Martin Ssempa resigns from the Oral Roberts University Board of Reference

Back in January, I noted that Martin Ssempa, at the time the most vocal pastoral supporter of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, was a member of the Board of Reference at Oral Roberts University. At the time, the school had no comment about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill or Rev. Ssempa’s controversial public pornography displays.

Recently, crafted a petition delivered to ORU asking them to denounce the anti-gay effort. This petition and another article were triggered by Ssempa’s involvement in campaigns of outing gays published in the Ugandan tabloids, Rolling Stone and the Campus Nail.

Earlier today, ORU Director of Public Relations Jeremy Burton sent an email with this simple message:

I wanted to let you know that Martin Ssempa has resigned from the ORU Board of Reference.

I followed up with questions about the timing and circumstances of the resignation but Mr. Burton has not replied as yet.

What should Christians do about the SPLC hate list?

Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center posted a revision of their hate groups list, including the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, among other Christian organizations, on their anti-gay list of groups to watch. The SPLC insists that the groups placed on the list knowingly spread misleading information and harmful stereotypes about gay people that incite prejudice and harassment. Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical was not one of the criteria for inclusion.

Since then, representatives of these groups as well as some defenders have criticized the SPLC, suggesting that the list is really an effort to stifle  differences of opinion and/or to persecute Christians for their beliefs. For the most part, the reaction of defenders of the newly labeled hate groups is to avoid addressing the issues the SPLC raised, instead preferring to attack the credibility of the SPLC.

Reviewing the charges leveled against the Christian groups, I think their responses are mostly unfortunate and unhelpful. The SPLC has identified some issues which are legitimate and have damaged the credibility of the groups on the list. Going forward, I hope Christians don’t rally around these groups but rather call them to accountability.

The SPLC identifies ten myths that the listed groups promote (the statements that are also links lead to blog posts where I address the issues). They are:

1. Homosexuals molest children at far higher rates than heterosexuals.

2. Same-sex parents harm children.

3. People become homosexual because they were sexually abused as children or there was a deficiency in sex-role modeling by their parents. (see also here)

4. Homosexuals don’t live nearly as long as heterosexuals. (see also here and here)

5. Homosexuals controlled the Nazi Party and helped to orchestrate the Holocaust. (see also comments from historian Lothar Machtan)

6. Hate crime laws will lead to the jailing of pastors who criticize homosexuality and the legalization of practices like bestiality and necrophilia.

7.  Allowing homosexuals to serve openly would damage the armed forces.

8. Homosexuals are more prone to be mentally ill and to abuse drugs and alcohol. (see also here and here)

9.  No one is born a homosexual. (see also here and here)

10. Gay people can choose to leave homosexuality.

(Note: the links above are not in the original SPLC article. They link to relevant articles or refer to work I have done to address these claims in past posts. I have done very little work on claims 2 and 7, however, I believe the groups on the SPLC hate list have distorted research to support their views on these issues (e.g., Bryan Fischer’s claim that gays in the military brought on the Holocaust as a talking point against repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell).

The SPLC offers valid criticisms of each one of these assertions. In fairness, the SPLC did not completely debunk each of these statements in their brief article, but they did raise legitimate factual concerns about how these assertions are communicated to the public.

I have spent much time addressing claims 1, 3-6 and 8-10 (click the links above for posts on these topics). The more I have researched these claims, the more disillusioned I have become with the credibility of the groups recently placed on the list. Even though I agree with some positions held by some of the groups on some issues (e.g., pro-life), I now investigate any factual claims for myself and accept nothing at face value.

Ultimately, this is a real problem for American Christianity. One should be able to trust Christian groups to provide accurate information and nuanced analysis. However, on issues relating to sexual orientation, I cannot trust them. For me, this lack of trust spills over to other domains as well, creating a significant problem with credibility. I hope my fellow believers will not defend these claims simply because those making them are Christians.

There are many negative consequences which derive from the myths, overgeneralizations and stereotypes. For instance, I know of a handful of situations where men were kept from their grandchildren or children by other family members because they disclosed same-sex attraction. Even though the men involved had no attraction for children, their families feared them because they experienced homosexual attractions. I know of more than one man who had to defend his right to have custody of his children because he divulged his homosexual attractions to a Christian leader. The families and Christian leaders were driven to fear because of rhetoric from one or more of the groups now on the SPLC list.

Surveys demonstrate that younger people are more moderate regarding homosexuality. They are more likely to view groups such as now occupy the SPLC list as being strident and harsh. Many such young people know GLBT people. They perhaps know some gays who could fit the stereotypes, but often they know more such persons who do not match up with the picture painted by the organizations in question. They also know straight people who have the same problems that are supposed to be more typical of gays. The effect of the hyperbole and stereotyping is to turn them off, sometimes toward the church in general.

To repeat, I hope Christians don’t circle the wagons and view the SPLC episode as a persecution of Christians for “righteousness sake” (Mt. 5:10). In my view, those who criticize the motives of the SPLC for making the designations miss the point. Even if the SPLC targeted Christian groups because those involved don’t like Christians, the substantial issues raised by the SPLC still remain. The SPLC did not bring up doctrinal issues, but rather issues of fact unrelated to any central tenets of Christianity.

Worries over free speech (e.g., Wendy Kaminer) are also distractions. The SPLC cannot stop these groups from misusing data or proclaiming their views. However, the SPLC can exercise free speech to criticize misleading  assertions.

Instead, I hope Christians consider the words of Al Mohler, which could have been written about this very issue:

Yet, when gay activists accuse conservative Christians of homophobia, they are also right. Much of our response to homosexuality is rooted in ignorance and fear. We speak of homosexuals as a particular class of especially depraved sinners and we lie about how homosexuals experience their own struggle. Far too many evangelical pastors talk about sexual orientation with a crude dismissal or with glib assurances that gay persons simply choose to be gay. While most evangelicals know that the Bible condemns homosexuality, far too many find comfort in their own moralism, consigning homosexuals to a theological or moral category all their own.

Having examined the ten myths identified by the SPLC, I have to agree with Mohler – much of what is said by Christians about homosexuals is provably false and rooted in ignorance and fear. On point, leaders of the organizations targeted by the SPLC can defend themselves or they can use this crisis as a wake up call for reflection and change. My hope is that individual Christians and church leaders will not enable the defensiveness but instead demand the reflection and change.

Uganda’s Rolling Stone editor pledges to publish more photos

According to Rolling Stone editor, Giles Muhame, the lawyer for the paper has cleared them to publish more pictures of gays.

An extraordinary meeting of Rolling Stone editors held last night resolved to publish dozens of photos of top lesbian couples in the country. “Since the judge did not post pone the interim order secured earlier by a host of homos, you can now expose them,” our lawyer said, as our editors smiled. Guys, prepare for another round of sensational optical nutrition…

Apparently, the Rolling Stone camp is taking this two week period between the hearing and the ruling as an opportunity to continue their campaign. Attorneys for the GLBT groups might need to get a restraining order soon to prevent more outings.

Kenyan Prime Minister calls for arrests of gays

According to this report, Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga said on Sunday that homosexuals should be arrested.

Mr Odinga on Sunday said that police should arrest anyone found engaging in such behaviours and take appropriate legal action against them.

“We will not tolerate such behaviours in the country. The constitution is very clear on this issue and men or women found engaging in homosexuality will not be spared,” Mr Odinga said.

“Any man found engaging in sexual activities with another man should be arrested. Even women found engaging in sexual activities will be arrested,” the premier warned.

Speaking at a public rally at the Kamukunji grounds in his Nairobi’s Kibera constituency on Sunday afternoon, the Prime Minister cited the recent population census results which put the ratio of men to women equal and wondered why people should engage in homosexuality.

Odinga is no stranger to controversy. He and current President Kibaki agreed to a power sharing agreement after a disputed presidential election in 2007. Violence following the disputed results left thousands dead and many more displaced. He once claimed to be a cousin of President Obama but Odinga offered no evidence. Last year, Kenya launched a census of gays in order to aid HIV/AIDS treatment. At the time, gays were afraid to come forward. Now it is understandable why they would be.
According to this Unificationist church website, Odinga welcomed Moon’s church to Kenya for their Global Peace Festival.

The SPLC hate list and the Nazi card

Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center published several articles devoted to identifying groups who perpetuate stereotypes and falsehoods about gays. In one of the articles, the SPLC articulated a list of ten myths about gays which they claimed the groups identified as hate groups willfully promote. Elsewhere, the SPLC updated the list of what they term anti-gay hate groups, adding several groups, some of which are well known social conservative organizations.

The reaction was slow but has started to emerge from the groups identified by the SPLC.  One such reaction comes from Matt Barber, Liberty University adminstrator and board member at AFTAH, who wrote an op-ed for the Washington Times, titled “SPLC: The wolf who cried ‘hate.

The SPLC criteria for inclusion as a hate group were at one time somewhat vague.  Now, with the ten-myth criteria, it becomes easier to identify the types of public statements which the SPLC views as promoting bias toward gays. One myth I have written about is the Scott Lively inspired claim that gays animated the Nazi party. In fact, the SPLC referred to a couple of posts on this blog by my friend and colleague, JonDavid Wyneken, history professor at GCC (part 1 & part 2). Referring to claims made in Lively’s book, The Pink Swastika, SPLC’s Evelyn Schlatter and Robert Steinback wrote:

The Pink Swastika has been roundly discredited by legitimate historians and other scholars. Christine Mueller, professor of history at Reed College, did a line-by-line refutation of an earlier (1994) Abrams article on the topic and of the broader claim that the Nazi Party was “entirely controlled” by gay men. Historian Jon David Wynecken at Grove City College also refuted the book, pointing out that Lively and Abrams did no primary research of their own, instead using out-of-context citations of some legitimate sources while ignoring information from those same sources that ran counter to their thesis.

More recently Bryan Fischer, speaking for another newly added hate group the American Family Association, said

Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine and six million dead Jews.

These are false claims which have been addressed multiple times by experts and primary sources. These are the kinds of claims which led the SPLC to place the AFA on their list.

And so it is stunning to see one of Matt Barber’s arguments in defense of the groups recently named to the hate group list. In fact, the argument is the big finish to the Washington Times column I referred to above. He says:

So, center-right America: If you happen to believe in the sanctity of natural marriage and that, as a culture, we’re best served by honoring the Judeo-Christian sexual ethic of our forefathers, you’re now an official “hater.”

Of course, the tired goal of this silly meme is to associate in the public mind’s eye mainstream conservative social values with racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism. The ironic result, however, is that, as typically occurs with such ad hominem and hyperbolic attacks, the attacker ends up marginalizing himself and galvanizing his intended target (I’m rubber, you’re glue and all that).

Hence, beyond a self-aggrandizing liberal echo chamber, the SPLC – and by extension the greater “progressive” movement – has become largely, as it stews in its own radicalism, just another punch line.

It’s often said that the first to call the other a Nazi has lost the argument.

Congratulations, conservative America: They’re calling you a Nazi. Carry on.

Exactly. By Barber’s reasoning, then, the AFA and Scott Lively have lost the argument since the Nazi card has been played repeatedly by members of the SPLC’s hate list.

There is another strange twist in Barber’s op-ed. He says this:

The ironic result, however, is that, as typically occurs with such ad hominem and hyperbolic attacks, the attacker ends up marginalizing himself and galvanizing his intended target (I’m rubber, you’re glue and all that).

The groups which now populate the SPLC list specialize in ad hominem and hyperbolic attacks. Claims that gays die 20+ years early, that they are child abusers, that they are inherently diseased, and responsible for the Holocaust are the kinds of ad hominem and hyperbolic attacks which lead thoughful people, liberal and conservative, to question the credibility of those making the claims.

Christian groups should care about nuance and bearing honest witness. They should avoid misleading stereotypes and strive for accuracy in fact claims. When they don’t, they hurt the church and the good work that others are doing. Being designated a hate group is a serious matter and one which should cause reflection about the charges and not reckless defensiveness.

For more posts debunking the thesis advanced by the American Family Association and The Pink Swastika, click here…