:Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; :Oct 6, 2004; :Arkansas; :15

Gays in home taxing for kids, court hears

Psychologist backs state’s foster-care ban


    A South Carolina child psychologist and Baptist minister testified Tuesday that foster children placed in households with homosexuals would be ostracized at school and that the instability of gay relationships would make the youngsters’ lives stressful.

    George Rekers, a professor at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, testified for the state in a civil suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of three Arkansans who cannot be foster parents because they or someone in their home is gay.

    The trial before Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox began in March but was delayed for more than six months after the state’s previous expert witness died in a car crash on the eve of his testimony.

    Little Rock attorney Kathy L. Hall, who represents the Arkansas Child Welfare Agency Review Board, questioned Rekers about his opinion regarding placement of children in foster homes where at least one person is homosexual. The board approved a regulation in 1999 prohibiting such placements.

    "It would be in the best interest of foster children to be placed in a heterosexual home," Rekers began, adding that chil-
dren in foster care are more likely to already have psychological disorders.

    He said that because the majority of people in the country — according to one public opinion study — disapprove of homosexual behavior, placing vulnerable children in a home with a gay person would intensify their stress.

    "That disapproval filters down to children," Rekers said. "Children will express disapproval in more cruel, insensitive ways" toward children being raised in a household containing a gay person.

    Attorneys for the ACLU attacked Rekers’ credibility, noting on cross-examination that he is an ordained minister of the Southern Baptist faith, which opposes homosexuality, and has written extensively on Christian parenting.

    Attorney Leslie Cooper, who along with James Esseks is arguing the case against the regulation, asked Rekers about an article he and a colleague wrote about homosexual parenting that was published in the law review for Regent University Law School, a college founded by evangelical Christian Pat Robertson.

    Rekers also has written two books — Growing Up Straightand Shaping Your Child’s Sexual Identity — that Hall said were written from a Christian perspective.

Saying that the Bible is the infallible word of God, Rekers testified that he believes homosexuality is sin.

Rita Sklar, executive director of the ACLU chapter of Arkansas, said during a break in testimony that Rekers’ opinions on gay foster-parents have more to do with his religious beliefs than his scientific knowledge.

"I think it’s clear that he has his own personal biases that inform his opinion," Sklar said.

Sklar scoffed at Reker’s testimony regarding foster children in gay homes being subject to ostracism at school.

    "Children are taunted at school for a variety of reasons," she said. "You can’t have a statewide policy based on the whims of a schoolyard bully."

    Julie Munsell, spokesman for the state Department of Human Services, said the policy was implemented to help protect children who are in crisis.

    "You have to treat these children differently," she said. "This is all about protecting and deciding what is in the absolute best interests of the children."

    Munsell dismissed Sklar’s complaints about Reker’s alleged religious bias.

    "We did not choose ... Rekers based on his personal beliefs," she said, "but because of his professional opinions developed over a number of years."

    The suit claims that the board regulation discriminates against qualified foster parents.

    Fox set a Dec. 20 hearing date in the suit, at which time he will decide whether he needs to hear any additional evidence.

Information for this story was provided by the Associated Press.