Image from YouTube: Lisa Cherry and her son Lucas Cherry, authors of Not Open.
By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
Today, on the heels of Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality, Lisa Cherry and her organization Frontline Family Ministries sent an “OFFICIAL STATEMENT” to their email list. The statement begins with a large image comparing yesterday’s marriage equality decision with the infamous 1972 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion:
The statement (which you can view in full as a PDF here) begins with declaring full opposition to the Supreme Court ruling:
It is with heavy hearts we write to you today. For the public record, Frontline Family Ministries strongly opposes the ruling on “gay marriage” and stands for biblical marriage between 1 man and 1 woman. This is a critical moment in our history and how we respond could alter our grandchildren’s future.
Lisa claims that those celebrating the ruling are celebrating no less than “the demise of our nation”:
We are sure you are like us watching your news feeds for commentaries ….and sorting out which Facebook friends are sharing congratulatory posts and which are grieving the demise of our nation.
Now, you might be wondering how Obergefell v. Hodges could possibly compare to Roe v. Wade, especially since in the minds of conservative, pro-life Christians the latter has literally led to the genocidal massacre of millions of innocent children. Jurisprudential comparisons aside, how on earth does allowing same-sex couples to marry (even if you think that is immoral) reach the terrifying heights of million of babies being slaughtered? Remember, to people like Lisa Cherry, abortion can be compared to the Holocaust. So this is no small comparison.
What is important to remember here is that, to Lisa Cherry and Frontline Family Ministries, LGBT* people are not simply immoral. They are, literally, sexual predators that threaten your children. Last year, during Cherry’s “National Sexual Abuse Prevention Week for Homeschoolers,” I systematically reviewed her books and website materials because I believed that her and Frontline Family Ministries’s approach to abuse prevention missed the mark. And part of that involved her redefining of what a sexual predator is.
Since Cherry has now returned with comparing marriage equality to Roe v. Wade, I figured it would be a good time to reprint my examination of and response to her earlier comparison of LGBT* people to sexual predators. This is from Why I Cannot Support Frontline Family Ministries’ Abuse Prevention Week: Part Five, Unmask the Predators.
b. Redefining sexual predators
The most irresponsible aspect of Unmask the Predators is that Lisa Cherry redefines the meaning of “sexual predator” in the context of teaching sexual abuse prevention. The following image (which Libby Anne discussed yesterday) from page 2 demonstrates this:
The predators are not just the psychiatrically diagnosed pedophiles. The middle-school sex-education health teacher, the friendly cohabitating young couple next door that your daughter babysits for, and the clean-cut homosexual teller at your bank who just adopted a baby from Africa are chipping away at our core values and beliefs while we naively think our kids are still with us in the Sunday school. Until we mask the spiritual forces working behind those “nice people” and dismantle their spiritual weapons, we will continue to lose our children.
What is vital to note here is that Lisa is not saying that these people could be predators — in the sense that anyone can be a predator because predators transcend any particular demographic group. If that was the message, I would agree. Predators can be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, white, black, young, old, Christian, atheist, Buddhist, and so forth. But that’s not what Lisa is saying.
On the first page of the book, Lisa says a “sexual predator” nearly destroyed their daughter’s life. She warns there are other predators threatening children as well. She then gives the examples above. The predators “are” (not “could be”):
- The middle-school sex-education health teacher
- The friendly cohabitating young couple next door
- The clean-cut homosexual teller at your bank
Now you might wonder, how on earth are these people categorically defined as “predators”?
The answer is, disturbingly, that Lisa is redefining what “sexual predator” means. You can see the beginnings of this in the above citation, where Lisa says they are predators because they are “chipping away at our core values and beliefs.” On page 3, she elaborates on this:
“Sexual predators are not new. Their stories fill chapters of our Old Testament history books; their names were called harlot and adulterer in Proverbs” (3).
“Harlots” and “adulterers” are “sexual predators”? We clearly are no longer talking about what normal society means by sexual predator, i.e., “People who commit sex crimes, such as rape or child sexual abuse”, or “A person…convicted of a first-degree felony sex crime, or two second-degree felony sex crimes”. You know, the actual definition of “sexual predator.”
But still, you might ask, how are these people “predators”? The answer is that Lisa has redefined “sexual predator” by spiritualizing the concept. In her worldview, predators are anyone and everyone who (1) act in a way that Lisa believes is sexually immoral and/or (2) teaches people sexual morality in a way Lisa believes is sexually immoral. Thus anything or anyone hinting of non-Christian “culture war” is predatory. As Lisa explains, “Predator forces can attack our children through sexual molesters or through a host of cultural invaders” (13, emphasis added).
Lisa makes this most clear in two online articles found on Frontline Family Ministries’s website. Those articles are entitled “Predator Calling Cards, Part 1: Found One in My Mailbox” (archived PDF) and “Predator Calling Cards, Part 2: What is a Predator Anyway?” (archived PDF). In the first article, Lisa expresses some of the most horrid anti-gay sentiments I’ve ever read. These sentiments really shine a light on Lisa’s statements in Not Open where she said LGBT* people often receive “icy stares” in church and that’s a bad thing. I mean, if this isn’t the equivalent of an icy stare, I’m not sure what is:
“I sat down the other day for a rare moment of relaxation with my new issue of Country Living. It’s the one women’s magazine I subscribe to.
I looked forward to dreaming up some unachievable new interior design as I flipped my mind over to unwind mode.
Featured on page 92 and 93 was a quaint 19th century house in upstate New York. But I had trouble figuring out the heading…
My mind did a double take as I re-read the article’s opening line… Jesse and Gus have forged a surprisingly modern home…. I turned the page to find a picture of this “couple”—two men and their five-year-old daughter.
What?! I was accidentally taking a tour of a homosexual couple’s house? I dropped the issue on the floor in disgust.”
Yes, Lisa dropped an issue of Country Living on the ground “in disgust” because it featured a gay couple. Now, ignoring for the time being the message communicated to LGBT* people by this, note again the title of the article: “Predator Calling Cards, Part 1: Found One in My Mailbox.” In other words, just the image of a gay couple is a “predator calling card” to Lisa.
She received pushback on this article from people saying that it’s irresponsible to say this because not all LGBT* people are child molesters (e.g., the actual definition of sexual predator!). Lisa responds to this in the second article:
“In the world today we have Micro-predators (actual persons) and Macro-predators (global thoughts and forces). They are very much inter-related. Think about it. A child “macro-groomed” may more easily be “micro-groomed.””
In other words, LGBT* people — simply by being LGBT* — are predators in Lisa’s worldview. Their very existence is a perpetual state of “macro-grooming” children for abuse. In fact, anything and anyone that is sexually immoral is a “macro-predator.” This is why the list from page 3 of Unmask the Predators says that: people living together before marriage are predators, sex education teachers are predators, and LGBT* couples are predators. They aren’t necessarily child molesters; they’re spiritual sexual predators. So, I guess, they kind of are child molesters, but rather spiritual child molesters.
In fact, nearly every single passage in Kalyn’s Secret that referred to something like “spiritual forces of darkness” is changed in Unmask the Predators to be called “predators.”
Which just blows my mind.
We live in a world where 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys will sexually abused. We also live in a world where sexual abuse prevention is sorely lacking. The last thing we need, when teaching about prevention, is someone redefining the word and teaching families to fear the wrong people. Teaching families to fear non-predators — in the context of teaching about predators — is the most irresponsible thing I’ve seen in a long time. There is no excuse for Lisa’s dangerous and sloppy irresponsibility here.
c. Throwing LGBT* people under the bus
As I just pointed out, Lisa calls gay people “sexual predators” on the very second page of Unmask the Predators. She continues to do this throughout the book — as well as in Not Open, where she refers to LGBT* people as “sexual offenders.” She even pulls out the tired trope of LGBT* people wanting to legalize child rape, saying “the homosexual lobby want[s] to see the age [of consent] lowered” (161) — which is particularly ironic in this context, considering that conservative Christian leaders have been the ones most recently advocating for child marriage. In fact, at one point in the book Lisa herself mentions that Kalyn throws this fact in her face (184-5) by pointing out that popular homeschool fiction character Elsie Dinsmore was a young bride married to a much older man:
Remember the problem with this sort of language? I mentioned this yesterday, but it’s worth reviewing the facts:
• First, and most importantly, children who will later identify as LGBT* are at a higher risk for sexual abuse: “Children who grow up later to identify as LGBT are more at risk of sexual abuse as children… LGBT adults report that their behavior and interaction with others was often atypical in childhood when compared to their peers. Being or feeling ‘different’ can result in social isolation / exclusion, which in turn can lead to a child being more vulnerable to the instigation and continuation of abuse.”
• Second, feelings of social isolation and rejection are statistically linked with experiences of abuse. In fact, abusers specifically use isolation as a tool of abuseand target people vulnerable to isolation.
• Third, LGBT* youth are far more likely to be rejected by their families: “Highly religious parents are significantly more likely than their less-religious counterparts to reject their children for being gay – a finding that social-service workers believe goes a long way toward explaining why LGBT people make up roughly five percent of the youth population overall, but an estimated 40 percent of the homeless-youth population. The Center for American Progress has reported that there are between 320,000 and 400,000 homeless LGBT youths in the United States.”
• Fourth, numerous studies indicate that LGBT* individuals “are likely to be at higher risk for depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders. One study found that GLB groups are about two-and-one-half times more likely than heterosexual men and women to have had a mental health disorder.”
• Fifth, supporting LGBT* individuals reduces the risk of mental illness. According to the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, “Specific parental behaviors, such as advocating for their children when they are mistreated due to their LGBT identity and supporting their teen’s gender expression, were linked to a lower likelihood of depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.”
Now let’s add a few more facts:
• Sixth, people who sexually abuse children are more likely to be fixated on children than any given gender identity: “Many child molesters cannot be characterized as having an adult sexual orientation at all; they are fixated on children.”
• Seventh, people who sexually abuse children not only fixate on children, but specific children: those in their personal networks. The Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute has noted that, “90% of child molesters target children in their network of family and friends.”
• Eighth, among child sexual abusers who do appear to have an adult sexual orientation, heterosexuality is far more common: “A child’s risk of being molested by his or her relative’s heterosexual partner is 100 times greater than by someone who might be identified as homosexual.”
So let’s put these above points together:
By teaching homeschool parents and families that LGBT* people are inherently predators, Lisa Cherry is isolating and targeting the group more at risk of being the target of abusers and ignoring groups of people who are more likely to be abusers. This is completely backwards. This is fundamentally flawed sexual abuse prevention.
New York Times columnist Charles Blow gives a helpful and important synopsis of what all the above points ought to suggest for us:
“What the data shows us indisputably is that people who will later identify as LGBT have disproportionate rates of having been victims of child sexual abuse. So there are two ways to think of that — one of which I completely disagree with and one I agree more with.
“On the one end, the abuse is making these young people LGBT. The science for that is completely flimsy. I completely disagree with that idea. On the other side … children who will eventually identify as LGBT are more likely to be targets of sexual predators. If you think of it that way, it changes our concept of how we need to nurture and care for children who are different.”
“It changes our concept of how we need to nurture and care for children we are different.” This is true, and some Christian homeschooling communities must begin to understand.
We are setting children up for abuse by how we are treating LGBT* people — and we are ignoring the actual abusers in our midst.