Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Reading Between the Lines - "Ex-Gay Ministries"

Readers make certain assumptions when reading an article. For newspapers and magazines, unless the article clearly states that it is an opinion piece or an editorial, they assume that the information is unbiased, fair, accurate, and inclusive. They assume that the experts cited are truly experts in their field. Of course, those at GLAAD know that this is not always so and in no case have I found this more evident than in the articles I have been reading about the ex-gay movement from the ex-gay ministries’ position.
The articles at the Christianpost.com website attempt to create the appearance of being fair and, even to a certain extent, scientific. Where claims based on faith are dubious, surely science will provide the answer.
In the article entitled “‘Ex-Gay’ Remarks Draw Fire” by Lillian Kwon, posted on the Christianpost.com website (June 20, 2007), the vocabulary reveals the biased, unfair, inaccurate, and non-inclusive stance of the writer. Even the placement of quotation marks reflects the biased view of the reporter. The title refers to comments made by Alan Chambers, the head of Exodus International (quoted in the article as being “the nation’s largest evangelical referral ministry on homosexual issues”). In the LA Times, he said that he had never met an ex-gay. While Kwon’s article does not clearly state “he’s wrong”, it does fill the rest of its paragraphs saying that this man is wrong for various reasons.
The seemingly honest vocabulary honestly scares me. Even calling this matter a “homosexual issue” where issue can easily mean problem, undermines the professionalism of the article. However, “issues” is just the first instance. She then goes on to quote Stephen Bennett extensively, labeling him as president of his “pro-family” (my quotes, not hers) group Stephen Bennett Ministries. Pro-family, as if homosexuality were somehow anti-family. Kwon then quotes Bennett saying that Exodus International is the “largest information and referral ministry in the world on homosexual issues” and that he was shocked that they could make such “irresponsible and false statements”. Reading it over again, I see that Lillian Kwon opened up her article by poorly paraphrasing from Bennett.
Other examples of biased language use include the following: saying that anyone is “engaging in homosexuality”, using quotes around “survived” when someone said that they had survived the ex-gay experience, using no quotes when mentioning “homosexual conversion”, treating “gay tolerance” as a disease by saying that it has reached record marks, and saying that “less than a majority of Americans say homosexual relations are morally wrong.” She writes, “less than a majority”, not writing the statistic the other way around as we normally would – namely, that a majority believe that homosexual relations are morally correct. This is one amongst the many “scientific” airs put on by this article.
Lillian Kwon also uses hearsay and quotes other articles out of context. The worst case of this is when she cites the June 25th article by Michael Kinsley in Time magazine (a pro gay rights article I might add, entitled “The Quiet Gay Revolution”), and uses the one paragraph in it that could be taken out of context and used in a negative manner, “Kids grow up today with gay friends, gay parents, gay parents of friends and gay friends of parents…Kids are also exposed constantly to an entertainment culture in which gays are not merely accepted but in some ways dominant.” Kinsley meant this in a positive light, later writing of the positive role of Ellen Degeneres in television. Kwon took the quote and changed it into something more akin to “Geez, their dominating culture now. We have to stop it.”
More pseudo-science is related to the unwary reader as words like “genetic predisposition” are thrown in. Matt Barber, of Concerned Women for America (who once compared allowing gay marriage to another Hurricane Katrina in his column “Gay Marriage – It’s Alive”), said that there was no evidence that people are born homosexual. He’s the expert?
The last eight paragraphs compare homosexuality to alcoholism and, with one quote per paragraph, manage to call it a sin or temptation five times, even going so far as to relate it to cocaine addiction and bulimia by quoting one poor soul who had suffered from each of those afflictions as well being homosexual.
I didn’t necessarily expect a well-balanced article about ex-gay ministries on the Christianpost.com site, but it is always surprising at what extremely biased misinformation is passed off as fair and accurate reporting.

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