has not one but two articles on Michelle Bachmann and her husband Marcus Bachmann. The
attacks Mrs. Bachmann for her anti-homosexual marriage stand. The
attacks Mr. Bachmann for his Christian counseling service in which some clients are helped in overcoming their homosexual tendencies. The entire tone of the latter piece suggests that there is something weird, sinister, and threatening about what Marcus Bachmann does. Thus a homosexual activist who has investigated Bachmann’s counseling service is quoted saying, “What we found was reasonably professional with a skewed point of view toward homosexuality being a negative and no offering of hope that it is something positive.”
July 16, 2011
Christian Counseling by Hopeful’s Spouse Prompts Questions
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
LAKE ELMO, Minn.—The receptionists at Bachmann & Associates, the Christian counseling center run by the husband of the presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann, were polite but firm in turning a reporter away the other day. A new sign was on the door. “Bachmann & Associates,” it said, “prohibits all soliciting, filming and photography in this building. NO MEDIA.”
The skittishness was not surprising. All week, Mrs. Bachmann and her husband, Marcus, a therapist, had been caught in a swirl of media attention over whether the clinic practices “reparative therapy,” or so-called gay-to-straight counseling. On Friday, in an interview published in The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Dr. Bachmann finally defended himself.
“We don’t have an agenda or a philosophy of trying to change someone,” he said, adding that the clinic would offer reparative therapy only “at the client’s discretion.”
That stance puts Dr. Bachmann at odds with most mainstream medical associations; a 2007 task force put together by the American Psychological Association concluded that “efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm.”
But the American Association of Christian Counselors, which has 50,000 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.”
Questions about whether Dr. Bachmann offers reparative, or conversion, therapy have been percolating for years, fueled partly by his friendship with Janet Boynes, a Minneapolis minister who says she was “called out of homosexuality” by God, and partly by his argument that children are at risk when parents and educators tolerate homosexuality.
In an interview on a Christian radio show last year, he said young people must be discouraged from acting on homosexual feelings, just as “barbarians need to be educated.” (Dr. Bachmann says the comment has been misconstrued to suggest he means gays are barbaric. “That’s not my mind-set,” he told The Star-Tribune.)
In June, Truth Wins Out, a national nonprofit group dedicated to fighting “anti-gay religious extremism,” sought out people who had undergone “ex-gay therapy” at Dr. Bachmann’s clinic. One person, Andrew Ramirez, a 24-year-old manager for a lumber company, responded that he had.
The group also sent its communications director, John Becker, who is gay, to Bachmann & Associates to pose as a patient seeking to become heterosexual. He recorded his conversations with a therapist on two hidden cameras and an audio device.
The group shared its recordings with The Times and other news organizations; they depict Timothy Wiertzema, a licensed marriage and family therapist, as willing to work with Mr. Becker but not aggressively pressing him to change his sexuality.
Their conversations touched on faith and God; Mr. Becker volunteered that he was raised Roman Catholic. Asked about the possibility of “getting rid of it completely,” Mr. Wiertzema replied that some people had, but that for others homosexuality simply “becomes manageable.”
Wayne Besen, the founder of Truth Wins Out, said, “What we found was reasonably professional with a skewed point of view toward homosexuality being a negative and no offering of hope that it is something positive.”
At Bachmann & Associates, which advertises treatment for a range of problems—including marital discord, anger management, addictions and spiritual issues—the emphasis on faith is strong. “Christ is the Almighty counselor,” Dr. Bachmann says on the center’s Web site.
Melissa Wetterlund, a therapist who worked at the clinic for three years, describes it as “filled with a diversity of Christian people” who apply their faith to their work in varying ways. While there, she said, she treated gay people and never heard talk of reparative therapy.
Dr. Bachmann, 55, founded the center about eight years ago, striking out on his own after working at another Christian counseling center in the Twin Cities area. Though he has a Ph.D. in psychology from Union Institute & University of Ohio, an institution that combines correspondence with some face-to-face learning, he is not licensed in Minnesota; state law allows certain clinics to employ unlicensed counselors. Dr. Bachmann lists himself as a clinical therapist.
His business now operates in two locations, with more than two dozen therapists. “There are a lot of consumers out there who say, ‘I only want to see a Christian therapist because I want to make sure that, whoever I go to, they have the same values and beliefs that I do,’ ” said Kim Lundholm-Eades, the president of the Minnesota division of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
It was that sentiment, Mr. Ramirez says, that drew his family to Bachmann & Associates when, at 17, he came out as gay. He and his mother, Beth Shellenbarger, say they met twice there with Dr. Steven Lutz.
In a brief telephone conversation more than a week ago, Dr. Lutz said he had no record of seeing Mr. Ramirez; in an e-mail sent late Saturday night he confirmed that he had but said that he does not “practice reparative therapy” and would not use prayer to try to change a person’s sexual orientation.
But Mr. Ramirez said otherwise. “He said that if I were to pray about not being gay and I would read the Bible and study the Bible, that he could help change me,” Mr. Ramirez said. After two sessions, Mr. Ramirez said, he told his mother, ” ‘I’m gay, I don’t think this is something that can be changed.’ “
Ms. Shellenbarger, concluding the counseling was detrimental, told her son he did not have to go back.