Opinion

A Pre-Birth Determination?

The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., one of the leading voices of the 16 million-strong Southern Baptist Convention, raised the possibility of a biological basis for homosexuality in his blog.
The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., one of the leading voices of the 16 million-strong Southern Baptist Convention, raised the possibility of a biological basis for homosexuality in his blog. (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Via Associated Press)

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By Lynne Duke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 18, 2007

Pity the poor fetus. There's a lot coming its way. And now there's talk on a conservative evangelical blog of a hypothetical hormone patch that an expectant mother might wear to eradicate her fetus's natural gayness.

The patch, the biological determinism: It's all conjecture, for now. But it hit like a theological IED when it turned up earlier this month on the blog of the Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., one of the leading voices of the 16 million-strong Southern Baptist Convention. He blogged on these issues under the appropriately provocative headline: "Is Your Baby Gay? What if You Could Know? What if You Could Do Something About It?" In his postings, he raises the possibility of a biological basis for homosexuality and prods his flock to think about how it should respond.

At a time when homosexuality in the military has reemerged as a flash point, causing presidential candidates to deflect and dance gingerly around the topic, Mohler has taken up the debate about the origins of homosexuality in a way he ad mits has roiled many in the Christian right.

For seeming to contradict a basic tenet of anti-gay thinking -- that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice, not a state of nature -- Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, was inundated with e-mails from readers who castigated him, he said on his blog Friday.

And for expressing his approval of a hypothetical prenatal intervention to change a baby's sexual orientation, he was verbally attacked by gay-rights advocates. Some of them likened him to the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele for seeming to advocate the manipulation of nature to "basically wipe out gay people," said Wayne R. Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, a group that fights efforts to convert gays to heterosexuality.

To quiet the storm, Mohler's blog on Friday attempted to more fully explain his thinking, sparked by an article by Tyler Gray, entitled "Is Your Baby Gay?," in the March issue of Radar magazine.

"My purpose in writing my previous article was, in the main, to draw attention to a very real threat to human dignity that lurks as a possibility on our horizon, a possibility explicitly described in the Radar magazine article," Mohler wrote. "This is the possibility that, if a biological marker (real or not) is ever claimed to mark homosexuality in prenatal testing, widespread abortion of such babies might well follow," a prospect he denounced.

In an interview on Friday, Mohler said that Christian couples "should be open" to the prospect of changing the course of nature -- if a biological marker for homosexuality were to be found. He would not support gene therapy but might back other treatments, such as a hormonal patch.

"I think any Christian couple would want their child to be whole and healthy," he said. "Knowing that that child is going to be a sinner, we would not want to make their personal challenges more difficult if they could be less difficult."

On his blog, he said "Christians must be very careful not to claim that science can never prove a biological basis for sexual orientation. . . . The general trend of the research points to at least some biological factors behind sexual attraction, gender identity and sexual orientation."

Indeed, some scientific research suggests homosexuality may stem from biological influences including genetics and hormones. A 2006 study published in Proceedings of the National Academies of Science concluded that homosexuality in some men may be a result of an immune response in a mother's womb if she has previously given birth to one or more boys. Earlier studies revealed a genetic variation that might influence homosexuality.


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