Gus Kenworthy
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Furor over
Baptist's gay baby article

The president of
the leading Southern Baptist seminary has incurred sharp
attacks from both the Left and Right by suggesting that a
biological basis for homosexuality may be proven and
that prenatal treatment to reverse gay orientation
would be biblically justified.

The Reverend R.
Albert Mohler Jr., one of the country's preeminent
evangelical leaders, acknowledged that he irked many fellow
conservatives with an article earlier this month
saying scientific research ''points to some level of
biological causation'' for homosexuality.

Proof of a
biological basis would challenge the belief of many
conservative Christians that homosexuality—which they
view as sinful—is a matter of choice that can
be overcome through prayer and counseling.

However, Mohler,
president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
in Louisville, Ky., was assailed even more harshly by gay
rights supporters. They were upset by his assertion
that homosexuality would remain a sin even if it were
biologically based and by his support for possible
medical treatment that could switch an unborn gay baby's
sexual orientation to heterosexual.

''He's willing to
play God,'' said Harry Knox, a spokesman on religious
issues for the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights
group. ''He's more than willing to let homophobia take
over and be the determinant of how he responds to this
issue, in spite of everything else he believes about
not tinkering with the unborn.''

Mohler said he
was aware of the invective being directed at him on gay
rights blogs, where some participants have likened him to
Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor notorious for
death-camp experimentation.

''I wonder if
people actually read what I wrote,'' Mohler said in a
telephone interview. ''But I wrote the article intending to
start a conversation, and I think I've been successful
at that.''

The article,
published March 2 on Mohler's personal Web site, carried a
long but intriguing title: ''Is Your Baby Gay? What If You
Could Know? What If You Could Do Something About It?''

Mohler began by
summarizing some recent research into sexual orientation
and advising his Christian readership that they should brace
for the possibility that a biological basis for
homosexuality may be proven.

Mohler wrote that
such proof would not alter the Bible's condemnation of
homosexuality, but said the discovery would be ''of great
pastoral significance, allowing for a greater
understanding of why certain persons struggle with
these particular sexual temptations.''

He also referred
to a recent article in the pop-culture magazine
Radar, which explored the possibility that sexual
orientation could be detected in unborn babies and raised
the question of whether parents—even liberals
who support gay rights—might be open to trying
future prenatal techniques that would reverse homosexuality.

Mohler said he
would strongly oppose any move to encourage abortion or
genetic manipulation of fetuses on grounds of sexual
orientation, but he would endorse prenatal hormonal
treatment—if such a technology were
developed—to reverse homosexuality. He said this
would be no different in moral terms from using
technology that would restore vision to a blind fetus.

''I realize this
sounds very offensive to homosexuals, but it's the only
way a Christian can look at it,'' Mohler said. ''We should
have no more problem with that than treating any
medical problem.''

Mohler's argument
was endorsed by a prominent Roman Catholic thinker, the
Reverend Joseph Fessio, provost of Ave Maria University in
Naples, Fla., and editor of Ignatius Press, Pope
Benedict XVI's U.S. publisher.

''Same-sex
activity is considered disordered,'' Fessio said. ''If there
are ways of detecting diseases or disorders of children in
the womb and a way of treating them that respected the
dignity of the child and mother, it would be a
wonderful advancement of science.''

Such logic
dismayed Jennifer Chrisler of Family Pride, a group that
supports gay and lesbian families.

''What bothers me
is the hypocrisy,'' she said. ''In one breath, they say
the sanctity of an unborn life is unconditional, and in the
next breath, it's OK to perform medical treatments on
them because of their own moral convictions, not
because there's anything wrong with the child.''

Paul Myers, a
biology professor at the University of Minnesota-Morris,
wrote a detailed critique of Mohler's column, contending
that there could be many genes contributing to sexual
orientation and that medical attempts to alter it
could be risky.

''If there are
such genes, they will also contribute to other aspects of
social and sexual interactions,'' Myers wrote.
''Disentangling the nuances of preference from the
whole damn problem of loving people might well be
impossible.''

Not all reaction
to Mohler's article has been negative.

Jack Drescher, a
New York City psychiatrist critical of those who
consider homosexuality a disorder, commended Mohler's
openness to the prospect that it is biologically
based.

''This represents
a major shift,'' Drescher said. ''This is a man who
actually has an open mind, who is struggling to reconcile
his religious beliefs with facts that contradict it.''
(AP)

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