Surgeon General Nominee Targeted for 'Anti-Gay Ideology'

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - A Kentucky cardiologist and health-care administrator picked by the Bush administration to serve as the new U.S. surgeon general is under attack from homosexual advocacy groups. They charge that James Holsinger, Jr., is "unworthy" of the post because his "anti-gay beliefs" are incompatible with being "America's top doctor."

Holsinger was nominated to become the country's chief health educator on May 24, when President Bush called the 68-year-old doctor "an accomplished physician who has led one of our nation's largest health-care systems" for the state of Kentucky.

Bush further stated that Holsinger "has taught at several American medical schools, and he served more than three decades in the United States Army Reserve, retiring in 1993 as a major general."

The nation's 18th surgeon general "will particularly focus his efforts on educating parents and children about childhood obesity, a serious epidemic that decreases quality of life and burdens our health-care system," Bush added

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt called the president's choice "an impressive individual" and said in a news release that "Holsinger's significant experience as a physician, educator and leader make him an excellent choice to serve as 'America's doctor.'"

But last week, Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, disagreed, claiming in a news release that "Holsinger has a record that is unworthy."

"His writings suggest a scientific view rooted in anti-gay beliefs that are incompatible with the job of serving the medical health of all Americans," Solmonese said. "It is essential that America's top doctor value sound science over anti-gay ideology."

Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, charged that with Holsinger's nomination "the Bush administration is once again elevating ideology over public policy and once again throwing red meat to its ravenous anti-gay supporters."

"Dr. Holsinger's record shows that his own biases will not allow him to look objectively at scientific information," Foreman said in a statement. "Consequently, he is not qualified to be surgeon general."

Pipe fittings

At the center of the groups' complaints is a 1991 document entitled "Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality" that Holsinger wrote for the Committee to Study Homosexuality of the United Methodist Church.

In the paper, Holsinger stated that "the structure and function of the male and female human reproductive systems are fully complementary," a fact that "has been so recognized in our culture that it has entered our vocabulary in the form of naming various pipe fittings either the male fitting or the female fitting."

"When the complementarity of the sexes is breached" through such activities as anal sex, "injuries and diseases may occur," such as sexually transmitted diseases, infections, physical trauma and AIDS, he stated.

Homosexual groups are also pointing to actions Holsinger has taken as a member of the Judicial Council, the Methodist Church's highest judicial body. At one point, the physician opposed allowing a lesbian to serve as a congregation's associate pastor, and he supported a pastor's refusal to let an openly homosexual man join the church.

Also, the cardiologist and his wife, Barbara, are founders of the Hope Springs Community Church in Lexington, Ky., which offers a "recovery ministry" for homeless people, individuals addicted to drugs, alcohol and sex, and homosexuals who wish to change their sexual orientation.

That connection to an "ex-gay" program drew the ire of Patrick Sammon, president of the Log Cabin Republicans - a homosexual advocacy group within the GOP - who noted in a news release that "the medical community has long rejected the notion that sexual orientation can be changed."

"The fact that Dr. Holsinger advocates this type of junk science is troubling and represents a wholesale rejection of accepted and mainstream scientific opinion," Sammon added.

'Authentic diversity'

While Holsinger is routinely turning down press interviews until his confirmation hearings are held by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, Bush administration officials have been quick to defend the surgeon general nominee.

"Dr. Holsinger has dedicated his life to the care of others and public service, and his respect for all is evidenced by his actions and his career," said White House spokesman Emily Lawrimore in a statement.

And Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Christina Pearson asserted that "over 17 years ago, he was asked by a study committee of the United Methodist Church to compile a survey of peer-reviewed scientific data on health issues facing homosexuals, based on information available at the time."

"Since then, the science has deepened with continued research on these issues," Pearson said. "Dr. Holsinger remains focused on addressing the health of all in need, including gay and lesbian populations, consistent with sound science and the best medical practices."

Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International - which calls itself "the world's largest outreach to those affected by unwanted same-sex attraction" - fired back at Holsinger's critics in a news release of his own.

"As former homosexuals, we cannot ignore this hypocritical attack upon Dr. Holsinger," Chambers said. "As a society, we should not disqualify an individual simply because of his belief that those conflicted by their same-sex attraction can and should be helped.

"While we do not support or oppose the nominee, we are grateful that President Bush has put forth a candidate who supports individual autonomy and authentic diversity," he added. "We call upon members of the Senate Health Committee to offer the same tolerance afforded gay activist groups to former homosexuals as well."

The committee has not yet scheduled a hearing on Holsinger, and as Cybercast News Service previously reported, Bush administration nominees likely face a "slow walk" if Democrats in control of Congress try to drag out confirmation processes until Bush leaves office in 2009.

Nevertheless, Holsinger faces continued rough treatment from the political and cultural left, according to Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues with the conservative group Concerned Women for America.

"Facts and logic have a way of running counter to the left's agenda, so we shouldn't be at all surprised that there is such a liberal gnashing of teeth over Dr. Holsinger's nomination," Barber said.

"He's clearly struck a chord on the issue of homosexual behavior and the homosexual lifestyle, and that chord rings sour with those who don't want to hear it," Barber added.

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