The crime of lèse majesté – insulting the
sovereign — is rarely prosecuted nowadays apart from in Morocco and Thailand.
These countries find it useful for muffling criticism of their monarchies. In
Morocco, for instance, a hapless 26-year-old engineer was roughed up and given
a three-year jail sentence in 2008 for posting a fake Facebook profile of the
Crown Prince. In the same year an aspiring Australian novelist spent six months
shuffling around a foetid jail because he had defamed an imaginary Thai prince
in a novel which sold seven copies.

But the impulse to punish in order to
soothe offended dignity dies hard. Lèse majesté is making a comeback in the
United States. Gay activists are using it as a way of stifling criticism of
their lifestyle and of same-sex marriage.

As a few prominent pro-family lobby groups
have learned lately, if you stray from the party line, you’ll end up on a
certified list of hate groups.

The latest indictment was issued in
November by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a respected civil rights
organisation based in Montgomery, Alabama. It made its reputation with landmark
legal victories over white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups. These included
repulsive outfits like the Ku Klux Klan, White Aryan Resistance and Aryan
Nation.

But recently — based on their definition
of a hate group as an organisation with “beliefs or practices that attack or
malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable
characteristics” – the SPLC has compiled a list of anti-gay groups. Most of
them, it says are religiously motivated and pump out “demonizing propaganda
aimed at homosexuals and other sexual minorities”.

The SPLC lists 18
of these organisations
on its website. Manic or mainstream, they have one
thing in common: they are said to be spewing out hatred towards gays and
lesbians.

What evidence is there for these
allegations? Unlike the anti-black, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant hate groups,
the Gang of 18 have not been murdering, firebombing, pistol-whipping, or
terrorising homosexuals. They have not even incited the lunatic fringe to do
their dirty work for them. Instead, they are being censured for “name-calling” and
holding “discredited” ideas – thought crimes, in other words. Here is the SPLC’s
explanation:

“Generally, the
SPLC’s listings of these groups is based on their
propagation of known falsehoods
— claims about LGBT people that have
been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities — and repeated,
groundless name-calling.”

The villains include mainstream pro-family
groups like Concerned Women for America, the Traditional Values Coalition, the
Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage. They were
outraged. “This is
intolerance pure and simple,” said the Family Research Council. “Elements of
the radical Left are trying to shut down informed discussion of policy issues
that are being considered by Congress, legislatures, and the courts.”

It must be conceded
that within these groups there are cantankerous people with bizarre views. The
SPLC’s condemnation of the American Family Association is based largely on embarrassing
citations from the
blog of Bryan Fischer
, who works as a policy analyst for the AFA. It’s the
sort of stuff that screams for its disclaimer, “the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily
reflect the views of the American Family Association”. But this is one of 21
blogs on the website. The worst that the AFA could be charged with is consorting
with a crank, not fostering hatred.

With the endorsement of the venerable
Southern Poverty Law Center, the list is already being used to stigmatise
anyone associated with one of the organisations as venomous and hateful.

But the astonishing thing about the
roll-call of anti-gay hate groups is the spuriousness of the ten “known
falsehoods” which have been refuted by “scientific authorities”. Subscribing to
some or all of these – it’s unclear how many – lumps you in with Klansmen and
Holocaust denialists.

The burden of these claims rests upon the
credibility of the “scientific authorities”. It turns out that, for the most
part, they are not scientific authorities at all, but professional groups like
the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and
the American Psychiatric Association.

Whether their official positions on
homosexuality are true or false, they are political decisions which are decided
on a vote, not just on their scientific merits. As an example of how it works,
in a unrelated controversy, last year the American Pediatric Association
endorsed a modified form of female genital mutilation – and then reversed its
stand after the ensuing outcry. Which position represented the views of scientific authorities?

The ten myths are a hodgepodge of
historical assertions, scientific theories, sociological statistics and policy
predictions. Here 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 modelling by their parents. 
  4. Homosexuals
    don’t live nearly as long as heterosexuals.
  5. Homosexuals
    controlled the Nazi Party and helped to orchestrate the Holocaust.
  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.
  9. No one is born a
    homosexual.
  10. Gay people can
    choose to leave homosexuality.

How are these proved? Mostly by referring
to assertions by the American Psychological Association et al, such as
“same-sex couples are remarkably similar to heterosexual couples, and that
parenting effectiveness and the adjustment, development and psychological
well-being of children is unrelated to parental sexual orientation.”

At least one — Homosexuals are more prone
to be mentally ill and to abuse drugs and alcohol — is endorsed by the SPLC’s
explanatory text itself:

“It is true that
LGBT people suffer higher rates of anxiety, depression, and depression-related
illnesses and behaviours like alcohol and drug abuse than the general
population. But studies done during the past 15 years have determined that it
is the stress of being a member of a minority group in an often-hostile society
— and not LGBT identity itself — that accounts for the higher levels of mental
illness and drug use.”

In other words, it is statistically true
that homosexuals are more unstable. And one explanation for this is hostility
and discrimination. The statistic is a fact; the explanation is merely a
hypothesis. Aren’t Americans allowed to debate hypotheses any more?

And then, in a remarkable reversal of
scientific method, some of the myths haven’t actually
happened yet. Whether “Allowing homosexuals to serve openly would damage the
armed forces” is a matter of dispute. But it can hardly be proved a myth until after
it has been tried and egregiously failed to take place. The repeal of “Don’t Ask
Don’t Tell” only happened in December! This is Alice in Wonderland stuff: as the
Queen of Hearts said, “Sentence first, verdict afterwards!”

And some of the myths have no owners. Take
“Same-sex parents harm children”. Which of the censured organisations has
argued that same-sex parents physically or sexually abuse the children in their
care? What they do argue is that same-sex parenting
is harmful for children because they lack either a mother or a father. The
benefits of same-sex parenting are unsettled business for psychologists and
won’t be settled until the results of raising a generation or two of children
are known. 

There is one myth which seems genuinely
daft: that Hitler’s Germany was run by homosexuals. This links gays to the
atrocities of a regime which reviled them as perverts, threw them into
concentration camps and murdered them. It seems wicked. But no more wicked than
using the same guilt by association smear to revile pro-family activists.


Michael
Cook is editor of MercatorNet. 

Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet.