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Regnerus Scandal: Researcher Lying, Not Independent From Anti-Gay Funders

by Scott Rose on October 7, 2012

in Analysis,Bigotry Watch,News,Scott Rose


WHAT THIS INVOLVES

A study booby-trapped against gay parents.

The booby-trapped study is serving as a basis for National Organization for Marriage anti-gay attack ads all over the country.

The hoax study was perpetrated by Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin (UT).

The most outrageously defamatory of its false findings is that children of gay parents experience dramatically high levels of sex abuse.

Regnerus’s chief funding agency is the NOM-linked Witherspoon Institute.

NOM officials have a long history of conflating homosexuals with pedophiles, a known falsehood.

Nothing can so potently hate-and-fear-monger voters into voting against gay rights, quite like telling them that homosexuals sexually molest children.

REGNERUS DID NOT CONDUCT THE STUDY INDEPENDENTLY OF HIS FUNDERS’ ANTI-GAY POLITICAL GOALS FOR IT

The study design began in 2010.

IRS documents show that Regnerus’s study specifically is a project of Witherspoon’s Program for Family, Marriage and Democracy.

In 2010, when the Regnerus study was in its design phase, W. Bradford Wilcox was director of that Witherspoon program.

Wilcox, who is against contraception, sees social research as a “vindication of Christian moral teaching.”

Wilcox has confessed that in 2010, he was involved in the design of the Regnerus study.

Wilcox’s confession was forced into the open by accumulating evidence of scientific misconduct connected to the study, its publication, and Wilcox himself.

However, Wilcox, Regnerus, and Witherspoon president Luis Tellez — who is a NOM board member — are attempting to deny that Wilcox was acting as a Witherspoon agent when he collaborated with Regnerus on study design in 2010.

Even in his confession, Wilcox attempts to deny that he ever engaged with Regnerus about the study in any official Witherspoon capacity.

Wilcox alleges that his title of “Director of the Program for Family, Marriage and Democracy” was an “honorific.”

SOCIOLOGISTS SAY THAT WILCOX IS LYING

Philip Cohen, Ph.D. is Director of Graduate Studies in Sociology at the University of Maryland’s Population Research Center. In a comment under Wilcox’s confession, Cohen said:

“I find this description not credible. I do not think any reasonable auditor or ethical agency would subscribe to the idea that the “director” of an organization was not and [sic] “officer” of it.”

Dr. Andrew J. Perrin is a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He also considers that Wilcox is not being truthful:

“Brad Wilcox’s affiliation with Witherspoon is all over the place, attached to his name in numerous websites, flyers, talk titles, etc., and so it was certainly incumbent upon both Regnerus and Wilcox to recognize the conflict of interest, and it would not have required any significant investigation to note that conflict. If, in fact, Wilcox was one of the peer reviewers of the article, as has been the subject of conjecture, that’s obviously a further conflict.” Dr. Perrin continues: “the idea that this web of associations doesn’t constitute a serious conflict of interest in the publication of the article just doesn’t pass the smell test. The most reasonable explanation, given what we know, is that Wilcox, Regnerus, and others in their circle colluded to make an end run around serious academic review in order to get seriously flawed information into the public eye.” (Bolding added).

Witherspoon, meanwhile, has been desperately attempting to scrub its sites of all evidence of Wilcox’s associations with the Witherspoon Institute.

Wilcox, however, as noted by the sociologist Dr. Perrin, constantly used his Witherspoon Institute affiliation as a resume booster. To see abundant evidence of Wilcox’s affiliations with the Witherspoon Institute, go here.

FRESH DOCUMENTATION SHOWS THAT WILCOX IS LYING

Fresh evidence demonstrates conclusively that Wilcox was indeed working as a Witherspoon official when he collaborated with Regnerus on study design.

Here is that evidence:

At the University of Virginia, Wilcox is Director of the National Marriage Project. Regnerus’s published study says that a “leading family researcher” from the University of Virginia was on Regnerus’s study design team.

This reporter sent an Open Records Act request to Regnerus’s University of Texas, asking for one very specific sort of documentation only. I asked only for Regnerus study consulting contracts that were 1) for study design; and 2) made for anybody from the University of Virginia.

On October 4, 2012, I received a letter from UT.  The letter states that the university has no documents responsive to my request. What that means, is that when Witherspoon program director Brad Wilcox collaborated with Regnerus on study design, he did so as a Witherspoon agent — as a Witherspoon Program Director — not as an independent contractor through Regnerus’s university.

WHY THIS MATTERS SO MUCH

Regnerus and his funders booby-trapped the study against gays for political reasons.

Regnerus and his funders are actively and deliberately seeking to mislead the public into believing that Regnerus conducted his study independently of his funders’ anti-gay-rights political goals for the study.

Witherspoon tells that deliberate lie in Question 13 of the stand-alone site it created to promote the Regnerus study.

Regnerus tells that lie right in his published study. Regnerus has written “No funding agency representatives were consulted about research design, survey contents, analyses or conclusions.”

Yet, very, very obviously, when Wilcox was Witherspoon’s Director of the Program on Family, Marriage and Democracy, he was a Regnerus study “funding agency representative.”

Regnerus clearly is lying.

WITHERSPOON, REGNERUS, AND THE STUDY “PLANNING GRANT”

Witherspoon did not just arrange for Regnerus to have his full $785,000 in study funding, and then tell him to do whatever he wanted with it.

Rather, as per Regnerus’s C.V. downloadable from his author’s website, Witherspoon gave Regnerus a $55,000 planning grant before giving him his full study funding.

That means that Witherspoon had to approve Regnerus’s study plan, before it would give him his full study funding.

In the period of the Witherspoon planning grant, Regnerus collaborated with Witherspoon’s Wilcox on study design.

REGNERUS, WILCOX, AND CHILD SEX ABUSE

Regnerus says that his study answers this question:

“Do the children of gay and lesbian parents look comparable to those of their heterosexual counterparts?”

Regnerus’s study methodology, though, did not truly allow for studying children of gay and lesbian parents.

The majority of Regnerus’s study subjects — as per his own admission in his study — were products of opposite-sex couples who later separated, with one parent going on to have a same-sex relationship.

In asking about childhood sex abuse, Regnerus asked his young adult respondents if “a parent or other adult caregiver” ever sexually victimized them.

The result thus is un-interpretable. The respondent’s heterosexual parent, or a babysitter, or a priest could have committed the alleged sexual victimization.

Yet, in their anti-gay attack ads based on the Regnerus study, NOM attributes the alleged child sex abuse exclusively to gay parents. Regnerus himself has done that on national television.

Regnerus alleges that 23% of his study’s children of “lesbian mothers” were sexually victimized as children.

Past studies of lesbian mothers have consistently found low rates of child sex abuse. The second highest rate for child sex abuse in Regnerus’s study is step-families, at 12% just over half that for lesbian mothers.

Regnerus’s “finding” has no credibility. Other of Regnerus’s reported results are just plainly absurd.  In any event, it is impossible to say who committed the alleged sex abuse, and therefore, connecting it to lesbian mothers in any way is defamatory.

To connect a mother to sex abuse of her child, in the public mind, with no knowledge of whether the mother ever abused her child, is as despicable as blaming a rape victim for getting raped.

The numbers seen in Regnerus’s published study are not the same as those in the data files given to him by Knowledge Networks, the company that administered his study’s surveys.

Rather, Regnerus applied weights and controls and used other tools to adjust the number.

To know the correct weights and controls to use, a sociologist must be certain of the percent which the minority he is studying constitutes within the general population.

Regnerus only vaguely described “lesbian mother” or “gay father.” If his respondents said that a parent had ever had “a same-sex romantic relationship,” Regnerus counted them as having either a “lesbian mother” or a “gay father.”

However, there is simply no way to know what percent of the general population has a parent who has ever had “a same-sex romantic relationship.”

That is what one would need to know, in order to be able to apply a correct “weight” or “control” to Regnerus’s raw data.

It is absolutely true, that neither Regnerus nor anybody else knows the correct weights to use for Regnerus’s very vaguely defined, so-called “lesbian mothers” and/or “gay fathers.”

In sum that means; 1)  that in applying weights and controls and other strategies to his raw data; 2) Regnerus and Wilcox were free to play around with theoretical population percents representing children of; 3)  a parent who has ever had a “same-sex romantic relationship,” 4) moving the study’s “finding” number up or down, according to the result that Regnerus and Wilcox most wanted to be able to report to the public.

I directly asked Regnerus to explain to me how he derived his reported finding — that “23% of lesbian mothers’ children are sexually victimized” — from his raw data.

Regnerus refused to answer.

A sociologist who had behaved honestly with his study’s numbers should have no hesitations about explaining how he derived his reported numbers from his data.

DOES REGNERUS’S REFUSAL TO ANSWER THE QUESTION IMPLY GUILT?

Regnerus very willingly gives lengthy, rambling  interviews to right wing religious publications, but refuses to respond to simple, direct, science-based inquiries about his study.

Subsequently, I made an Open Records Act request to UT, asking for all of the Regnerus study’s data analyses communications between Regnerus and Wilcox.

In reaction to that request, UT sent the Texas Attorney General a letter, asking for exemptions to my document request.

The UT letter told the Texas Attorney General that Wilcox was involved with both data collection and data analyses on the Regnerus study.

So, Wilcox was involved in collaborating with Regnerus during many stages of the study, including 1) when the vague way of defining gay parents was settled on; 2) when the vague question about child sex abuse was formulated; 3) when the data was collected, and 4) when the data was analyzed.

It can almost seem funny, that Regnerus claims to have “found” that out of every 2,988 Americans aged 18 to 39, six-hundred and twenty have never once in their lives masturbated.

As obviously untrue as that is, though, Regnerus and his NOM-linked funders and NOM itself are using his equally ridiculous, maliciously invented sex abuse “findings” to demonize gay people and to hate-and-fear-monger voters into voting against gay rights.

REGNERUS IS NOT EVEN MAKING A PRETENSE OF INDEPENDENCE FROM HIS FUNDERS

On November 3, 2012, Regnerus and Witherspoon’s Ana Samuel — a hateful anti-gay bigot — will be appearing together to discuss the study at an event sponsored by a Witherspoon/NOM affiliate, the so-called Love and Fidelity Network.

Love and Fidelity has its office space inside Witherspoon’s building on the Princeton campus. NOM/Witherspoon’s Robert P. George, and Witherspoon/NOM’s Luis Tellez, as well as NOM’s Maggie Gallagher are on the “Love and Fidelity” advisory board.

Also appearing to discuss the study with Regnerus and his funding agency representative Ana Samuel will be Robert Oscar Lopez, who appears to fit into the documented NOM strategy for getting children of gay parents to denounce their own parents to the public.

Regnerus recruited Lopez off the internet, and Lopez’s gay-bashing essay subsequently was published on Witherspoon’s “Public Discourse.”

At the time Lopez’s essay appeared in “Public Discourse,” Brad Wilcox was listed on the roster of the “Public Discourse” editorial board.

After I reported that fact, Witherspoon scrubbed Wilcox’s name off its editorial board roster. Witherspoon previously has been caught scrubbing incriminating, Regnerus-related evidence from its websites.

CONCLUSION

Regnerus, the Witherspoon Institute, and Brad Wilcox all are very deliberately lying to the public,in hopes of misleading the public into believing that Regnerus conducted his study independently of his funders’ anti-gay-rights political goals for it.

Regnerus did not conduct his study independently of his funders’ anti-gay-rights political goals for it.

Regnerus very actively continues to promote his study with his anti-gay-rights funding agency representatives, while refusing to take any science-based questions about his study from the non-anti-gay-bigot media.

 

New York City-based novelist and freelance writer Scott Rose’s LGBT-interest by-line has appeared on Advocate.com, PoliticusUSA.com, The New York Blade, Queerty.com, Girlfriends and in numerous additional venues. Among his other interests are the arts, boating and yachting, wine and food, travel, poker and dogs. His “Mr. David Cooper’s Happy Suicide” is about a New York City advertising executive assigned to a condom account.

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{ 6 comments }

newmexico51 October 7, 2012 at 2:38 pm

The November issue of Social Science Research is about the Regnerus and Marks studies. I have access to it, but as I haven't studied sociology since the late Pleistocene (the middle 1970s), I haven't the sociological chops to properly assess it.

Scott_Rose October 7, 2012 at 3:56 pm

No sociological chops are necessary to determining that Regnerus lies in his "Additional Analyses."
He alleges that "no funding agency representative" collaborated with him on his study design. Not only does Regnerus know that is a lie; the journal's editor James Wright knows it is a lie too.

Qwerty50 October 7, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Despite the invalid nature of the study, it is being used extensively as ammunition by the bigots. As an example, during a teleconference between the leaders in the four states that will be voting on marriage next month, one of the speakers was practically oozing praise about this bogus (or as he said, "amazing") study because now they not only have theology on their side, but also sociology.

They tend to forget to mention the reaction of actual sociologists regarding this so-called study.

JeffreyRO5 October 7, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Qwerty, anti-gay forces have become so brazen in their dishonesty that they are now designing academc "studies" to create an aura of authority for their hateful opinions. It is beneath contempt and shows a desperation unseen in quite some time in social politics. This is a common tactic now among conservatives: hate science, but harness it for your purposes. Remember, they reject science that conflicts with their faith-based goals and beliefs, but cynically use it to reach their goals. They know they don't get any traction by pursuing their political ends by supporting them with religious beliefs. They desperately want to be taken seriously and they know that science is the currency required for that.

JeffreyRO5 October 7, 2012 at 4:31 pm

More great work by Scott Rose! I'm awaiting the results of the UVA investigation of Brad Wilcox and his participation in this scandal.

Ned_Flaherty October 8, 2012 at 6:48 pm

In this article, section 7, "REGNERUS, WILCOX, AND CHILD SEX ABUSE," paragraph 9 states, "The second highest rate for child sex abuse in Regnerus’s study is step-families, at 12% just over half that for lesbian mothers."

But if step-family sex abuse occurs at a rate of 12%, and that's just over half the rate for lesbian families, then that puts the lesbian family sex abuse rate around 24%.

Something needs fixing in this part.

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