The religious right targets the NIH

Gauging from the moods around me, as well as my own mood, worse than simply a Bush victory are the reasons why so many people voted for him–especially, a deep cultural conservatism that has at is base an aggressive religiosity. Unlike much of my atheist, liberal cohort, my understanding of religion in America is multi-faceted. For every account of anti-gay, anti-choice, authoritarian and paternalistic assaults by the religious right, I can point to anti-death penalty activities by traditional Catholic and Protestant ministries, help for the homeless, and support for human rights causes around the globe. But it’s clear that the former have been focused on the institutions of political power while the latter have not, at least not since the civil rights fights of the 1960s.

Here’s something that’ll chill your bones. Though it’s been publicized in the past, in the wake of the new Congress, it’s now placed in a different, terrifying context–the politicization of NIH research by the far right. (via

[Chris] Beyrer, a Bloomberg associate research professor of epidemiology, recalls a meeting, after the list came out, of NIH investigators and program directors: “At that meeting, a project officer stood up and said, ‘We have to tell you that there is a new policy at NIH, and the policy is that if any of the following words or terms are in your grant title or abstract, we’re going to send it back to you to take them out.’ Then she proceeded to list the words: sex worker, injection drug use, harm reduction, needle exchange, men who have sex with men, homosexual, bisexual, gay, prostitute. It was unbelievable. We were literally looking around the room, like, You’re kidding me. Everyone sat in silence. I raised my hand and said, ‘We’re proposing to do a training program in harm reduction throughout Southeast Asia. That’s one of our main activities over the next five years because the data tell us that injection drug use remains a problem and there’s more injection drug use transmission happening in this region. I want to do that. It’s the right thing to do. How do we proceed?’ And she said, ‘Don’t make me speak to you about this in public. There are spies everywhere.’ This is at NIH! This is the United States of America! This is not China! I spoke to her afterwards outside the room and she said, ‘Look, you can say what you want in the body of the grant. We don’t think anybody is going to get to that level. But the title and abstract are part of the database that’s searchable by these people, and we’re trying to help you avoid not getting funded.'”