Friday, 13 April 2012

Banned from the buses

For some time now, Stonewall has been running the following advertisement on London buses:

Recently, Anglican Mainstream and Core Issues Trust planned to respond with the following advertisement, which sought to draw attention to the existence of many people who claim (convincingly) that they have at least partially overcome homosexual inclination through therapy:


The advertisement was approved by Transport for London’s advertising agency CBSO and the Advertising Standards Authority.  But then, after a predictable outcry, the mayor of London banned them.

While I wouldn’t have chosen the wording that AM and CIT did, I sympathise with many of their aims.  Elsewhere, I have chosen the following wording:

Suppose I say, ‘When God calls us into his Kingdom, he also calls all of us to a radically changed way of life.  The Bible teaches that sexual intercourse between people of the same sex is a sin.  If you find that you struggle with this sin, I encourage you to seek out one of the dedicated ministries out there that are designed to help and support you’.  As far as I can tell, that’s the kind of statement someone in a free society should be at liberty to make.

Obviously, such a statement is only going to hold any sway with someone who cares what God thinks or what the Bible says.  But the existence of people who have benefitted from those dedicated ministries is indisputable.  Apparently, in the society I live in, one is not free to make a statement pointing that out, at least not on the side of a bus.  These are sad times for liberty in the UK.


Paul Wright said...

Spitzer retracted in a recent American Prospect article: “In retrospect, I have to admit I think the critiques are largely correct,” he said. “The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more.” He said he spoke with the editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior about writing a retraction, but the editor declined. (Repeated attempts to contact the journal went unanswered.)

Spitzer said that he was proud of having been instrumental in removing homosexuality from the list of mental disorders. Now 80 and retired, he was afraid that the 2001 study would tarnish his legacy and perhaps hurt others. He said that failed attempts to rid oneself of homosexual attractions “can be quite harmful.” He has, though, no doubts about the 1973 fight over the classification of homosexuality.

“Had there been no Bob Spitzer, homosexuality would still have eventually been removed from the list of psychiatric disorders,” he said. “But it wouldn’t have happened in 1973.”

Spitzer was growing tired and asked how many more questions I had. Nothing, I responded, unless you have something to add.

He did. Would I print a retraction of his 2001 study, “so I don’t have to worry about it anymore”?

I'm not sure Boris should have banned the ad for being amusingly bonkers (the way the leaders of these organisations keep being discovered in gay bars or falling in love with each other is pretty funny unless you're a woman they've mistakenly married, I suppose), but I do read stuff like this (from the same article):

From 2007 to 2009, the American Psychological Association conducted a review of all the literature on efforts to change sexual orientation. Judith Glassgold, the chair of the task force that produced the report, said the group found no scientific evidence that ex-gay therapy works. In fact, they found that it runs the risk of making patients anxious, depressed, and at times suicidal. “It provided false hope, which can be devastating,” Glassgold said. “It harmed self-esteem and self-regard by focusing on the psychopathology of homosexuality.” The APA now tells its members they should not engage in the practice.

and think that Boris probably got it right.

Ilíon said...

In other words, it's no longer good enough (*) that the rest of us tolerate homosexuality in our societies. No, no, no! Now we must be seen to approve "the gay lifestyle".

(*) That never was the goal, anyway.

mattghg said...


I have no way of assessing what the empirical status of the 'runs the risk' comment is. As Peter Ould (who is very often the voice of reason on this topic) points out,

there doesn’t exist a single report of “harm” from ex-gay therapy that doesn’t fall foul of the same kind of critique that was (rightly) levelled against the Spitzer paper


Here’s the thing – we have as much evidence that Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) work as we do that they don’t work. The only way to be absolutely sure would be to do controlled multi-cohort samples with separate non-therapy control groups to compare. Since this work hasn’t been done by *anyone*, it is simply incorrect to claim that these therapies don’t work. At the same time it is wrong to over-state the case for SOCE. The best research, the Jones and Yarhouse study, had a “success rate” of around 15% and success in this case was a change along the Kinsey scale on average of 1 point. (rising to 38% if the definition of success is broadened to include homosexual attraction being 'either missing or present only incidentally').

But this puts this kind of therapy in much the same boat as nearly all psychotherapy. And none of this matches the reasons Boris gave for banning the adverts ('offence').

mattghg said...


Maybe tolerance was the goal at one point, for some people at least. But not now. Otherwise, what you say is completely right, but it's such old news now (in this country at least) that to say it is almost quaint.

MrTinkles said...

Hi mate...long-time no comment!
I too question the wording of the advert...It may be a cliché but - "What would Jesus do?" - I doubt He would be taking out such adverts. I also doubt the Stonewall advert changed one person's attitude toward any aspect of the "gay debate" - neither would this one if it had made it to the sides of the buses. We're used to such gimmicks and megaphone politics from Stonewall - I think it's a shame that Anglican Mainstream and Core Issues Trust felt they had to drop to their level on this.
Having said that, you are also correct in that both the outcry and the ban were predictable.
There seems to be two main arguments being put forward for why it should have been banned.

First that it was offensive. This is patent nonsense...the "atheist bus" certainly offended many Christians (frankly, it doesn't bother me...) I don't remember the mayor becoming exercised over that. But I guess Boris and TFL are only interested in "inclusion" - their word - when you belong to a group who they approve of (or are frightened of; which is probably more to do with what went on last week).

Second, whether it is "factual" or "scientific".

As a scientist, I love this one. I could put forward the atheist bus once more - their claim that "there's probably no God" has not one bit, not a jot of science behind it. It is pure opinion...and I'm more than happy for them to have the freedom to say it...but when they claim it's science they just sound like idiots.

As to the particular claim of the "ex-gay" advert, I have a couple of friends who would say they are "ex-gay". One would tell you that after becoming a Christian he decided his lifestyle was not right. He sought support and prayer from some in his church and now lives a celibate life. I dont know the details of the other guy (it's none of my business) but he is now married and a father. Both would tell you they are happy and free. Neither would say they received any "treatment" or "therapy". I think they would simply quote John 8.36 or 2 Cor 5.17 to explain. (Although of course, I know it's not always that simple!)
There's an interesting postscript to the first story. He remains friends with some of his old gay circle. He was told by one of them that he can't have been "a real gay!"

mattghg said...

Thanks for coming back Mr. T! I trust you've been well.

Perhaps I should say more about what I think is wrong about the wording of the 'ex-gay' adverts. I have a general objection to mimicking the form or wording of adverts from the 'other side'. I don't think it looks good for a campaign to be reactionary like that. I object even more in this case because the tone of the Stonewall advert is clearly hectoring and that's definitely not the sort of thing that Christians should be copying.

I don't think the Stonewall advert will have changed anyone's mind, and probably isn't even intended to. It think that it is intendned to cow opposition to their agenda into silence.

mattghg said...

People curious as to just what the nature of Spitzer's change of heart is (and why the editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior declined to print a 'retraction') should read Mark Yarhouse's post about the affair. 'Retraction' has a technical meaning in this context.

Paul Wright said...

I agree that the journal has no reason to print a retraction, but I think that using the Spritzer paper to argue that we should be convinced by people who say that have changed orientation is a mistake: Spitzer doesn't think it can be used that way, and neither does Peter Ould.

In general, I give more evidential weight to statements from scientific professional bodies than from people who might well say something merely because of their religious beliefs (I don't assume that professional bodies have no axe to grind or that they are always right about everything, merely that it's unlikely that I can reliably identify the things those bodies are wrong about merely by thinking about it, and very unlikely that someone can do so by studying the Bible). Argument screens off authority, though, so if Peter Ould is correct to say that there are no good studies of the harm done then he wins. Unfortunately, Glassgold's report is 128 pages long, so I'll let you know when I've skimmed it.

I think Boris has hidden a moral judgement behind the language of offence. When he says it is clearly offensive, he means it's both incorrect and morally wrong. On the evidence so far, I'd agree on both points.

If Boris were just the manager of the bus company, that'd be it, but I do acknowledge there are free speech concerns in a public official doing this. If the evidence for actual harm isn't there, I'd go with Cranmer's commenter "DanJ0" who said "I'd rather the adverts were displayed for all to see as I have said on the thread below. I'd like a bright light to be shined on the people behind it too."

mattghg said...

So we agree that the adverts should have been allowed to run?

In general, I give more evidential weight to statements from scientific professional bodies than from people who might well say something merely because of their religious beliefs (I don't assume that professional bodies have no axe to grind or that they are always right about everything, merely that it's unlikely that I can reliably identify the things those bodies are wrong about merely by thinking about it...

Why religious beliefs in particular? Quite clearly, this kind of debate has an enormous political dimension which has to be taken into consideration as well (as evidenced by the involvement of the Mayor of London!). Many people would rather that these kinds of treatments were never attempted, regardless of whether or not they can be shown to be effective (or harmful, for that matter), and there is definite political pressure in that direction.

Perhaps neither of us has been consistent enough in distinguishing what the APA report itself says from what Glassgold personally says in an interview with a journalist. I've now read what (from the table of contents) seem to be the relevant parts of chapters 4 and 7 of the report, and so far it seems consistent with Peter Ould's remarks (but maybe I would say that). Let me know what you think. I've just found out that the results of the Jones and Yarhouse study have very recently been published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy and so I'm going to go and read through that article.

...and very unlikely that someone can do so by studying the Bible

Not being funny, but I genuinely don't know what point you're trying to make here.

Anonymous said...

Dear Matthew
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your blog, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:
When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?
Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? - Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Ilíon said...

Dear Anonymouse,
Thank you for demonstrating -- as though anyone paying attention doesn't already know -- what total ...hmmm, "cleansing tissues" ... you people are.

Hell! These cut-and-paste "cleansing tissues" can't even get their misplaced attempted mockery right. For instance, the OT does not equate eating shellfish with engaging in homosexual behaviour: the former is to be repugnant to the Hebrews, the latter is an abomination before the Lord.

mattghg said...


I suggest that you direct your imaginary interlocutor (yourself) to Romans 1:26-27 or 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 instead.

I'm an Anglican. Article 7 of the Church of England's 39 Articles puts it like this:

Of the Old Testament
The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.

I have very little idea what your overall views regarding sexual ethics are; but whatever they are, I strongly encourage you to think hard about why you have the views that you do. Have you really thought them through, or have you just sucked them in from the surrounding culture? Are you really rational?

Anonymous said...

My dear boy, maybe you believe you can suppress the love of a man or a woman in favour of your god. I wish you well but please do not deceive yourself into thinking that acting straight is anything other than a social construct. Do please review the evidence that demonstrates the danger of attempting a 'cure' for individuals and more importantly for those who they involve in their deception.
Can I also suggest in a world full of real sin, with cruelty, suffering all around us you fixate less on sex.
Yes some good people are gay, Gay love comes in as many forms as straight love, as gays are as varied as straights. Think of love as an emotion and not as a physical act and you may discover it is in gods light.
I am painfully logical and rational but You know what makes me a worthwhile human is that I can give and receive and share love.

Ilíon said...

This Annoyamouse isn't talking about love ... shoot, he isn't even talking about rutting!

And he wants to condemn Christianity for "fixating on sex" when the "world [is] full of real sin, with cruelty, suffering all around us" -- which is to say, he wants to condemn Christianity for forbidding the "real sin, [which causes] cruelty [and] suffering all around us" of human persons using other humans persons as though they were mere things of no more moral standing than a tissue with which one might sop up one's "issue".

This intellectually dishonest poseur does care about the fact that the "world [is] full of real sin, with cruelty, suffering all around us". That's just his self-serving cover for condemning the condemnation of the "real sin" of which he approves.

mattghg said...

Do please review the evidence that demonstrates the danger of attempting a 'cure' for individuals and more importantly for those who they involve in their deception.

Like what? You're acting as if Paul and I haven't discussed this issue already in this thread. Do you know something that we (and Peter Ould) don't?

I submit that you already believe that not all erotic love is appropriate, however much it is accompanied by genuine affection and caring love. Here's an example. So your sexual ethics aren't what you say they are (to the extent that what you say is coherent). If, having taken in the whole sweep of topics that I've written about on this blog, you think that I'm 'fixated on sex', then you and I disagree about the meaning of 'fixated'.

Actually, I think that 'love' means more than emotion and physical actions put together.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
1 John 3:16a

Anonymous said...

I remain curious as to what has made you so homophobic. Why you abdicate personal responsibility by reference to a set of texts you know were written and developed by men seeking power and mastery over women and minorities. Please think for yourself. I hope you find a spirituality that doesn't rely on hatred and fear. Can I suggest you try living a little, move outside your comfortable world. I promise you you cannot find all the answers in books or rational thoughts.
I send you love and best wishes. X

Ilíon said...

Sometimes, I wonder what caused "leftist" Anonymice to be so logiphobic and veriphobic. But then I realize that it is a choice they make.

mattghg said...

Have we met, Anon? Do we know each other?

Maybe we do. For all I know, maybe we're acquaintances, or even related. That would at least explain why it is that you seem to think you know how 'comfortable' my 'world' is, or how much 'living' I've done.

I'm not after 'a spirituality', I'm after the truth. So should you be, because at the end of the day that's all there is. Patronising people on the blogosphere when you're incapable of answering them rationally is no way to get at it.

Ilíon said...

Anonymice are never after truth.

Anonymous said...

So you think you may know me... If it helps you do not know me.

Patronising... I can think of little more patronising and offensive than
suggesting to a homosexual they need a cure?

And for too many young gay men and women this has lead to a climate of
hate in which they believe death is preferential to life in a homophobic world.
In the same way as some young black and disabled people seek to escape racism
and prejudice.

Although I accept that is no excuse for me patronising you.

IMO, 'truth' is more likely to be found by immersion in the world than in a
study of ancient texts, or churchs led by misogynists and homosexuals pretending
to be straight.

I apologise, from reading your blog, I thought you were someone who came to
homophobia out of fear and naivety and might through humour and love be open to

I concede I was wrong, you defend your position as the all powerful rational,
even though most cruel and evil acts today and through history can be seen as rational
from the myopic view of the perpetrator and their followers. Scary!

But none the less I send you love and best wishes as I move on with my search for a way to rid my world of prejudice.

I clearly don't know and you clearly don't know me...but who knows one day maybe we will know one another.