to the legitimacy of research on normal variations in human behavior," Gershon tells WebMD. "There is an argument that has been made in public press that it doesn't make sense to study conditions or traits that are behavioral. But this suggests that there is a genetic contribution to this particular trait of same sex orientation."

Other articles:
Non-sex genes link to 'gay trait'

The Swedish Preacher Dilemma

I've read this news story several times, and I gotta admit, this is a very confusing situation, you're not quite sure whose side to be on in this.

This preacher in Sweden said in a sermon that gay people were sending the whole world to hell, y'know, the usual stuff.
One Sunday in the summer of 2003, the Rev. Ake Green, a Pentecostal pastor, stepped into the pulpit of his small church in the southern Swedish village of Borgholm. There, the 63-year-old clergyman delivered a sermon denouncing homosexuality as "a deep cancerous tumor in the entire society" and condemning Sweden's plan to allow gays to form legally recognized partnerships.

"Our country is facing a disaster of great proportions," he told the 75 parishioners at the service. "Sexually twisted people will rape animals," Green declared, and homosexuals "open the door to forbidden areas," such as pedophilia. Swede's Sermon on Gays: Bigotry or Free Speech?

Yeah, we've heard all that before, we didn't have to go to Sweden to find out that the "gay agenda" is undermining our entire civilization. But then, there's the Swedish angle:
With these words, which the local newspaper published at his request, Green ran afoul of Sweden's strict laws against hate speech. He was indicted, convicted and sentenced to 30 days in jail. He remains free pending appeal.

Well, that's the difference between Sweden and the US, I guess. We have hate-crime laws, but you can still pretty much say whatever stupid thing you want here. There, they lock you up.

So you find yourself rooting for the preacher, because all he did was express his opinion and now The Man is puttin' him down ... but wait, you root against him, because what he said was so moronic.
On Wednesday last week, about 200 people gathered outside the courthouse in the southern city of Jonkoping to voice support for Green during his first appeal. Many who showed up were homosexuals who said while they disagreed vehemently with what the pastor said, they defended his right to say it.

Inside, prosecutor Kjell Yngvesson argued that Green had "expressed disdain for homosexuals as a group" and that the 30-day jail term should be lengthened.

Well, I have a little theory about democracy and human intellect. I think, in the short run, people can disappoint you, they'll make choices and support causes that are obviously maladaptive and inconsistent. Over time, though, with open debate and free exchange of opinions, people will work around to a consensus position that serves everyone quite well.

For instance, in Montgomery County right now, we have some people yelling at the rest of us, sorta taking the Swedish preacher's point of view. I expect that, over time, there will be some discussions, some dialogue and eventually the people of our county will settle on something we can all live with.

We don't want to see the recall group locked up for the dumb things they say. I want them to be able to say stuff right out loud, so everybody can hear how silly it all sounds. The "gay agenda" this, the "sodomites" that, "ex-gays" this and the other thing. This is America, we speak freely, we teach our kids the facts, the people will come together on the side of reason.

Recall Has a Blog (No Comments)

The recall group has their own blog. Of course, after the fiasco with their previous message board, where their fanatics got completely out of control, until they had to shut it down, the recall group's blog doesn't have any comments.

That's good for them, because it means no dialogue. Dialogue can only be bad for them, in two ways: people on their side can say what they think, and people who disagree with them can say what they think. In the past, this has meant that their people raved like loonies, including threatening the school board and everything else, and people who happened across the message board started leaving prank messages, making fun of them. If they had allowed comments on their blog, the same thing would happen, you know it would. The one smart thing they've ever done, cutting off the dialogue before it hurts them.

We have a strict policy here. If you want to comment, we don't care about your point of view, if you're decent about it. These are obviously complex issues, and it's not scary to us if somebody can disagree with grace and wit. But trolls -- and if you don't know what that is, you probably aren't one -- will be banned, pure and simple. If people want to be jerks about it, we'll shut off our comments altogether.

OK, so the recall blog of today says:
The new curriculum blithely adds this note, "Transgender refers to someone whose gender identity or expression differs from conventional expectations for their physical sex. This term includes transsexual and transvestite. (Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, Pediatrics, Vol. 92, No. 4 (Oct. 1993), pp. 631-34)"

Yep, no reference at all to gender identity disorder.

(The irony here is that the above link is one of the resources that the advisory committee recommended but isn't given to teachers or included in the lesson outline.)

Wow ... blithely ... no reference at all... irony ... that sounds bad.

That last comment is about their link in their text to an article about gender identity disorder, which, as they say, they wanted to be in the curriculum. But ... nobody cares. This isn't what the class is about, it isn't relevant, it really doesn't belong here, and it was voted down in the committee. The brought it up, they showed everybody, everybody voted, and they lost. That happens sometimes.

Maybe they would've wanted to quote the whole section, which starts: For Teacher Reference Only.

See, this material isn't for a classroom lecture, this is some auxilliary information for when a student asks a question, so the teacher has some idea what the answer is. No, they don't list every character disorder and neurosis that has a sexual-identity component. This section of the curriculum gives teachers some definitions -- here's the whole section, so you can see the term in context:
For Teacher Reference Only
Questioning refers to people who are uncertain as to their sexual orientation. (No source)
Transgender refers to someone whose gender identity or expression differs from conventional expectations for their physical sex. This term includes transsexual and transvestite.(Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, Pediatrics, Vol. 92, No. 4 (Oct. 1993), pp. 631-34)
Coming Out refers to the process in which a person identifies himself or herself as homosexual or bisexual to family, friends and other significant people in his or her life. (Source: American Psychiatric Association Fact Sheet: Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues (May 2000)).
Intersexed refers to people who are born with anatomy or physiology (ambiguous genitalia) that differs from cultural and/or medical ideals of male and female. (School Resource)

See? It's just information for the teacher, answers to some questions that might come up.

What are the chances a kid is going to raise their hand and ask, "Teacher? Teacher? What is gender identity disorder?"

And this is what they're so upset about?

Friday, January 28, 2005

Is "Telling the Truth" a Family Value?

On January Twelfth, the recall group's media guy, Steve Fisher, was on Christian radio station WAVA, interviewed by Don Kroah.

At 34:40 into the interview, Fisher mentions they have had over a hundred hits on the petition link of the recall group's website, alone. So we figure that they had their online petitions going by then.

Even if anybody had listened, they might not have noticed this little snatch of dialogue, toward the end -- it goes by kinda quick. At 46:00 into the recording (listen to it HERE) (it's the second part of the January 12th archive), the announcer says:
DK: You say there's a petition with, uh, considerable signatures ...
SF: Right
DK: ... to recall the board, is that the petition you were referencing earlier?
SF: The petition is in the process of being developed.
DK: All right, we're gonna come back in a moment...

Y'know, I woulda sworn I heard them tell the school board they weren't really going to do that.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Response to This Morning's Washington Times Article

[Editors note: the following was submitted by David Fishback, chair of the MCPS Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development, in response to an article in the Washington Times this morning]

The January 26, 2004, edition of the Washington Times published an article entitled Sex-ed courses called flawed, By Jon Ward. The article is set forth below, along with some pertinent comments:

Critics of a new sex-education curriculum in Montgomery County public schools say the program teaches that homosexuality is not a choice without including scientific information to the contrary.

"It's inadequate," said Warren Throckmorton, an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. "It's an exercise in social advocacy, primarily."

Mr. Throckmorton, who works with former practicing homosexuals, says in a recently published 33-page critique that some good changes have been made to the curriculum, but that the negatives far outweigh the positives.

"The changes undermine any abstinence message the curriculum may offer," he said. "And its treatment of homosexuality is an exercise in social advocacy as opposed to education."

Mr. Throckmorton's opinion supports that of some members of an advisory committee that reviewed the changes and said homosexuality is a preference or choice, not a genetically predetermined condition. The members also said their scientific evidence was rejected.

(a) Providing correct information on condom use (which most students will eventually need to know, since most will eventually marry and most will not want to leave decisions on when to have children to chance) does not undermine the abstinence message. Indeed, the condom demonstration video Throckmorton objects to -- but likely has not even seen -- repeatedly stresses that abstinence is the only 100% sure way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and sexually- transmitted infections.

(b) All the revised curriculum does is to provide basic facts, as understood by every mainstream American professional medical and mental health organization for more than three decades: that homosexuality is not a disease and that most experts do not believe that sexual orientation is a choice. This is no more "social advocacy" than the provision of any other pertinent medical and scientific information in the Health Education Curriculum. If one were to follow Throckmorton's logic, material in school curriculum debunking myths about superiority or inferiority of certain racial groups would be impermissible "social advocacy." Hopefully, that is no longer needed -- but a generation ago it was essential.

(c) The proposition that "homosexuality is . . . not a genetically predetermined condition" is a red herring. The curriculum takes no position on the precise etiology of homosexuality because the science has not figured that out. The science has concluded, however, that it is NOT the result of mental illness -- a core proposition of the teachings of Throckmorton and those who agree with him.

(d) "The [dissenting Committee] members also said their scientific evidence was rejected." I have no doubt they have been saying that. The problem, however, is that they presented NO pertinent, useful scientific evidence. I told the Times reporter that they had presented the Spitzer article which suggested that maybe, for some highly motivated individuals, sexual orientation could be changed -- but that a professional medical epidemiologist on the Committee examined that article and published analyses of it by other professionals and concluded that Spitzer's methodology was fatally flawed. (Spitzer's "samples" were all provided by "ex-gay" advocacy groups.) This report from the Committee member convinced the majority not to include the Spitzer article as a teacher resource.

The county school board unanimously approved the curriculum Nov. 9.

David Fishback, a Rockville lawyer who leads the citizensadvisory committee, said he had not read Mr. Throckmorton's criticism of the curriculum but was familiar with his work.

"The bottom line for Dr. Throckmorton is that homosexuality is a sin or a disease," he said.

Mr. Fishback said that Mr. Throckmorton's view "that people can change their sexual orientation and sexual desires if they really, really want to and really, really try is risky, risky business."

Mr. Fishback has told reporters he joined the advisory committee in part because his two grown sons declared themselves homosexuals after hiding it for much of their adolescence.

"People, too often, are put through hell to fit the conception of how people think is the only way people can be," he said.

What the article omitted, however, was the fact that leaders of the "ex-gay" movement – notably, for example, John Palk and Michael Johnston -- had "fallen off the wagon," and that it was the long experience of the mental health community in damaging people by assuming they could "change" that led them to closely examine and then revise their understanding of homosexuality.

I provided to the reporter a compelling example of a retired rabbi who told me of an incident early in his professional career (in the 1960s or perhaps earlier) when he counseled a teenage member of his congregation who had told his parents he was homosexual that the young man could and must change his orientation, that it was a sin and was "abnormal." The young man, a brilliant and caring individual, tried mightily to do so -- but eventually committed suicide. As time went on, the rabbi concluded that his advice was wrong, and he still carried that guilt 40 years later.

The article should not have just provided my conclusion that "reparative therapy" approaches are risky – it should have provided the reasons for the conclusion. Our public discourse has too often become a clash of conclusions, not a discussion of facts that lead us to conclusions.

The new curriculum will be tested in three middle schools and three high schools in mid-April. The six schools have not been chosen, said Brian Edwards, the spokesman for the Montgomery County public schools.

The advisory committee will collect feedback from teachers, parents and students in the schools, then present the school board this summer with the results of the pilot program and recommend any adjustments.

The board members will then vote on whether to approve the proposed changes and whether to continue the program throughout the school district.

The new curriculum would be implemented in the fall in county eighth and 10th grades.

Mr. Fishback rejects the claim by Michelle Turner and other committee members who say their evidence on homosexuality was ignored.

Mrs. Turner has four children in public schools and has helped organize a parent group working to stop the new curriculum.

She says most of the committee members "favor a pro-gay agenda and see homosexuality as a perfectly acceptable, if not normal lifestyle, that should be taught to our children at an early age."

Ah, yes – the "pro-gay agenda." Would Mrs. Turner characterize her view as the "anti-gay agenda"? I do not think it a terribly extraordinary proposition that there is nothing wrong with being gay – although Throckmorton, Dobson, et al. would disagree.

In any event, the proposed revised curriculum for 8th and 10th Grade Health Classes simply lays out the facts as understood by all mainstream American medical and mental health organizations. It does not "advocate" sexual orientation. There is nothing in the curriculum about a so-called "homosexual lifestyle," other than an accurate statement that there are families with children in our community headed by same-sex couples.

Is that the "homosexual lifestyle" that seems to worry some people? It sounds more like just a life. If Mrs. Turner and her allies do not want their children to be "exposed" to this brief unit of the Health Education Curriculum, they have the right to not sign the form required for students to take the unit.

Your New Education Secretary's Priorities

You might not have noticed, but we got a brand new Secretary of Education last week. And just to make sure you understand what the Bush administration means by "education," the very first thing that Margaret Spellings did in office was to send a nice, fat letter to PBS, warning them about an upcoming segment of a TV show that includes a family with two mommies.
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said the "Sugartime!" episode does not fulfill the intent Congress had in mind for programming. By law, she said, any funded shows must give top attention to "research-based educational objectives, content and materials."

"Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode," Spellings wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Pat Mitchell, president and chief executive officer of PBS.

“Congress’ and the Department’s purpose in funding this programming certainly was not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children, particularly through the powerful and intimate medium of television."

She asked PBS to consider refunding the money it spent on the episode.

First act as secretary
With her letter, Spellings has made criticism of the publicly funded program’s depiction of the gay lifestyle one of her first acts as secretary. She began on Monday, replacing Rod Paige as President Bush’s education chief.

Spellings issued three requests to PBS.

She asked that her department’s seal or any statement linking the department to the show be removed. She asked PBS to notify its member stations of the nature of show so they could review it before airing it. And she asked for the refund “in the interest of avoiding embroiling the Ready-To-Learn program in a controversy that will only hurt” it.

In closing, she warned: "You can be assured that in the future the department will be more clear as to its expectations for any future programming that it funds." Education chief rips PBS for gay character

Now, let me opine for a second here, may I?

Here I see a survey that shows the US ranking 28th in mathematics, 18th in reading ... you've heard this before. Our schools suck.

And why do they suck? Is it because our TV shows fail to attain sex parity in parental roles? No, I don't think so, either. Education in the United States is a mess. The kids don't learn, the whole system has turned into a big bureaucracy where kids study to learn to pass tests, it doesn't really matter if they actually get educated or not. Finland, which places number one in most categories of educational achievement, has totally rejected the idea of standardized testing, which has become the whole point of our educational system. The fact is, we're going about it all wrong.

Now, you'd think that this would be the concern of the Secretary of the Department of Education, wouldn't you?

Naw, not in this day and age. She's gonna make sure we don't see any sodomites on television.

P-FOX President Expelled for Life from the American Counseling Association

Mike Airhart at pointed out this story on Wayne Besen's website, and we double checked it with the American Counseling Association, who confirmed its accuracy. It's not exactly recent news, but the fact had not been publicized by this professional organization.

It turns out that Richard Cohen, president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), has been expelled for life from the American Counseling Association, on the basis of numerous ethics violations having to do with attempts at "reparative therapy" intended to change the sexual orientation of gay people.
According to the ACA's letter: "Mr. Cohen was found in violation of the following code sections A.1.a; A.1.b; A.5.a; A.6.a; C.3.b, C.3.f, and has not elected to appeal the decision taken by the ACA Ethics Committee within allotted timelines." (Please see below for full explanation of violations)

The letter referred to Cohen's violations which included inappropriate behavior such as fostering dependent counseling relationships, not promoting the welfare of clients, engaging in actions that sought to meet his personal needs at the expense of clients, exploiting the trust and dependency of clients, unethically soliciting testimonials from clients and promoting products to clients in a manner that is deceptive.

Richard Cohen is the president of P-FOX, a group that recently placed an ex-gay billboard in Virginia ( and sponsored a controversial ad campaign in Washington DC's subway system. His website is and he is a conference instructor for the National Association for the Research and Therapy for Homosexuality (NARTH). Cohen is also the author of "Coming Out Straight", a book in which Dr. Laura Schlessinger wrote the forward.

"With intellect and care, he [Cohen] offers invaluable insight into the reason for same-sex attractions and, for those willing to brave it, he illuminates a challenging journey from isolation," wrote Dr. Laura {Schlessinger] in Cohen's book.

Cohen has also been prominently features on Larry King Live, The Ricki Lake Show, The Salley Jessy Raphael Show and 20/20. Reparative therapy is rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization in America.

Besen's web site lists the text of the ethics rules vioilated by Cohen.

When contacted the ACA to confirm the story, we received the following letter:

Your inquiry regarding Richard Cohen of Bowie, MD and his status
with the American Counseling Association was forwarded to me for
a response. The ACA Ethics Committee at their most recent
adjudication meeting, 3/23/02, discussed in detail the ethics
complaint filed against Mr. Richard Cohen. The decision of the
committee was to accept all charges (A.1.a; A.1.b.; A.5.a.; A.6.a;
C.3.b; and C.3.f) against him and to render the sanction of ACA
Membership expulsion.

This case was officially closed 5/28/02, 30 business days after
the committee sanction, Mr. Richard Cohen elected not to appeal.


Larry T. Freeman, MA, LPC
Manager, Ethics and Professional Standards
Staff Liaison
American Counseling Association

Well, that's to the point.

PFOX, you might recall, put the big billboard up outside the MCPS district office. They had a member on the citizen's advisory committee that complained and continues to complain loudly about the "unfairness" of the new curriculum because it doesn't include information about ex-gays.

The recall group is tightly connected to PFOX, which is in turn a spin-off of James Dobson's evangelical organization. Though PFOX's membership list is not publicized, we note that psychologist Warren Throckmorton, who has written a long criticism of the MCPS curriculum, seems to be closely aligned with PFOX, speaking at many of their functions, and joining them in many of their presentations.

The treatment of gay people as if they were sick is unethical, according to the principles of most of the leading psychotherapy and counseling organizations. Further, most of the organizations have issued some sort of statement to the effect that sexual orientation is not something that can typically be changed. Yet a certain point of view requires it. In order to blame homosexuals for the persecution they receive, it is necessary to argue that they have chosen to be the way they are. No scientific paradigm accepts that. And here we learn of one organization expelling a member who claims otherwise.

Extry, Extry! James Dobson Did Not Criticize SpongeBob SquarePants

This just in. The Focus on the Family website has announced that their leader, James Dobson, did not -- I repeat, did not "criticize a cartoon character, as has been widely reported."

Please update your records. James Dobson did not criticize SpongeBob SquarePants.

Dobson, his eyes glazed from lack of sleep, suit wrinkled and stained, hair uncombed, mumbled to reporters:
"I've been in the public eye for thirty-something years and I have never had my words more misrepresented than they were in this instance," Dobson said on today's installment of his internationally syndicated radio program. "I was said to be on the warpath for my dislike for SpongeBob — who supposedly has homosexual characteristics.

"I said no such thing."

Y'know, I wonder how this whole thing got started. It's such a doggone shame that people would think he said something bad about SpongeBob SquarePants, just out of the blue like that.

According to his website:
What Dobson did say, in a speech last week in Washington during an event sponsored by the Family Research Council, was that SpongeBob is one of 100 popular animated characters that may have been co-opted by an innocuous-sounding group to promote acceptance of homosexuality to children.

Uh. Oh, OK, that's, like, so much better.

He didn't just call SpongeBob SquarePants a sodomite, he also implicated a hundred or so other cartoon characters.

Dobson, what can I say? You're a nut.

You know what his evidence is for this, right? There is a video with SpongeBob and all these other cartoon guys in it, and they ask kids to go to a web site and sign a "Tolerance Pledge." And one of the things the pledge says is:
I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own.

You got that, right? It said "sexual identity."
While words like "diversity" and "unity" sound harmless — even noble — enough, the reality is they are often used by gay activists as cover for teaching children that homosexuality is the moral and biological equivalent to heterosexuality. And there is ample evidence that the We Are Family Foundation shares — and promotes — that view.

"Unfortunately," Dobson explained, "the We Are Family foundation has very strong homosexual advocacy roots and biases."

Diversity, unity, wow, I never would have realized that people who believe in that are devil-worshipping perverts.

There's another word the sodomites use, too. Reported in New Zealand's National Business Review:
A "homosexuality detection expert" at the ... conservative Family Research Council told the NY Times that words like "tolerance" and "diversity" are part of a "coded language that is regularly used by the homosexual community."

OK, so there's diversity, unity, tolerance...

It turns out the American Family Association is against everything that is decent. They are opposed to goodness itself.

And, somebody tell me, where do you apply for the job of "homosexuality detection expert"? What is the training for that? Is that, like, a hateful guy with good gay-dar?

Look, let me get to the point here. Dobson is a nut. These people are foaming at the mouth over some cartoon characters who represent everything that is good in human nature -- kindness, collegiality, love, innocence, tolerance.

These same people are trying to influence the school board's decisions about the education of our children.

We need to keep this kind of poison out of our community.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Study: Many Blacks Cite AIDS Conspiracy

Prevention Efforts Hurt, Activists Say
Clearly, this new study shows the need to teach the facts, and, since we are already in the classroom, teach a bit more of tolerance, respect, history, openness, and a long etcetera, because the this divide in our "perfect society," - that great society that we use as model for the Middle East and the rest of the world - is worst than even what the presidential campaign could bring.
More than 20 years after the AIDS epidemic arrived in the United States, a significant proportion of African Americans embrace the theory that government scientists created the disease to control or wipe out their communities, according to a study released today by Rand Corp. and Oregon State University.

That belief markedly hurts efforts to prevent the spread of the disease among black Americans, the study's authors and activists said. African Americans represent 13 percent of the U.S. population, according to Census Bureau figures, yet they account for 50 percent of new HIV infections in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A slight majority said they believe that a cure for AIDS is being withheld from the poor. Forty-four percent said people who take the new medicines for HIV are government guinea pigs, and 15 percent said AIDS is a form of genocide against black people.
"This is not a bunch of crazy people running around saying they're out to get us," Akbar said. The belief "comes from the reality of 300 years of slavery and 100 years of post-slavery exploitation."

Akbar cited the Tuskegee experiment conducted by the federal government between 1932 and 1972. In it, scientists told black men they were being treated for syphilis but actually withheld treatment so they could study the course of the disease.
Black women made up 73 percent of new HIV cases among women in 2003, and black men represented 40 percent of new cases, according to the most recent federal figures available. Among gay men, blacks represented 30 percent of new infections, and adolescents ages 18 to 24 accounted for nearly 80 percent of new HIV cases.

Evolution.... Oh, no!

Louisiana Emergency Healthcare Facilities Put Women At Risk

This release from ACLU shows how religious beliefs are put in front of safety and respect for women. Here we are not even talking about abortion after consensual sex, but about raped women who need access to every potential care.
ACLU of Louisiana Along With Broad Coalition of Advocates Implores U.S. Department of Justice to Add Pregnancy Prevention to National Protocol for Treating Rape Survivors

For immediate release January 6, 2005

NEW ORLEANS –In a recently released briefing paper, Preventing Pregnancy after Rape: Emergency Care Facilities Put Women at Risk[1], the American Civil Liberties Union found that only 6 percent of emergency care facilities in Louisiana provide emergency contraception (EC) on-site to rape survivors, significantly increasing the risk of unintended pregnancies. Louisiana ranks the lowest of the eleven states included in the report. New York, with 85 percent of facilities providing EC, ranks first.

"Louisiana's results are shameful," said Joe Cook, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. "Women who have been raped have already suffered greatly. When emergency facilities don't provide EC on-site they needlessly compound women's trauma. Failing to protect sexual assault patients from pregnancy is a health care crisis that could easily be avoided."

Monday, January 24, 2005

City's teen births decline

This article from The Baltimore Sun shows the decline on teen births, and also shows Hispanics are not faring as well as the rest of the population, nationally and locally.
National statistics
Nationally, the decline in the teen birth rate has been steepest among African-Americans, for whom the problem was most prevalent a decade ago. Nationally, the percentage of black teens who became mothers fell nearly by half, from nearly 12 percent in 1991 to 6.5 percent last year, Ventura said.

Reductions in teen births have been most meager among Hispanics, who have surpassed blacks and have the highest teen birth rate. About 8 percent of Hispanic teenage girls nationally had babies last year, compared with 10.5 percent in 1991, Ventura said.

Figures released yesterday did not break down teen birth rates by race in Baltimore, which has a large black population and relatively few Hispanics.

Saying It Ain't So, Against the Facts

We focus so much on sex education, and sometimes on evolution, that we forget other ways that the facts are under attack in the US today.
KOBE, Japan Jan 19, 2005 — The U.S. delegation to a global conference on disasters wants to purge a U.N. action plan of its references to climate change as a potential cause of future natural calamities.

The U.S. stand reflects the opposition of U.S. President George W. Bush's administration to treating global warming as a priority problem.

"It's well known that there's controversy" about climate change, Mark Lagon, deputy delegation head, told reporters Wednesday at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction. "It's our desire that this controversy not distract this conference."

The chief U.N. official here had a different view.

"I hope there will be a global recognition of climate change causing more natural disasters," said Jan Egeland, U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N.-organized network of scientists, said in its latest major assessment of climate science that the planet is warming and that this is expected to cause more extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and droughts, as the century wears on.

A broad scientific consensus attributes much of the warming to the accumulation of "greenhouse gases" in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide from fossil fuel-burning. The Kyoto Protocol, which takes effect Feb. 16, mandates cutbacks in such emissions, but the United States, the biggest emitter, has rejected that international pact. Climate Change Debated at U.N. Meeting

We live in a time and place where facts that are inconvenient or uncomfortable can simply be ... changed. If we are perturbing the equillibrium of nature by emitting tons of exhaust into the atmosphere, well, that would be quite expensive to fix.

So we will declare it not true.

Here we have the US government guy saying "there's controversy" about global warming -- there's no controversy. In the same way, you have the "intelligent design" hucksters saying "there's controversy" about the science of evolution -- no, there's not. Here in Montgomery County, we have people representing James Dobson's religious right organization telling us that "there's controversy" about whether gay people can change their orientation -- no, there's not. There's no controversy at all, everybody knows what the answer is to that one, it just happens to be inconvenient or uncomfortable for some people.

You and I can't stop this at the United Nations level. But we can put our foot down when these people try to impose their fact-reversing values in our community.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Two Mommies, Legally

This couple was happily married. Judi and Michael Howden in Concord, NH (I think, the story doesn't say which New England state this is). Had a child together. And then Michael had some surgery done and became Mikayla. Now they're one of those families with two mommies that the recall group hates so much. Sex change thrust couple into same-sex marriage debate.

This is a rare breed -- a legally married same-sex couple.
The couple’s experience highlights a legal Catch-22. States can either recognize or refuse to recognize someone’s new gender after a sex change. Either decision inescapably permits some form of same-sex marriage.

Recognition lets existing, heterosexual marriages like the Howdens’ become same-sex. Denying recognition permits new same-sex marriages - like one between Judi and Mikayla if they were to marry today - because the spouses’ genders differ only on paper, not visibly.

"I have no answer to it," said state Rep. Dan Itse, R-Fremont, who supports the state’s same-sex marriage ban. "We have ventured where angels fear to tread."

Apart from Mikayla Howden’s gender change, her family’s Concord home is like many across middle America. There are prayers at meal times. One parent works while the other stays home with the kids. There are children’s toys in every room.

Somehow I am not surprised to find this minister -- right here in DC -- who does not like this one bit.
The Rev. Louis Sheldon, founder and chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition in Washington, D.C., said marriages like the Howdens’ should be dissolved.

"Absolutely," he said. "We don’t want the roof to leak in any place. We must make sure that marriage is protected."

Sheldon’s coalition, a lobby claiming more than 43,000 member churches, is crafting an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions. The Howdens, he said, have slipped through a "legal loophole."

Social conservatives often portray same-sex marriage as a moral issue, Mikayla Howden said. But she called changing her gender a life-and-death decision, not a lifestyle choice. Living as a man was fundamentally wrong, she said, and nearly led her to suicide.

Y'know what's wrong with this country? Y'know what? Why, this country lets people go and marry anybody they damn want, that's what the problem is here... Yeah, sure. You have to wonder just how frail Rev. Sheldon here thinks the American family is, if a home with two mommies is going to bring the whole civilization down.

Oh, and the other thing. The wife -- the first wife, I mean -- is now technically a lesbian.
Judi Howden said she struggles with being labeled a lesbian - one day accepting it, but resisting any label the next.

"It’s not this seedy little thing going on," she said. "We’re normal, everyday people."

And there you have it. Just leave 'em alone, let 'em raise their kids, OK Reverend?

The Crafty Attacks on Evolution

This editorial from the The New York Times does round a bit of what the "evolutionary" strategies of the creationism, and religious zealots are regarding evolution.
Critics of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution become more wily with each passing year. Creationists who believe that God made the world and everything in it pretty much as described in the Bible were frustrated when their efforts to ban the teaching of evolution in the public schools or inject the teaching of creationism were judged unconstitutional by the courts. But over the past decade or more a new generation of critics has emerged with a softer, more roundabout approach that they hope can pass constitutional muster.
The Cobb County fight centers on a sticker that the board inserted into a new biology textbook to placate opponents of evolution. The school board, to its credit, was trying to strengthen the teaching of evolution after years in which it banned study of human origins in the elementary and middle schools and sidelined the topic as an elective in high school, in apparent violation of state curriculum standards. When the new course of study raised hackles among parents and citizens (more than 2,300 signed a petition), the board sought to quiet the controversy by placing a three-sentence sticker in the textbooks:

"This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."
A more honest sticker would describe evolution as the dominant theory in the field and an extremely fruitful scientific tool. The sad fact is, the school board, in its zeal to be accommodating, swallowed the language of the anti-evolution crowd. Although the sticker makes no mention of religion and the school board as a whole was not trying to advance religion, a federal judge in Georgia ruled that the sticker amounted to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion because it was rooted in long-running religious challenges to evolution. In particular, the sticker's assertion that "evolution is a theory, not a fact" adopted the latest tactical language used by anti-evolutionists to dilute Darwinism, thereby putting the school board on the side of religious critics of evolution. That court decision is being appealed. Supporters of sound science education can only hope that the courts, and school districts, find a way to repel this latest assault on the most well-grounded theory in modern biology.

See other articles:

2 School Boards Push on Against Evolution
Caught Between Church and State
A Bunch of Krabby Patties

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Kids Show With Two-Mommy Family Delayed

PBS is planning to introduce a lesbian couple to one of their kids' programs. But the debut of the show has been postponed till March, to give station managers and others a chance to see it first. The Boston Globe reports:
The episode was originally scheduled to air Feb. 2 but is now slated for March 23. WGBH, which produces the children's show, said it wants to give other PBS member stations around the country a chance to review the contents. Those stations can then decide whether to air it.

WGBH's decision comes the same week as complaints by some Christian conservative groups that a video about diversity due to be sent to 61,000 US schools in March promotes the acceptance of homosexuality. The video features Barney and a host of cartoon characters including SpongeBob SquarePants.

The episode of "Postcards From Buster" is not about homosexuality, said Jeanne Hopkins, a spokeswoman for WGBH. Still the station acknowledged that it had heard "concerns" from other stations recently. Hopkins declined to identify the stations because conversations about programming go on constantly, she said. WGBH said it plans to send the episode to member stations next week.
"Postcards From Buster" airs weekdays at 5:30 p.m. The series -- which is part animated and part live-action -- focuses on an 8-year-old rabbit who travels around the country with his father, an airplane pilot. In each episode, Buster visits with children and asks questions about their way of life. Real-life children are featured in the live-action segments while Buster's voice is heard in the background.

Since it launched last year, "Postcards From Buster" has profiled several different types of families, including children who live with their grandparents. The show has also focused on children from a variety of religious backgrounds, including Muslims, Mormons, and evangelical Christians.

"The show's goal is to reflect the lives of American kids," said Hopkins. "It's not meant to be political."
WGBH delays show featuring lesbians

Uh, yeah, good luck with that one, guys.

Didn't Sesame Street or somebody do that already? Is it possible that this is the first time there have been obviously gay characters on a kids' TV show?
The episode in question, called ''Sugartime!," features a family in Vermont. Buster accompanies the kids when they visit a sugar house, where maple syrup is made, and a dairy farm, where a cow is milked. The lesbian couple, said Hopkins, are in the background.

"The program is not about these moms or gay couples. The family is the backdrop," Hopkins said. "One mom is in the kitchen, making a grocery list. Another mom says, 'Hi.' Later they have a meal together with some friends. Most of the time, Buster is off with the kids," she said.

Yeah, big controversy. It's hard to believe, in twenty-first century America, that this is progress.

The recall group is shocked, shocked I tell you, that our school district would teach kids that there can be families with two mommies or two daddies.

It's time to admit the truth. There really are families with two mommies and ones with two daddies, and they really are families. The love each other, they raise their kids, they fight over the remote control just like the rest of us. Get over it, and let our kids learn the facts.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Songbird's gradual evolution challenges conservation methods, researchers say

This is the way sciences works. You work with a theory and against it at the same time...Because at some points a theory may not cover all the basis on a specific issue - that's why it's called a scientific theory i.e. the (working) truth until proven false -.
Now researchers have proven the gradual evolution of the Songbird, which challenges at once some of the most relished conservation methods to this moment, and the "only in isolation" part of the theory of evolution.
Irwin's research calls into question the predominant theory that evolution only takes place when a species is isolated – by huge glaciers or on an island, for example – and adapts to new surroundings.

But, interestingly enough, the disproving of this part of the theory is a significant proof of the overall veracity of the evolutionary process.
The songbird's gradual evolution adds up to some of the most convincing evidence yet found to support evolutionary theory, the researchers said.

Researchers are not afraid to be confronted with a vacuum that challenges their core knowledge...Neither should we.

Illinois governor signs gay rights law; state joins 13 others and District of Columbia

We are thankful for this, in times of little oppenness! It's good to see some sunshine here and there. Freedom is gained and taken away in the same fashion: little by little... that's why we have to keep vigilant!
Illinois governor signs gay rights law; state joins 13 others and District of Columbia

Illinois on Friday became the 14th state with a law barring discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a bill that adds "sexual orientation" to an existing law that protects people from bias based on race, religion and other traits. It bans discrimination in areas including jobs, housing and credit.

"What we're doing today is older than Scripture: Love thy neighbor," Blagojevich said to a cheering group of about 150 gay rights supporters and community leaders.

Opponents had argued the law would be the first step toward the legalization of gay marriage and would infringe on the rights of churches and civic groups to oppose homosexuality on moral grounds.

Proponents argued that such laws, which also are in effect in the District of Columbia, are needed because discrimination against gays is just as wrong as discriminating against people because of race or religion.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

If You Had to Choose

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about Christian evangelist James Dobson's attack on SpongeBob Squarepants, who is accused of being a sodomite and recruiter for the gay underworld. No -- really. Well, Dobson (big-bucks backer of PFOX, among many other organizations) is in the Times today: Conservatives Pick Soft Target: A Cartoon Sponge (NY Times, may require free registration).
Now, Dr. Dobson said, SpongeBob's creators had enlisted him in a "pro-homosexual video," in which he appeared alongside children's television colleagues like Barney and Jimmy Neutron, among many others. The makers of the video, he said, planned to mail it to thousands of elementary schools to promote a "tolerance pledge" that includes tolerance for differences of "sexual identity."

Mmm, yessir. It's that gay agenda, sir. Mmm, they're all in on it. Sir.

I don't know if you follow the blogosphere, but Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit is a pretty hardcore rightwinger conservative blogger. I can barely stand to read him, he's so entrenched in his view, but he does get a lot of traffic, and he does give you insights into how the other side lives.

His comment today is worth quoting, probably an accurate metaphorical assessment of the might of the right:
JAMES DOBSON IS BLOWING IT with his attacks on SpongeBob.

Not many people, forced to choose between SpongeBob Squarepants and James Dobson, are going to pick Dobson. Instapundit

Well, not me, that's fer dern sure.

Closing in on Gay Genes

A new study has found several more interesting linkages between the human genome and sexual orientation. You can read the original paper from the journal Human Genetics HERE. The researchers' press release is a little lighter reading, probably more appropriate for a site like this:
CHICAGO, Illinois, USA, January 12, 2005— A new genetic study helps explain why some men are gay and other men are heterosexual. The first research project that examines linkage between male sexual orientation and genes across the human genome was published this month in the prestigious biomedical journal, Human Genetics. The culmination of several years of research, the report identified three new chromosomal regions of interest.

One hundred forty-six families that had two or more gay brothers participated in the study. The largest finding was a statistically suggestive linkage to a region on chromosome 7 called 7q36, and the second largest link was found on chromosome 8, in a region called 8p12. There was also an interesting finding on chromosome 10, in the region called 10q26, where the linkage to sexual orientation only occurred if that region was inherited from the mother. This is likely a result of the recently discovered phenomenon that geneticists call "genomic imprinting." Given the complex nature of sexual orientation it is not surprising that multiple genetic regions were implicated.

According to the lead author of the study, Dr. Brian Mustanski, "Our study helps to establish that genes play an important role in determining whether a man is gay or heterosexual. It expands upon previous research with twins, which has consistently found evidence for genetic influences on sexual orientation. The next steps will be to see if these findings hold up in a new sample and then identify the particular genes within these newly discovered chromosomal regions." Dr. Mustanski emphasized that finding the specific genes would have implications beyond uncovering the cause of homosexuality. Their identification would also greatly advance our understanding of human variation, evolution, and brain development. Press Release

In a separate FAQ document, the lead author answers the question: Did you find the "gay gene?"

His answer:
For several reasons the answer to this question is no. First, sexual orientation is such a complex phenotype that no one gene could ever explain it. Instead, our best guess is that multiple genes, acting and interacting with environmental influences, explain variability in sexual orientation. Therefore, a better question is, "did you find one of the genes that influence male sexual orientation?"

He also answers the question, Does your study prove that homosexuality is genetic?
We found 3 new chromosomal regions that showed some linkage to male sexual orientation. This suggests that within these chromosomal regions are genes that influence male sexual orientation. If genes did not influence male sexual orientation it is unlikely that we would have found linkage to these regions. Our study builds upon previous twin and family studies which have consistently found evidence for genetic influences on sexual orientation. As with all scientific research, it is important that our results are replicated in another lab with a new sample of participants to guarantee that they are not due to unlikely random chance. At this point, the best evidence suggests that genes play an important role in determining if a man is gay or heterosexual.

Anti-gay groups have frequently argued that there is no gay gene. It seems that the implication is that people can choose their sexual orientation, since it's not hard-wired at conception. In that light, it is interesting to learn from these researchers about twin and family studies which have consistently found evidence for genetic influences on sexual orientation. We would not expect to find one site on the chromosome that explains all variation in sexual orientation, but these researchers have narrowed it down to a small number of locations. This is a young science, we can be sure that more will be learned as time rolls along.

Bias Against Ex-Gays

Now that the "ex-gays" have established their billboard outside MCPS offices, somebody pointed me to an interesting post from a few months ago at a lesbian blog, written when the same billboard was put up down in Virginia. They make an interesting point.
Ex-gays and the people they allow to guide and advise them all say that homosexuals can become heterosexuals if we simply choose to become heterosexuals. Perhaps I shouldn't simplify the issue, but really that's the premise of their argument. We have a choice. We can choose to become heterosexuals and live a life that society views as "acceptable."

We can argue all day about choice. If homosexuals can choose to be heterosexuals, then that means homosexuals chose to be homosexuals to begin with. Yes? No? Does that mean straight men can decide at any moment to become gay men? Is it really that simple? If it is that simple, then ex-gays have minimized sexuality to nothing more than a sexual act. SistersTalk: Oh, I wish I could be an ex-gay

Great point: they have minimized sexuality to nothing more than a sexual act.

In recent years, the big debate has been about marriage -- the government wanting to choose what kind of partner you're allowed. It's not about hooking up in a public restroom, it's about establishing long-term, stable relationships. And the religious right thinks that is evil and wrong -- they've said it many, many times.

There is no doubt that a gay man can manage to perform sexually with a woman, in the physical sense. Look, the multigazillion-dollar sex-toy industry shows you that people can enjoy having sex with inanimate objects! A little friction, a little fantasy, and there you go.

And that seems to be all the PFOX types want. They don't care if Chistopher Delaney (the guy on the billboard) and his re-closeted colleagues have warm, fulfilling, loving relationships. They only care who they have sex with. If a guy is dreaming about Steve while he's with Eve it doesn't matter, as long as he's actually with Eve, physically.

They want you to think this is a great accomplishment, having sex with someone you're not really attracted to. They complain that we won't teach our kids, in the public schools, how to do this. It's unbalanced, they say. Some of us don't see the sense in teaching our kids how to have sex with a socially acceptable partner that they are not attracted to -- and so we're bigots, discriminating against those who do that. Strange how that works.

I think the SistersTalk blogger is right. They have minimized sexuality to nothing more than a sexual act.

There's nothing really wrong with that, of course, we are more or less surrounded by pornographic images that do the same thing, sexy TV shows and ads that have the same effect, sex without love is something America has accepted. What is wrong is explicitly teaching it to schoolchildren, especially in the public schools, teaching kids to deny their real feelings in selecting a love partner, and choose someone that some authority has decided is acceptable for you.

Go to the PFOX website and click on some of their testimonials. See if you can find one -- I couldn't -- that says that the person has actually learned to prefer the opposite sex. There might be one in there, but most say they're "still trying." The history of the "movement" is a sad tale of people falling off the bandwagon, switching back again to what's natural for them.

It isn't discrimination or bigotry to ignore the tiny, mostly failed "ex-gay movement." People who hold a certain weird belief need them, because if there were "used-to-be" gays it would mean you could change, it might even mean it's a choice. That's why James Dobson's Christian ministries started PFOX in the first place, so they could point to them as support for their anti-gay beliefs. But this is a very, very weak point to make. It doesn't need to be in the school's curriculum, kids don't need to hear this junk.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Teachers Rebel Against Stupid Rule

You've probably been following the new ruling up in Dover, PA -- not that far from here. The school board just passed a rule that biology teachers have to read a statement to students that says that Darwin's theory "is not a fact" and that intelligent design "is an explanation of life that differs from Darwin's view."

Well, look, these are high-school science teachers, presumably they know something about science, and if that's true, then they know that "intelligent design" does not belong in a science class. So all of them have formally asked to be excused from reading the statement:
In a letter to school administrators signed by all the high-school science teachers affected by the rule, the instructors requested permission not to read the statement because it would violate Pennsylvania's professional standards and practices code for teachers.

"We believe that reading the statement violates our responsibility as educators as set forth in the code," biology teacher Jennifer Miller said in Friday's editions of the York Daily Record. "Students are allowed to opt out from hearing the statement. We should be allowed to opt out from reading it." High school teachers oppose 'intelligent design' statement

We should show some appreciation for these brave souls, holding firm for reason against the darkness of superstition. I imagine you put your job on the line when you do something like this.

"Intelligent design" is a system of beliefs that is creationist without explicitly citing the Bible. It is acceptable to some religious extremists because it's essentially just the Genesis myth in veiled language. It is not acceptable science. Only one intelligent design paper has ever been accepted by a scientific journal. The author was somehow able to bypass the journal's peer review process, and the editorial board of that journal afterwards issued a statement saying that they would not have approved that paper and would never publish a paper on that topic again.

It will be interesting to see how this all comes out in the long run.

Billboard Appears Near MCPS Offices

Once again, The Gazette story is too good to link to. I'm going to quote the whole thing. Please go to their site and buy a lot of stuff from their sponsors.
Billboard fuels homosexual discrimination debate.

Some area residents are crying discrimination after a billboard promoting the controversial idea that homosexuals can become heterosexuals was posted on Hungerford Drive in Rockville last week.

Visible from the southbound lanes of Hungerford (Route 355), the billboard located south of the East Gude Drive intersection displays a handsome man whose smile borders a caption that reads: "Ex-Gays prove that change is possible."

The towering advertisement is sponsored by Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), a national group based in Virginia advocating the idea that homosexuals are not born gay and can choose, with counseling, their own sexuality.

<sarcasm>Wouldn't Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays be "PFOXG"??? It's almost like they forgot the "G".</sarcasm>
"I just think it's appalling, especially in a county as educated as Montgomery County," said Taryn Goodman, a former Damascus resident who saw the sign while driving to her job in Rockville. "It speaks to the fact when people are trying to convert gays into straights. People have a right to be who they are. This isn't a disease."

Say that again with me, people: it isn't a disease.
PFOX members hope the billboard, which they say pictures an ex-gay who has changed his orientation and started a family as a straight man, promotes the organization's message that such a transformation is possible.

No one is bashing gays over the head, PFOX Executive Director Regina Griggs said. It is saying that those who want to go straight can, she added.

"All we want is children to know that change is possible," Griggs said.

That is so weird. Why would you want to tell people that? Every mental health organization in the country has declared just the opposite. It is considered unethical for some psychotherapists to try to change a patient's sexual orientation. Of course you can control your sexual behavior, we all do that, but sexual orientation -- even their "experts" stop short of saying you can change that. And why would you?
"There is no gay gene," she added. "Don't make excuses. If you are happy living a homosexual lifestyle, then I support you in that. If other people are unhappy, then they deserve a right to change and self-determination."

Quick biology lesson here. Of course there is no gay gene. There's no artistic gene, no sense-of-humor gene, no beauty gene ... there are not genes for most aspects of a complex human being. The relationship between the phenotype -- the observed characteristics -- and the genotype -- the pattern of alleles on the chromosome -- is often very complicated. It is common to say that the phenotype emerges through interaction of the genotype and the environment. This "no gay gene" statement is often used by certain groups to imply that sexual orientation is a choice. It's not, and everybody knows it's not ... really.
James Packard, a former Rockville resident whose 2004 San Francisco marriage to Erwin Gomez was invalidated by the California Supreme Court, is angered by the idea that homosexuals can become straight men and women through rehabilitation.

"There are those individuals and nutcases that believe homosexuals can be reformed," said Packard, who now lives in Laytonsville.

"We're supposed to be a community that comes together, and now we've got this group who says it's not right to be gay because of religion or their background. And that's kind of sad. I find it offensive," he added.

North Bethesda resident Ananda Jacob agreed.

"I am appalled by this whole ex-gay thing," he said. "If somebody was an ex-gay, they were probably not gay in the first place.

Woo-hoo! Nutcases! People speaking their minds! --The hammer hits the nail on the head.
"People who claim that this is something that can change are people that simply just have their heads in the sand," he added.

Griggs would not identify the man pictured on the poster, saying he has received death threats after participation with the group.

BS (he said politely). Here he is: Christopher Delaney. Why wouldn't they give his name?

Mmm, try this. Follow the links on this guy's site. Read about his lovely wife. Woops, it says: "This page is currently under construction." Ex-gay, huh?

Look, I wish the guy luck. If he wants to change, then go, man.

Just get your smirkin' face out of my neighborhood.

And lady, if you chose to marry a guy who "used to be gay," uh ... never mind.

Readers may wonder why the PFOX spokesperson felt the need to ... be obscure ... about this to the Gazette.
Ex-gay advocacy groups like PFOX are "universally rejected" by all major psychological and health organizations, said Dan Furmansky, executive director of Equality Maryland, a statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization based in Silver Spring.

"They're free to disseminate their information," he said. "But it's so far out of the mainstream it would be ludicrous if it weren't so sad.

"What is discriminatory is they use this messaging to try to deny rights to gay individuals and their families and to prey upon young people grappling with their sexual orientation and to push them potentially one step closer to suicide," Furmansky added.

PFOX members, who failed last year in their attempt to shape the content of sexual education in Montgomery County high schools more to their liking, say pro-gay advocates are the discriminatory ones.

"There's a complete intolerance on the other side," said Mignon Middleton, a self-described ex-lesbian member of the Prince George's County chapter of PFOX. "The billboard is up there and might have helped some people that need help. It's not showing hatred toward anybody.

"I see it as discrimination on the other end," she said. "If someone said, 'I have these feelings and I want to overcome it,' to deny them that right to me that's discriminatory."

Did you follow that? Did you see how they are discriminated against? Go back and read that again.

They tried to put their hoax literature into the MCPS curriculum. The committee looked at the material and voted against it. Now they're discriminated against.

The PFOX Web site holds that sexual orientation laws "legitimize intolerance against former homosexuals" by silencing the ex-gay community as bigots.

What? "The ex-gay community?" Both of them?
However, arguing ex-gays are discriminated against provides PFOX a sympathetic shelter of legitimacy from which to operate a veiled anti-gay program, Silver Spring resident Cliff Witt said.

Gays and their supporters contend that by denying any genetic predisposition to homosexuality, PFOX and other groups like it repudiate the very identity of the homosexual minority, undercutting the need for legal protections.

When it comes to sexuality, there is no choice, Witt said.

Which is not the same as saying there is a "gay gene."
"And if there were, why would anyone choose to be discriminated against? That is the major flaw in their thinking. What it is that they're up to is unclear," he said.

The billboard represents one step in the Christian Right's attempt to spread a message of intolerance in Maryland, Furmansky said.

"I find it very interesting that it is up the week of the presidential inauguration," said Ruth Hanessian, longtime Rockville resident and pet store owner. "It's a very extremist minority that has found the funds to put that up and I find that terribly, terribly disturbing."

PFOX has little funding and no large money backer, Griggs said. The movable billboard, she said, was not designed to pressure the county school board and was previously on display in Richmond, Va., in the fall.

Tweeeeet! For the record, let us note that PFOX is a creation of James Dobson's Family Research Council, which is in turn a subsidiary of Focus on the Family. The Focus on the Family organization, with a 49-acre campus, 1,300 employees, and its own zip code, was one of the powerhouses behind Bush's 2004 re-election, mobilizing the evangelical Christian right. Dobson is often referred to as a "kingmaker."

No large money backer?
That doesn't sway Hanessian.

"It is a classic example of why we have discrimination in this county," Hanessian said. "Because people don't respect the rights of others.

"It is the type of thing I see as I drive by in southern Bible-belt states. And I keep on driving," she said.

Some of these groups don't understand the difference between Montgomery County and, say, Alabama. This stuff might work down there.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Hispanic Support for the School Board Decision is concerned that some health education issues affect the county's minority populations especially strongly. Thus it is very heartening to read the following letter from the Executive Director of Casa of Maryland to the Montgomery County Board of Education.
Dear Montgomery County Board of Education,

Ref: Regarding the Sex education curriculum in MCPS and Latinos

As the Executive Director of CASA of Maryland, Inc. the largest Latino organization in Montgomery County, I would like to take time to show my full support for the board's decision to implement additional materials to the health curriculum taught in Montgomery County Public Schools. As you know, the Latino as well as the African American communities are the most affected by teen pregnancy, STDs and HIV/AIDS infections so the sexual education is very critical for both communities.

While continuing to stress the importance of abstinence for teens is very important, the new curriculum expands upon the old by providing teens with real-world knowledge about how to protect themselves, and encourages them to be tolerant of all people, regardless of sexual orientation. I know that the curriculum only uses as resources reputable, factual, and scientific sources validated by the consensus of the scientific community.

I strongly support the November 9, 2004 decision of the Montgomery County Board of Education to implement the revisions to the health curriculum for grades 8 and 10.

Please let me know if you need any help to ensure that you can carry-out the November 9th decision.

Thank you so much for your work and your vision in support of the low-income families in Montgomery County.

Gustavo Torres
Executive Director
CASA of Maryland, Inc.

Reply to the Recall Group

I just saw a defensive email posted to a school listserv by one of the Recall group members, accusing of "character assassination," "insults," and "sweeping generalizations," among other things.

The author of this email, a parent (we presume, not all recall group members are) in Gaithersburg, defends the recall group. She says:
The Citizens for Responsible Curriculum (CRC), of which I am a member, has no interest in recalling the BOE, despite the initial website name. The website was named by a concerned MC citizen who set it up, and indicates the initial reflex response many people had to learning about the controversial curriculum changes that were voted through not one week after the November election. The fact is that parents of both political parties and from many different ethnic, religious and secular backgrounds are working together in the CRC.

Oh! So much to say!

We don't think the recall group reflects any particular religious affiliation -- we know there are Protestants, Jews, Catholics, Mormons, etc. in their group. We are concerned about the involvement of the religious right in this issue, and we do wonder among ourselves where some of the recall group's backing comes from, and we suspect that some of it comes from organizations like James Dobson's big-dollar evangelistic organization. Well, we know some of it comes from there.

And yes, we do get a chuckle out of people with a website called "" saying "We don't want to recall the school board." Don't forget, a number of us attended your organizational meeting. It may be that your official spokespersons say in public that they do not want to recall the school board, but a lot of your members do. It's not far under the surface. At the very least, it is extremely inconsistent. And funny.

The author says:
The goals of the CRC are to:
1. ask the BOE to rescind its curriculum changes
2. keep the original Family Life curriculum in place and intact and
3. start from scratch on amendments using a more balanced variety of unbiased sources to support the curriculum.

Now, this is the meat of it, isn't it? The BOE worked for years on these curriculum changes. The funny thing is, some of the leaders of the recall group were on the citizen's committee that proposed these changes. They had years -- literally, years -- to persuade the other committee members to include their materials, and they failed. They failed because the materials and viewpoints they wanted to include are extreme, uninformative, and prejudicial.

Having failed to introduce their anti-gay material to the new curriculum, they want to keep the original one. Well, the original curriculum was no curriculum at all. Teachers were simply told not to talk about homosexuality unless a student asked. And then what? Wing it. Now they will be given some information to present. It's not pro-homosexual information, it doesn't encourage kids to experiment sexually, it's just information: some people are gay. Some kids try things with each other. Some families have two mommies. Here's how you put on a condom.

Ah, number three, start from scratch. Do you see how silly this is? The recall group members who were on the original committee submitted all the literature and ideas they wanted. Members of the committee received the stuff, looked it over, and decided against it. The committee wasn't biased against them -- if anything, it is incredible that our community would put somebody representing the Christian Right hoax-group "PFOX" on a committee like this at all! The Daughters of the American Revolution had a member? How'd that happen? And they say the group was biased? An objective observer would think that the committee was stacked in their favor. And it voted, after considering everything, to accept some proposals and reject others.

This group just can't play by the rules.
Character assassination by some uncalled for:
The group over at 'teach the facts' has been quite aggressive in their attempt to define us negatively. Their use of insulting character assassination has been uncalled for and disappointing, especially coming from a few parents at GHS. Let me dispel a few myths:
-The CRC does not propose or favor an 'abstinence only' curriculum.
-It is not made up of 'religious zealots' or parents who do not want their children learning about condoms or homosexuality.
-The CRC has no interest in recalling the Board.

Okay, it's true, we make fun of you sometimes. It's not character assassination, it's just that ... we can't take you seriously.

Here's why.

In our world, a group of adults can be asked to do something, say, make a decision, and they can discuss it among themselves, and then they announce their decision. In our world, if some people don't agree about something, we give them a chance to explain their point of view, and we discuss it. And then we decide. If people are on a committee, a vote is a good way to decide something. Sometimes a leader makes a decision, but we would probably do what the citizen's committee did, and vote. And we don't require the vote to be unanimous, in our world we know that sometimes people make compromises.

So yes, we do find it rather primitive that, once you realize that you really won't get your way, you go crying to the national organizations, you start lobbying to overthrow the school board, you go on the radio and the newspapers and tell everybody how unfair it all was, and imply that you didn't have a fair chance to participate in the decision process.

It's not character assassination. We could get angry. Well, sometimes we do, but generally we remain cheerful, knowing that we are being reasonable.

For instance, if the school board wanted to teach kids about "flavored condoms," I think the people might agree that that was a little much. We wouldn't fight to keep something like that in the curriculum. On the other hand, we note that the recall group tells people that there are flavored condoms in the curriculum, when of course there aren't. It seems unreasonable to inflame people with mistruths, just to get them to sign your petitions or whatever.

We stay cheerful. We do not -- I mean, we really do not -- like to see your big-money national organizations coming into our community and telling our school district how and what to teach.

As for the rest of it... of course you guys want abstinence education, you say it over and over. Of course you don't want your kids -- or my kids -- to learn about homosexuality or condoms. Why else did you pick this fight? As far as recalling the school board ... right. Just an accident in the name of the web site... uh-huh, gotcha.
The CRC has not participated in name calling although we have been called many rude names.

See what I mean? We are forced to retain our sense of humor about this. I myself saw Michelle Turner, your leader, apologize to the school board for threats by your group's members. We have all seen the crazy stuff your members posted on your message board. We know why you took it down -- it was some of the most hateful spewing imaginable. Name-calling, why, yes it was.

And then you say something like this.

Yes, we brand your approach as bigoted, and we have a number of ways to say it. Nothing personal, as you repeatedly point out, you seem like a nice enough bunch of people. Some of our group are good friends with some of your group. It's not about that.

The curriculum teaches eighth graders that some people are gay, and gives definitions for various well-known sexual orientations. It gives some facts about what some people experience, and very little about what they do. The curriculum teaches tenth-graders how to put a condom on a cucumber. It does not encourage kids to indulge their appetites, it does not promote any lifestyle or orientation. The new curriculum would tend to promote tolerance, and it might make a gay kid feel a little less freakish. And that's what you object to.
If I have any 'fear' it is that the mean-spiritedness and intolerance on the part of these few but loud 'supporters' of the BOE's curriculum changes will drive a wedge in our school community. My hope is that reasonable people will be able to get past the divisiveness coming from that group of individuals at teachthefacts long enough to actually hear what many parents are concerned about.

I went to your December Fourth meeting to ask the question: what's the issue? And I heard your members, your leaders, explain what the issue is. The issue is your fear of something you call the "gay agenda." Well, I'm not gay, don't have any gay relatives, I know some gay people but have no special investment in that, and I really don't care if somebody is gay or not. As far as I know, none of the individuals who maintain the web site are gay. It appears to me that gay people want to be treated like anybody else -- if there's a "gay agenda" it's just that -- and that's okay with me. I'm a parent and I want my children to be taught the facts. Something doesn't need to be swept under the rug because some people find it threatening.

I encourage people who are undecided to go read the Board of Education's report on this matter: November 9th 2004 minutes. Read what the curriculum is. See if you can find the scary part.

Don't let these radicals jerk you around. Make up your own mind.