People who believe in hell are allowed to raise children?

First someone with a sociology PhD refers to a social institution existing “since time immemorial.” Now an economist pronounces on the eternal destination of homosexuals. What kind of expert witness operation are they running over there in Michigan?

The economist is Douglas W. Allen, testifying in a case over the challenge to Michigan’s same-sex marriage (let’s call it homogamy) ban. Allen recently conducted a study claiming to show that children of gay and lesbian parents in Canada are less likely to succeed in school; a study that, in my expert opinion, is worthless.

The plaintiff’s lawyer asked, and Allen answered:

Q: Is it accurate that you believe the consequence of engaging in homosexual acts is a separation from God and eternal damnation? … In other words, they’re going to hell?

A: Without repentance, yes.

This is just a repetition of an exchange during Allen’s deposition for the trial:

Q: What are the consequences of the sin of engaging in homosexual acts according to your religious beliefs?

A: The consequences of those sins would be the same as the consequences of any sin which is just a separation from God.

Q: He who is separated from God is condemned according to your religious beliefs; isn’t that correct?

A: Eventually.

Q: Okay. And being condemned means what, Professor?

A: Means eternal separation from God.

Q: In other words, going to hell; isn’t that correct? [an objection about leading the witness] You started to nod your head yes. Is the answer correct?

A: Yes.

Photo from Flickr Creative Commons by Christian Terboven
Photo from Flickr Creative Commons by Christian Terboven

A couple of thoughts on this. First, just thank God at how far we have come from the horror of theocratic society (however far that is). This claim by Allen was the news from the day in court. Not because gays and lesbians are actually going to burn in hell, but because someone said so in polite company. Which makes him a despicable person. If there was even the slightest shred of possibility that gays and lesbians would actually spend eternity suffering in some awful way as a result of the kind of sex they had in life, that would be so much worse than anything else at stake in this trial that the mundane legal proceedings would be pointless. What could matter more?

This brings me to the second point: People who believe this stuff are allowed to raise children? And teach it to them? Allen’s polite euphemism — “separation from God” — is the modern Evangelical way of saying “burn in hell.” Nothing could be worse. So if you are unfortunate enough to be raised by such a person, you have to either know that your father is a crazy, malicious liar (which is traumatic for a child to think about its father), or you have to actually believe this horror story of eternal suffering as a result of “any sin” not repented. Holy sh*t. And on his website Allen brags that he’s been teaching Sunday school for decades.

And we’re arguing about the grade point average of students raised by two men or two women? (Which, again, Allen’s study said nothing of value about).

This reminds me of the kerfuffle over Richard Dawkins’ claim that being indoctrinated into believing in hell was as traumatic — or more traumatic — for some Catholic children as it was to suffer “the temporary embarrassment of mild physical abuse” at the hands of priests. Although being provocative (and it was an off-the-cuff remark, the first time), I don’t believe Dawkins was minimizing sexual abuse when he said that; rather, he was calling out the severe trauma experienced by children who were raised on the literal existence of hell. There is no need to compare one trauma versus another to make either Dawkins or pedophile priests look bad — it’s enough to acknowledge that a lot of children suffer both ways. That’s important, because it means crazy hell-teachers may be harming children even when they’re not raping them (which of course they usually aren’t).

So, sure. Let’s have a whole trial about whether gay and lesbian parents are bad for children. And let’s allow someone like Allen to take the stand as an expert witness. And let’s allow any straight parent (or gay parent, for that matter) to shame their children to bed each night on tales of horror and eternal suffering. But if, after all that, we refuse to let gay and lesbian couples be married parents — that would be disappointing.

17 thoughts on “People who believe in hell are allowed to raise children?

  1. “So if you are unfortunate enough to be raised by such a person, you have to either know that your father is a crazy, malicious liar (which is traumatic for a child to think about its father), or you have to actually believe this horror story of eternal suffering as a result of “any sin” not repented.”

    Interesting twist on the Liar, Lunatic, or Lord apologetics argument as applied to theories of the afterlife.


  2. In case you didn’t know…..Allen is a member of the “Circle of Experts” of the “Ruth Institute”, a spin-off of the National Organization for Marriage, a certified anti-gay hate group. Hope this was brought out at trial.


  3. Reblogged this on The Life Of Von and commented:
    The double think is breath-taking sometimes! If we are going to spend eternity in hell because of the kind of sex we’ve had in life then surely the religious bigots who are consumed by thoughts about the practices of others will be first through the gates.


    1. I think there’s a major Christian figure who made a similar point once. Might have been the founder… 🙂


  4. Rhetoric is golden on the witness stand, but it still makes for bad science. Either hell exists, or it doesn’t. Either there is a God, or there isn’t. Either homosexuals make bad parents, or they don’t. I would expect a college professor to make a better argument than “oh yeah! Well you’re a bad person, so that means that you’re wrong”. I saw nothing in this blog post that even mentions the claims of the man you disagree with. The next generation has bigger problems than a homophobic father. They have to deal with college professors who lack critical thinking skills


  5. Wanted to share with your readers the best reporting on the Michigan Trial out there. A Michigan Attorney who attended the whole trial and blogs about it.

    The Plaintiffs attorneys before closing statements again pushed the Judge to reject Regnerus/Price Allen as experts.
    My guess is, Regnerus will get bounced by the Judge. His ruling will say that his testimony is not Expert testimony. This is my guess. I think the statements by the Chair of Sociology and the reading of the Amicus Brief in Court, the brief by the American Sociological Association will tip Regnerus over the cliff.

    At the time the Plaintiffs Attorneys asked the Court to Reject Regnerus, which was after Regnerus’ deposition, these statements were not yet made. In fact I think the Judge ruled just the day before th trial started or the same day the trial started that he would not outright reject them, so the Judge thought about it a lot. In fact it was his very last ruling on pre-trial motions before the trial started.

    The Judge did not reject Sherif Girgis for the State in responde to the pre-trial motion of the Plaintiffs (he is that Robert George Sidekick), but after being put on the stand the Judge Rejected him as an Expert.

    A few quotes from that terrific blog I linked to above
    Closing Statements by Plaintiffs attorney-
    “There is no rational basis. The witnesses offered by Plaintiffs are at the top of their field. They offered candid reports of their findings. They are sociologists, psychologists, historians of marriage and demographers. The witnesses offered by the State, particularly Allen and Regnerus, are part of a fringe that is fighting desperately for inequality.”

    “More fraudulent than Dr. Allen was the Regnerus report. It is impossible to find a more rejected and reviled sociological study. He invited anti-marriage antagonists to comment on the study while it was in progress. He constructed a study defining a “parent” in a way to include people who never lived with and may never have met the child. In comparing the two subjects where were raised from birth to 18 by the same sex couple, he says they turned out just fine. He rushed to conclusion before the data was complete.”

    “On the same day Regnerus was to testify, his Department at the University of Texas issued a press statement making it clear that his views were not the views of the Department and the Department views his study as fundamentally flawed conceptually and logically. The American Sociological Association issued a public statement with an utter rejection of his study.”

    “Small, convenience samples are the bread and butter of psychological research. Yet, they were attacked by the Defendant’s experts who are not psychologists and approach research in an entirely different way. 150 studies on family structure exist, and it is well established that correlations for positive child outcomes have nothing to do with same sex parenting. Defendant offers no psychologist to dispute this. The conclusion is that sexual orientation is unrelated to outcomes and well qualified parents can be found in any combinations of gender. There is no correct parenting model. In response Defendant offers two economists, one of whom offered a review of studies only up through 2005.”

    Steve Friese(sp) for Buzzfeed was there for only two days. He caught Regnerus as he was leaving and asked him how he felt. “Relieved” Regnerus replied. The reporter said Regnerus looked stressed. However if you go read the testimony of Rosenfeld and Gates and I bet if you would have asked them how they felt afterwards, they would have replied “Terrific”


  6. Are you seriously arguing that catholics should be deprived of right to raise children, or is it just rhetorical device? Irony is hard to catch in a foreign language, especially after you’ve spent some times discussing with militatant atheists who are arguing the same quite seriously (I am atheist and 20 years ago I was militant atheist, but my wife is catholics, just as my parents and most of my friends)


  7. I’m with Szpoeno. I’m not sure where Mr. Cohen gets the idea that he or anyone else can decide who is “fit” for having or raising children. I suppose Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to have children either? GSS data also shows that Black Americans are more likely than Whites to believe in hell. Follow your argument to it’s logical conclusion, Mr. Cohen.

    I do not like the direction his thinking leads. It is bigoted, pure and simple.


      1. Yeah, that’s pretty much the implication of your post, Phil.

        You ask: “This brings me to the second point: People who believe this stuff are allowed to raise children? And teach it to them?” What’s the counterfactual here? That people who believe in hell (or any other religious doctrine you don’t care for) should not be “allowed” to procreate. By implication, you’d prefer to live in that world. Speaking as a Black man, I find your condescending tone most regrettable. It’s White, male privilege spilling out all over the place. Both my sisters are devout in their faith, and they raise their children “in the fear of the Lord.” Not something I buy personally, but who on earth are you to say they shouldn’t be having kids? You can’t squeeze out of it now by claiming you were just being ironic.


  8. Phil Collins, thanks for the clarification. I actually discussed with people saying that church should be banned and catholics should not have parental rights; this was on anonymous Polish forums, but this was the reason I hesitated after reading your post. It just read a lot like that posts of militant atheists.


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