Thursday, August 4, 2016

FRC's Peter Sprigg takes on PolitiFact

Peter Sprigg
Peter Sprigg, a Baptist pastor, is not up to the intellectual challenge so; “Let's recycle some bullshit.” At issue are statements from Tony Perkins and, more recently, Reince Priebus, about children being raised by same-sex parents. Peter Sprigg and Tony Perkins are both with the hate group Family Research Council.

PolitiFact summarized Priebus on July 17:
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus defended the 2016 Republican Party platform ahead of its convention in a July 17 interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd.

While the platform isn’t yet in its final form, many observers have said the document so far lands to the right on social issues. Todd asked Priebus about the platform’s position on same-sex marriage. He referenced one draft that says "the data, the facts lead to an inescapable conclusion that every child deserves a married mom and dad" — based on claims that children raised in a traditional household are healthier and less likely to engage in crime and substance abuse.

"It’s implying somehow that children of same-sex couples are more likely to be addicts, to engage in crime," Todd said. "Do you mean to have it imply that?"

Priebus replied that it’s possible for children of same-sex parents and single parents to have successful lives, but the best scenario is for children to grow up in a traditional opposite-sex household.
PolitiFact rated Priebus' statement and his “inescapable conclusion” based on the data as “FALSE.” In October, 2014 Tony Perkins made the statement: “We 'know' from social science that children do best with a mom and a dad.” Perkins' intention was to denigrate same-sex parenting. PolitiFact rated Perkins' statement “FALSE” as well.

Thursday, along comes professional anti-gay Peter Sprigg:
What the research on family structure shows

Here are some other professional organizations which have made statements similar to that in the platform:

The non-partisan, non-profit research group Child Trends has reported, “An extensive body of research tells us that children do best when they grow up with both biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.”
Sprigg has trotted this one out before. Here is part of the Child Trends report cover page:
I am mystified how a 14 year old study is pertinent to the issue. Sprigg knows that he has an incurious audience that will not bother to click on the link and will be satisfied with Sprigg's summary. The simple fact is that Sprigg is a liar.

Sprigg continues:
The anti-poverty group the Center for Law and Social Policy reported, “Research indicates that, on average, children who grow up in families with both their biological parents in a low-conflict marriage are better off in a number of ways than children who grow up in single-, step- or cohabiting-parent households. 
Sprigg has trotted out this one as well. At least this one is a bit newer—it is from 2003 so we are making progress. This is not a published, peer reviewed study but a position paper. It notes that most of the children being raised by gay couples during the period of review were also children of divorce. They further conclude:
Children of gay or lesbian parents do not look different from their counterparts raised in heterosexual divorced families regarding school performance, behavior problems, emotional problems, early pregnancy, or difficulties finding employment.
None of those gays or lesbians were legally married. In 2000 to 2002 they had reduced employment and income opportunities and few employers offered partner benefits, creating additional economic stress. Moreover, their conclusion is based on research from 1999 and 2000 which they concede was compromised by recruitment methodology and small sample size.

In other words, this vintage paper does not support Sprigg's argument.

Sprigg continues:
The Institute for American Values declared (as one of its “fundamental conclusions” about “what current social science evidence reveals about marriage in our social system”), “The intact, biological, married family remains the gold standard for family life in the United States, insofar as children are most likely to thrive—economically, socially, and psychologically—in this family form.”
That is not research. It represented IAV's opinion, originally published in 2002. IAV's president, David Blankenhorn, is a proponent of marriage equality.
One example of the type of research being summarized in those statements is the federal survey data published in 2014 which showed that “children living with two biological parents” (which by definition includes a “mom and dad”) are fifteen times less likely “to have had four or more adverse experiences” than children in any other living situation.
That data is intended to provide comparisons of children in foster care. Moreover, it measures stressful situations comparing children in violent neighborhoods, a violent caregiver, an incarcerated caregiver, a mentally ill caregiver and and alcoholic/drug addict caregiver.  Children with adoptive parents or step-parents were excluded. So, no, it too does not support Priebus, Perkins and Sprigg.

Sprigg continues:
Not just about parents who identify as homosexual

The clarification that might be justified is that these broad and entirely accurate summaries of the research on family structure are based primarily on studies that did not focus specifically on a comparison with children raised by parents who identify as homosexual or by same-sex couples. However, the platform passage did not limit its conclusion to such comparisons, either.
The intent of the plank is clear and unambiguous. The target is same-sex parenting.

After a helping of the discredited Mark Regnerus (please, I don't have the strength to go through that muck again) we end up with Sprigg writing:
Recent research

More recent studies have overcome some of the methodological limitations of earlier research, allowing couples-to-couples comparisons using much larger sample sizes drawn from government surveys. Canadian economist Douglas W. Allen and co-authors analyzed data from the 2000 U.S. census and reported, “Compared with traditional married households, we find that children being raised by same-sex couples are 35% less likely to make normal progress through school.” 
So a paper based on data from 2000 is recent research? At least he conceded that Allen is an economist and not a social scientist. It has been my position that the census does not provide the data to arrive at that conclusion. Even if I am wrong, none of those couples were married and they faced considerable discrimination. Sprigg persists with:
Another study by Allen using the 2006 Canada census found, “Children living with gay and lesbian families [a “same-sex married or common law couple”] in 2006 were about 65% as likely to graduate compared to children living in opposite sex marriage families.”
Allen wants $40 for a copy of his paper. I am not going to pay for the BS. Allen is not an impartial investigator. He is a Defender of the Faith. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada in 2005 so Allen is not comparing married same-sex parents to heterosexual couples. Allen has ties to anti-gay groups like National Organization for Marriage and Ruth Institute where he is on the board.
Sociologist D. Paul Sullins studied data from the National Health Interview Survey that included 512 children living with same-sex couples, and found that children in households with same-sex couples “are at least twice as likely to experience serious emotional problems compared to their counterparts” in other types of households generally, and more specifically “they are at almost four (3.6) times the risk of emotional problems when compared to children residing with married biological parents.”
That would be Father Donald Paul Sullins, a Catholic priest at Catholic University. Sullins defended the incredibly flawed Regenerus study. Sullins analyzed data from 1997 to 2013 and was unable to identify which gay couples were married, if any. The intent of this study was to influence the Supreme Court and is largely the product of selective observation.

If nothing else, Sprigg is persistent:
Conclusion

The Republican platform, and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, did not say, “Straight parents are better than gay parents.” The primary issue addressed by summary statements on family structure like those in the platform is not “sexual orientation”—it is the benefits to children of a two-parent home, marriage, gender complementarity, and a biological relationship with both parents. Evidence suggests that children denied the first two suffer, even if their parents are “straight”; while children with openly “gay” parents are always denied the latter two, no matter how “stable” their household.

This evidence is more than sufficient to rate Priebus’ statement that “the best scenario for kids is a loving mom and dad” as “True.”
Except that Sprigg provides no reasonably current and reliable evidence from impartial, unbiased investigators to support these statements. University of Melbourne researchers surveyed 315 same-sex parents and 500 children about their physical health and social wellbeing. Their conclusion is that children of same-sex parents enjoy better levels of health and wellbeing than their peers from traditional family units.

PolitiFact concludes that Reince Priebus and Tony Perkins are full of shit. You can add Peter Sprigg to that list.

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