Monday, April 19, 2010

Peter Sprigg Talks to the School Board

The other day we gave you David Fishback's testimony to the Montgomery County Public Board of Education regarding the PFOX flyers that the school district distributes four times a year. Interestingly, when Peter Sprigg, a Family Research Council spokesperson who also represents PFOX, heard that David was speaking, he put together a statement, too, and gave it to the board. That statement is now published online at the PFOX blog, such as it is.

(I guess I had heard that PFOX had a blog, but I had never seen it. Hoo boy, this is a piece of work.)

Here's Sprigg's statement:
Public Comment by Peter Sprigg
Member, Board of Directors, PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays)
Member, Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development
Montgomery County Board of Education
April 15, 2010

I am here because it came to my attention at last night’s meeting of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee that some individual or group would be presenting comments today critical of a flier by PFOX that was sent home with MCPS students under the backpack flier program.

Some critics on the web have even referred to this flier as “hate speech.” I am providing you with copies of the actual flier so that you can see what it actually says. I defy anyone to point to a single sentence or statement in this document that promotes hate toward anyone. In fact the flier says, “All individuals deserve the right to self-determination and happiness based on their own needs, and not the needs of others. PFOX supports tolerance for everyone regardless of sexual orientation.” Where is the “hate” in that?

I was also informed that a citizen would be proposing changes or additions to the MCPS curriculum on sexual orientation that was already extensively reviewed and debated by the committee on which I serve. I would like to suggest that if changes are to be considered, you look at the website, recently created by the American College of Pediatricians to present accurate and up-to-date information on this subject. I have attached a flier with summary information that is available from this source.

Finally, I would suggest that if only one statement could be changed in the lessons about sexual orientation, it should be the removal of the politically motivated, scientifically unsubstantiated statement that was added to the curriculum at the last minute, without review by our committee, saying that homosexuality is “innate.” The most updated information about the origins of sexual orientation, as described by the American Psychological Association, is the following:
“There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.”

I would suggest that this statement, in full, should replace the inaccurate generalization about homosexuality being “innate.” PFOX responds to PFLAG

Peter says Some critics on the web have even referred to this flier as “hate speech.” and then shows the flyer to demonstrate how sweet and nice it is.

If any "critics on the web" were going to call the flyers hate speech that would be us. TTF is probably the only group that would go to the trouble of getting one of these flyers, transcribing the text, putting it on the web, and discussing it. We want to see MCPS stop distributing this horrible stuff to the young people of our county, right now. It is irresponsible and dangerous, and the school district reveals its fundamental moral impotence when it agrees to hand out these misleading flyers, which contradict school nondiscrimination policy and the content of MCPS health classes, out of fear of legal expenses.

Knowing it would probably be my big mouth that said something like that, I conducted a Google search of this site for "hate speech" and PFOX. TRY IT. The search turned up eighteen instances of those terms coexisting in a blog post, which includes the comments, and a couple of double-hits on individual posts and monthly archives.

Not one blog post at this site says the PFOX flyers are "hate speech." Some commenters have said so, and we have quoted some newspaper articles that suggest it, but actually on the part of the blog we are responsible for, we have never said the PFOX flyers are hate speech. For instance I wrote, Common sense says that the schools should have control over the materials that are given to students, but as long as PFOX is careful not to cross the line (which is not very far away) into "hate speech," it appears that our public schools will be delivering their message for them. I would and have called PFOX a "hate group," because their message is one of prejudice and discrimination against LGBT Americans, but their flyers are sugar-coated poison, they use the passive-aggressive approach of trying to argue that they want "tolerance" and "acceptance" for "everybody," including "former homosexuals." And that is their way of opening the door to tell gay students they should stop being gay, that their sexual orientation is a choice and they can change, it is their way of telling straight students that their gay peers have chosen to be different and to imply that the only reason they are gay is because they are defiant and stubborn, and sinful. The hate drips with syrup, it is a clever strategy and easily defended. Who, us? We don't hate anybody, we l-o-o-o-v-v-v-e everybody, see how nice we are? We just want love and tolerance for everybody, especially people who have stopped being gay.

Then Sprigg has the nerve to tell the school board to look at the web site we have been talking about here recently, he calls it ", recently created by the American College of Pediatricians to present accurate and up-to-date information on this subject." This is the organization that was just called out by the Director of NIH for misrepresenting him. It is the fake group that contacted all the public school superintendents in America, and now Peter Sprigg is citing them as if they were a legitimate professional organization.

Finally, Sprigg wants to quibble about the word "innate," which previous individuals from his side of the aisle have conflated with "immutable." Sexual orientation is obviously innate. That concept doesn't explain how it develops, where it comes from, how it works, but it does describe the experience of nearly every human being. You don't choose who will be attractive to you, you discover it. For most of us, the opposite sex begins to stand out from the background at around the time of puberty, boys start noticing girls and girls start noticing boys in a new way, they don't choose that, it just happens. And for some people it happens the other way, boys notice boys, girls notice girls. That doesn't mean it's genetic or that there's any simple explanation for it, it just happens. It is not imposed from without, it emerges. It's innate.

Sprigg is clever, as usual, proposing text from the APA to replace that evil word innate. The text itself is benign, the point is to get rid of that word "innate." I don't know why, but that set them off when the curriculum was being developed. I think they are afraid the schools are saying that sexual orientation is determined at birth, which would make it harder to badmouth gay people. Prejudice and discrimination come much more easily when you can say they choose their orientation.

Peter Sprigg has the right to try to tell the school board these things, and I hope board members have the education and good judgment to understand what is going on. He presents himself as if he were an expert citing real researchers, but when you look into it none of the research has been published in legitimate scientific journals, none of it holds up.


Anonymous Robert said...

Sprigg pretends that PFOX exists solely to promote tolerance for "Ex-gays".

Read their blog. It is filled with pages and messages preaching intolerance of lgbt people (actually saying "tolerance is not a Christian virtue" and "Jesus did not preach tolerance"), recommending that parents reject their lgbt children (or at least lecture them into supreme annoyance). PFOX has opposed, as a matter of advocacy, every major lgbt-positive civil rights effort.

Their blog includes a post about lgbt people paying Ugandans to recruit children to "the gay lifestyle."

They've taken it down, but I remember when their website included the Nicene Creed as a statement of faith, and the notion that non-repentant (i.e. unashamed)lgbt people can not be saved Christians (i.e. are rejected by God).

They, in thousands of words, make clear that they do not simply promote the interest of "ex-gays", but work hard to reject lgbt people.

Peter is being duplicitous.

Does this amount to hate speech?



April 20, 2010 11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter Spriggs is a very wise man.

April 20, 2010 12:25 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Not only that, he uses his name when he communicates.

April 20, 2010 1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Admirable indeed!

April 20, 2010 1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, if he just used "Peter" instead of "Peter Sprigg" when he blogged...that wouldn't be admirable, as there are lots of people named "Peter." It would be the same thing as using "Anonymous." Lots of Anons out there too!

April 20, 2010 1:44 PM  
Anonymous David S. Fishback said...

In fairness to Anon, Peter Sprigg is paid by the Family Research Council to speak in public. Still, people ought to stand by their views expressed in the public square.

I had a revealing conversation with Peter before the Board meeting began last Thursday.

I arrived in the hearing room about 10 minutes before the meeting was scheduled to start. Then Peter came in, and asked me how he could sign up to testify. (I have had a number of conversations with him over the years, and debated him on the Maryland Public Television program State Circle in 2007, so we are on first name terms.) I referred him to the Board of Education office down the hall. He returned, and sat down in the row behind me. No one else was in the room.

Before the Board members came into the room, I told Peter that I had seen him on Chris Mathews' show in February. He laughed. Here is the rest of the exchange, as best as I can reconstruct it:

David: So do you really believe that my son and his partner should be put in jail?

Peter: No, no, no.

David: So you don't believe that same-sex activity should be criminalized?"

Peter: I think Lawrence v. Texas was wrongly decided.

David: I didn't ask what you would do as a judge, I asked what you would do as a legislator.

Peter: I would reinstate the sodomy laws.

David: So you would criminalize my son and his partner then?

Peter: Yes, because the AIDS crisis comes from anal intercourse among gays.

David: The AIDS crisis also comes from opposite sex intercourse.

Peter: But there is more of it among gays.

David: Sexually transmitted diseases come from promiscuity, not monogamy. So you would criminalize monogamous same sex couples?

At that point, the Board members came in the room and the meeting began, so we ended our discussion.

April 20, 2010 4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Sprigg is proposing text from the APA to replace that evil word "innate". I don't know why, but that set him off when the curriculum was being developed."

I think I know why.

It's incorrect and the school is supposed to be teaching facts.

The interesting thing is: why does TTF oppose a statement from APA?

I think I know why.

It's because it confirms what CRC has said all along:

in this field, there are no clear facts other than to say we don't know much

April 21, 2010 1:48 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, I am actually a member of the APA, and I have no qualms at all about that quote, except for the fact that it doesn't really say anything and classroom time is valuable. If sexual orientation is not innate, then perhaps you'd like to tell the group when you decided what your orientation would be.


April 21, 2010 3:26 PM  
Anonymous rocky mountain high said...

false dichotomy, Jimbo

whether the influences are internal or external, doesn't really address the issue of "decision"

whether the influences are external or internal, the question is:

are they irresistable?

the APA statement actually makes an accurate assessment of the state of knowledge in the sexuality area

it counters all the nonsense from TTF about there being some consensus among scientists

no wondered you dismiss it

April 21, 2010 4:57 PM  
Blogger JimK said...

Anon, innate definitely does not mean irresistible. Maybe you'd like to tell the group, do you resist your innate sexual orientation, and if so, why? And if not, why should somebody else?


April 21, 2010 5:24 PM  
Anonymous Robert said...

Whether it's resistable or irresistable, the question is: is being lgbt wrong?

The answer is no.

Robert Rigby, Jr.
(several of those out there too, I bet)

I stand by everything I say. Do you?

April 22, 2010 3:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David Fishback was superb in his advocacy. Sprigg was as usual just Sprigg.

April 30, 2010 11:55 AM  

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