The Schoenewolf controversy: Afterthoughts on the apology

It has now been nearly a month since the beginning of the controversy over the article by Gerald Schoenewolf (Gay rights and political correctness: A brief history). Apparently, NARTH is finished with the issue since they issued what they are calling an apology.

I have continued to research one of the central tenets of the article and that is that Marxism informed the abolitionist movement and the subsequent civil rights movement. This appears to be revisionist history. Christianity was at the heart of this movement and indeed most likely even of the early feminist movement. Wilberforce in England became invested in abolishing slavery after his conversion to Christianity. We are not talking about a difference of opinion here; this is simply bending facts to reduce complexity to a simplistic theme – the very thing Schoenewolf accuses human rights advocates of doing. There are several other significant problems that could be raised again but I will leave it at that.

There is much troubling about all of this but what continues to escape whoever authorized the apology statement is that the credibility of any movement or organization can be severely compromised by the inability to self-correct. By issuing a statement saying that some readers misconstrued the article, they ask those same readers to suspend rationality. The “apology” feels more like a slap at those who found significant errors and expect a scientific organization to be accountable for them.

A specialty organization devoted to sexual identity issues could provide a significant public service. An organization that I would join or help develop would:

-Develop research-based guidelines to inform clinical practice
-Focus on integrating all research relating to sexual orientation and sexual identity
-Avoid policy/political statements not in keeping with the organization’s mission, and then only when supported by a significant program of research
-Have a much broader focus than homosexuality (e.g., sexual identity)
-Have elections by members for the officers of the organization

Other suggestions?

18 thoughts on “The Schoenewolf controversy: Afterthoughts on the apology”

  1. Let’s review:
    (1) No election of officers, (2) No editorial review committee, (3)anonymous persons issuing retractions, explantaions, or apologies, (4) no personal responsibility when an advisor steps way out of line, (5) no good scientific data to back up its claims for curing gays, (6) heavy censorship of those who disagree with them (7) a belief that those who disagree with them are Marxist “activists” bent on silencing them…

    Why would anyone want to join such an organization?

  2. Anon – Yes, I am pretty sure that NARTH does not have elections for officers. I am not sure how Board members are selected or officers are selected but I asked a couple of members and they could not remember ever having a vote.

  3. Dr. Throckmorton is right: “As some of the old-timers in ex-gay ministry will attest, the early years were marked by neutrality on these matters.”

    As one of those “old-timers”, I can attest that we worked VERY hard to remain neutral as an organization and ministry:

    Anita Bryant asked us to join her crusade in Dade County Florida. We refused.

    Congressman, William Dannemeyer, asked EXODUS to endorse his political initiatives. We refused. We also turned down Lou Sheldon and John Briggs.

    Jim Kaspar and I did appear once on Pat Robertson’s 700 Club to give our testimonies, but decided that even THAT was a mistake since it seemed so political.

    What has happened in the years since deeply troubles and saddens me. I believe that EXODUS has lost its way and that the message of the love and power of God is lost in all the political rhetoric. If I were a young Christian gay man looking for help, I would assume that (in addition to trying to change my sexual orientation)I would also have to endorse EXODUS’s politics to be OK with God.

    That confusion is what we “old-timers” fought so hard to AVOID.

  4. Dr. Throckmorten: By putting on your list of things you would like to see in an association the thing about members voting for officers, are you implying that NARTH does not vote for their officers? I never thought about it but that doesn’t seem quite right for a membership organization, does it? I am not pro-gay but I do think organizations should meet certain standards of accountability. So don’t get me wrong, I think NARTH has done some good things, probably moreso than even you think but that would be disturbing if NARTH doesn’t include members in voting for their leaders.

  5. Peter: I think you are on target. As some of the old-timers in ex-gay ministry will attest, the early years were marked by neutrality on these matters. Nothing prevents people from advocating whatever they want through organizations set up for that purpose. However, when scientific organizations do this (whether it be NARTH or the APA) then the mission of the organization is muddied and as Nick Cummings says about the APA, the organization loses its credibility.

    I am not sure how much support there would be for an organizations such as I described but it seems necessary to me.

  6. The problem at the moment is that groups like NARTH (and, it needs to be said, Exodus) need to clarify whether they are or are not organisations that pressurise for legislative, political change. It’s one thing for an organisation dealing with sexual wholeness to comment on political / social issues and another to actively lobby on those issues. I’m afraid that often NARTH seems to want to take a particular political stance on same-sex unions and that then colours it’s therapeutic response to the sexual brokeness issue.

    I too would like to see an organisation like the one you describe, especially one that is democratic and not autocratic in structure.

  7. I believe 75 signers of the petition is correct. NARTH routinely claims a membership of about 1000, a number that has been pretty constant over the last several years. I must say, it is curious why more people did not sign the petition. I am aware of at least two signers that were not NARTH members. NARTH has several types of membership and, given the low number of petition signers, I suspect that the professional membership number is much less than 1000. To my knowledge however, NARTH has never publicly broken the member numbers down by type of membership.

  8. I heard that NARTH only has 75 members that are actually therapists. Wayne Besen said this somewhere. Is this true Dr. Throckmorton? If it is, then why does anyone care what NARTH thinks?

    What he said was that NARTH was only able to gather the signatures of 75 APA members (out of a total APA membership of over 150,000) on a petition to the APA suporting exgay therapies. It thus stands to reason that out of a membership of 1000 “professionals,” relatively few are APA members, but several are probably in other organizations like ACA. NARTH’s definition of “professional” seems to be broad enough to include theologians such as Advisory Board member Lawrence F. Burtoft, who appears to have no scientific credentials whatsoever.

  9. If you are thinking of forming an organzation, how about adopting something similar to the “10th Tradition of AA:

    “Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the A.A. name ought never be drawn into public controversy.”

    Or as Al-Anon’s preamble to the twelve steps and traditions says:

    “Al-Anon is not allied with any sect, denomination, political entity, organization or institution. It does not engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any cause.”

    Adopting guidelines similar to these would make for a more scientific AND therapuetic endeavor.

  10. One suggestion: such an organization, being truly scientific, would not BEGIN with the assumption that homosexuality is a “disorder” or “condition” that can and should be “treated.”

    Instead, why not broaden the focus to ask — “what causes people to be attracted in the many ways they are? What determines the direction of one’s sexual orientation? Why do some people form erotic/emotional/spriritual bonds to one gender or the other?”

    In short, a truly scientific organization would want to explore what causes human attraction in all its forms — not just assume that one type is sick or immoral and then look for “facts” to prove its bias.

  11. Dr. Throckmorton,

    Will you start this organization? Please?

    Or at least contact Nicolosi personally? I feel like he’s out of the loop on this.


  12. I heard that NARTH only has 75 members that are actually therapists. Wayne Besen said this somewhere. Is this true Dr. Throckmorton? If it is, then why does anyone care what NARTH thinks?

  13. Not write bad articles based upon political opinion which cannot be supported by the science which you later deny is political opinion or bad science and blame readers for misunderstanding 😉

    Sexual Identity in general (regardless of orientation) is very interesting as an organizing principle…

    David Blakeslee

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