David Barton says they did.
On his radio program Friday, August 5, Barton told his co-host Rick Green that the “leading pediatric association in America” wrote a letter to the superintendents of all the nation’s public schools warning them to stop indocrinating students in homosexuality. Barton said the pediatricians told the educators:
If you’ll just let this develop naturally, they’ll end up being heterosexual unless you force them to be homosexual.
The only part of this narrative that is correct is that school superintendents got a letter from some pediatricians about homosexuality. Everything else is wrong.
First, the only group that sent a letter to school superintendents with this kind of information was the American College of Pediatricians, a small group of socially conservative pediatricians and other interested people. In 2003, the group broke away from the 60,000+ member American Academy of Pediatrics due to disputes over homosexuality and abortion.
On their website, ACPeds says they have members in 47 states and five countries. I cannot find any information about how many members they have and others I know who have asked them the number say they have not gotten a response. If the group reports their membership dues income properly, then the number of pediatrician members is very small, probably less than 200.
ACPEDS IRS 990 form reports $38,380 in membership dues and assessments for 2009, the most recent year for which a 990 is available on Guidestar. According to the ACPeds website, the dues is $225/year. If all members were pediatricians and paid that fee, then ACPEDS would have around 170 members. However, because ACPEDS probably has various member categories including people who pay nothing (honorary, student, etc.) and some who pay only $100 (associate health professionals who are not physicians), I guess they had between 200-25o members in all categories in 2009.
In contrast, as noted above, the American Academy of Pediatrics (the real leading pediatric association in America) has 60,000 members. Barton and Green clearly portrayed a false situation; namely, that the AAP recently sent a letter to school superintendents saying that same-sex attracted teens will grow out of it if only schools wouldn’t indoctrinate them with pro-gay propaganda. They didn't send such a letter and they would not give such advice.
Right Wing Watch has much of what Barton and Green had to say about the letter (which actually was sent in April, 2010, not recently) but I am providing even more context because I want to demonstrate just how misleading this segment is. Barton and Green had just expressed pleasure about how the state legislature in TN overruled an ordinance in Nashville which would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He follows this by blaming the National Education Association for indoctrinating kids with pro-gay material. Then, at about 17:40 into the show, Barton sets the stage for his segment on the ACPeds letter:
Barton: What’s interesting is, you know medical groups do not tend to be very conservative. Any professional medical group, the American Psychiatric Association, the association of psychologists, even the American Medical Association is a particularly friendly conservative group, they’re not a pro-life group and what’s really interesting is the American College of Pediatricians; now think about that, is that a conservative group?
Green: You’d think they would be, looking out for the kids, right?
Barton: But yeah, don’t spank your kid, don’t touch your kid, you know, and think of the way pediatric stuff has gone, and you don’t want to help shape these kids, let ‘em be what they want to be. And so, all that anti-parental influence, and it’s remarkable that you have the American College of Pediatricians, who has just, they sent a letter to all 14,800 school superintendents in the United States and it’s a letter warning about what’s happening in the schools and the American College of Pediatricians is cautioning educators about what they do with same-sex attraction or symptoms of gender identity confusion in schools.
Green: You’re kidding, this is the pediatric association?
Barton: Got it, get this. The letter reminds school superintends that it is ‘not uncommon for adolescents to experience transient,’ that’s a big word, ‘transient confusion about their sexual orientation,’ and is telling 14,800 superintendents that ‘most students will ultimately adopt a heterosexual orientation if not otherwise encouraged.’ And they’re saying, guys, back off. This indoctrination you’re doing—
You can read the rest at Right Wing Watch. Listening to this, there seems to be only two possibilities. One, Barton really thinks the ACPeds is the American Academy of Pediatrics and is so misinformed that he doesn’t really understand that the ACPeds is a tiny breakaway group; or two, he knows the difference but wants to make his listeners think that mainstream pediatricians would give that kind of advice to school leaders.
A reader who tipped me off to this story wrote Barton for an explanation and I will report which one of these options is the accurate situation if Barton answers. I have written him before on other claims which turned out to be false but he has not written back.
For now, it is apparent that Barton badly misled his audience, some of whom are going to oppose anti-bullying programs because they trust Barton to pass along good information. Other than spreading false information about pediatricians and homosexuality, the part that bothers me the most is that some well-meaning Christian parents are going to oppose anti-bullying programs because David Barton told them that real doctors oppose them since they indoctrinate. School is about to start and imagine those of us who work to prevent bullying in schools are going to hear about this.
Everybody makes mistakes but when they are made, they should be corrected. I call on David Barton to set the record straight.
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About Dr. Warren Throckmorton
Warren Throckmorton, PhD is Associate Professor of Psychology and Fellow for Psychology and Public Policy at Grove City College (PA). He co-founded the Golden Rule Pledge which advocates bullying prevention in evangelical churches. His academic articles have been published by journals of the American Psychological Association and he is past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association. He is the author with fellow Grove City College professor, Michael Coulter, of the book, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President. Over 200 newspapers have published his columns. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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