Representing Minnesota’s 6th congressional district since 2006, Michele Bachmann has only recently become a regular in the news media. From concerns over her reportedly “incapacitating” migraines to her sometimes-confusing stance on the debt debate, Bachmann is all over the Internet and television (or so I hear; I don’t watch TV). The most stirring coverage of Bachmann, however, deals with her controversial views on sexuality and the “Christian counseling” clinic she co-owns with her husband.
The clinic offers a wide variety of mental health and marriage counseling, but attention has focused on its use “reparative therapy,” often referred to as “pray the gay away” treatment. The American Psychological Association denounced sexual orientation conversion therapy over a decade ago, and most psychologists, in fact, believe that attempts at conversion (often through suppression) can be damaging to the individual’s health. Her husband, Marcus Bachmann, has denied that such therapy occurs at the clinic. When asked about footage showing recent use of this therapy at her clinic, Bachmann refused to acknowledge the question.
A devout Christian, Congresswoman Bachmann states on her website that she is “a member of the bi-partisan Congressional Prayer Caucus and believe[s] that our nation must never be ashamed of its Judeo-Christian roots and faith.” As this website has shown, though, religion and an LGBTQ life are not irreconcilable. And yet, not until recently has Bachmann shied away from stating publicly her feelings about homosexuality. The soundbites from the past years—even in proper context—are not flattering: “[T]he immediate consequence if gay marriage goes through is that K-12 little children will be forced to learn that homosexuality is normal and natural and that perhaps they should try it. . . . This is not funny. It’s a very sad life. It’s part of Satan, I think, to say that this is gay, it’s anything but gay.”
Gay rights groups and individual activists have taken understandable issue with Bachmann’s words, retaliating in their own ways. One woman “glittered” Congresswoman Bachmann (a form of protest that deserves its own debate: glitter = gay…?), while others realized a chance for organized political response and action. The goal of these groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, is to show that Bachmann’s beliefs, words, and actions as beyond partisanship—that they violate American tolerance and respect.
As a private citizen, Michele Bachmann has every right to believe anything she wants to believe, to ascribe to any religion, and to follow the traditions with which she is most comfortable. Yet, as a politician and presidential candidate, her views have become the concern of her constituents and the fellow citizens she aims to lead. Bachmann and her ideas cannot be written off as “crazy” because of normative disagreements; there is much more to a candidate. Legitimate criticism can be leveled, however, at Bachmann’s blatant falsehoods and/or misstatements. The Pulitzer Prize-winning website PolitiFact has ruled that she has told only one full truth in the 28 statements that they have so far evaluated. In politics, there are places for disagreement and argument, but never for damaging falsehoods, blatant lies, and hurtful rhetoric.
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