Open letter to Senators Acting on the Nomination of Dr. James Holsinger
- Open letter to Senators Acting on the Nomination of Dr. James
Holsinger for Surgeon General
TO: The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Senators Edward Kennedy, Christopher Dodd, Tom Harkin, Barbara A.
Mikulski, Jeff Bingaman, Patty Murray, Jack Reed, Hillary Rodham
Clinton, Barack Obama, Bernard Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Michael B.
Enzi, Judd Gregg, Lamar Alexander, Richard Burr, Johnny Isakson, Lisa
Murkowski, Orrin G. Hatch, Pat Roberts, Wayne Allard, Tom Coburn, M.D.
FROM: The Rev. Kathryn Johnson, Executive Director, Methodist
Federation for Social Action
Bishop Clifton Ives, Co-President, Methodist Federation for Social Action
Ms. Marilyn Outslay, Co-President, Methodist Federation for Social Action
DATE: June 22, 2007
RE: The Nomination of Dr. James Holsinger for Surgeon General
On behalf of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, a nation-wide
network of United Methodists, we are writing to express deep concern
about the nomination of Dr. James Holsinger to the position of Surgeon
General of the United States and to urge the senators who will be
acting on this nomination to take these concerns into account.
As church leaders, we are not in a position to critique Dr.
Holsinger's medical credentials. We do feel qualified, however, to
comment on his demeanor and effectiveness in positions of leadership
within the United Methodist Church.
Dr. Holsinger serves as the President of the United Methodist Judicial
Council, the "supreme court" of the United Methodist Church if you
will. In the past few years an unprecedented number of decisions
supported by Dr. Holsinger and the conservative majority of which he
is part, have been challenged by the Council of Bishops and in two
cases have been reversed. In a case decided last year related to the
court's understanding of who has authority to determine church
membership, the court's decision has caused an uproar throughout the
Both in his work with the United Methodist Committee to Study
Homosexuality and in his position as President of the United Methodist
Judicial Council, Dr. Holsinger's actions often appear to be
ideologically driven. This certainly seems to be the case with the
paper he authored entitled, "Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality."
In this paper Dr. Holsinger lifts up health concerns related to the
sexual behavior of some homosexuals. He writes about this not as a
means to say that the medical field must therefore aid homosexual men
in maintaining their health, but rather to propose that male
homosexual behavior is "pathological."
In one of the most helpful articles we have found written about the
work of Dr. Holsinger, author Jim Burroway has carefully studied
Holsinger's "Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality" and concludes that
it has "very little of scientific value." He writes, "Worse, it
shows a startling eagerness to pull evidence out of context to provide
damning evidence against gay men, while willfully ignoring counter
evidence in the same literature which essentially destroys the core of
his arguments." We strongly commend this paper to anyone in a
position to make decisions related to Dr. Holsinger's fitness to serve
as Surgeon General. It can be found at
There have been reports in the press about Dr. Holsinger's respectful
behavior with individual gay and lesbian persons. We have no reason
to doubt accounts of acts of individual kindness. Dr. Holsinger has
not been nominated, however, to serve as a chaplain to individuals.
He has been nominated to a position as the nation's chief health educator.
There have also been press reports challenging opponents to Dr.
Holsinger for attacking him on the basis of his religious beliefs. We
wish to be very clear that we are not doing this. We have no problem
with persons of faith serving in public office. Nor would we
discourage individuals from allowing their faith commitments to inform
their ethics in making decisions. Indeed, as an organization, we
encourage this. Our concern comes when we observe a person, such as
Dr. Holsinger, appearing to sacrifice medical and scientific accuracy
in support of his ideological commitments.
At a time when our nation is deeply polarized on so many issues, it is
important to have someone in the position of surgeon general who is
widely trusted across the board, a person Americans believe will act
with medical integrity. Americans must be confident that the surgeon
general will promote the common good, making decisions and promoting
policies in the best interest of all citizens.
Perhaps most important, national leaders, including the surgeon
general, should be persons who can bridge the inevitable divisions
that arise between citizens in a pluralistic society such as ours. We
question whether Dr. Holsinger is such a person.