Washington – President Bush’s nominee for surgeon general faces an uncertain confirmation in light of a 16-year-old paper he wrote as part of the United Methodist Church’s Committee to Study Homosexuality.
In an eight-page paper titled “Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality,” Dr. James Holsinger described physical injury and even death that can result from what he called “anal eroticism.”
After submitting the report to the church committee in 1991, Holsinger resigned, convinced the group’s ultimate verdict “would follow liberal lines,” according to a Time magazine article that year.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will begin confirmation hearings for Holsinger on Thursday (July 12).
Gay rights organizations, including the Christian group Soulforce, are angry over what they see as Holsinger’s hostility toward homosexuals.
“As the leading spokesperson for matters of public health, the surgeon general should be guided by medical science, not religion-based bigotry,” said Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes.
The Department of Health and Human Services dismissed claims that Holsinger holds any anti-gay prejudice.
“He basically remains focused on helping all those in need,” said HHS spokesman Brynn Barnett. “He’s been consistent with sound science and the best medical practices.”
The White House repeatedly affirmed the nomination and Holsinger’s credentials. In addition to his work as a cardiologist, he has served in the Army Reserve, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Kentucky state cabinet.
He currently serves as president of the United Methodist Judicial Council, which acts as the denomination’s highest court. During his tenure, the council has handed down several rulings that raised concerns with gay rights groups such as the Human Rights Campaign. In a 2005 decision, the council upheld the defrocking of the Rev. Beth Stroud, a lesbian, and also sided with a pastor who denied church membership to an openly gay man.
As surgeon general, Holsinger would be the nation’s chief medical educator. Upon announcing the nomination, President Bush noted that a special focus of Holsinger’s work would be increasing awareness of childhood obesity.
By Michelle C. Rindels
Religion News Service