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Posts for May, 2009

Cameronesque Award: The Family “Research” Council

Jim Burroway

May 15th, 2009

Cameronesque AwardThe Family “Research” Council is engaging in some downright Cameronesque “research” in its latest fundraising appeal. In an email blast with “Save America’s Future” in the subject line, the FRC is begging its members to donate online “to help us stop liberal attacks on life, marriage and your religious liberty.” And what is the greatest danger to your religious:

Repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act . . . special rights for homosexuals, lesbians, transvestites, and transsexuals . . . ultimately silencing both pastors in their pulpits and Christian and conservative broadcasters.

And they site a very prestigious name to back up their claim:

Religious freedom? Not for you, if the Harvard International Law Journal is right:

“[S]cholars [are] now suggesting that even core religious practices . . .

can be regulated in the name of equality . . .”

“Regulate” your religious freedom? We can’t let that happen!

But wait a minute, doesn’t the United States still have a First Amendment guaranteeing the free exercise of religion? How did the editors of the Harvard International Law Journal miss that?

It turns out, they didn’t. The article the FRC is quoting from was written by Carolyn Evans and Beth Gaze, scholars at the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies, Melbourne Law School, Australia.

That’s right. Australia. The relevant quote — without the ellipses — is this:

On the other side, there is an increasingly powerful movement to subject religions to the full scope of discrimination laws, with some scholars now suggesting that even core religious practices (such as the ordination of clergy) can be regulated in the name of equality.[6] At present, exemptions are given to religious organizations in many non-discrimination laws,[7] but the scope of those exemptions is being reduced in many liberal democracies.[8]

Now most people never bother to look at footnotes. But the relevant footnote are very instructive — as footnotes always are:

[6] See Pru Goward, Address at the Ordination of Catholic Women Annual Conference, Melbourne: Women, Human Rights and Religion (Nov. 5-6, 2005), available at http://www.ocw.webcentral.com.au/ articles.htm; Cass R. Sunstein, On the Tension between Sex Equality and Religious Freedom, Public Law and Legal Theory Working Paper No. 167 (2007), available at http://www.ssrn.com/ abstract_id=995325; Cf. Reid Mortensen, Rendering to God and Caesar: Religion in Australian Discrimination Law, 18U. Queensland L. J. 208, 219 (1994-1995).

[7] See, e.g., anti-discrimination laws in the U.S. and the U.K.: Civil Rights Act of 1964 §§ 702 and 703, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-1 and 2000e-2; Equality Act 2006 (U.K.), §§ 50 and 57-60; Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 (U.K.) §§ 7 and 25.

[8] For example, in 2000 a European Directive (Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000) was issued that created quite strict limitations on the ability of EU member states to grant exemptions from anti-discrimination laws to religious employers.

Notice what’s happening. There are three scholars (two in Australia and one in Chicago) who believe that the state ought to regulate “core religious practice.” There are, of course, other scholars not cited who believe the opposite, and can back up their beliefs as well. But that doesn’t mean a court will go along with it.

The authors also cite the European Union in as attempting to impose such regulations. But the authors cite the United States as holding a body of laws which preserve religious freedom.

And when the authors go on to examine “core religious practice” (i.e. “selection and training of clergy, the language and symbolism of ritual, and the determination of membership of the religious community”) they conclude that religion enjoys a special claim to being exempted from the kinds of regulation that the FRC would have us fear.

It’s been a while since we awarded a Cameronesque award to anyone. But it’s been a while since we’ve seen such an outrageous example of misuse of the professional literature. The Family “Research” Council is now a two-time winner.

Announcing the Cameronesque Award: The Christian Defense Coalition

Jim Burroway

December 12th, 2007

A lot of groups and individuals put out piles of misrepresented statistics and bogus research. Few can match Paul Cameron’s audacity, but from time to time we run across something that surely must put a smile on Cameron’s lips. One such email blast reached my inbox yesterday, and it was so good I thought it might be time to inaugurate a brand new award.

The Cameronesque AwardAnd so I’m announcing the Cameronesque Award, given for the individual or group who engages in the most egregious manipulation, misuse, or misrepresentation of research or statistics that would make Paul Cameron proud.

For the first winner of this brand new award, I chose the Christian Defense Coalition. Headed by Rev. Pat Mahoney, the Christian Defense Coalition was formed to advocate on behalf of Terri Shiavo’s parents, and they’ve been involved with conservative Christian politics ever since. Yesterday, they put out a blaring press release claiming that the “shootings in Colorado highlight the fact that Christians and churches are the overwhelming target of hate crimes in America.”

Did you get that? Christians and churches are the “overwhelming target” of hate crimes in America. Not blacks, not gays, not Jews. Christians.

The Christian Defense Coalition goes on, citing statistics from the National Burned Churches Coalition:

For example, between 1997 and 2007 there were 3,500 acts of either arson, attempted arson, bombings and suspicious fires at churches according to the National Coalition for Burned Churches.

The group also reports that 600 churches were subjected to arson alone between 2000 and 2006.

The National Burned Churches Coalition was founded in 1997 in the wake of several church fires that occurred in the South. Since then, they’ve provided valuable aid and advice to churches recovering from arson, bombing or vandalism, and they do research for crime prevention. The NBCC does genuinely good work.

But not all of the acts that the NBCC tracks were hate crimes. According to their web site, some of these churches are damaged or vandalized as part of common criminal activity, and some are targeted by teens “just for the thrill of it.”

Don’t get me wrong. The NBCC is filling a legitimate need. But not all of the churches they assist were victims of hate crimes. And the NBCC doesn’t get involved with acts of hate directed at other groups. That simply is not their mission, which means it’s not possible to put their data into perspective against what other groups experience.

So who does track hate crimes nationwide against all legally-specified categories? Well, the FBI of course. And for 2006, here is what they reported:

Hate Crime Incidents, 2006
Race 4,737 52%
Anti-White 1,008  
Anti-Black 3,136  
Anti-Indian/Alaskan Native 72  
Anti-Asian/Pacific Islander 230  
Multiple Groups/Other 291  
Religion 1,597 18%
Anti-Jewish 1,027  
Anti-Catholic 81  
Anti-Protestant 62  
Anti-Islamic 191  
Anti-Other 140  
Multiple groups 88  
Anti-Atheist/Agnostic 8  
Sexual Orientation 1,415 16%
Anti-Male Homosexual 881  
Anti-Female Homosexual 192  
Anti-Homosexual 293  
Anti-Heterosexual 28  
Anti-Bisexual 21  
Ethnicity 1,233 14%
Anti-Hispanic 770  
Other 483  
Disability 94 1%
TOTAL 9,076 100%*
Percentages don’t add to
100% due to rounding errors.

Now the Christian Defense Coalition ignored the FBI data altogether. Using the NBCC data, they complained:

Most would believe that the groups or facilities most likely to be targets of hate crimes are persons of color, gays, Muslims or abortion clinics. The reason for that is the national press, media, elected officials and special interest groups focus, dramatize and over report when those groups and facilities are subjected to violent acts.

But let’s look at the FBI’s data, which is the only source for statistics of hate crimes against all of these groups (except abortion clinics). If you add the anti-Protestant and anti-Catholic reports of hate crime incidents, you’ll find that there were 143 hate crimes reported against Christian groups or individuals.

That’s a lower figure than for every other group that the Christian Defense Coalition mentions. That figure is minuscule compared to the 3,136 anti-Black hate crime incidents. It’s even blown away by the 1,008 anti-White hate crime incidents. It’s also tiny compared to the 1,366 combined anti-homosexual hate crime incidents and the 1,027 anti-Jewish hate crime incidents. It’s even lower than the 191 anti-Muslim hate crime incidents. In fact, even Asians and Pacific Islanders experience more hate crime incidents that Christians — and Christians make up the majority of the U.S. population!

A lot of people are lining up to exploit the Colorado shootings to advance their agenda. Monday, we cited the Family “Research” Council’s Tony Perkin’s craven attack on the “secular media.” Today we have the Christian Defense Coalition trying to dress their claims with meaningless statistics. I have a feeling that somewhere in Colorado Springs, Cameron is smiling.