WASHINGTON James Holsinger, nominated by President Bush to become the 18th U.S. surgeon general, is being slammed by homosexual activist groups because of his outspoken disapproval of homosexual behavior.
Holsinger, 68, is an accomplished cardiologist from the medical center at the University of Kentucky, a state with one of the country's largest healthcare systems.
However, a scholarly article Holsinger wrote in 1991 titled "Pathophysiology of Male Sexuality" as part of the United Methodist debate over homosexuality is diverting media and political attention from his credentials to his faith.
In the article, Holsinger wrote that anal sex was unnatural and heightened the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. He concluded that injuries and diseases may occur "when the complementarity of the sexes is breached."
Data from the Center for Disease Control indicates that risky homosexual behavior is contributing to dangerous increases in rates of infection for syphilis. The CDC reported an 8 percent rise overall in 2004, a fourth consecutive year of increase. Approximately 64 percent of the new cases were among men who have sex with men, up from just 5 percent in 1999. The same report documented the first increase in over a decade for the syphilis rate among blacks, primarily due to a an increase in the rate among black men. The rate of syphilis infection among all men rose 81 percent from 2000 to 2004. Between 1999 and 2004, the rate of syphilis infection among all women dropped 55 percent.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest homosexual political organization, has targeted Holsinger's nomination, posting a form letter on its website which HRC supporters can e-mail to members of the Senate, where Holsinger is awaiting confirmation. He was nominated to the post May 24.
The form letter asserts that "Dr. Holsinger's past writings suggest a scientific view rooted in anti-gay beliefs that are incompatible with the job of serving the medical health of all Americans." Holsinger's 1991 paper describing homosexuality as unnatural and dangerous "indicates that he views sexual orientation as a 'lifestyle choice.' This could not be further from the position held by mainstream medical or scientific organizations.
"Additionally, Dr. Holsinger and his wife were founders of Hope Springs Community Church [in Lexington, Ky.] which reportedly ministers to people who no longer wish to be gay or lesbian. This type of 'ex gay' conversion therapy has been condemned by almost every major, reputable medical organization," the form letter states.
Numerous evangelical Christians, however, have been at the forefront of challenging various psychological and medical organizations for their acceptance of homosexual behavior.
Hope Springs' website, for example, notes that the church offers various recovery ministries, including "Men's Sexual Integrity ... an opportunity for men to heal from sexual brokenness and find strength to overcome unhealthy sexual behaviors in a safe and confidential environment. Find the support and accountability you need and develop a closer relationship with the one who can heal, Jesus Christ."
The church's overarching purpose, its website states, is "to reach the unreached with the Good News of Jesus Christ so that people can connect to God and His family, grow to be fully devoted followers of Jesus, discover their unique shape for ministry, and share God's love with others."
HRC President Joe Solmonese, in a June 4 news release, asserted, "Too often, we have seen President Bush send nominees to Congress that have proven their inability to separate their personal beliefs from their professional duties. As the nation's chief medical doctor, the office of the surgeon general is an extremely important position that has an impact on the lives of gay and lesbian Americans and the hearing process should involve a discussion about where Dr. Holsinger stands on medical issues relating to our community."
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is among various other homosexual activist groups opposing Holsinger.
Mark Tooley, a United Methodist specialist at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, released a statement noting that critics of Holsinger are attempting to advance their agenda of preventing Christians from serving in public office.
"Over 160 million Americans belong to churches, almost all of which share the United Methodist Church's stance on marriage and sexual ethics," Tooley's June 18 statement noted. "But radical homosexual groups want to disqualify and brand as a bigot [those] among the 160 million Americans who actually believe in their own churches' teachings."
Holsinger's supporters cited his expertise in the medical field as a reason why he should be trusted with the position of surgeon general. He served for 26 years in the Department of Veterans Affairs and was appointed chief medical director of the Veteran's Health Administration. He was also Kentucky's secretary of the cabinet for health and family services for two years.
Maria Kemplin, a lesbian who is a former colleague of Holsinger, wrote a letter to Sen. Mitch McConnell, R.-Ky., explaining that she viewed the nominee as a friend who never judged her because of her lifestyle.
"I am a liberal Democrat and a member of gay and women's rights organizations," Kemplin wrote. "Still, I strongly support Dr. Jim Holsinger as a leader and administrator who is able to see across divisive issues and relate with integrity to people, no matter their life circumstance."
Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues for Concerned Women for America in Washington, D.C., said Holsinger has come under fire for "having the courage to address the compelling medical evidence and multiple studies which underscore the reality that homosexuals can escape the homosexual lifestyle and realign themselves to a biologically and spiritually natural heterosexual 'orientation.'"
Barber, in a June 19 commentary, wrote that Holsinger's 1991 study of homosexuality "placed scientific substance over political correctness by unapologetically demonstrating the seemingly self-evident reality that from a medical standpoint, homosexual behaviors such as male-on-male sodomy are 'unnatural' and 'unhealthy' and run entirely counter to natural human biological design. …
"But facts and logic have a way of running counter to the left's agenda," Barber wrote, "so we shouldn't be at all surprised that there is such a liberal gnashing of teeth over Holsinger's nomination. He has clearly struck a chord on the issue of homosexual behavior and lifestyle, and that chord rings sour among those who don't want to hear it."
Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst for The Family Foundation of Kentucky, barbed Holsinger's opponents in a June 18 commentary.
"Holsinger, who holds the Wethington Chair in Health Sciences at UK [University of Kentucky], had all the appearances of a morally upright, model citizen. He was active in his church, and he seemed for all intents and purposes to be just like you and me. Then, the awful truth came out. Holsinger, whose career includes several stints as chief of staff at Veterans Affairs hospitals, thinks homosexuality has bad health consequences.
"Yes, it sounds incredible, but there it is: a doctor who thinks anal sex isn't healthful. Just what turnip truck did this guy fall off of anyway? Where has he been the last few years? Studying AIDS data or something?
"OK, we know that people used to take medicine seriously and that once upon a time, doctors based their opinions on actual evidence," Cothran wrote. "But aren't we past all that? Haven't we come to the realization some things are more important than medical facts? … Here we have a nominee to be U.S. surgeon general who takes this medical stuff just a little too seriously. What's the world coming to?"
Holsinger earned his medical degree from Duke University; he also holds master's degrees from Asbury Theological Seminary and the University of South Carolina.