What's going on at the Bachmann clinic?
July 12th, 2011
09:09 PM ET
8 years ago

What's going on at the Bachmann clinic?

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.

Filed under: 2012 • Gay rights • Michele Bachmann
soundoff (811 Responses)
  1. Cromulent

    I wish the rapture would start already and Jesus come down and take these people away!

    July 13, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  2. MeganKI

    It's amazing how so many today act as if the whole world agrees gays are born that way. I recently saw Meredith Baxter on Opray, a 60 something woman who is now a lesbian. All those years of being married to her husband, she said she never had a gay thought. Why now? Maybe because society is more accepting and it is an easy alternative when you are older and lonely. Your mind will go anywhere if you let it. I am glad there are people out there who are lovingly treating gays in a way that will truly help them. Because no matter how many certificates you put on it or how many laws are passed, deep down gays know that there is something not quite right about their behavior. Something not quite natural...it is sin. And thank goodness there is an answer to ALL our sin...Jesus Christ.

    July 13, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  3. anti-evangelical

    Bachmann understands that just because she's running for president of the US that doesn't mean that questions surrounding her background, her personal and political ideologies and policy issues are inappropriate to ask. She fits the image of "the ugly American" perfectly. Flush the late term-er into the underground.

    July 13, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  4. MeganKI

    It's amazing how so many today act as if the whole world agrees gays are born that way. I recently saw Meredith Baxter on Oprah, a 60 something woman who is now a lesbian. All those years of being married to her husband, she said she never had a gay thought. Why now? Maybe because society is more accepting and it is an easy alternative when you are older and lonely. Your mind will go anywhere if you let it. I am glad there are people out there who are lovingly treating gays in a way that will truly help them. Because no matter how many certificates you put on it or how many laws are passed, deep down gays know that there is something not quite right about their behavior. Something not quite natural...it is sin. And thank goodness there is an answer to ALL our sin...Jesus Christ.

    July 13, 2011 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  5. Mike from MN

    If Bachman's credentials are considered "business experience" by Republicans then no wonder the economy went down the tank during the Bush/GOP years.

    Obama ran the most successful campaign in 2008 – both politically and financially. I'll take that business experience over Bachman's or Milt Romney's selling of American jobs overseas.

    July 13, 2011 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  6. Republicans for Real republicans, not jokes like the Bachmanns

    The Bachmann's are irreligious scumbags who have profited off the state by running a foster care business in their home. "charitable" Christian patriots have no business billing the state for fostercare, especial;ly when they have millions already.

    The Bachmann are some of the worst Americans to have ever lived. Can someone convert them from stupidity to intelligence and morality.

    There is aspecial place in hell for scum like this.

    July 13, 2011 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  7. Gary, Hunt Valley, Md.

    ah yes, hiding behind the banners of job creation while imposing religious beliefs on a free society guaranteed of freedom from such coercion - by the Constitution!! how very ironic. this is going to be fun to watch.

    July 13, 2011 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  8. AmericanDoc

    In conversations about homosexuality, a recurrent defense is that it is not a choice. This is usually stated as, "Do you think someone would choose to be gay if they could help it?" Gay friends have said this as well as straight. Is it even possible that a few people who do not desire to be homosexual may have had success in converting thier sexuality with some help and guidance? If the majority who are gay and the majority who are not would choose not to be if given a choice, then why is it such an evil thing to offer help to those who ask for it? If a parent of a minor or a person struggling with homosexuality asks for help, even if it is rarely successful, whos right is it to deny that option. Is this not the United States? Has anyone looked at the real success rate? If it is only 1%, should it be considered unspeakable?
    Liberalism is its own religion, and at every turn it attempts to take over the government. Limit the peoples choices through political correctness, forced compliance with regulation, and slandering the leaders who disagree. You can force tolerance on a population, but you cannot force acceptance. The truly open minded who "agree to disagree" would not slander an organization that is offering a service that some people desparately ask for.

    July 13, 2011 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  9. WSU1983

    The Bachmanns are despicable!! Her husband is a quack who bills Medicare for his hateful practices. Our gov't should NEVER approve funding for this "therapy". Also, why were ALL the foster children in their home females....? Hmmm...

    July 13, 2011 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  10. John Gault

    In reading most of the comments against Bahmann and her beliefs (and I am NO Bachmann supporter, believe me), they sound just as vitriolic, venomous, and hateful as those you'd find on a website bashing homosexuality. I find it stunning that this glaring hypocrisy isn't noticed. Don't become the very people you're angry with and dislike.

    July 13, 2011 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  11. Jayna

    Clients seeking to achieve maximum heterosexual potential should be supported in THEIR CHOICE. No one has the right to stop such a decision. The APA should not dictate what a client wants in this regard. It is their life, not yours. Such behavior (squelching therapy) is Stalin’esque. I’ve read so many personal histories in this area that I am convinced that change is possible—even non-faith-based methods!

    July 13, 2011 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  12. sargeanton

    Homosexuals don't want to be cured. They love their perversion, and they take delight in like-minded people. As for Bachmann, I wouldn't vote for her. But not because she's from the Christian right - as was John Adams, George Washington, Ben Franklin, and 95% of the rest of the founding fathers (and Abe Lincoln, too - 75 years later) - it's because I believe a man should head up the country - even one as narcisisitic, ignorant and hypocritcal as Obama.

    July 13, 2011 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  13. GonzoG

    I've thought of 1000 snarky comebacks. And at least 2 or 3 of them were hilarious.

    But honestly, this just makes me SAD. I know entirely TOO many GOOD PEOPLE who happen to be gay or lesbian. I cannot imagine how 'changed' they would come out of a "reorientation camp" like the Bachmann's run. If it worked, the friend you saw a few months before would not be the same person. And if it didn't work–they STILL wouldn't be the same.

    JUST LET PEOPLE BE. If you THINK their lifestyle is sinful–they've been told already. Let them just go about their lives without your interference.

    What gives ANYBODY the right to be so MEDDLESOME? What gives Bachmann and Associates the right to be so JUDGEMENTAL?

    July 13, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  14. John Gault

    The problem is that we've become intellectually flabby, along with our waistline. We prefer soundbites instead of sound reason. We want to entertain ourselves to death instead of think critically. Lastly, we have lost our ability to communicate with even a modicum of tact as a culture. We should be more ashamed of the way we disagree than what we disagree about.

    July 13, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  15. jo an

    The Bachmanns are the ones who need therapy! Take them to court and lock them up...they are dangerous...

    July 13, 2011 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  16. dede

    From the Minnesota Independent (minnsesotaindependent.com) last month: "Bachmann and Associates, Inc., a counseling center that receives state funds and is owned by Rep. Michele Bachmann and her husband, Dr. Marcus Bachmann, uses counseling methods steeped in fundamentalist Christianity, raising questions about its use of taxpayer money.

    Founded in 2003, Bachmann’s clinic has taken in nearly $30,000 in state funds since 2007. Dr. Bachmann has said publicly that God heals people at his clinic and that Jesus Christ is the “Almighty Counselor.”

    “We are distinctly a Christian counseling agency here in the Twin Cities,” he told KKMS radio in 2008. “We have 27 Christian counselors, Christ-centered, very strong in our understanding of who the Almighty Counselor is, and as we rely on God’s word and the Almighty Counselor, we have the opportunity to change people’s lives.”

    He continued, “God heals people and if we give opportunity, if we are a willing vessel and we go according to what God’s word is, it works.”

    The clinic applied for and received Rule 29 and Rule 31 licensing from the state in 2003. The rules allow the clinic to receive state money to treat low-income Minnesotans for mental health and chemical dependency problems. The clinic has earned $27,564 in state payments since 2007 — and likely received more, since the Minnesota Transparency and Accountability Project’s online data only goes back to 2007. Bachmann and Associates took $1,419 in public money in 2007, $13,140 in 2008, $12,493 in 2009 and $512 so far in 2010, according to the transparency project.

    All of the clinic’s counselors identify as Christians. Among them is Marian E. Eckhardt, a licensed psychologist. Her mission statement says, “I believe that through knowledge, faith and dependency on God and His revealed truths one receives the strength and love to truly fulfill their life’s purpose.”

    Saul Selby, the clinic’s drug and alcohol counselor, is also an ordained minister. Selby writes that he seeks to “help individuals and couples experience wholeness and healing through the application of biblical principles and the Love of Christ.”

    Debra Kullberg, an associate marriage and family therapist, is also a licensed member of the clergy. “Jesus as the Son of God is the Savior, Healer, and intimate Lover of my soul,” she says in a statement on the clinic’s website. “He invites those He calls to join Him on a personal journey to the Cross. Our entire being is healed and restored (body, soul, and spirit) as we surrender ‘our way’ for ‘His way.’”

    Watchdog groups say that the state’s arrangement with Bachmann and Associates is problematic.

    “Unless they are receiving money purely through vouchers, this is clearly unconstitutional,” said Alex Luchenitser, staff attorney for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Vouchers are used in some states to allow those on public assistance to purchase services, but Minnesota has no such system in place.

    “It’s wrong for the government to buy clinical services that include submission to God or proselytization,” said Luchenitser. “This appears to be a textbook case of taxpayers funds for religious purposes.”

    And if Dr. Bachmann only hires Christian employees, that could compound the problem, he added. “It sounds like employees have to be Christian to work in the clinic. That would be religious discrimination.”

    Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, was a bit more reserved.

    “If the government is going to pay Lutheran Social Services and Catholic Charities to do stuff, then they have to meet certain critieria. Bachmann and Associates has to meet the same criteria.”

    “There are requirements that they insulate the sectarian or religious parts of their operations from the non-sectarian parts of their operation.”

    He added, “I really don’t know if Bachmann and Associates is doing that.”

    Dr. Bachmann did not return the Minnesota Independent’s request for comment about the clinic.

    Given that the clinic is attached to conservative superstar Rep. Michele Bachmann, it has received a fair amount of criticism over the years.

    The religious point of view represented at Bachmann and Associates is very conservative, if the clinic’s affiliation with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) is any indication. Dr. Bachmann’s clinic is listed among the WELS/ELS Christian Counselors and Life Coaches, a groups of counselors “intent on serving our Lord.”

    WELS became a campaign issue in 2006, when the Star Tribune reported that then-candidate Bachmann’s church was a member of WELS, a denomination that described the Pope as the Antichrist (Bachmann denied that she believed that herself).

    The clinic also reputedly engages in “reparative therapy,” or treatment aimed at making homosexuals straight. The first time that accusation was lodged at the clinic was back in 2006 in a City Pages profile on Rep. Bachmann.

    Dr. Bachmann told the paper that he does not encourage gays to become straight. But he has spoken about the issue at length on Christian radio. He told Point of View Talk Radio that if a child confides in a parent that they might be gay, that parent should discourage the child from being gay. He also said because of public schools, the number of homosexuals in America is increasing.

    “We have to understand that barbarians need to be educated, need to be disciplined,” Bachmann said. “And just because someone thinks [they're gay] or feels it doesn’t mean we need to go down that road. That’s what is called the sinful nature.”

    “We have a responsibility as parents and authority figures not to allow such feelings to move into action steps” such as homosexual relationships, he said. “What is our public school system doing today? They are giving full wide open doors not only encouragement to think it, but to encourage actions steps.”

    He concluded, “The percentage of homosexuals in this country is small but by these open doors we can see it is starting to increase.”

    Judge for yourself from this why these people are wackos.

    July 13, 2011 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  17. NYCMovieFan

    A small business owner – who happily takes federal money handouts. And her family's farm has taken six figure handouts from the federal government – our tax dollars NOT at work there. So Bachman's plan is likely to keep the federal tax dollars flowing to her own account, and stop it flowing to others. Nice work – for herself. Anyone taking this individual seriously needs therapy from a real psychiatrist, not a con artist with a bible and a delusional belief that God sent her and her family to reap all the rewards by lying constantly – and greedily grabbing up money they are not entitled to. Shame on the Bachmans, shame.

    July 13, 2011 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  18. DENNA

    @, Gabriel – To Denna: I would vote for my pooch over putting the present socialist man in again. . .how do you like that, you lib?
    Gabriel, I like it just fine, thank you. It proves that we Liberals care about America and do not operate on hate. Besides, dear Gab, I am guessing your pooch would make a better candidate than what the Republicans are running now. So what say you, dear Gab?

    July 13, 2011 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  19. Mike in Tennessee

    "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.

    Soooo.... Bachman's really proud of the business she and her husband created? So proud of it she doesn't want to talk about it or how it created jobs for her and her husband using government funding? All while she's decrying wasteful government spending?

    Michele, if you put your foot any further into your mouth, you're going to choke on it.

    July 13, 2011 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  20. Anthony from Maryland

    You know, this is what America gets in support of these backward folks. These folks are so far out of touch in their "Perfect" lives that it is not funny. Let these folks run and when you see how dysfunctional they are this will shut them up. I bet they try hard to put on that "Image" and I can only guarantee they have "Hell" at home! All of them do who try to portray the image of perfection. It don't exist folks!

    July 13, 2011 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  21. CoffeeClue

    Are these people for real??? Canditate for the President??? Has America gone wacko? I'd love to put up a good argument here, but how do you argue with such idiocy?

    July 13, 2011 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  22. Rob

    I was willing to give her a look until this came about. I don't think she had much chance anyway. This just proves that she is a complete fruite cake. I will also say there is still no way I will vote for Obama(never). I want to see Rudy G make a real run at it.

    July 13, 2011 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  23. Litterboxrox

    I'm sure the gay community at large is seized with an epic sense of relief that Marcus Bachmann is OK with their being gay.

    July 13, 2011 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  24. Bash Conservative White Women

    It should surprise no one that CNN is a "johnny-come-lately" in a long string of media, who have a "seek and destroy" mandate for any conservative white woman; Michelle Bachmann is not the first nor the last. Those who smash her reputation for her opinions on gay people were never going to support her; those who are indifferent to or support her views may continue to view her positively. This is just one more media stooge company with its drooling blogger minions, who have launched a full frontal assault on a white conservative woman. Nobody's mind will be changed with this article; the hornets' nest of pro-gay, liberal, progressive, socialist, wealth redistribution Democrat crazies will get their chain thongs all twisted up in their butt plugs.

    July 13, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  25. Sue

    They need to pray for her at that clinic

    July 13, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
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