Soulforce Letter to Time Magazine

Time
Attn: Howard Chua-Eoan, Managing Editor
1271 Avenue Of The Americas
New York, NY 10020

December 20, 2006

Dear Editors:

When Time published James Dobson’s "Two Mommies Is One Too Many" in the December 11th issue, Soulforce launched a petition asking the magazine to check Dobson’s facts and contextualize his statements about research on same-sex parents with evidence from credible social science. In the week since the petition was launched, we have gathered more than 3,600 signatures, which are enclosed with this letter.

Those of us at Soulforce were encouraged by the magazine’s decision to publish a response from Jennifer Chrisler of Family Pride on TIME.com, although we were disappointed that it was only featured on the home page for one day. We want to urge Time to continue to hold Dobson accountable for his erroneous statements by publishing a follow-up story or editorial in the print edition.

In a recent email campaign, Focus on the Family asserts that Time checked Dobson’s facts and gave its imprimatur to his assertions. At Soulforce we have a commitment to documenting Dobson’s misrepresentation of social science research, and we know that he often relies on narrowly defined claims that allow him to remain within the letter of the law even as he violates the spirit of truth.

For example, in "Two Mommies Is One Too Many," Dobson asserts that "more than 30 years of social-science evidence indicates that children do best on every measure of well-being when raised by their married mother and father." We respectfully direct your attention to the specificity of Dobson’s language choice. Dobson does not claim that children do better with heterosexual parents rather than homosexual parents because the studies to which he refers simply do not address the sexual orientation of parents. The American Psychological Association, in its "Statement on the Mischaracterization of Parenting Research," calls this bluff:

Opponents of marriage rights for same-sex couples argue that children without both a mother and father have poorer physical and mental health, poorer academic achievement, greater likelihood of substance abuse, higher risk of suicide, and greater criminal propensity. The studies they cite, however, examined children of divorced parents and of single parents, and thus support the conclusion that – all else being equal – children fare better when raised by two parents than by one.

In other words, Dobson is making unwarranted extrapolations of the sort that undergraduates learn to avoid in even the most rudimentary research methods course. Such failures of logic and integrity should find no refuge in the nation’s most respected newsmagazine.

In the past week, two of the researchers that Dobson cited in the pages of Time, Carol Gilligan and Kyle Pruett, have spoken out about Dobson’s misuse of their research. Pruett objects that Dobson "cherry-picked" statements from his work and cautions that "this practice is condemned in real science, common though it may be in pseudo-science circles."

Pruett and Gilligan are only the latest social scientists to protest Dobson’s distortion of their research. In summer 2006, the Associated Press ran a story about Dr. Judith Stacey, Professor of Sociology at NYU, who claims that Dobson manipulated her research to support discrimination against LGBT families. These and other instances of Dobson’s misrepresentation of social science evidence are widely available, which makes it all the more troubling that Time has provided a forum for Dobson to violate once again the standards of scholarly and journalistic honesty.

When Dobson uses a trusted publication like Time to spread his half-truths and misinformation, it is a crisis for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Ultimately, statements such as Dobson’s are used to support the denial of civil rights and even to justify violence against LGBT people. Although it may be less obvious, we believe that Dobson’s column in Time is also a crisis for journalistic integrity. We hope that Time will join us in closing the credibility gap that occurs every time Dobson makes false statements and gambles that most readers will never see the counterpoints or corrections that are published, literally and figuratively, in the margins. We urge you to publish a follow-up column or article in the print edition of Time.

Sincerely,

Jeff Lutes
Executive Director, Soulforce

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