Lake Elmo, MN (CNN)-In her campaign for president, Michele Bachmann touts her background as a small business owner.
"A small business job creator," is how the Minnesota Congresswoman and Republican Presidential candidate described herself in her first campaign ad in Iowa.
That business is Bachmann and Associates. It's a Christian counseling service located outside Minneapolis. Bachmann started the center with her husband, Marcus who is the lead counselor at the clinic. The aspiring first couple and their children are pictured on the center's web site.
For at least five years, Bachmann and Associates has faced accusations it uses a controversial therapy that encourages gay and lesbian patients to change their sexual orientation.
Andrew Ramirez, a former patient at Bachmann and Associates, said in an interview with CNN he witnessed the practice first-hand. In 2004, Ramirez turned to the clinic at the urging of his mother who wanted him to talk about his homosexuality.
Just 17 at the time, Ramirez said he was immediately skeptical of what one of the clinic's counselors told him.
"It was therapy that would help me change from being homosexual to straight," Ramirez said. "If I did this and worked his therapy program, God would perform a miracle and I could no longer be gay," Ramirez added he was told.
Ramirez was assigned a therapy program consisting of prayer, reading Bible passages, and mentoring with an ex-lesbian minister. If none of that worked, Ramirez said the counselor had another suggestion.
"Not acting out on my same sex attractions and living a life of celibacy," Ramirez said.
After the second session, Ramirez told his mother, Beth Shellenbarger, he wanted to stop the therapy.
"And I could just hear his voice quiver and I just said, 'you know, Andy, if you're good with being gay then I am too,'" Shellenbarger said.
The American Psychological Association is sharply critical of efforts by counselors to change a patient's sexual orientation, what's known in the mental health community as "reparative therapy."
"There is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation," one APA report said.
Marcus Bachmann has suggested parents of gay teenagers can turn to religion for help.
In an interview last year with the "Point of View" talk radio program, Bachmann was asked how parents should deal with a teenager who thinks he or she is gay.
"I think you clearly say 'what is the understanding of God's word on homosexuality,'" Bachmann said. "We have to understand barbarians need to be educated. They need to be disciplined and just because someone feels it or thinks it doesn't mean we're supposed to go down that road," he continued.
In 2006, Bachmann denied his clinic engaged in reparative therapy to "City Pages," a Minneapolis newspaper. "That's a false statement," Bachmann said. "If someone is interested in talking to us about their homosexuality, we are open to talking about that. But if someone comes in a homosexual and they want to stay homosexual, I don't have a problem with that," he continued.
This week, a gay rights group called "Truth Wins Out" released to CNN a hidden camera video recorded by one of its activists who posed as a patient at Bachmann and Associates.
In the video reviewed by CNN, a counselor can be heard suggesting homosexuality can be treated at the center, to varying degrees of success.
"You can actually leave homosexuality completely and become heterosexual?" the undercover activist asked on the video. "Definitely," the counselor responded. "It's happened before. It really has," the counselor added.
But the counselor cautioned he is not an expert on the subject.
"I don't have a ton of experience with this. I mean, a little bit here and there," the counselor added.
Michele Bachmann has a long history of controversial views on homosexuality.
As a senator in the Minnesota legislature in 2004, Bachmann called for an amendment to the state constitution that would block gay marriages in other states from being recognized in Minnesota.
"If we allow this to happen, group marriage, polygamy, and much worse would not be far behind," Bachmann said in a video to her supporters.
In an appeal to socially conservative Iowa voters earlier this month, she signed a "Marriage Vow" pledge that also equated same sex couples with polygamists.
Both Bachmann and her husband declined to discuss the clinic's practices. A secretary at the clinic referred all questions to the Bachmann presidential campaign. A sign on the center's door says "no media."
A statement released by her presidential campaign said the Bachmanns were unable to comment on the clinic's practices out of respect for its patients.
"The Bachmann's are in no position ethically, legally, or morally to discuss specific courses of treatment concerning the clinic's patients," the statement said.
The issue has followed Bachmann onto the campaign trail. Asked about the clinic's practices at an event in Iowa Monday, Bachmann dodged the question.
"Well, I'm running for the presidency of the United States. And I'm here today to talk about job creation," Bachmann told WHO-TV. "We're very proud of the business that we've created," she added.
"If we allow this to happen, group marriage, polygamy, and much worse would not be far behind,"
I don't get it, why do people care about how other people live their lives? How does your neighbor's marriage help or hurt yours? If your marriage fails you cannot blame anyone except you and your spouse. If I am married how does it hurt me if my neighbor has 5 wives, if he is happy and he can keep 5 women happy then good for him. His choices, his wives choices, do not change my choices.
As a society we are way too concerned about how other people live, with a divorce rate of 60%+, each of us need to worry about our own houses, our own lives.... I think GOD has a verse regarding that.
She sure didn't have a problem with the $137,000 in Medicaid money Marcus got to help folks "pray the gay away"
What can we expect from this woman and her campaign but more ignorance. It is really pathetic. These people are so incredibly lame that it's beyond sad. This entire enterprise is a sham. Another Bachmann family circus!
Pam in Oregon
Since Bachmann's clinic receives Medicaid monies, these ineffective and ill-advised therapies are also a waste of taxpayer money. What a hypocrite.
So how many people did they hire?
A President Bachmann would mean the definite return of the Dark Ages!
This business is a sham and the Bachmanns' are grifters. But that is being discourteous to grifters.
Bachmann has a history of controversial gay positions according to the article, which sites that she doesn't want to recognize gay marriages. When did that become controversial?
Oh, Lord! Allow Michele Bachmann to run for president and be smacked by President Obama in Nov'12!!
What a simpleton! Please put down the holy water and pick up a book. No, not that book either...
Please stop attacking candidates for their morals and ethics. It is so wrong. I am really bothered how cnn spins this article to be about gays... Lets move on to more pressing issues like war and our economy.
Can't The Republican Party do better than this? Come on now!
What a couple of frauds! She is trying to Babtize the country and he is trying to "cure" all the gays!
Mrs. Bachmann needs to be cured of stupidity. Do they have doctors for that?
I thought they both denied that their clinic did this. Just more lies from Bachmann. What is a "Christian" center doing receiving public funds in the first place?
I suppose Michele will claim that they don't benefit from these funds either.
So can they turn heterosexuals into homosexuals?
They should turn one of their staff for marketing. It would not be like they couldn't turn them back.
They should stop playing God and leave people the way God made them. God doesn't make mistakes.
What Bachmann fails to recognize is that, not only does the APA strongly condemn reparative therapy, the APA removed homosexuality as a mental illness 40 YEARS AGO. Therefore, from a clinical perspective, it is irresponsible for any mental health professional to claim that they are conducting "therapy", regardless of their religious convictions.
Christian reparative therapists are, in fact, an oxymoron. It's like calling oneself a Christian Science surgeon, or a Scientologist psychopharmacist. They simply aren't mental health therapists...they are the mental health equivalents to snake oil salesmen.
thank god this has come out-now she is ruined...
Oh Brother! Pray away the gay? LOL, seriously LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
i'm one of those evil people who believes that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice and sometimes a mental illness...you're not born that way. i can understand how some people, especially christians who are taught to be sympathetic, would try to help people change and save them from a lifetime of heartache. but that's just me.
Bachmann is a loon, and a liar. Thankfully she doesn't represent the conservative movement. She is a fringe extremist. Thankfully, once Sarah Palin gets in this circus sideshow named Michele Bachmann will go away.
We need leadership not fringe candidates with crazy ideas stirring up hatred for fellow Americans.
Instead of "praying away the gay", we should all try to pray HER away.
My question is...HOW does Mr. Bachmann come to know so much about Gay Sex???
You cannot "PRAY AWAY THE GAY". That is like praying away having blue eyes or being too short.
Right wing radicals are running our country into the ground.
I'm not impressed with this as an example of a "business." As for the theory of "reparative therapy" I do believe it works for some people. Sexuality isn't black or white, straight or gay. It's a spectrum and people closer to the middle of the spectrum can be trained to ignore one side or the other. Most straight people will probably admit to a few same-gender crushes during their lifetime, but they are able to ignore them because they are able to "normalize" and fall in love with opposite-gender people. Similarly, people who tend to be gay but are still occasionally attracted to people of the opposite gender can probably be trained to focus on those few opposite-gender attractions and suppress the rest. People who are all the way to one side though, very gay or very straight, will never be able to convert through therapy of any kind. (Just imagine, if you're straight and have never had a gay crush, trying to train yourself to be gay – not going to happen, right? No matter what is best for you/right. Just gross!)