The Perry v. Bachmann Primary at Liberty Unversity

What happened to Tim Pawlenty? It looks like he’s being squeezed by a newly emerging face-off between declared GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann and probably-soon-to-be-declared GOP hopeful Rick Perry. Liberty University has just announced that Bachmann and Perry will speak at its convocations in September; Perry is reportedly reaching out to activists in Iowa.

Late Friday night, we learned, via Mariah Blake writing at the Nation and the LGBT advocacy group Truth Wins Out, that Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, a “Christian counselor,” employs reparative therapy in his practice to try to turn gays straight. “God has created you for heterosexuality,” one of Bachmann & Associates’ counselors told TWO activist John Becker, who visited the practice with a hidden camera. These revelations call into question Marcus Bachmann’s assertion, “That’s a false statement,” in response to queries by the Minneapolis City Pages about whether his clinic used the discredited practice.

If I were a betting person, I’d bet this doesn’t have much impact on his wife’s campaign. While LGBT rights advocates and allies are right to be outraged, I doubt it would bring any new opposition to Bachmann, who is already well-known for her anti-gay views and voting record. And her supporters would likely not only support the use of ex-gay therapy, but view her husband as beleaguered by those motivated by “the homosexual agenda.” I’m not defending this, of course, but just predicting how it will likely play out.

While the use of ex-gay therapy has been condemned and discredited by medical and psychological professional associations, it is actually quite common for conservative evangelicals to endorse and promote it. Remember, after all, that while campaigning in 2008, President Obama ran into a little trouble for campaigning with the singer Donnie McClurkin, who has claimed that “God delivered me from homosexuality.” The National Association of Evangelicals, in a 2004 position statement on homosexuality, calls “upon pastors and theologians, along with medical and sociological specialists with the Christian community to expand research on the factors which give rise to homosexuality and to develop therapy, pastoral care and congregational support leading to complete restoration.” (emphasis added) Earlier this year, Obama appointed NAE president (and, until his recent announcement of his retirement from Wooddale Church, Tim Pawlenty’s pastor) Leith Anderson to the Advisory Council to his Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. And the church of Obama’s controversial choice for his inauguration invocation, Rick Warren, has taught “recovery” from homosexuality. 

Back to Pawlenty: on Meet the Press yesterday, he took aim at Bachmann for her “nonexistent” record of accomplishment in Congress. Will Pawlenty care about Marcus’ “ex-gay” practice? Nope. When David Gregory asked him whether he believed homosexuality was a “choice,” Pawlenty replied (incorrectly), “the science in that regard is in dispute,” adding later, “there’s no scientific conclusion it’s genetic.” That was Pawlenty’s way of telling potential supporters who think that one, with God’s help, can be “cured” of homosexuality that they can still hold out hope (and that science is unreliable). And without invoking God, he could pretend to everyone else that he was relying on science (even though he got the science all wrong and was implying that it shouldn’t be trusted in any event).

Meanwhile, Perry’s supporters are going public. After news broke of televangelist James Robison’s secret meetings with Perry and religious conservative leaders, Robison released a complete list of those leaders on his blog. Referring to his September 2010 and June 2011 meetings as “supernatural gatherings,” Robison was obviously trying to rebut speculation that the group was supporting Perry for president, but rather that they were just feeling the “liquid love” of the religious right agenda:

It was as though the entire group was overwhelmed by waves of liquid love. Participants discussed how to discover and share the most effective ways to assist the poor and those who suffer. No party, no particular politician or leader is to be blamed, but rather a worldview that is diametrically opposed to biblical truth and founding principles. I am confident each leader who attended will allow God to use their spiritual ability and leadership to help point the church and nation toward the will of God. Believers must become visible demonstrations of the faith and actively help determine national direction. Those in attendance expressed deep concern about the present direction of our country. Our trust must be in God and we need guidance from Divine Providence.

For anyone who has watched the religious right since the 1970s, there’s a palpable sense of deja vu. Or, Robert Wilonsky put it at the Dallas Observer, “Party like it’s 1979.” Except now Robison no longer publicly calls LGBT people “perverts;” he and his cohorts have “disciples” like Marcus Bachmann to proverbially beat the gays with Bibles until they turn straight.

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email