The right-wing, especially the religious right-wing, knows that it’s on the run. It’s scared because it lacks faith in its higher power.
Thus, the overwhelming accumulation of examples of down-right lying among them. Then, sadly, add denial that they could be lying from those whom the lies hurt continues.
Their fear makes right-wingers doubt and desperate to do anything to promote their righteous cause and gods no matter how deceitful it might be. Saving souls or their pocketbooks from hell is all the excuse they need to deceive.
Enter their academics who are so convinced of the rightness of their cause that questionable studies are commonplace. And right-wing journals salivate over publishing anything that comes from anyone who supports the ideology they push.
In March, The American Independent obtained documents exposing “The New Family Structures Study” published in June 2012 by Mark Regnerus, associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas – Austin. It’s just one recent example of the right-wing use of flawed research.
The study was funded with a $695,000 grant from the Witherspoon Institute – founded by Princeton professor Robert P. George, founding chairman of the notoriously anti-gay National Organization for Marriage – and another $90,000 grant from the extreme right-wing Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee.
The Witherspoon Institute recruited Regnerus to conduct the widely cited research critical of gay relationships and their impact on the children of gay parents, and then choreographed its release in time to influence “major decisions of the Supreme Court.” Anti-gay activists have cited it in court cases since.
Scholars have attacked the study for lack of academic integrity, flawed methodology, and its controlling funding sources. In fact, Regnerus’ professional organization, the American Sociological Association, recently filed an amicus brief in Hollingsworth v. Perry (which seeks to overturn California’s Proposition 8), contradicting his study for providing “no support for the conclusions that same-sex parents are inferior parents or that the children of same-sex parents experience worse outcomes.”
This tactic is nothing new. Right-wing foundations create studies that get passed around by people who want to defend whatever the studies are built to conclude.
And the religious are especially gullible because it’s what they want to hear. It gives them some “science” to quote in their arguments so they don’t have to fall back on arguing merely on the basis of their religious prejudice.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, for example, filed a “friend of the court” brief in the Proposition 8 case, arguing that, “A mother and father each bring something unique and irreplaceable to child-rearing that the other cannot.” Their brief cited Regnerus’ study to falsely parrot “that children raised by married biological parents fared better in a range of significant outcomes than children raised in same-sex households.”
How long did it take the right-wing to begin to get over the faked “statistics” of rabid anti-gay psychologist Paul Cameron even after the American Psychological Association expelled him in 1983 for not cooperating with an ethics investigation and the American Sociological Association and Canadian Psychological Association accused him of misrepresenting social science research? His quackery, after all, was useful to the religiously prejudiced so they could claim science, not their prejudices, proclaimed gay people were disgusting.
In the field of history, there are beloved pseudo-historians like David Barton, evangelical Christian minister and co-chair of the Texas Republican Party. He founded a Texas-based organization, WallBuilders, to promote through historical writing the view that the separation of church and state is a “myth.”
Barton’s 2012 book The Jefferson Lies was voted “the least credible history book in print” by the users of the History News Network website. A group of ten conservative Christian professors reviewed the work and concluded that Barton has misstated facts about Jefferson.
In August 2012, its Christian publisher, Thomas Nelson withdrew it from publication, explaining that they had “lost confidence in the book’s details” and “learned that there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported.” The New York Times wrote: “many professional historians dismiss Mr. Barton, whose academic degree is in Christian Education from Oral Roberts University, as a biased amateur who cherry-picks quotes from history and the Bible.”
Yet because he says what they want to hear, the right-wing continues to quote his historical quackery to argue that America was meant to be their brand of Christian nation. That’s why Barton regularly appears on right-wing television and radio with the likes of Mike Huckabee and Glenn Beck (who praised Barton as “the Library of Congress in shoes”).
Two movements have put pressure upon the academic community to go soft on right-wing research claims that amount to little more than propaganda. Yet, the more that the academic community fights for integrity, the more the right-wing claims it’s just liberal bias.
The first is the public de-funding of education along with the greater corporatizing of educational value. The more the government portion of the cost of students’ educations declines, coupled with the increased valuing of an institution by the amount of private dollars it brings in, the more academics must rely on mostly conservative sources for research funding.
Grant-getting in many major universities is now rewarded as much as production of sound academic scholarship. And further grants are more likely for those scholars who please grant-givers.
The second is the continual right-wing attack on colleges and universities as bastions of liberalism. The reality is closer to the fact that they are warehouses for liberals in the humanities and social sciences who are most rewarded for producing research for each other in the jargon of their discipline. Only conservative professional fields are rewarded for consulting.
So, in order to show right-wing politicians that they aren’t liberal, the pressure is on to move to the right. This seldom means faking the data, but it certainly skews what’s studied.
And if someone is too scared that their gods can’t prove them right, the resulting scholarship is just what the right-wing ordered.
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas where he taught for 33 years and was department chair for six years, Robert N. Minor (he/him), M.A., Ph.D is the author of 8 books as well as numerous articles and contributions to edited volumes. He is an historian of religion with specialties in Biblical studies, Asian religions, religion and gender and religion and sexuality. His writing has been published in Whosoever since 2005 and he continues to speak and lead workshops around the country. In 1999 GLAAD awarded him its Leadership Award for Education, in 2012 the University of Kansas named him one of the University’s Men of Merit, in 2015 the American Men’s Studies Association gave him the Lifetime Membership Award, and in 2018 Missouri Jobs with Justice presented him with the Worker’s Rights Board Leadership Award. He resides in Kansas City, Missouri and is founder of The Fairness Project.