I tried not to laugh when I read Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins’ column headlined, “Intolerant gays target Bachmann.” Perkins was referring to the undercover investigation by my organization, Truth Wins Out, that proved presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, lied when he claimed that his clinic did not practice “pray away the gay” therapy.
It is fascinating to see Perkins promoting “tolerance” considering FRC is listed as a certified Southern Poverty Law Center hate group. They earned the designation after a spokesperson for his organization told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that homosexuality should be criminalized.
In 1996, while managing a U.S. Senate race in Louisiana, Perkins purchased former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke’s mailing list for $82,500. I guess he was promoting tolerance and diversity by courting the demographic of white supremacists. The “tolerant” Perkins had also given a lovely speech to the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist group that has described African Americans as a “retrograde species of humanity.”
In his hit piece, Perkins insults my organization by calling it “the grossly misnamed group Truth Wins Out.” That is an interesting observation, considering his misleadingly named Family Research Council neither helps families nor conducts original research. Perkins then chided reporters in his column for using the term “pray away the gay” when referring to Bachmann & Associates’ religious counseling. Apparently, Perkins never saw the actual video, nor read the transcripts, where the therapist actually did counsel the person we sent undercover to read scripture when he thought of having a homosexual experience. But, of course, facts have never been FRC’s strong suit.
Perkins then makes the absurd point that Bachmann’s clinic did nothing wrong because the person posing as a client asked for help going from gay-to-straight. “Why would this be controversial?” asks Perkins.
Funny, I don’t remember Perkins bowing to the wishes of Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s clients who simply asked for help with assisted suicide. It also remains unclear if Perkins would support strict client determination for other controversial medical practices like skin bleaching, steroid injection, or bulimia management. In some cases, these practices are no less dangerous than “ex-gay” therapy and show significantly better results.
The effortless dishonesty of Perkins was most evident when he cherry picked a few quotes from a landmark 2009 American Psychological Association report to obscure the APA’s position on “ex-gay” therapy. He conveniently left out the headline from the APA’s press release on the report: “No evidence that sexual orientation change efforts work, says APA.” He also forgot to include the sub-headline: “Practitioners should avoid telling clients that they can change from gay to straight.” Of course, this breach of professionalism is exactly what Bachmann & Associates did during TWO’s investigation.
Perkins then breezily writes, “Homosexual advocates do not merely claim change is difficult, they claim it is impossible and the evidence contradicts them.” That’s a remarkable claim coming from the man who runs FRC – an organization co-founded by Dr. George Rekers, who was caught vacationing last year with an escort he met on RentBoy.com. Perkins also can’t seem to remember that his organization backed a 1998 campaign featuring “ex-gay” poster boys John Paulk and Michael Johnston. In 2000, I photographed Paulk in a Washington, DC gay bar. In 2003, Virginia attorney Michael Hamar and I revealed that Johnston was having intercourse with men he met men online. Given these sordid facts, FRC discussing the effectiveness of “ex-gay” therapy is a little like Casey Anthony extolling the virtues of motherhood. Perkins and FRC simply have no credibility or believability on this issue.
As noted earlier, the Family Research Council does virtually no original research. So, it is not surprising that Perkins has little understanding of Robert Spitzer’s heavily criticized 2001 study. Perkins cunningly mentions that several of Spitzer’s 200 subjects reported changes in sexual orientation. What he fails to point out is that it took Spitzer two years to find a mere 200 so-called “ex-gays” and that a significant portion of the sample were provided by activist groups directly affiliated with FRC. Furthermore, Spitzer’s methodology was assailed because he simply called these handpicked shills on the telephone and asked them if they had increased heterosexual functioning.
If this is all the evidence that Perkins has, maybe he should reconsider his erroneous assumptions on the efficacy of “ex-gay” therapy. But, that would require at least of modicum of decency and honor, so don’t hold your breath.
Perkins ends his screed by playing the tired victim card, claiming that gay advocates,” seek to force them [Christian counselors] to change their faith-based beliefs or forfeit their livelihoods.” Actually, we do expect Christian therapists to uphold basic scientific standards, just like any other professional counselor. There should be no special rights granted to faith-based counselors where they can harm clients in the name of religion. After all, therapy is about the client’s legitimate needs – not the illegitimate needs of unethical therapists who use clients to reinforce their sectarian worldview.
Ultimately, Perkins offered a weak and ignoble defense. He further undermined FRC’s legitimacy with lies and elevated his culture war above the sound mental health of clients at Bachmann and Associates.