President Bush's nominee for surgeon general has drawn wide criticism for a past paper he wrote that critics say purported to make the argument that homosexuality is unnatural and unhealthy.
Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr. had presented "The Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality" in January 1991 to a United Methodist Church's committee to study homosexuality. At that time, the church was wracked by the issue and was considering removing the language that "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching."
While the United Methodist Church continues to affirm its stance on homosexuality today, critics of Holsinger are also blasting his membership at a church that reportedly purports to help homosexuals change.
Holsinger is a member of Hope Springs United Methodist Church in Lexington, Ky., where he serves as administrative pastor and president of Judicial Council – the church's supreme court.
In his 1991 paper, Holsinger wrote: "The structure and function of the male and female human reproductive systems are fully complementary." He also explained that body parts used for gay sex are not complementary.
"When the complementarity of the sexes is breached, injuries and diseases may occur," he wrote.
Objecting Holsinger's arguments in the paper, the Human Rights Campaign - which claims to be the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equal rights organization in the United States - stated: "His writings suggest a scientific view rooted in anti-gay beliefs that are incompatible with the job of serving the medical health of all Americans."
A former homosexual who heads the nation's largest ex-gay organization denounced the attacks.
"As former homosexuals, we cannot ignore this hypocritical attack upon Dr. Holsinger," stated Alan Chambers, president of Fla.-based Exodus International. "As a society, we should not disqualify an individual simply because of his belief that those conflicted by their same-sex attraction can and should be helped. Thousands of us have experienced inner distress and external devastation when we were living as homosexuals and have found a faith-honoring and psychologically sound way out. We know that change is possible because we have experienced it. Opposing this alternative is incompatible with free thinking and personal choice.
While neither supportive of nor opposed to the nominee, Chambers called upon the Senate Health Committee to "offer the same tolerance afforded gay activist groups to former homosexuals as well."
Holsinger's pastor, the Rev. David Calhoun, argued that his interpretations of church policy in the 1991 paper have been correct and reflect longstanding majority opinion within the denomination, according to The Lexington Herald Leader. At the United Methodist's 2004 General Conference, the church had reaffirmed its stance that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.
"Fears that he would not be fair or compassionate in distributing health care to gay and lesbian individuals is totally unfounded and ludicrous," Calhoun said. "Jim cares about people no matter who they are. He's not going to turn anybody down."
As the 18th Surgeon General of the United States, Holsinger would serve as "America's chief health educator" charged with providing the best scientific information available on how Americans can make smart choices that improve their health and reduce their risk of illness and injury, as Bush stated in his announcement last month to nominate Holsinger.
White House spokesman Emily Lawrimore assured on Thursday of Holsinger's qualifications for the position.
"Dr. Holsinger has dedicated his life to the care of others and public service and his respect for all is evidenced by his actions and his career," she said, according to ABC News. "On numerous occasions, he has taken up the banner for under represented populations and he will continue to be a strong advocate for these groups and all Americans. Dr. Holsinger is a highly respected, well-qualified physician and educator. His impressive medical background, which includes leading one of the nation's largest healthcare systems, decades of service in the armed forces, along with his commitment to combating childhood obesity, will serve him well as Surgeon General. We urge the Senate for a swift confirmation."
Holsinger is currently a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Kentucky. He is the former secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services – one of the nation's largest healthcare systems – and has served more than three decades in the U.S. Army Reserve.