Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has been notoriously outspoken when it comes to her position on gays, contending that homosexuality is a "dysfunction," that it is a satanic evil to even use the word "gay" to describe homosexuals, and that gays and lesbians use public schools to recruit children to their sinful ranks. But when I caught up with Bachmann this afternoon on a Washington, DC, street and asked her about media reports by The Nation and ABC News' Nightline reporting that her family's counseling clinics practice controversial "reparative" therapy to turn gay people straight through the power of prayer, the Republican presidential candidate was uncharacteristically silent.
Statements from a former patient of Bachmann & Associates and undercover video made public by an LGBT activist who secretly filmed his therapy sessions both indicate that the clinic (which has received $130,000 in state and federal funding) does engage in reparative therapy—despite an unequivocal denial from Bachmann's husband, Marcus, in 2006. Reparative therapy, based on the premise that homosexuality is a deviant lifestyle caused by psychological troubles and sexual abuse, has been rejected by every major psychological and psychiatric association. Some studies have suggested it could have harmful effects on patients who undergo such treatment.
Bachmann, who touts her ownership of this small business in her stump speech, has not been keen on answering questions about what Bachmann & Associates actually does. The congresswoman declined to comment to TheNation; her presidential campaign, though, did issue a statement to ABC News: "Those matters are protected by patient-client confidentiality. The Bachmanns are in no position ethically, legally, or morally to discuss specific courses of treatment concerning the clinic's patients." Though it would breach a patient's privacy rights for the Bachmanns to discuss treatment provided to a specific person, they are certainly free to talk generally about their methods and services. Pressed by a local ABC affiliate at a Monday campaign stop in Iowa, Bachmann dodged the subject, saying, "We're very proud of our business, and we're proud of all job creators in the United States. That's what people really care about."
Today, I encountered Bachmann near MoJo's bureau in downtown DC. She was having lunch with an aide in a sandwich shop. After they departed the restaurant, I asked if she would respond to these recent reports. She said nothing—not a word—and would not even look in my direction. She kept walking at a brisk pace. I repeated the question a few times, as her aide tried to prevent me from getting too close to the congresswoman. The aide noted repeatedly that Bachmann was not taking questions. At no time did Bachmann break her stride.
You can watch the exchange for yourself below. (Warning: My flip-cam skills need improvement.)
Texas Governor Rick Perry's August prayer festival, to be held in Houston's Reliant Stadium, has put him in the company of some pretty controversial folks. Organizers of the event have said that the purpose of the event is, in part, to convert non-Christians to Christianity. And as we noted last week, one pastor who's signed on as an official endorser of the rally has argued that Oprah Winfrey is a harbinger of the Antichrist.
So what's the latest? Via Right Wing Watch's Brian Tashman we learn that one of the event's latest endorsers has taken dead aim at Lady Liberty herself. Oklahoma City-based pastor John Benefiel, the head of the Heartland Apostlic Prayer Network, delivered a sermon last August arguing that America was being punished by God for filling its landscape with false idols. You know, like the Statue of Liberty:
Libertas is also called the Freedom Goddess, Lady Freedom, the Goddess of Liberty. You know there’s a statue in New York harbor called the Statue of Liberty. You know where we got it from? French Free Masons. Listen folks that is an idol, a demonic idol, right there in New York harbor. People say, 'well no it's patriotic.' What makes it patriotic? Why is it? It's a statue of a false goddess, the Queen of Heaven. We don't get liberty from a false goddess folks, we get our liberty from Jesus Christ.
Students of American history will of course note that, in Ghostbusters II, the Statue of Liberty comes to life to defeat the demonic spirit of Vigo the Carpathian. How the mighty have fallen:
Over at Religion Dispatches, Sarah Posner has an interesting look at Michele Bachmann's ideological roots, focusing on her law school years at Oral Roberts University. Oral Roberts, who famously built his school after receiving a direct order from God, isn't the story here; it's Herb Titus, a Christian attorney who helped found the law school and spent his career promoting an ideology known as Christian Reconstructionism—the idea that "Christianity is the basis of our law, that lawyers and judges should follow God's law, and that the failure to do so is evidence of a 'tyrannical,' leftist agenda." Here's Posner:
Bachmann's history of questioning Barack Obama's American-ness, or of espousing "normal people values," is rooted in the Reconstructionist conception of "American-ness." Not just Christian, but their kind of Christian; one who would obey God, exercise "dominion authority," and, most crucially, is one of their "brethren."
Titus, founder of Bachmann's law school, happens to be the architect of a legal theory—as far outside of the legal mainstream as his Establishment Clause theory—that Obama is not a "natural-born citizen," a designation that would render him ineligible to be president due to his "divided loyalties." Deuteronomy 17, he insists, demands that that the "king" be selected from one's own "brethren." As an outsider Obama isn't a "real" American, worthy—according to the bible or the Constitution—of being president.
Bachmann's not responsible for the views of everyone she associates with. But as folks begin to scrutinize her views more carefully, it's important to understand where she's actually coming from. As I've explained previously, her worldview might strike you as extreme (and at times conspiratorial), but there is a coherent method to it all.
Rep. Michele Bachmann has been getting a lot of heat for a statement her presidential campaign sent out suggesting that Americans are at risk of "economic enslavement." On Sunday, in an attempt to distance the candidate from a pledge she'd signed which suggested that black families were more stable during slavery, Alice Stewart explained, "In no uncertain terms, Congresswoman Bachmann believes that slavery was horrible and economic enslavement is also horrible." "Economic slavery" sounds like it could be a pretty horrible thing, but given that she's probably talking about capital gains taxes, it seems a bit far-fetched.
Bachmann's been saying things like that publicly for a while—at least as far back as 2001, when she warned that the administration of former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, in partnership with Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, was pushing a state-planned economy "similar to that of the former Soviet Union."But Bachmann's not the only one making tenuous claims about how the government wants to shackle citizens. As it happens, Texas Gov. Rick Perry believes we're already being enslaved by the federal government. Here's what he told Evangelist James Robison back in May:
"I think we're going through those difficult economic times for a purpose, to bring us back to those Biblical principles of ... not spending all of our money, not asking for Pharaoh to give everything to everybody and to take care of folks, because at the end of the day, it's slavery. And we become slaves to government."
In case you were wondering: Yes, Rick Perry is Moses in that scenario.
I wrote on Wednesday about one potential spoiler in Rep. Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign: her husband, Marcus. Marcus is a non-certified Christian therapist who operates a clinic called Bachmann & Associates, which has been accused of practicing "reparative" therapy to supposedly turn gay people straight. It's a practice that's been rejected by every major psychologial and psychiatric organization, but given Marcus Bachmann's assertions that gays need to be "educated" like "barbarians," that doesn't seem like a deal-breaker. Marcus has previously denied that the clinic is involved in "reparative" therapy while conceding that his clinic would, hypothetically, be open to that kind of thing, but only if a patient specifically asked to be cured.
Now, writing at The Nation, Mariah Blake offers an account that seems to refute Bachmann's previous denials and shed new light on the family's ties to the "ex-gay" movement:
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.
The gay rights group Truth Wins Out, meanwhile, just released the results of their own hidden-camera investigation into Bachmann & Associates. That report is cited in Blake's piece, and tells a similar story—the Truth Wins Out operative, John M. Becker, asked the clinic to cure his homosexuality and then described in detail the ensuing therapy sessions.
It's worth noting that this isn't just a story about a campaign spouse. When Michele Bachmann brags about starting a family business on the campaign trail, this is the business she's talking about; it's very much her clinic too—she lists it as an asset on her financial disclosure forms. Marcus, meanwhile, has said that he is his wife's top political "strategist." So what does this all mean? For one thing, it suggests that Marcus Bachmann lied about his clinic's activities. It's possible, I suppose, that he really didn't know what was going on at the clinic, but if that was the case, it seems odd that, as Blake notes, he'd hawk the memoir of a noted "ex-gay" activist at the clinic.
It also raises some serious questions. Reparative therapy isn't covered under most insurance plans. How did Bachmann & Associates describe the treatment when they billed insurance companies? Or did patients just pay out of pocket? And what does this mean for Bachmann and Associates' government funding? As the Minnesota Independent's Andy Birkey has noted, Bachmann & Associates has received $30,000 in state funds.