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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.
Posted on: Tuesday, June 22, 2021
The Supreme Court’s decision allowing a faith-based foster care agency to continue operations is the right move.
By Contributors, including the Ruth Institute's Fr. Paul Sullins
The Supreme Court just decided Fulton v. Philadelphia, a landmark case involving the rights of religious foster care agencies to operate while still observing their religious beliefs. Several prominent social science narratives have sprung up around this case: One is that a allowing religious foster agencies to continue the work they have done for more than 200 years will limit the supply of foster parents, and another is that religious agencies operating on traditional sexual beliefs will harm LGBTQ children. As Muslim, Catholic, Protestant and Latter-day Saint scholars, we want to set the record straight on both of these narratives.
The claim that allowing religious agencies to stay open while staying true to their religious beliefs will reduce the number of foster parents is conjecture at best and a drastic exaggeration at worst. Indeed, none of the justices appear to have bought this argument, as the majority opinion states, “if anything, including (Catholic Social Services) in the program seems likely to increase, not reduce, the number of available foster parents.”
While national-level data exists on children in foster care (albeit with varying quality across states), there is no such dataset on foster parents. Here’s what we do know about foster parents and foster care agencies: Foster care is extremely difficult, but faith helps navigate its challenges. While 30%-50% of foster parents quit after the first year, 82% of foster parents in one study cite faith or church support as something that helps successful fostering.
Families recruited via religious organizations foster for 2.6 years longer than other foster parents. Finally, 36% of families recruited by one Christian organization said that they would not have become foster or adoption parents if it hadn’t been for the efforts of that foster agency.
Faith-based agencies pioneered foster care in the U.S. The first orphanage in the new world was started by Catholic nuns decades before our country’s founding, and the Catholic church in Philadelphia had been finding homes for foster children decades before the city ever got involved.
Even taking into account that some evidence suggests same-sex couples are about six times more likely to foster than mixed-sex couples, same-sex couples are still a small fraction of all foster parents. The latest estimates from the Census Bureau indicate that there are approximately 568,110 same-sex married couples in the United States compared to 57.8 million mixed-sex couples. The argument that the mere presence of a Catholic foster agency will dissuade same-sex parents from fostering, even when those same Catholic agencies provide referral resources to prospective same-sex parents, requires a highly speculative conjecture.
The claim that LGBTQ children are harmed by faith-based agencies is particularly pernicious. These claims are largely based on speculation and prejudiced stereotypes about the treatment of sexual minorities by traditional-minded Christians, Muslims, Jews and people of other faiths. The idea that opposition to same-sex Nikah, or Muslim marriage, for example (which most Muslims worldwide probably hold), will lead to mistreatment of LGBTQ children stems from a prejudiced misunderstanding of the religious ethic that drives religious foster parenting.
Scientifically, there is no research that suggests sexual minority foster youths have worse outcomes when raised in traditional religious homes. (And the faith-based agency in this case served all children regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.) More generally, the literature on the effects of religiosity on LGBTQ health is more complex than many think, with many studies showing positive effects.
This week’s Supreme Court decision says organizations and individuals with traditional religious outlooks on human sexuality still have a place in the foster care system and protects one of the largest swaths of potential foster care parents. The parade of horribles put forward by some people under the guise of social science skews what is really at stake in this case. In a matter as complex as foster care, all should be careful to look at the facts, and the Constitution, when deciding whether faith-based agencies that have helped children in need for centuries should be allowed to continue that work. Fortunately, the Supreme Court did just that.
Posted on: Monday, June 14, 2021
This was originally written by Tyler O'Neil and published by
Five years ago on Saturday, a radical Islamic terrorist opened fire in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others. He pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) during the attack, and ISIS later claimed responsibility. Yet, because Pulse is a gay bar, leftists have memory-holed the terrorist’s intentions and blamed “anti-LGBT hate” for the heinous attack. On Saturday, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) used the anniversary of the shooting to demonize conservative Christians and efforts to restrain the excesses of the transgender movement.
In a fundraising email, the SPLC noted the horrific attack, saying, “Today, we remember those we lost. We grieve for their families and friends. And, we honor them by keeping up the fight against anti-LGBTQ hate.”
“In a sickening display of bigotry, several anti-LGBTQ hate groups and some members of the radical right praised the gunman after the Pulse attack five years ago. This year’s unprecedented legislative attacks on transgender people revealed that, unfortunately, anti-LGBTQ hate is still alive in state legislatures across the country,” the SPLC argued.
The activist group bemoaned the fact that “an explosion of hateful, anti-trans legislation has threatened to make an increasing number of public spaces unsafe for transgender people. On the first day of Pride Month, Florida became the eighth state to target trans athletes with a sports ban.”
“Nationally, at least 17 bills targeting LGBTQ people have been passed already this year, out of over 125 that were proposed in state legislatures. The majority of these bills seek to prevent trans children from accessing lifesaving gender affirming care, ban trans people from using public restrooms or stop them from participating in sports,” the SPLC added.
The email concluded with a rallying cry, urging supporters to speak “up against misgendering, harmful disinformation and discriminatory legislation. That’s how we will continue to grow a national movement against anti-LGBTQ hate.”
So, was the Pulse Nightclub shooting an act of “anti-LGBTQ hate”? The shooter did kill members of the LGBT community, but evidence suggests that his victims’ sexual identities had nothing to do with the shooting.
As it turns out, the gay bar wasn’t the terrorist’s intended target — Disney World was, and he didn’t even search online for “gay nightclubs,” but merely for “nightclubs.” He pledged allegiance to ISIS during the attack, and ISIS claimed responsibility for it afterward. The SPLC did not once mention ISIS, radical Islam, or even the Islamic world’s horrendous recent history of violence against LGBT people.
Instead, the SPLC repeated a claim it has made many times in the past: that “several anti-LGBTQ hate groups” had “praised the gunman.”
Is this true?
First, the SPLC’s “anti-LGBTQ hate group” category is rather elastic, by design. The SPLC, which grew to prominence by suing the Ku Klux Klan and related racist hate groups into bankruptcy, has weaponized that history to defame its political opponents by accusing them of being “hate groups” like the KKK. As I explain in my book Making Hate Pay, SPLC co-founder Morris Dees discovered that “reporting on” “hate” is a fabulous fundraising tool. The SPLC exaggerates the threat of mostly defunct “hate groups” in order to bilk donors.
“Anti-LGBTQ hate groups” include mainstream Christian law firms like Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which has won nine cases at the Supreme Court since 2011. The SPLC’s category includes the Ruth Institute, a Roman Catholic nonprofit dedicated to helping the victims of the Sexual Revolution. Upon accusing the Ruth Institute of being a “hate group,” the SPLC seized on RI’s statement that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered,” which is a direct quote from the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church. Yet the SPLC has not marked the Catholic Church a “hate group…”
The SPLC’s list of “anti-LGBTQ hate groups” also includes the Family Research Council (FRC), a conservative Christian nonprofit in Washington, D.C. In 2012, a deranged man opened fire at FRC, aiming to kill everyone in the building and place a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich by each person’s head. His attack was foiled, but he got the idea to target FRC from the SPLC’s list of “anti-LGBTQ hate groups.”
Yet no one at ADF, FRC, or RI praised the radical Islamic terrorist who carried out the horrific Pulse shooting.
Shortly after the attack, however, Donnie Romero, then pastor of the Stedfast Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, praised the terrorist.“These 50 sodomites are all perverts and pedophiles, they’re the scum of the Earth and the Earth is a better place now and I’ll take it a step further,” Romero said in a sermon published online by the Dallas Morning News. “I’ll pray to God like I did this morning, and I will again tonight, that God will finish the job that that man started.”
The SPLC responded by including Stedfast Baptist Church on its list of “anti-LGBT hate groups.” In this one instance, the “hate group” accusation may be true.
No Christian should spout this kind of horrific vitriol. To claim that a mass shooting leaves the world a “better place” is, quite simply, beyond the pale.
But notice the SPLC’s sleight of hand in all of this. The SPLC had not previously accused Stedfast Baptist Church of being a “hate group.” It leveled that accusation after Romero’s disgusting “sermon.” None of the mainstream conservative Christian organizations the SPLC demonizes as “anti-LGBTQ hate groups” praised the shooter.
By claiming that “anti-LGBTQ hate groups… praised the shooter,” the SPLC suggeststhat many of the organizations it demonizes as “hate groups” celebrated the violence. Therefore, donors should pony up cash to support the SPLC’s vital efforts to stop this “hate.”
In reality, most of the conservative Christians the SPLC demonizes condemned the Pulse Nightclub terror attack. Conservative Christians do not celebrate radical Islamic terrorism.
Furthermore, there is absolutely no connection between the Pulse Nightclub Islamic terror attack and the new bills across the country that aim to prevent biological males from competing against females, to safeguard children from experimental “transgender” treatments, or to protect women’s privacy in intimate settings. “Anti-LGBTQ hate” does not drive this legislation, commonsense does.
This is far from the first time the SPLC has attempted to weaponize the Pulse attack to demonize conservative Christians, and it likely won’t be the last. Americans must see through this deception. We should remember the Pulse nightclub shooting and lament the victims of this horrific radical Islamic terror attack. But we cannot allow nefarious actors on the Left to get away with blaming their political opponents for it.
Posted on: Friday, June 11, 2021
This article was originally published in the National Catholic Register
A few weeks ago, we had a flash food in Lake Charles. Going through (yet another) natural disaster brought to mind many parallels with childhood sexual abuse.
Natural disasters and childhood sexual abuse are both life-threatening events. People respond to trauma in understandable ways, regardless of the specific circumstances of that trauma. And people with no direct experience of trauma tend to misunderstand the traumatized. I think I’m learning some things that may be of help to the Church in our quest to deal with the tragic legacy of sexual abuse.
May 17 started as a normal rainy day. Adults went to work and kids went to school as usual. Sometime around 11:30am, the situation didn’t look so normal. We watched the water overflowing the drainage ditches. We watched our yard turn into a lake. We started to think the water might come into our house. “Honey, there’s water coming in the front door!” Within 20 minutes, the entire house was filled with at least three inches of water, more in some places.
(Just to recap our Apocalypse Pre-Game Warm-up Show we’ve had in Lake Charles: Hurricane Laura on Aug. 27, 2020, Hurricane Delta on Oct. 8, the Southern
winter cold freeze in February 2021, and now a flood on May 17.)
Going through a natural disaster is a life-threatening experience. A flood can kill you. So can 150 mph hurricane winds. So can a fast-moving California wildfire.
I have learned a bit about trauma in the course of my study of childhood sexual abuse. People’s minds go into “survival mode.” Our attention becomes narrowly focused on the most immediate issues of life and death.
During the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, I noticed myself zooming in on very basic survival needs. Do we have water to drink? Can I get to the bathroom? Oh, wait. We can’t flush the toilet. Is the food in the refrigerator fit to eat? How are we going to prepare it, without electrical power?
Not to mention that everyone is hot, sticky, crabby and scared.
I had also learned, in the abstract, that people need to talk about their experiences in order to process them. My dear friend Sue Ellen Browder wrote and spoke about this here, starting about the 22-minute mark. She relates how her husband’s older brother had abused him. He only revealed this to her after 38 years of marriage and their conversion to Catholicism. She recounts how her husband finally confided in a sympathetic priest.
Father Bruce said to me: “Sue, here’s what I want you to do: I want you to ask Walter to tell you what happened when he was 7 years old. He may not want to talk about it. If he doesn’t volunteer to talk about it every two or three days, I want you to ask him about it. Just listen. Get all the details. But don’t get all emotional. Remember Joe Friday on Dragnet? I want you to be like that: ‘Just the facts, Ma’am.’”
Eventually, Walter experienced a profound healing from this simple process.
During the aftermath of Laura, I experienced this aspect of trauma. I felt myself and my family members trying to process the situation by talking about it. I felt the urge to recount my hurricane story again and again. Every time I spoke about it, I felt a little bit better. I even recorded a video of myself during the early days of Laura-recovery, so I wouldn’t forget it.
People who haven’t been through a comparable trauma, don’t really understand what you’re going through. They may try. But honestly, they don’t get it. “You only had three inches of water in your house.” But when you’re watching the water rise, and it’s still raining, you don’t know that it is going to be “only” three inches. During that waiting period, people perceive their lives to be at risk, because they are.
Likewise, well-meaning people will sometimes say to childhood sex abuse survivors: “Why didn’t you tell anyone?” “Do we really have to keep talking about this?” “Can’t you just forgive and forget and move on with your life?” Well, no, actually, they can’t exactly move on, until they truly deal with it.
Where I live, chatting about natural disasters has become a standard topic of conversation. People ask, “How did your house do?” And then they listen respectfully to the answer, pretty much as long as the other person wants to talk. People don’t get uncomfortable and try to end the conversation, the way they might when someone can’t stop talking about their latest surgery.
I had very similar conversations with the produce manager at the supermarket, with my friends after church, and with nurses in New Orleans who survived Hurricane Katrina 15 years ago. Everyone instinctively gives their fellow survivors a whole lot of space, and time, and attention. I guess we intuit that these conversations are necessary and constructive, not self-absorbed and destructive.
All of which brings me back to childhood sexual abuse. My colleague Father Paul Sullins did a thorough study of clergy sex abuse, including the first-ever statistical analysis of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. On page 13, he reveals that the average length of time between the time of the abuse and the person’s first revelation of it to anyone was 28.7 years.
When I first read this number back in 2018, it was a mere abstraction. Today, it breaks my heart. I think of those children, going through a life-threatening, psyche-threatening event, and keeping it to themselves for decades.
What my neighbors and I have gone through is minor compared to what these children went through. I can talk about my natural disaster trauma. The typical victim of childhood sexual trauma has no one to talk to.
What would their lives have been like if they could have talked about it sooner? How much less drug addiction and depression and loss of faith might there have been? Even if no laws or Church policies changed, I can’t help but think these kids would have benefited from a socially acceptable context in which to tell their stories. It is powerful medicine to have someone say, “Tell me what happened to you,” and then listen.
Traumatized people really do need to talk. I needed it. Everyone in my town needs it. Maybe, someone near you needs it, too.