Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dishonest reporting

Jewish date:  26 ’Av 5771 (evening) (Parashath Re’eh).

Today’s holidays:  Feast Day of Louis of France and Joseph Calasanz (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Heliogabulus (Church of the SubGenius), Feast Day of Friederich Nietzsche (Thelema).


Greetings.

Recently I came across a short article which struck me as off, and Barry independently asked me to comment on it.  The article is “Rabbis Help Gays Find Sexless Marriages To Procreate For God”.

It starts with this:
Ever wish that you could have a sexless marriage, lots of affairs, and still have the approval of God?  Well, now you can, if you are a homosexual Jew — as long as you promise to procreate in the name of the Lord as well.
It was immediately obvious that something was wrong.  Judaism does not condone affairs by anyone, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual, and making children does not excuse such misbehavior.  The rest of the article was also suspicious:
Via Think Progress:
A new Orthodox Jewish service “seeks to help religious homosexuals and lesbians find a partner for procreation purposes – as long as they promise to try to change their sexual orientation,” YNet News reports. An orthodox interpretation of Jewish law forbids homosexual relations, but the match-making website hopes to connect men and women “seeking to start a family in Israel, even without sexual attraction, in order to bring religious children into the world and provide them with traditional education. Thus, a religious gay man will be able to meet a religious lesbian woman through the website and have children with her.”
It’s assumed, of course, that any gay person involved in this sort of arrangement will be having affairs, and according to the service that’s just fine — it’s not cheating if you’re both doing it and your partner knows and approves.  After all, it’s all worth it if it makes more children of the faith.  And the Rabbis themselves believe they are acting under the best of intentions. “Almost everyone understands that there are those who simply cannot change,” [Orthodox Rabbi Arale] Harel admits. “This initiative was designed for them.” 
Still, it’s funny to think, so many religious people are worried that same sex marriage is destroying the “traditional” definition of marriage.
Now, I had already heard about Rav Har’el matchmaking homosexuals (of the opposite sex).  (See “Orthodox Gay Marriage” and “Israeli rabbis launch initiative to marry gay men to lesbian women”.)  However, I had not heard anything about him approving affairs, and when one also takes into account the flippant tone of this article, my suspicions were raised that whoever wrote it did not bother to do any research.

So let us follow the links.  This article refers back to another article in ThinkProgress, “RABBIS MATCH GAYS AND LESBIANS ‘TO BRING RELIGIOUS CHILDREN INTO THE WORLD’”, which was quoted almost in its entirety.  The only part which was not quoted is:
“We are aware of the fact that the man and woman may have extramarital relations according to their sexual inclination, but at least they won’t be cheating on their partners, as it will be done with their consent,” one Orthodox rabbi explained
So far we are still in the midst of suspicious content.  The second article links to a third article on Ynetnews, “Rabbis to match homosexuals, lesbians”:
A new Web initiative seeks to help religious homosexuals and lesbians find a partner for procreation purposes – as long as they promise to try to change their sexual orientation.

Currently, religious gay people are not entitled to use the sector's regular matchmaking service. In the coming days, the Kamoha website for Orthodox homosexuals will introduce a new page resembling leading dating websites. But unlike similar initiatives which have failed in the past, this one enjoys the support of senior Religious Zionism rabbis.

As Jewish Halacha forbids homosexual relations, the initiative will connect between men and women seeking to start a family in Israel, even without sexual attraction, in order to bring religious children into the world and provide them with traditional education. Thus, a religious gay man will be able to meet a religious lesbian woman through the website and have children with her.

The initiative is being led by Orthodox Rabbi Arale Harel, former head of the Shilo hesder yeshiva. According to Harel, the program has the support of additional Religious Zionism rabbis, including Haim Drukman, Yaakov Ariel and Elyakim Levanon.

Harel says he has so far matched more than 10 gay-lesbian couples, and is now seeking to institutionalize the issue.

"There is no rabbi who will approve such a marriage," he explains. "We are aware of the fact that the man and woman may have extramarital relations according to their sexual inclination, but at least they won't be cheating on their partners, as it will be done with their consent."

Nonetheless, Harel has added a condition for the match, which may deter religious homosexuals and lesbians. According to the rabbi, the couple will first have to undergo "psychological conversion therapy aimed at helping the patients change their sexual inclination."

Those seeking to use the website's services will undergo a screening process, and after paying NIS 150 (about $42) in order to prove that they are serious about the issue, they will be able to go out with members of the opposite sex while receiving psychological and rabbinical advice.

"Almost everyone understands that there are those who simply cannot change," Harel admits. "This initiative was designed for them."
This article adds new, unusual details.  First of all, there is the listed requirement of conversion therapy.  Conversion therapy, which aims to change homosexuals into heterosexuals, is not scientifically recognized as actually working and may be harmful.  This requirement is paradoxical, considering that Rav Harel claims that some people cannot change their sexual orientation.  Secondly, there is the obvious contradiction between this matchmaking having rabbinical approval and the claim that no rabbi would approve of such a match.  Also unusual is what is omitted:  a link to this “new Web initiative”.

Given the difficult nature of these three articles, I decided to find Rav Har’el and company and see what they have to say for themselves.  And I did find them.  Their site is Kamokha and their new initiative is ’Anaḥnu.  From the three questionable articles, one might think that rabbis, especially Rav Har’el, were going out their way to get homosexuals to marry people of the opposite sex.  They are not.  Kamokha is an organization of Orthodox Jewish homosexual men who wish to live by Orthodox Judaism.  This includes the prohibition on the practice of homosexuality.  If this seems strange to anyone, do note that just because one has a desire to do something does not mean one will actually do it or even wants to have this desire.  ’Anaḥnu is also their initiative; please note that homosexuals, like heterosexuals, often want to get married and have children.  Kamokha approached Rav Har’el to establish this program.  This is something they want, not something anyone is trying to foist upon anyone else.  They also make it clear that this program is experimental, that it is only for those who have come to terms with not being able to change their sexual orientation, and that this is not a program meant to change sexual orientation.  There is no requirement of conversion therapy whatsoever.  Neither is there any permission for affairs.  To put it bluntly, the people behind the questionable articles lied.  At the most generous, one might think they confounded ’Anaḥnu with another Kamokha initiative, one to provide conversion therapy for free for those who want it—with full recognition that it is controversial—but that would be difficult to do accidentally without being amazingly stupid.

As for the whole business of affairs being allegedly OK for married homosexuals, that may be a perversion of something that Rav Har’el said in an interview pulled out of context:
"Most of the couples agree not to have relationships with members of their own sex, but if there are 'lapses' once every few years, they don't see this as a betrayal," he said. "Generally, it's between them and their Creator."
This is not permission to have an affair by any means, only a statement on the psychology and theology.

Sadly, this display of dishonesty is precedented.  (E.g., see my reviews of His Dark Materials, The God Delusion, Religulous, Expelled:  No Intelligence Allowed, and Godless:  The Church of Liberalism.)  If one wishes to argue that homosexuals should never marry anyone of the opposite sex, fine.  If one wishes to argue that homosexuals should not resist their sexual desires but instead rejoice in them, fine.  If one wishes to argue that homosexuals should never have children, fine.  If one wishes to argue that no one should ever aid and abet a homosexual in marrying someone of the opposite sex and producing children, even if that is what the homosexual wants, fine.  Argue any position you want, but do it on the basis of the actual facts.  If someone has to lie or quote out of context to “prove” that someone is doing something wrong, then that person has given the perfect reason to believe that nothing wrong is being done.  And this goes double when the result is mockery and not even a pathetic excuse for an argument.  Practically anyone can do better than this.

Peace.

’Aharon/Aaron