Michael Hamar

The Ethics of Outing Anti-Gay Hypocrites

Filed By Michael Hamar | June 30, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Politics
Tags: closeted clergy, closeted politicians, Ed Schrock, ELCA, hypocritical motherfuckers, Mike Rogers, outing, Roman Catholic Church

Last week on my personal blog I wrote about the closeted anti-gay Lutheran Pastor who tom-brock-cover.pngurged his parish to leave the Evangelical Church in America ("ELCA") and used his pulpit to denigrate and pontificate against civil law equality for gay Americans.

The story that exposed hypocrite pastor Tom Brock was released by Lavender Magazine, a biweekly for Minneapolis's gay and lesbian community, and now the magazine has been criticized over its lack of ethics in exposing Brock for the lying bastard that he is in fact. Frankly, I do not understand the misplaced and delicate sensibilities of Lavender Magazine's critics. What about the damaged lives and possible suicides that self-loathing individuals like Brock help cause? These lives mean nothing compared to Brock's privacy?

I simply do not comprehend the screwed up logic - if that's what you want to even call it.

I am firmly in favor of outing any closeted public official or religious official who uses their position to harm other members of the LGBT community. If they want their "privacy," then stop meddling in the civil rights and privacy of others. I have no problem with closeted officials, clergy or celebrities that take no action against gay rights and/or the lives of others in the LGBT community. However, once they act to take away my rights or denigrate my "lifestyle" to use the disingenuous Christianist euphemism, I'm sorry, but all bets are off and I will do whatever I can to expose them as fraudulent hypocrites.

Ask Ed Schrock - I put Mike Rogers onto him after he kept voting against gay rights even as he was looking for gay sex via Mega Phone ads.

The Washington Post looks at the outing of Brock (which is a huge issue for me since I have lost people to suicide due to religious based homophobia). I am 100% on the side of Lavender Magazine. Here are some Post highlights:

The reaction was swift when Lavender Magazine, a biweekly for Minneapolis's gay and lesbian community, reported in its current issue that an outspokenly anti-homosexual local pastor attended a support group for people who want to remain chaste despite same-sex attraction.

Many Lavender Web site commentators applauded the story. But among the critics was an unidentified advertiser who wrote she would pull her ads, because "12 step programs, regardless of what is at issue or who attends, are sacred." National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association board member Michael R. Triplett blogged that the ethics of the reporting were "suspect."

Stephen Rocheford, the president and chief executive of Lavender, said the story began with a tip that Mr. Brock attended Faith in Action, the local affiliate of Courage, an international program of the Catholic Church. "We thought that kind of curious given his pronouncements against the gay community for years and years and years," he said.

In a particularly controversial YouTube video, since pulled, Mr. Brock, Hope Lutheran's senior pastor and a cable and radio commentator, suggested that a 2009 Minneapolis tornado was a sign of God's displeasure because it struck as a Lutheran Church body was voting to approve the ordination of practicing homosexuals in committed relationships.

Mr. Rocheford said the magazine, with about 130,000 readers, has a policy against "outing" homosexuals. "One exception to the rule is a public figure who makes public pronouncements against the gay community and is in fact a homosexual," he said, noting that this was the only time he had invoked that exception.

Father Paul Check, the international director of Courage, said that the reporter "lied" to gain admittance, and that, "as far as I know this is the most grievous breach of our trust and confidentiality in our 27 years of existence." He added: "I can only interpret this as an effort to intimidate current Courage members or others who might be considering coming to Courage meetings."

Again, I'm sorry, but if anyone has questionable ethics, I suspect it is Michael Triplett and similar critics who worry more about monsters like Brock than the victims of their handiwork. As for Fr. Check, given the Roman Catholic Church's criminal cover up of child rapists, as a Catholic priest, he has no moral credibility to comment on anyone else's ethics whatsoever.


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I think Brock is deluded, but I don't see what is hypocritical about him. His actions (being overcome by temptation and then seeking help in dealing with temptation) are consistent with his message, however delusional it is.

First, I'd like to respond to jimstoic. Jim, Brock is a hypocrite because he is gay, and because he works to do damage to the rights and lives of LGBT people. That's hypocritcal. His going to this program has nothing to do with that.

Michael, I would generally agree with you, but I am a little torn on this one. The issue is less about outing a hypocrite, and more about the ethics of the reporter. Apparently, when attending the meetings, he was made aware that the conversations there were considered confidential.

I think most gay people probably agree with you. People who place themselves in the public arena, and advocate against LGBT rights are subject to a high level of scrutiny, and should be outed if they are, themselves, LGBT.

Fortunately, I've never had to attend a 12 step program, but my limited knowledge of them is that there is an expectation of confidentialty, and I would suspect that is very important to many who attend.

So the whole issue gets pretty cloudy for me. Once the reporter, by attending, had confirmed that Brock was gay, perhaps he should have tried other ways to develop the needed "proof." Maybe he did, I don't know. Brock deserves to be outed, but everyone else, who benefits from 12 step programs, needs the assurance of discretion that's always been there.

I realize you are passionate about this. I have held to my faith and the Methodist traditions and fight to pull my church into the real world, but understand the damage the Christianistas cause. I am sympathetic to your view. Brock's words and deeds harm people, but the reporter's actions may have harmed people as well.

Do I sound confused? Well I am. It's a hard call in this very specific situation. I just wish the reporter had followed him around for a while and caught him in an airport restroom or something.

Michael Triplett | June 30, 2010 5:10 PM

Michael,

While I'm quoted as saying the ethics are suspect, I was even more critical later on. Let me explain why.

While journalism doesn't have a "code of ethics" in an official sense, journalists need to operate under a certain ethical understanding of how they do their job. One of those involves when do you go "overcover" (which is much rarer than people imagine) and when you toss out a person (or group's) expectation of confidentiality.

There is no ethical justification for agreeing to keep confidentiality, not disclose you are a journalist, and then violate the confidentiality of Brock and other group members. This is not a ticking timebomb scenario.

Ethics are best testing in worst-case scenarios like this. It's easy to be worried about the confidentiality of people we like or agree with, but much more difficult when it's someone we don't agree with or dislike.

Outing is a political act, not necessarily a journalistic act. While I understand your political rationales for wanting Brock outed, there's no good journalistic justification for it if it means violating his confidentiality and the confidentiality of the group.

Oh please. The man is a lying piece of scum, and we're supposed to treat him with kid gloves because he's in a *group*???

Outing someone should be no different from reporting that he or she is bald or born in March or likes strawberry ice cream: it is part and parcel of what that person is, not a statement of his or her political affiliation or religious standing.

I dont get the logic either. It's okay for this clown to be as unethical as the day is long in his treatment of his fellow gays and lesbians, but for a reporter to tell everyone what and who he is *isnt*? Sorry, I prefer to know who my traitorous community members are, and I could give a damn about the "ethics" that made such knowledge public. AFAIC, this guy is *entitled* to everything he gets. I shed not one tear for him, not when he used the rest of us to deal with his own guilt. That's his problem. But when he starts playing us, he makes it *ours*.

I strongly support the methods used to get this story. If anyone worries about the anonymity of a twelve step program being violated, you may want to consider the following.

I have been sober 19 yrs from alcohol. AA was how I got sober. The anonymity of AA was useful and should be respected. Please note, however, that alcoholism is an established addiction. Being gay is not an addiction. It is not a disorder. Why, then, is a group using a twelve step program to stop being gay.

It seems to me that the christian anti-gay community is dishonestly claiming 12 step treatment as another ex-gay program. They are using the respectability of 12 step programs to legitimize ex-gay therapy.

Ex-gay programs do not work. They are deceptive attempts to get gay men and women to accept that being gay is wrong. Thus, by subverting and perverting a 12 step program, the christian anti-gays forfeit any right to anonymity. If a student were to cheat and submit an A paper, that student forfeits that right to an A when he or she has been found out. It is no different here: a twelve step program used to denigrate a community is not what the program was designed to do. Twelve step programs are for addictions.

These christian animals have perverted a program that helps many people. Going undercover to report on a very vocal gay-hostile preacher is not only good for the gay community, it is good for the 12 step community because it exposes a fraud.

I'm grateful Lavender Magazine went undercover and exposed this awful, hypocritical man. Shame on the catholic church (which ought to be renamed the pedophile protection agency) for subverting the twelve steps.

Joe

Great answer, Joe!

I have no problem outing anyone anti-gay, 12-Step program or no. But I hadn't even stopped to ask myself why there was a 12-Step program for gayness. Thanks for the additional strategem in our defense against people who dehumanize and demonize us for loving who we love.

Mr. Triplett,

I understand your position. But in my view it totally mis-analyzes the competing equities involved. You support the privacy/confidentiality not only of Pastor Brock - a proven homophobe who has repeatedly used his religious position to harm gays - but also the Catholic organization Courage which is deliberately working to maintain the lie that gays can change their sexual orientation.

Every legitimate medical and mental health association holds the position that such "ex-gay" programs do not work and, indeed, are likely harmful. Therefore, the APA has labeled participation in them to be unethical for licensed therapists. Yet Courage, like the Catholic Church as a whole, continues to cling to bogus "natural law" hocus pocus derived in the 13th century to denigrate gays and peddle a clearly fraudulent and potentially harmful program to gays. I'm sorry, but individuals like Brock and "ex-gay" programs like this one run by Courage need to be exposed to the bright light of day for the lies and frauds that they are.

Better yet, what needs to happen is for groups like Courage to be stripped of the ability to hide behind a "religious" veil while peddling harmful lies against an innocent segment of society. In fact, I would LOVE to find a client harmed (or the surviving family of an individual harmed) by one of these programs so that a civil lawsuit could be filed seeking damages for the knowingly negilgent and fraudulent programs. One or two big liability judgments and such programs would fold because they would be unable to secure insurance coverage.

The equities lie on the side of exposing individuals like Brock and programs like Courage. In my view, not exposing them is a larger violation of ethical conduct.

Michael Triplett | June 30, 2010 10:39 PM

While the equities FOR AN ACTIVIST may balance in favor of exposing him regardless of the means, journalists aren't the same as activists. Journalists have a different ethical obligation.

Journalists don't get to decide they can cross an ethical boundary because they don't like the people or organizations involved or decide that the organizations or people are morally wrong. That's not our decision. Just because activists didn't like ACORN, for instance, and found their work morally and politically bankrupt doesn't mean a journalist should go undercover as a hooker to set them up.

There's a lot of confusion and uncertainty about Courage and we need more reporting on them, but that shouldn't be done by going undercover and then reporting on names and conversations.

There's not much scientific evidence as to the efficacy of twelve step programs, period (and they are explictly religious). But, it is not the fact that it was a twelve step program that bothers me, it was that the reporter infilrated a group where member's discussions were explicitly confidential AND the group was, to the best of my knowledge, not lying about its nature and purpose (albeit a nasty one) in member recruitment. I can't help but think of confidential support groups for queer people that are queer positive. What if someone infiltrated one of them and proceeded to out members to make a political point? The reporter did not just enter the group and then provide information about what goes on in such groups while protecting the identity of the members, he specifically went there to try to snoop into someone's sexuality by listening to what he knew were confidential conversations and that's sleazy and unethical, regardless of the fact that his victim is not a good person.

To people having trouble "understanding" why journalists have qualms about Townsend's tactics, this article from the Columbia Journalism Review explains more:

http://www.cjr.org/campaign_desk/the_ethics_of_undercover_journalism.php?page=1

It's not a moving standard made up to justify keeping Brock in the closet. And, frankly, I find it hard to believe that Townsend couldn't have gotten the same story through other sources, without misrepresenting himself and violating his profession's ethics. Former tricks? prostitutes? visits to local baths?

There is no way to make undercover work anything but deceptive. I don't see the problem with violating confidentiality for a group whose work is a fraud.

In the documentary, Food Inc, there was data that was retrieved by undercover reporters. They infiltrated the processing plant and photographed the horrendous treatment of both the chickens and the employees. It was done by deception and the documentary was very useful. I know many people who have changed their eating for the better because of it.

By the way, if this had been a true twelve step program, the reporter would not have been asked to keep on the quiet. I know this because I have been to thousands of meeting over 19 years and nobody asked me to keep quiet. There is a general announcement at the beginning of a meeting requesting that what is heard here stays here, but it is a request not a qualification for being there. Furthermore, if this were a 12 step program, anyone could be there. They are open to the public.

Seems to me that you're getting pissy for no reason. An ex-gay ministry (and that is exactly what this purported 12 step program is) was exposed by someone who went undercover. A straight guy went undercover a while ago to a different ex-gay program. He signed a legal document guaranteeing that he would not tell anyone what he saw there. What he saw there so appalled him, he wrote about it anyway.

UNDERCOVER MEANS DECEPTION; IT IS OFTEN VERY USEFUL.

In short, get over yourself Mary. This reporter did a great job identifying two frauds: Courage and Brock. Kudos to Lavender Magazine.

Paige Listerud | July 1, 2010 1:39 PM

I'd like people to consider ramifications of escalation or blowback from the religious right.

There are a number of authentic 12 step programs in this country that are set up specifically to meet the needs of LGBT people trying to recover from addictions. The people attending these groups may be in the closet, somewhat out of the closet, or totally out and the quality of their recovery from addiction may depend on having control over when and where they choose to come out and to whom. Confidentiality is a requirement not just for their mental health and recovery from addiction, but also as a protection against a homophobic society that would deprive them of livelihood, housing, and personal safety.

Suppose as a result of these kinds of tactics the religious right decides that the gloves are off and the outing of everyday LGBT people attending 12 step meetings is fair game. How many lives would be ruined then? Are you prepared to see that happen to some of the most vulnerable people in our community?

You may think Courage's 12 step program is a farce and I do too. However, the people engaged in promoting it are deadly serious and when they see their confidentiality and privacy threatened, they may just turn around and threaten people in our community with the loss of theirs. Are you ready to see that happen?

I attend OA and Al-Anon meetings. I'm out of the closet, my life is an open book--but I am not everyone who needs relief from the insanity of addiction. LGBT journalists should adhere to their profession's standard of ethics and go after hypocrites like Tom Brock through other means.

I doubt very much that the anti-gays would out anyone. They want us to remain in the closet.

I think it is far more dangerous not to expose people like Brock and programs like Courage. Courage is predicated on a lie: that being gay is an addiction. Without challenging this publicly, some gay people would be victimized.