The Witch-Hunt for Mark Regnerus

Last month I noted Mark Regnerus’ recent study on children who are raised by gay parents. Regnerus’ work has since proven to be very controversial because it does not paint a positive picture of children of gay parents. Even though it’s based on scientific methodology, it suggests conclusions that cut against the prevailing gay rights narrative. As a result, folks on the left have been calling for Regnerus’ head on a platter.

Yesterday, The Austin American-Statestman reported that the witch hunt is officially on. A gay blogger lodged a complaint with the President of the University of Texas, alleging that Regnerus had engaged in “scientific misconduct.” Other faculty from UT have piled on, and now the University has launched a formal investigation into the alleged “misconduct.”

This whole thing is outrageous on many levels. There is nothing untoward about this study. A group of social scientists—including Christian Smith, Rodney Stark, and Brad Wilcox—just released a statement today defending Regnerus’ work as scientifically credible. The push-back is coming simply because some people don’t like where the data led.

Normally studies like this one are vetted by the scholarly community in subsequent publications. But that is not good enough for the gay activists. The thought-police are out in full force not to counter Regnerus in print, but to destroy his career and reputation. They want him ostracized from the scientific community more generally and from the faculty of UT more specifically. Rod Dreher’s commentary on the whole situation is spot-on:

How is it that a blogger can write a letter to the president of the university lodging a very serious, potentially career-destroying professional complaint against a professor, and the university can turn around and effectively put the professor on trial? It’s not enough for Regnerus to be wrong, and his results disproved. He must be professionally destroyed for his thoughtcrime.

Whatever happens to Regnerus, the lesson to researchers at the University of Texas is that you should never, ever undertake any research related to homosexuality, unless you are prepared in advance to reach politically correct conclusions. Otherwise, your academic career could be at stake.

I think this is one more example of a very troubling trend. The cultural elites (and increasingly the broader populace) are becoming more and more intolerant of anyone who dissents from the prevailing gay rights narrative. It doesn’t matter who you are or how well-intentioned you are or how well you do your work. If you call the narrative into question, you will be regarded as morally retrograde and relegated to pariah status.

The social pressure to abandon a Christian sexual ethic is getting more intense. My mind is drawn to the discussion of these matters at the recent meeting of the leadership council of The Gospel Coalition. John Piper describes it this way:

The panelists were sober-minded about the future. One of them suggested that if the cultural battle is lost on the nature and meaning of marriage then there will never be a complete cave-in in this country. Twenty percent of the people will always oppose same sex marriage, and many will go to prison.

I think that is right. Ideas have consequences. At some point, the social pressure will transform into governmental pressure, and Christians will suffer. We will look back on moments like this one as one more step down the path of intolerance of Christian views. Mark Regnerus is in the crosshairs now, but it will be all of us before too long.

17 Responses to The Witch-Hunt for Mark Regnerus

  1. dr. james willingham July 13, 2012 at 11:25 am #

    Well, we are coming on the time, when we can be charged with being “Thoughtcriminals” as one of your links put it. Seems like the conspiracy theorists have been right all along. Life is going to get a good deal more troublesome and grievous for believers. And our answer is going to be an answer from Heaven in the form of a Third Great Awakening, a coming down of Heaven to earth, not an impossible thing, seeing how God sent the very essence of Heaven 2000 years ago. What we need now is an updated version Jonathan Edwards’ Humble Attempt which inspired Andew Fuller, William Carey, Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice to launch the Great Century of Missions. and which surely was the secret behind the Second Great Awakening, if we limit that even to 1801-1820. In any case, the Third is to win the whole world and every soul in it beginning, hopefully, with this generation and continuing for a 1000 generations and reaching, perhaps, thousands of worlds, Thanks to Dr. John Owens’ Death of Death in The Death of Christ.

  2. Richard Joiner July 13, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    Let us not be too hasty here. Granted, academic institutions are highly-sensitive to certain
    agenda-based issues, and disturbingly so. However, we should note as well the comments to Dreher’s article in the American Conservative. Apparently, there are some researchers who find that Dreher’s work was poorly-managed, too quickly completed, and not thoroughly achieved. Social Science is not my field, but before we call down the conservative police upon UT, we have to be sure that the reasons of his critics do not lie with the quality of his work. In some universities, the process of evaluating research by its faculty is highly formalized. In such a sensitive area, we need well-researched writing and careful treatment of data. Otherwise, mediocre research does not help our cause. Before we call out the authorities for bias against believers, I suggest we wait long enough to be sure that there were not problems with Regerus’ research.

  3. dr. james willingham July 13, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

    The problem is that the issue is the driving force of the attack, and that means the findings will be prejudicial.

  4. Jake Thielen July 15, 2012 at 2:26 am #

    Denny,

    I believe you are jumping the gun and seem to be (1) willing to assume that his researching methodologies were thoroughly constructed and (2) seem to only be considering the viewpoints of people who say what you want them to say.

    It seems your article and NOM assumes one of the biggest problems in the use of data and statistics, which is the problem of causation vs. correlation. Is it that there is causation that gay parenting creates kids with problems… or perhaps there is simply a *correlation* because our current society (tax code, laws, social pressures, etc) simply make it harder on kids because society refuses to. Can we fault that on the parents or on society at large? And why shouldn’t gay people be worried about a study where the author himself admits the sample size is too small… and he doesn’t even compare straight parents to gay parents directly. THEN NOM wants to take this to the courts and use it as evidence?

    Furthermore, I must call you out on your “oppression” rhetoric. Just because someone is challenging your beliefs (and whether one person’s beliefs should be directly legislated onto others with different beliefs) it does not mean it is oppressive. By definition oppression is “Prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control.” As a Christian majority you are neither being treated cruelly or controlled. I’m guessing you believe you are being unjustly treated… but making that claim for a majority group is a hard sell. Also, these things you are saying is EXACTLY what gay people and their supporters were saying 10 years ago, yet you didn’t seem to mind “oppressing” them then. This is slippery slope logic.

    Maybe if you didn’t want to be oppressed you shouldn’t be so concerned with condemning and being condemned. I started reading yours and others’ blogs to help me be encouraged to reenter the church… but I find myself being just as frustrated as I was 8 yrs ago when I left. Jesus says love and all I feel is a community built on exclusion. If you want to lead people to Jesus maybe you should focus on helping people build a positive and loving relationship with the church instead of a relationship built on moral control in politics. Render to Ceasar, friend.

  5. Caroline Nichols July 16, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

    This is disturbing but telling the true tale of our culture. We can only “coexist” for so long before someone else’s coexistence makes us uncomfortable. I was appalled at the reception Douglas Wilson got before/during/after his lectures at Indiana University (http://www.canonwired.com/bloomington/). There will soon be a reckoning where, as my mom would say, the “fit will hit the shan.” I just hope those with light will be bold to shine in the darkness.

  6. Harriet Hume July 17, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    Yes the witch-hunt against Regnerus is outrageous and is part of a whole new McCarthyite movement that is sweeping the West. Gay extremists are now using the worst bullying tactics to censor, silence and exclude every other viewpoint.
    It is of course thoroughly undemocratic. After all their whinging about rights freedom, they don’t show much respect for either!
    @ Mark Joiner , You say ” Before we call out the authorities for bias against believers, I suggest we wait long enough to be sure that there were not problems with Regerus’ research.” You are wrong.
    If indeed there are flaws in a piece of research, the correct thing to do is to challenge it in a peer-reviewed journal expounding your reasons. You can also undertake another piece of research and see if the results are different, then publish them.
    The nasty little Scott Rosenkreig or whatever his real name is dare not do that. He is stooping to base tactics. In England we call people like him the Gaystapo.
    It will be a disgrace is the University of Texas caves in to him.

  7. Mitch Dean July 19, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

    Denny,

    Just had time for a quick catch up read and, while I admire Jake’s style, I’m not going to skewer you like that old friend. :) However, I have to say that this post raised questions for me.

    First, I notice that you haven’t devoted any discussion to what the complaints actually are concerning the study (broadly the complaints are about sampling methods). You’re basically just saying it’s bad that anyone would question this study. Will you comment to your readers about the sampling methods since even your non-scientist readers can engage in and consider basic arguments about how data is presented?

    Also, you say that “The push-back is coming simply because some people don’t like where the data led.” As you probably know, this study was sponsored by the highly conservative Witherspoon Institute and Bradley Foundation (collectively they gave over $700k in grants for this study). In light of your statement that “some people don’t like where the data led” will you comment on the possibility that these organizations funded this research with clear preferences and about where this data would lead and that the preferences and agendas of valuable funding sources may have contributed to some of the choices Regenerus made? In other words, aren’t there agendas everywhere and not just in the sinister and evil “gay camp.”

    Will you comment on specifically what benefit is derived from using the terms
    “witch hunt” and “the prevailing gay rights narrative” and from saying things like

    “We will look back on moments like this one as one more step down the path of intolerance of Christian views. Mark Regnerus is in the crosshairs now, but it will be all of us before too long” ?

    Do you think that terms and statements like these might give people reasonable cause to doubt your professed love for and concern about gay people?

    Perhaps most importantly, would you agree that this and many of your other recent posts have a certain “us vs. them” quality which will serve to divide people and harden hearts?

    Just some questions on my mind.

    • Jake T July 19, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

      Mitch,

      Thank you for calling me out on the strength of which I said what I did. In reading your post I, in hindsight, admit that my statements were made out of frustration… probably just as I’m guessing that Denny’s original post was made.

      It is not my goal to be mean spirited or combative, but simply have open and respectful dialogue. It seems that I have been reading the latest posts by Denny and have just felt like the open and respectful part hasn’t been in those posts. Like you note, the “us vs. them” rhetoric is so easy to fall into and a huge part of my frustration about it made me just reinforce it. For that I apologize.

      Again, thank you for your willingness to engage in the conversation and for helping me find a better way to state my thoughts without finding myself reengaging in the anger that can so easily come out in these debates. I realize that it is personal for both sides, but you are right that we don’t have to become uncivilized… nor do we have to allow this to be an “us vs. them” argument. Because once we do that we immediately have decided to not seek the truth but only defend our “group/side”.

    • dr. james willingham July 19, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

      My, My, Denny, if you don’t just cave in and love everybody, and let the views of Hell prevail, you just ain’t being pc. And pc is has been a great development by the dark side to coerce people into thinking and responding the way certain folks desire. Never mind that the consequences will be deadly and destructive to civilization and the masses. Just think with pc we have come to the point where we are now recognizing what has been a travesty in society for milleniums, and pedophilia is the next practice demanding acceptance on the same grounds of dna, etc. After all, it is all in how the child is introduced to love, and you will note nothing is said about rape in the permitted news of our prostitute news media, something a fellow called them early in the 20th century.

    • Denny Burk July 20, 2012 at 11:16 am #

      Hey, Mitch (and Jake),

      First of all, I should direct you to an update on the Regnerus story. The Austin American-Statesman has issue a correction to its original report, and we should have that duly noted: http://www.dennyburk.com/correction-regnerus-not-being-investigated/.

      Let me respond briefly to each of your points:

      1. I think Regnerus’ conclusions were very measured. He himself has said that his study tells us very little about children raised in “stable” same-sex homes. That is a legitimate critique, but Regnerus himself acknowledged that limitation within the study. In my original post on this subject, I noted it as well. I wrote: “The study does not focus on stable same-sex couples raising children. This is surely to become a point of contention in discussions about this article. Indeed, you can read Time magazine’s critique along these lines here.” Having said that, I don’t think that vitiates the results of this study. This is just one more piece of the puzzle. It’s not all the pieces.

      2. Yes, conservative groups funded the study. Liberal groups fund studies like this one too. The funding isn’t the issue. The issue is whether or not the study was done with scientific integrity. Go read the article. You can see the methodology and the data. It’s all there for the world to see. It was a random sample of 3,000 U.S. adults ages 18-39. There’s nothing shady about that.

      3. I do believe that the blogger who lodged the complaint is on a witch-hunt. He obviously has a bias. To the extent that UT capitulated to this particular activist, they are complicit (see my latest post linked above, because this is still an open question, though I’m still suspicious of UT). In academic research, people’s methods and conclusions are tested in the normal scholarly interchange that happens through publication. If this study is wrong or incorrect, that will come out in the literature (and believe me, this will be challenged). What’s happening here is an attempt to short-circuit that process by discrediting Regnerus.

      4. None of what I’m saying here changes my love for my gay friends and neighbors. As a Christian, I’m still animated by Jesus’ commands to “love your neighbor as yourself” and “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). I’m commenting on what I perceive to be a disturbing trend among gay rights activists. I do believe that the gay rights movement in general is not merely seeking “tolerance” in the wider culture. They are demanding moral approval from their opponents, and they want to marginalize anyone who disagrees. This is not tolerance of opposing views. This is intolerance. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: http://www.dennyburk.com/doug-wilson-takes-on-gay-activists-in-qa/.

      5. I don’t like the “us vs. them” feel of any of this either. I believe we share so much in common with each other. We are all created in the image of God and are valuable. We have solidarity with each other in our human condition as fallen creatures in need of grace. At the deepest level, I still believe myself to have those things in common with the activists I’m writing about here. In a pluralistic society, we also need to learn how to live with one another without taking coercive steps to force someone else to accept our views. We can use persuasion and argument as we debate. But marginalizing and castigation has to go. I don’t want to harden hearts. But it does feel like the activist set wants to marginalize anyone with Christian views on sexuality. As long as that’s the case, how do we avoid “us vs. them”?

      Have you seen Linda Hirshman’s new book, Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution. She writes as one sympathetic to the gay rights movement, and I think she confirms what my concerns are about the activist set.

  8. Mitch Dean July 28, 2012 at 3:49 am #

    Denny,

    We’ll never agree on this but a few of the things in your response required further comment.

    In # 2 above you say

    ” Yes, conservative groups funded the study. Liberal groups fund studies like this one too. The funding isn’t the issue. The issue is whether or not the study was done with scientific integrity.”

    You’re missing the point here. Your post talks about a “prevailing gay rights narrative” and you suggest that the criticisms of this study are not sincere, scientifically based criticisms but part of some pro-gay agenda. My responsive point here is that even if that’s the case, you can see that the creation and funding of the study was clearly part of an anti-gay agenda if you look at the other kinds of work the sponsors have funded and the the conclusions that work has reached. So, the funding actually IS an issue. And that’s why I say, let’s be fair and acknowledge that there are “agendas” and “narratives” everywhere…even in your camp.

    Also in # 2 you say:

    “You can see the methodology and the data. It’s all there for the world to see. It was a random sample of 3,000 U.S. adults ages 18-39. There’s nothing shady about that.”

    You really amaze me with the spin you put on these things and your utter unwillingness to engage in a debate about the actual problems with the study. Here’s an explanation of what’s wrong with the study’s sampling:

    “To understand the study, you have to read the questionnaire that defined the sample. It began by asking each respondent, as the child of this or that kind of family arrangement, his age. If the respondent was younger than 18 or older than 39, the survey was terminated. This means the entire sample was born between 1971 and 1994, when same-sex marriage was illegal throughout the United States, and millions of homosexuals were trying to pass or function as straight spouses.

    The survey went on to ask: “From when you were born until age 18 … did either of your parents ever have a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex?” If the respondent said yes, he was put in the “gay father” (GF) or “lesbian mother” (LM) category, regardless of subsequent answers. But if he said no, a later question about the relationship between “your biological parents” was used to classify him as the product of an “intact biological family” (IBF) or of an “adopted,” “divorced,” “stepfamily,” or “single-parent” household. In other words, broken families were excluded from the IBF category but included in the GF and LM categories.”

    Not my words but valid points

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_nature/2012/06/new_family_structures_study_is_gay_parenthood_bad_or_is_gay_marriage_good_.html

    In #4 you state:

    “None of what I’m saying here changes my love for my gay friends and neighbors.”

    Your love for your gay friends and neighbors? Really? I would honestly like to meet a gay person who actually BELIEVES you love gay people.

    More importantly, whether you love gay people wasn’t my question. My question was:

    “Do you think that terms and statements like these might give people reasonable cause to doubt your professed love for and concern about gay people?”

    So it’s not whether you love gay people but whether you can understand their skepticism of that claim when you use terms and phrases like those I referenced.

    In #5 you say:

    “But it does feel like the activist set wants to marginalize anyone with Christian views on sexuality. As long as that’s the case, how do we avoid “us vs. them”?”

    This may make me angrier than anything you say. So, somebody has the gall to stand up and say “you know I don’t agree with that” or “hang on a second, that study seems a little funny” and all of a sudden they’re “marginalizing Christian views.” Give me a break. Further, the tone of the statement is really disgusting. Some people don’t agree with you and all of a sudden it’s their fault for creating the “us vs. them” and you accept no responsibility? Takes two sides there buddy. Plus, I’d really like to see some posts about what you (a good Christian), personally plan to do to reach out and mend “us v. them” situations. Any chance we’ll see that?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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