(Weekly Column)

If one were to take a shoe logo and use it for questionable purposes not approved by the manufacturer, a nasty letter from a lawyer would be received by week’ end. Wise companies realize that irreparable harm can result if a brand name is sullied, so vigilance is necessary to protect the product.

Unfortunately, leading scientific organizations have not caught up to the corporate world. When good studies are misused without a rapid response and appropriate rebuke from respected medical groups, the original research is devalued, the scientists’ names are tarnished and the conclusions are cheapened. This is why it is crucial to fight back.

The latest example of twisting science occurred last week when The American College of Pediatricians (ACP) launched an anti-gay website, Facts About Youth, that was bereft of basic truth and objective reality. The ACP also sent letters promoting their propaganda to more than 10,000 school superintendants across America. According to a ACP press release:

The College reminds school superintendents that it is not uncommon for adolescents to experience transient confusion about their sexual orientation and that most students will ultimately adopt a heterosexual orientation if not otherwise encouraged.

For this reason, schools should not seek to develop policy which “affirms” or encourages these non-heterosexual attractions among students who may merely be experimenting or experiencing temporary sexual confusion. Such premature labeling can lead some adolescents to engage in homosexual behaviors that carry serious physical and mental health risks.

For the unacquainted, The American College of Pediatricians (ACP) is a small, mostly southern anti-gay advocacy group consisting of notorious activists and angry doctors who have an axe to grind with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). They are upset because the group has a pro-gay (and scientific) stance that claims:

Therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.

In contrast to the small and controversial ACP, the AAP has 60,000 members who conduct genuine studies that are subject to peer review. The average person, however, may not know the difference between the two groups. This transparent form of identity theft is the likely intention of the ACP, which hopes to confuse people in order to siphon off the credibility of the real pediatric group.

The ACP’ new anti-gay website essentially replaces facts with quacks. It is packed with members of the discredited reparative therapy organization, The National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH).

This organization pushes the canard that all gay men have distant fathers and making friends with straight men can turn one heterosexual. NARTH encourages male clients to become more masculine by drinking Gatorade and calling friends “dude”.

Remarkably, former NARTH officer Arthur Abba Goldberg sits on the ACP’ Pediatric Psychosocial Development Committee. In late February, Truth Wins Out and South Florida Gay News revealed that Goldberg was a disbarred Wall Street con-artist who served hard time in prison for massive bond fraud. His presence as a putative “expert” on the Facts About Youth site is all you need to know about the group’ “integrity.”

One researcher has already spoken out against the site, claiming the ACP’ work is shoddy and that his study had been misapplied. In a blistering letter to the American College of Pediatricians, University of Minnesota researcher, Dr. Gary Remafedi, M.D., M.P.H., wrote:

Knowingly misrepresenting research findings for material or personal gain is a flagrant violation of this code of conduct. Implicating me in this chicanery is doubly damaging to my professional reputation and career by holding me accountable for misstatements and by associating me with a cause that most ethical Pediatricians will recognize as misguided and hurtful to an entire class of children and families.

Courageous doctors such as Remafedi (pictured) deserve more support. The large medical and mental health associations should be vigorously Ram Science Needs To Get Off The Sidelinesspeaking out against such audacious professional transgressions. So far they have done little to combat this anti-gay site — which is about as brazen a vehicle for misinformation as you will find.

What is needed is a joint war room created by these associations to slap down political propaganda disguised as science in real time. Such a taskforce could have a 1-800 number and a website where people could report the most outrageous manipulations of research.

If only The American Medical Association, The American Psychological Association, The American Psychiatric Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics, The National Association of Social Workers, and the American Counseling Association provided three staff members to this vital project — there would be almost twenty experts guarding the integrity of their professions.

These key medical and mental health organizations should apply the same relentlessness to protecting science from hacks and quacks as corporations now do to zealously safeguard shoe brands.