Commentary Religion

Bachmanns’ Anti-Gay Therapy Practice Takes Page From Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Jodi Jacobson

Michele Bachmann and her husband Marcus run clinics that focus, in part, on anti-gay therapy, marital counseling and other issues. Marcus Bachmann portrays himself as a trained therapist.  It now appears that their "christian counseling" services take a page from crisis pregnancy centers.

One of the most pervasive characteristics of the anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-woman movement, of which Michele Bachmann proudly places herself in the forefront, is that they are also anti-science and anti-evidence and openly flout sound medical practices based on evidence and clinical practice and approved by legitimate medical boards and associations.

These practices have long been a feature of so-called crisis pregnancy centers, which exist solely to confuse women seeking to terminate a pregnancy, often have no medical staff and, as a matter of practice, offer women outright false information, such as that having an abortion will cause increase their risks of breast cancer.

Crisis pregnancy centers engage in these practices because they know the evidence is not on their side.  Their only hope at “succeeding” in their quests (success being defined as abrogating women’s rights to self-determination) is to mislead women who have decided to terminate a pregnancy with lies based on ideology and misguided theology, not evidence.

This, it appears, is the model adopted by the Bachmanns with respect to sexual orientation.

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The Bachmanns own two clinics in Minnesota, employ more than two dozen therapists and took in $137,000 in Medicaid funds.

It turns out that Dr. Bachmann, as he is known, is practicing without a license.

According to Politico, he is not registered with any of the three boards that certify mental health practitioners and professions in the state.

The Minnesota Board of Psychology and the Board of Marriage and Family Therapy confirmed to POLITICO that Bachmann is not licensed with them. And a search of the Board of Behavioral Health and Therapy license database returns no result.

The New York Times reports that Dr. Bachmann lists himself as a clinical therapist. But Trisha Stark, of the Minnesota Psychological Association, told Politico that the title “clinical therapist” is not widely used in professional circles and that Bachmann is able to operate his clinic because of state rules regarding mental health practice.

“Minnesota is one of the only states in which you can practice mental health without a license,” Stark said.

Nor, as Michelle Goldberg points out in the Daily Beast, does Marcus Bachmann actually have serious training.

Goldberg writes: ‘Neither Bachmann nor many of his therapists, it’s important to note, have serious psychological training.”

Marcus Bachmann received his doctorate in psychology from Union Institute and University.  As Goldberg notes:

His Ph.D. comes from the Union Institute, a Cincinnati-based correspondence school; in 2002, it was cited by the Ohio Board of Regents, which said, “Expectations for student scholarship at the doctoral level were not as rigorous as is common for doctoral work.”

It may therefore not be surprising that the Bachmanns’ clinics offer what is known colloquially as “reparative therapy,” or so-called gay-to-straight counseling, an approach that legitimate medical and pyschological associations define as dangerous and without merit.

A 2007 task force put together by the American Psychological Association, which first condemned reparative therapy in a 1997 resolution, concluded that “efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm.” The resolution affirmed the principle that “psychologists do not make false or deceptive statements concerning…the scientific or clinical basis for…their services.”

Goldberg cites the American Psychiatric Association, which states:

“The potential risks of ‘reparative therapy’ are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.”

On the other hand, as noted by the NYT, The American Association of Christian Counselors, which has 50,000 members, and of which the Bachmanns are members, supports reparative therapy “on biblical, ethical and legal grounds” for patients “with a genuine desire to be set free of homosexual attractions,” according to its code of ethics. The goal is “heterosexual relations and marriage or lifelong sexual celibacy.”

While Marcus Bachmann has continued to deny it, evidence collected by the group Truth Wins Out, the Nation, and through interviews with former clients cited by the NYT, confirm what has long been suspected:

The Nation’s Mariah Blake provides this anecdote:

In the summer of 2004, Andrew Ramirez, who was just about to enter his senior year of high school, worked up the nerve to tell his family he was gay. His mother took the news in stride, but his stepfather, a conservative Christian, was outraged. “He said it was wrong, an abomination, that it was something he would not tolerate in his house,” Ramirez recalls. A few weeks later, his parents marched him into the office of Bachmann & Associates, a Christian counseling center in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, which is owned by Michele Bachmann’s husband, Marcus. From the outset, Ramirez says, his therapist—one of roughly twenty employed at the Lake Elmo clinic—made it clear that renouncing his sexual orientation was the only moral choice. “He basically said being gay was not an acceptable lifestyle in God’s eyes,” Ramirez recalls. According to Ramirez, his therapist then set about trying to “cure” him. Among other things, he urged Ramirez to pray and read the Bible, particularly verses that cast homosexuality as an abomination, and referred him to a local church for people who had given up the “gay lifestyle.” He even offered to set Ramirez up with an ex-lesbian mentor.

So like crisis pregnancy centers, the Bachmanns are employing deceptive practices based on misguided religious ideology, irrespective of the effect on real people. 

And like crisis pregnancy centers, “reparative” therapy may fit the Bachmanns twisted worldview, but apart from flouting the evidence, it is neither ethical nor moral, nor in my estimation, “christian” either in its intent or its outcome.

But there is another word for the work of these kinds of clinics: Malpractice.

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For a list of articles on crisis pregnancy centers, use this link: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/tag/crisis-pregnancy-centers

News Law and Policy

Pastors Fight Illinois’ Ban on ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’

Imani Gandy

Illinois is one of a handful of states that ban so-called gay conversion therapy. Lawmakers in four states—California, Oregon, Vermont, and New Jersey—along with Washington, D.C. have passed such bans.

A group of pastors filed a lawsuit last week arguing an Illinois law that bans mental health providers from engaging in so-called gay conversion therapy unconstitutionally infringes on rights to free speech and freedom of religion.

The Illinois legislature passed the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, which went into effect on January 1. The measure bans mental health providers from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts or so-called conversion therapy with a minor.

The pastors in their lawsuit argue the enactment of the law means they are “deprived of the right to further minister to those who seek their help.”

While the pastors do not qualify as mental health providers since they are neither licensed counselors nor social workers, the pastors allege that they may be liable for consumer fraud under Section 25 of the law, which states that “no person or entity” may advertise or otherwise offer “conversion therapy” services “in a manner that represents homosexuality as a mental disease, disorder, or illness.”

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The pastors’ lawsuit seeks an order from a federal court in Illinois exempting pastoral counseling from the law. The pastors believe that “the law should not apply to pastoral counseling which informs counselees that homosexuality conduct is a sin and disorder from God’s plan for humanity,” according to a press release issued by the pastors’ attorneys.

Illinois is one of a handful of states that ban gay “conversion therapy.” Lawmakers in four states—California, Oregon, Vermont, and New Jersey—along with Washington, D.C. have passed such bans. None have been struck down as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court this year declined to take up a case challenging New Jersey’s “gay conversion therapy” ban on First Amendment grounds.

The pastors say the Illinois law is different. The complaint alleges that the Illinois statute is broader than those like it in other states because the prohibitions in the law is not limited to licensed counselors, but also apply to “any person or entity in the conduct of any trade or commerce,” which they claim affects clergy.

The pastors allege that the law is not limited to counseling minors but “prohibits offering such counseling services to any person, regardless of age.”

Aside from demanding protection for their own rights, the group of pastors asked the court for an order “protecting the rights of counselees in their congregations and others to receive pastoral counseling and teaching on the matters of homosexuality.”

“We are most concerned about young people who are seeking the right to choose their own identity,” the pastors’ attorney, John W. Mauck, said in a statement.

“This is an essential human right. However, this law undermines the dignity and integrity of those who choose a different path for their lives than politicians and activists prefer,” he continued.

“Gay conversion therapy” bans have gained traction after Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager, committed suicide following her experience with so-called conversion therapy.

Before taking her own life, Alcorn posted on Reddit that her parents had refused her request to transition to a woman.

“The[y] would only let me see biased Christian therapists, who instead of listening to my feelings would try to change me into a straight male who loved God, and I would cry after every session because I felt like it was hopeless and there was no way I would ever become a girl,” she wrote of her experience with conversion therapy.

The American Psychological Association, along with a coalition of health advocacy groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, have condemned “gay conversion therapy” as potentially harmful to young people “because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure.”

The White House in 2015 took a stance against so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth.

Attorneys for the State of Illinois have not yet responded to the pastors’ lawsuit.

News Law and Policy

Seattle Becomes Fourth U.S. City to Outlaw ‘Conversion Therapy’

Nicole Knight

The American Psychological Association has warned of risks from the so-called treatment, including depression, anxiety, self hatred, and self-destructive behavior. Major medical organizations have rejected the harmful practice.

The Seattle City Council this week banned so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth, making it the latest in a string of cities and states to outlaw the harmful and unscientific practice.

The “conversion therapy” ban passed Monday in a unanimous vote.

“Being gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer or transgender is not an illness,” said Lorena González, the councilperson who sponsored the new ordinance, as the Stranger reported. “Nor is it something that needs a cure.”

“Conversion therapy” attempts to change a young LGBTQ person’s sexual orientation or gender identity to cisgender or “straight.” Major medical and health-care organizations, such as the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry have rejected the controversial practice.

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The American Psychological Association has warned of risks from the so-called treatment, including depression, anxiety, self hatred, and self-destructive behavior.

Cincinnati, Miami Beach, and Washington, D.C. already ban “conversion therapy,” as do states including California, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, New York, and Vermont, Seattle officials said in a statement.

The Seattle ordinance applies to licensed providers treating youths younger than 18. Violators face fines of up to $1,000.

The city “has taken a bold step to save children’s lives, and its children have received a clear message that they were born perfect,” said Carolyn Reyes, youth policy counsel with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). The NCLR’s #BornPerfect campaign seeks to end “conversion therapy” nationwide by 2019 through new laws, court action, and awareness campaigns.

Although LGBTQ rights groups in Washington state had pushed for statewide legislation to outlaw “conversion therapy,” Monisha Harrell, with the LGBTQ advocacy group Equal Rights Washington, cheered the city ordinance. She said the group would redouble its efforts to enact a statewide ban.

The Obama administration last year called for an end to “conversion therapy,” throwing its support behind national legislation named for Leelah Alcorn. Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender woman who killed herself in 2014, wrote in a suicide note that religious therapists tried to force her identify as a boy, as Rewire reported.

The Republican Party this summer nearly made support for the harmful practice part of its party platform, as Time reported.

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins had advocated for strong language backing “conversion therapy,” but watered down his amendment after conferring Republican National Committee officials. The party finally agreed to: “We support the right of parents to determine the proper treatment or therapy, for their minor children.”

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