In former Rep. Mark Foley of Florida, the underwriters political partners of the exgay movement see both a threat to their growing influence in Congress, and an opportunity to smear same-sex-attracted Americans. Instead of educating churchgoers about sexual abuse, assisting exgays who have been abused, or discussing politics with dignity, the religious right has resorted to defensive and indignant shouting — not to mention more than a little scapegoating.

The antifamily Family Research Council cited Foley as proof that same-sex-attracted persons are disproportionately prone to commit sexual abuse. Without naming the source of its alleged facts, FRC cited two false statistics: One claimed that same-sex-attracted persons — gays and exgays — together account for almost none of the U.S. population; another statistic baselessly claimed that 86 percent of sexual abuse is same-sex. On CNN, FRC went even further, falsely claiming that people who oppose gay-bashing are supporters of sexual abuse.

Meanwhile, Focus on the Family Action, a Republican political branch of the organization that founded FRC, smeared the American people by citing the scandal as proof that our entire society — which swiftly forced Foley out of office — has somehow become too tolerant of “anything-goes” sexuality and pornography.

The timing of the Foley scandal and the Focus/FRC politicization of child sex abuse is ironic: In the past week, girls at schools in Colorado and Pennsylvania have been held hostage, raped and shot dead by heterosexual male offenders. Furthermore, in recent months, a variety of female teachers have made headlines (and court dates) after having sex with their male teenage students. Focus and FRC have had little to say about heterosexual sex abuse and murder.

All the politically partisan and ill-informed bluster about sex abuse could be avoided if religious conservatives would first consult someone like Gregory Herek, Ph.D.

Herek is a professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis, where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on prejudice, sexual orientation, and survey research methodology.

Years ago, Herek wrote Facts About Homosexuality and Child Molestation, and he has periodically updated this science- and statistics-based assessment of sexual orientation and sexual abuse.

Despite the updates, it appears that Herek felt the public needed more information and greater context for the research. Via Jesus Politics, I discovered today that Herek has started a new blog, Beyond Homophobia.

In an entry dated today, Herek reminds the public of the fairly well-established science and statistics behind sexual abuse.

Veteran web sites that deal regularly with religion and sexuality are well aware of Herek and other reliable sources of information about sexual abuse that are linked below. It’s a shame that the religious-rightists have decided to inflame and divide public opinion, rather than to inform and protect families and congregations.

Other sources of information on sexual abuse and sexual orientation:

American Psychological Association
Box Turtle Bulletin
Joe Kort, MA, LMSW, ACSW
Men Can Stop Rape: About Male Survivors
Men Can Stop Rape: About Sexual and Domestic Violence
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (criticizes Focus on the Family’s distortions of fact)

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