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Open Letter to University of Texas Regarding Professor Mark Regnerus’ Alleged Unethical Anti-Gay Study

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 In an open letter to the president of University of Texas Scott Rose methodically lays out the case that Professor Mark Regnerus has engaged in unethical  so-called scientific research in a study  about children of gay parents funded by Robert George

Via Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested

June 21, 2012

William Powers, Jr.
President
University of Texas, Austin
Office of the President
Main Building 400 (G3400)
Austin, Texas 78713-8920

In Re: Scientific Misconduct Complaint against UTA’s Mark D. Regnerus

Dear President Powers:

I have filed, through the “EthicsPoint” online system, a complaint against University of Texas,Austin’s Dr. Mark D. Regnerus for Scientific Misconduct in violation of UTA’s Academic Dishonesty Policy, which forbids use of misinformation to hurt others.

Please respond promptly to this letter, which is being published at www.TheNewCivilRightsMovement.com 

Here are some facts of the case:

1)  This is not a complaint that UTA Mark D. Regnerus is active politically. The complaint rather is that Regnerus accepted  money from political persons and groups to further their political goals, and in preparing a study for them, rushed it through production for their use in the 2012 elections, though Regnerus himself has stated in a video interview given to the Daily Texan’s Hannah Jane Deciutus that his methodology for the study does not work “to the long-term benefit of science.” In other words, in order to retain a large grant from political organizations, a) Regnerus knowingly failed to uphold acceptable standards for his discipline, and b) knowingly rushed through his study in time for his funders to use it in the 2012 elections, instead of c) working professionally to produce a study that would work “to the long-term benefit of science.” In that, Professor Regnerus’s behavior is antithetical to the raison d’être of a university.

2)  UTA Professor Mark D. Regnerus alleges that he carried out a study comparing a) young adult children of “intact biological families,” with b) young adult children raised by homosexual parents up to the 1990s. However, to find study subjects, Regnerus worked through the company Knowledge Networks, which has a limited list of potential survey respondents from the general public. Regnerus had prior knowledge that Knowledge Networks would not be able to connect him with an adequate sampling of young adult children of gay parents raised by those gay parents up to the 1990s. Regnerus additionally knew that companies other than Knowledge Networks exist, which companies, with far greater likelihood would have been able to find him the class of study subjects he purported to want to compare to young adult children raised by “intact biological families.” Regnerus fraudulently classed as a present-day young adult raised by a “gay” parent up until the 1990s, anybody from Knowledge Networks list who said that their parent had ever had a “romantic relationship” with a same-sex partner. In other words, a study subject’s parent could have had a one-night stand with a same-sex partner, and Regnerus would count that person as having been raised by a homosexual parent. Regnerus told Deciutus that he “assumed” that if the person knew of their parent’s same-sex “romantic relationship,” that it would have been “substantial.”

Interview with Professor Mark Regnerus from The Daily Texan on Vimeo.

Is that how scientists work, by “assuming” and not verifying?  Please note that one of Regnerus’s study conclusions is that family stability is good for children. That was hardly news. Yet, Regnerus set up his screening questionnaire, such that those people he surveyed and counted as having been raised by a gay parent, were virtually certain to have experienced family instability, as they knew of a parent having a same-sex affair.

Given that Regnerus’s funder Robert George has a long history of telling dehumanizing lies about gay people, and given that Robert George wrote the anti-gay pledge signed by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, it would not be credible if Regnerus claimed he had no awareness that Robert George constantly seeks to dehumanize and to discredit gay people by whatever means. Regnerus screened those of his survey respondents to be classed as having been raised by gay parents, in such a way that those respondents were guaranteed to have experienced family instability, and then he compared them against persons raised in “intact biological families” which he knew to have far less family instability, and subsequently, he reported that unlike most previous studies on gay parenting, his study shows that gay parenting produces bad child outcomes.

In fact, in his written study, he wrote that the idea that children of gay parents do not have worse outcomes than those of heterosexual parents “must go.”  In sum, Regnerus dishonestly stacked the deck against gay parents, in a way favorable to the results his funders had paid him to produce. Nor was that the only way that Regnerus stacked the deck against his faux gay parents. Regnerus surveyed a disproportional number of children from broken African-American and Hispanic households, likely to be non-affluent families. He subsequently attributed to gay parents bad child outcomes that in reality were due to lack of financial resources. As an example, if a survey respondent said they are currently on public assistance, that counted as a “bad” outcome. Yet, unemployment at the time of the survey was such that there was, in the economy overall, one job opening for every five job seekers; we know that the ratio is worse among the poor.  Additionally, Knowledge Networks incentivized survey participants, by offering them $5 to take the screener, and $20 to take the full survey. Obviously, those stingy payments would be more attractive to unemployed than to employed people.

3)  Regnerus took a “planning grant” of $35,000 from the Witherspoon Institute, where Robert George of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage is a Senior Fellow. That Regnerus took a $35,000 “planning grant” from Robert George/The Witherspoon Institute strongly implies that George/Witherspoon and George’s The Bradley Foundation might have withheld full study funding, had Regnerus’s study plan not suited their political timetable and purposes. In particular, one wonders if Regnerus offered some sort of formal or informal guarantee to complete the study in time for the funders’ political exploitations of it for the 2012 election.

Many observers have noticed the extraordinarily short timetable by which Regnerus completed his study. And, as reported by Philip N. Cohen, sociologist Neal Caren noticed from a) the study design document online at the University of Texas and b) the article history dates listed by the journal Social Science Research that Regnerus handed his study into the journal before he had assembled all of his data. That increases one’s suspicion that Regnerus was under pressure to get the study completed for his funders in time for their political exploitation of it in the 2012 elections.

4)  Regnerus knew, or should have known, that Robert George of NOM and the Witherspoon Institute is disreputable due to clear and demonstrated intent to lie about and to inflict harm on sexual minorities. The Southern Poverty Law Center repeatedly has noted that NOM falsely conflates homosexuals with pedophiles, for the purpose of demonizing all homosexuals to the society. NOM routinely denies gay people’s humanity. For example, NOM’s William Duncan led a symposium session at Liberty University titled “Homosexuals or Homo Sapiens; Who Deserves Protected Class Status?” NOM’s Maggie Gallagher has lied about statistics involving gay youth suicide in Massachusetts, attempting to gain political advantage for her group at the expense of gay people and their rights. Robert George’s NOM has sponsored rallies where NOM-approved speakers have yelled through megaphones that homosexuals are “worthy to death.”

NOM repeatedly has made false allegations against the gay community in courts of law, and been rebuked by judges for having made them. NOM documents released through court order in March, 2012 described NOM’s plans to “drive a wedge” and to “fan hostility” between African-Americans and gay Americans, to divide “key Democratic constituencies.” NOM also has resorted to fanning the flames of anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic sentiment in order to further its anti-gay political goals. NOM’s Robert George once sent his representative Thomas Peters to attend a conference in Poland hosted by the notorious anti-Semite and Holocaust denier Father Tadeusz Rydsyk.  NOM’s strategy document also detailed intent to hire a person dedicated solely to finding children raised by gay parents, who would be willing to discredit their gay parents on camera. At the time of the court ordered document release, people scoffed, imagining that NOM would have no means of luring children of gay parents into denouncing their parents. Yet, it appears that the rush-job, stacked-deck-Regnerus study was contrived for political purposes to make it seem as though persons raised by gay parents had given “testimony” against all gay people.

5)  Regnerus told The Daily Texan reporter Hannah Jane Deciutis that he did not seek funding for this study from the National Institute of Health because “I had a feeling when we started this project that it would not survive the politics of, in my opinion, the peer review system at the National Institute of Health  — and it takes so long to get money from them, and there are revisions and revisions; I understand that works to the long-term benefit of science, but some scholars don’t feel like going that route.” That statement from Regnerus verifies a suspicion that a) he produced this study according to a timetable of political convenience to his funders, in order that b) the study should be ready for illicit demonization of gay people during the 2012 elections, and not in the interest of c) science carried out to a world-class standard. Regnerus further excused himself from seeking funding for the study from NIH, saying “I don’t have a shop with grant after grant.” It therefore is striking that Regnerus previously has worked with NIH, apparently when he did not have to rush a study to have it ready for political exploitation. Regnerus’s study Race and Religion in Adolescent Sexual Norms and Conduct, for example, was funded through NIH.  That is to say, Regnerus took easy money through Robert George to produce a commissioned, half-baked study for him, for political exploitation and demonization of sexual minorities, though he had already successfully negotiated carrying out a study for the National Institute of Health, which would have compelled him to live up to professional standards in his research.

6)  Regnerus published his study in Social Science Research, edited by James Wright, who has written demeaningly of gay people and their relationships in some of his published work. Additionally, Wright published Regnerus’s paper simultaneously with a paper by Loren Marks that also seeks to discredit past studies that showed positive results of gay parenting. Loren Marks is a NOM/Robert George collaborator. In a Proposition 8-related case in California, the anti-gay-rights side intended to use Marks as an expert witness, but under questioning Marks admitted that he had not read studies from which he was quoting, and that he did not know anything about same sex parenting. His testimony was disallowed. There was evident collusion between Wright and anti-gay-rights groups, to publish together two studies that those anti-gay groups could use for the 2012 elections to demonize gay people, the better to attract support for Mitt Romney, who has signed NOM/Robert George’s anti-gay “pledge.”

7)  Although in his written study, Regnerus states that he cannot claim causation between gay parents and bad child outcomes, in certain of his mass market media appearances talking about the study, he says that he found that children raised by gay parents had bad outcomes, leaving the viewers to suppose he is blaming the bad outcomes on the parents’ alleged homosexuality. Regnerus made one such appearance on ABC television. His misrepresentation of his own study there, corresponds to the uses of his study currently being made by anti-gay hate groups and his funders.

For example, the Family Research Council is an SPLC-certified anti-gay hate group. Robert George is a Board member of FRC. FRC’s Senior Fellow for Policy Studies Peter Sprigg has been widely saying that Regnerus’s study proves that there is causation between gay parents and bad child outcomes. Not only does Regnerus not publicly correct Sprigg; he appears on television reinforcing Spriggs’ erroneous notions about the study to the public. The SPLC classifies as a hate group an organization that tells documented falsehoods about gay people. Robert George’s Family Research Council, however, goes far beyond telling lies. For instance, when Congressman Brad Sherman proposed a congressional resolution against the “Kill the Gays” law in Uganda, and against Uganda’s generally inhumane abuses of homosexuals, FRC spent $25,000 lobbying against the resolution, on grounds it constituted “pro-homosexual promotion.” Meanwhile in Uganda, tabloids were publishing names and addresses of known homosexuals and calling for them to be executed; some executions of homosexuals were carried out. Robert George’s and FRC’s willingness to be an accessory to man’s inhumanity to man is one reason that the University of Texas, Austin Professor Mark Regnerus should have been concerned about creating even the appearance of political collusion with such monsters.

To sum up the case: 1) Regnerus admits that the way he carried out his NOM-Robert George-funded study was not in the best long-term interest of science; 2) Regnerus converted from evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism; his Church is very aggressively involved worldwide in fighting against gay rights, including in the United States, where in June – July 2012, while making use of Regnerus’s study, NOM and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops are joined in running the “Fortnight of Freedom” event; 3) in his Christian Trinity College biography, Regnerus says that he thinks his anti-gay-rights faith should inform his research and all his work; 4) Regnerus admits in his written study that he cannot claim any causation between having a gay parent and a bad child outcome, but, nonetheless; 4) he appears on ABC television, unambiguously suggesting that his study did show that homosexual parents are dangerous to children, and, his activity in misrepresenting his study that way to the public is 5) totally in line with the manner that NOM and Regnerus’s funder George’s other anti-gay groups are promoting Regnerus’s study. 6)  In multiple ways, Regnerus’s study was designed fraudulently to stack the deck against “gay” parents to make them look dangerous to children, which enhances NOM’s anti-gay propaganda by which homosexuals are conflated with pedophiles. 7) Regnerus rushed his study to publication, apparently to meet a deadline set for him by his funders, and certainly against the interest of maintaining scientific integrity in the study.  8) Regnerus took a $35,000 “planning grant” from Witherspoon/Robert George, which obviously implies that had Witherspoon/George not liked the study plan, it would not have funded the study. 9) Sociologists from Brigham Young University were involved in the study design. This might in part explain why the study design was so heavily stacked against gay parents, in favor of “intact biological families.” BYU has an “Honor Code” that forbids members of the university community from doing anything that suggests that homosexuality is morally acceptable. To include BYU personnel in a study of gay human beings, is akin to asking the Ku Klux Klan to design a study about Jews.

Recently in the United States, anti-gay preachers have called for homosexuals to be placed in concentration camps, and others for them to be killed. Others have given their adult parishioners “special dispensation” to break the bones of gay-seeming children. In that connection, note that the 3-year-old Ronnie Paris, Jr. was beaten to death by his father, who thought he seemed gay. In still other churches, adults have laughed while a 4-year-old sang “Ain’t no homos gonna make it into heaven.” Robert George and his NOM and FRC are militantly opposed to sexual-orientation-specific anti-bullying protections in the nation’s schools. This year in Brooklyn, public school eighth grader Kardin Ulysse was relentlessly bullied as gay, though it not certain that he is. He and his parents complained many times to school administration, who did nothing. In a last anti-gay bullying attack, Kardin was set upon by attackers yelling “Faggot!” and other anti-gay pejoratives at him; he was left blinded in one eye. Within the last year, Robert George’s NOM had very actively anti-gay hate-mongered in Brooklyn, during the special election to replace Congressman Anthony Wiener.

With that as background, why are you not sanctioning the University of Texas, Austin’s Professor Mark D. Regnerus for – 1) creating a study designed so as to be guaranteed to make gay people look bad, through means plainly fraudulent and defamatory; 2) humiliating your institution in front of the world, by admitting he took money from an anti-gay political organization for his study, rather than from the National Institute of Health, even though, by his own admission, doing so was not “in the long-term best interest of science”; 3) unethically rushing his study to completion to meet a deadline convenient to his funders’ political goals for the study; 4) misrepresenting his written study to an ABC-TV audience, in ways certain to make his political funders happy with him. 5) The University of Texas, Austin, has an academic dishonesty policy that forbids using misinformation in an attempt to hurt others.

Sincerely,

Scott Rose

 

The University of Texas logo image courtesy of Wikipedia

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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