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This blog is maintained by the Ruth Institute. It provides a place for our Circle of Experts to express themselves. This is where the scholars, experts, students and followers of the Ruth Institute engage in constructive dialogue about the issues surrounding the Sexual Revolution. We discuss public policy, social practices, legal doctrines and much more.
By Dustin Siggins
This article was published June 21, 2018, at The Stream.
Dr. Paul Sullins is a Catholic priest and a leading pro-family researcher. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) recently targeted him for attack. His crime? Working with The Ruth Institute on research on the effects of same-sex couples-led households on children. The institute lost its credit card processor in August after the SPLC called it a “hate group.”
The Stream interviewed Sullins and Ruth Institute President Dr. Jennifer Morse before SPLC apologized to a British Muslim group it accused of extremism. SPLC gave the Quilliam Foundation $3.375 million as part of a settlement.
The settlement led to 48 groups the SPLC has “maligned, defamed and otherwise harmed” to release a letter. They urged “government agencies, journalists, corporations, social media providers and web platforms … to dissociate themselves from” SPLC.
The Ruth Institute signed the letter. Morse told PJ Media’s Tyler O’Neil that while “pursuing our mission is more important than attempting to take on the behemoth of the SPLC,” the SPLC’s apology “has caused us to consider our options.”
The interviews are edited for length.
The Stream: You’ve been at Catholic University of America for two decades. Why did you go to the Ruth Institute, and what role(s) will you have at CUA?
Paul Sullins: There is a great need for objective empirical social science research on questions of faith and family. Secular scholars either do not address these questions or address them in a politicized way. This masks or ignores evidence they would rather not be known in favor of their social goals: There are no harms from abortion or from hormonal contraception; gender is a social construction; children do not need a mother and a father; the world has too many people.I became more involved in research countering this agenda while teaching. I looked empirically at the Catholic faith and the natural law. Three years ago, I retired from full-time teaching to devote full-time to research along these lines. I had seed money from the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, initially affiliated with the Family Research Council. After Obergefell, FRC cut back on research in this area to focus more on religious freedom and advocacy. The Ruth Institute stepped up to ensure that this work goes forward.
This kind of research may not make headlines tomorrow. However, it lays the seed for genuine social change. It can help change minds and lives. The Other Side has for decades sponsored full-blown research institutes (Guttmacher, Williams) supporting their agenda. Pro-life, pro-family folk have mostly not supported scientific research from their perspective, then wonder why elite culture ignores them. I am grateful to the Ruth Institute for their vision to engage the culture at a high level of discourse on matters of faith and reason.
On what research projects are you working? What are the implications, source materials, etc. for them?
PS: I have been studying abortion trends and demographic effects to respond to a pro-abortion report issued by the National Academy of Sciences. They deny harm from abortions and argue that state regulations requiring waiting periods prevent women from getting desired abortions. We are showing massive evidence of harm, both psychological and medical. Also, regulations have not made abortions less accessible. The regulations have helped women choose life by thinking twice and/or finding family support. The abortion propensity (percent of unanticipated pregnancies ending in abortion, which The Other Side doesn’t measure) has dropped by almost half since 1981. Unintended pregnancies have not changed.
On same-sex parenting, I have updated the findings on emotional harm. I will look at adoptions using a large longitudinal economic survey (the Survey of Income and Program Participation). I am also pursuing studies that separate boys and girls, and male-male and female-female parents. I will look at where in the different mix there is greater and less harm. Do girls do better with two moms or two dads? Do they do better or worse than boys? These are big questions that go to the heart of gender ideology.
I also recently wrote, for a pro-gay book of therapy, a chapter portion titled “Ten Tips for Helping Your Straight Child Come Out Hetero.” It is a problem highlighted in research a lot. Maybe 3-4 percent of children with man-woman parents struggle with same-sex attractions and how to deal with that. In same-sex parent families, over 95 percent of children will have opposite-sex attractions, unlike their parents. So there is possibly more struggle.
Adult children of same-sex parents report this conflict repeatedly. No one has written anything to help these parents. I essentially take the literature on helping opposite-sex parents deal with their emerging same-sex-attracted children and turn it on its head.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) targeted you on March 15. They said research shows children raised in same-sex relationship-led households have equal development to those raised in opposite-sex-led homes. Your conclusions were criticized as “pseudoscience.” How do you rebut such claims? Why is your research more credible than what others have published?
Please address their claim that you’ve been published by inferior outlets with lower standards and little credibility.
PS: On my findings, I refer you to Mercatornet for background on the same-sex parenting research and my main study. They pull from my article(s) the reasons why the studies showing no differences are not credible (mostly, small sample sizes).
On the journals, this is a false smear. The SPLC recycles criticisms from a 2015 Atlantic article. A Mercatornet article responding to that article addressed your question. The Mercatornet piece summarizes a longer defense published in the American College of Pediatricians’ Obergefell brief. I wrote the brief, and you can look that up on Scotusblog.
For some background, the two scholars cited negatively in Atlantic, i.e., with the “pseudoscience” quote and the dissing of the journal, are both pro-gay activists (Drs. Cohen and Rosenfeld). Their work was cited and rebutted by my study. They had a personal and scholarly interest in undermining it. Atlantic (Emma Green) sought them out, did not inform me she was citing them, and gave me no chance to respond. SPLC (and Atlantic) cite them as random, representative scholars. They’re not.
To be fair to Dr. Cohen, who detracted the journals on his blog, walked back his comments to a much softer criticism after I sent him more information about the journals. But Atlantic (and SPLC) just quoted his initial, harsher detraction.
SPLC’s HateWatch unfairly denigrates a few foreign journals where my studies have been published. It doesn’t mention that top journals have published me. The American Journal of Sociology, Contemporary Sociology, Social Forces, Southern Medical Journal, Religion, Sociology of Religion, and the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, for some examples.
I recently published studies on abortion and same-sex parenting in Sage Open Medicine and Demography. They both meet the National Institute of Health’s rigorous standards to be archived in National Library of Medicine. Less than one journal in a hundred qualifies.
My latest book was published by Oxford University Press. It was reviewed in the New York Times Review of Books.
Traditional views on sexuality are criticized as outdated and unpopular. In the eyes of the media, traditional views on gender identity are outdated. What evidence, strategies, and tactics should be used to swing people and the culture back towards those viewpoints?
PS: It is spiritual warfare. Our two weapons are faith and reason. The strategies I suggest are: first, help people find Christ. When people experience or encounter the love of God in Christ, we become willing and able to change. It doesn’t do much good if people adopt a traditional view of marriage/gender but don’t know that God loves them deeply and personally. The devil could fit in that category.
When people become alive in Christ, all kinds of illusions fall away. Ruth Institute does this by helping people heal and recover from the sexual revolution. When someone’s life has fallen apart from ignoring how God made man, woman, and marriage, you don’t have to do much convincing.
Second, for those who need reasons, give them reasons. There are many people open to evidence and argument. We should not shy away from engaging them in love and respect. The Church invented science to help us open our minds more to God. Truth honestly defended and clearly presented has great power.
TS: Please respond to the accusation that you and others who have traditional views on sexuality are hateful/bigoted.
PS: That accusation is emphatically backward. The SPLC has targeted many fine Christian organizations and individuals for nothing more than believing that God made humans male and female, and designed reproduction, family, and marriage to function accordingly. Those are not hateful beliefs, but the targeting can be hateful.
Unlike the Christians groups that it targets, the SPLC itself has incited actual violence, such as the gunman who in 2012 shot a security guard at the Family Research Council after finding the group on SPLC’s “hate map.”
I am relieved and happy to be labeled a hater. And if I am a hater, then surely the Catholic Church and a significant number of Protestant churches also are. SPLC acknowledges that I am a Catholic priest. Will SPLC put up page denouncing Pope Francis, who has compared “gender theory” (denying complementary sex differences) to nuclear annihilation and who teaches in his letter on marriage: “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family?”
To SPLC, Pope Francis must be a real hatemonger.
* Disclosure: The Ruth Institute was briefly a client of this reporter in 2017.