"We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice,
we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself." Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison (1943-1945)

Unanswered Questions: Faith, Science and Sexuality

21 December 2018

Seven Questions for Prof Michael King

On Saturday 8th December the Very Revd Dr David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral and Vice Chair of the Ozanne Foundation hosted and an event in London “Faith, Science and Sexuality”. The event claimed that it would help Christians understand more about how science is helping to illuminate our understandings of sexuality. Dr Ison considered that the event would provide “opportunity to listen across binary divides, and to listen to scientific truth which may be uncomfortable…”.

Below are the seven questions we would put to groups like the UKCP, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, BACP, ACC and any other signatories of the 2017 Memorandum of Understanding. Engagement with these questions would help to listen across the binary divide that Dr Ison suggests is to be done.

  1. Background
    in 2003 Dr Robert Spitzer, a most eminent psychiatrist, undertook a study of people who claimed to have benefited from therapy helping them to move away from unwanted same-sex attraction.  He reported that ”the majority of participants gave reports of change … from a predominantly or exclusively homosexual orientation before therapy to a predominantly or exclusively heterosexual orientation in the past year.”
    After a decade of unrelenting pressure from gay activists he expressed a wish to withdraw his paper.  The editor of the journal refused, pointing out that such action would be appropriate in the case of gross error or fraud, but not for re-interpretation. 

    Our question is not related to that controversy.  It relates to Prof King’s claim, on behalf of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, to the Church of England that Spitzer’s study claimed that “change was possible for a small minority (13%) of LGB people, most of whom could be regarded as bisexual from the outset.”

    Q.1 Our Question: Why did you report Spitzer’s ‘majority’ as a ‘small minority’, and will you correct this error to the Church of England?
     
  2. Background
    Activists are instigating radical change in persuading both Church and State that a person’s
    sex is determined not by biology (XX, XY) but by psychology (and indeed by personal choice).  Science, by contrast, makes it clear that (except for a miniscule minority of people)

    Q 2 Our Question: Do you believe that a man can become a woman by having body parts cut off and taking drugs?
     
  3. Background
    Prof King, on behalf of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, wrote to the Church of England,
    “… there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heterosexual or homosexual orientation.”  In 2003 this assertion was challenged by Core Issues Trust.  Then in April 2014 the Royal College of Psychiatrists published a new position statement saying, “sexual orientation is determined by a combination of biological and postnatal environmental factors”.  This was precisely the position that Prof King had denied to the Church of England.  (Available here)

    Q 3 Our Question:
    You used to deny that childhood environmental factors played a part in determining sexual orientation.  Now you say they do. Why have you changed your mind?


4. Background 
As recently as General Synod July 2017, Prof King said in a co-authored paper, “It is deeply misleading to state that people are not ‘born gay’ and that their sexual desires can change.” Yet Prof Lisa Diamond, a leading member of the American Psychological Association, had already written that “It is time to just take the whole idea of sexuality as immutable, the born this way notion, and just come to a consensus as scientists and as legal scholars that we need to put it to rest. It’s unscientific, it’s unnecessary and it’s unjust”.

Q4 Our Question: Do you agree with Professor Lisa Diamond that sexuality is fluid and it’s time to get past ‘born gay’?
 

5. Background
A ComRes poll in the UK [1]in 2014 found that if a married man sought therapeutic help to reduce same-sex attractions, more than five times as many people believe he should have access to such help as believe he should be denied it.

Q 5: Our Question: 
Any ban imposed on therapy will affect married men equally with others.  If a married man finds himself sexually attracted to another man, is he morally justified (or even obliged for his family’s sake) so seek to reduce that orientation?
 

6. Background
In 2009 the APA found “no scientifically rigorous studies of recent [therapy] that would enable us to make a definitive statement about whether recent [therapy] is safe or harmful, and for whom.”

Q 6 Our Question: Do you support this judgement?

7. Background
Any ban on any kind of therapy should be based on sound scientific evidence.

Q 7: Is it not true that to ban any form of therapy it would be necessary to establish a scientific basis of documented harm?

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