FRC Falls Silent on Holsinger

As we noted a few weeks ago, whenever any of President Bush’s nominee’s come under fire for their controversial views, the Right’s primary response is to accuse those who raise such concerns of being anti-whatever-said-nominee- happens-to-be (i.e., anti-Latino, anti-woman, anti-Christian.)  

And so it is no surprise that they would use this tactic to defend Dr. James Holsinger, President Bush’s nominee for surgeon general who has exhibited an open hostility to homosexuals, by claiming that he is being targeted for his religious beliefs and is somehow the victim of an unconstitutional religious test.  

In anticipation of his Senate confirmation hearing today, several right-wing groups issued press releases echoing this charge:

Americans for Truth: “Are we prepared to hang a sign on the doors of government that says, ‘Christians Need Not Apply’?”

Concerned Women for America: Holsinger’s nomination has become unfairly politicized due to both his medical findings on homosexual behavior and his religious beliefs …it is inappropriate and unconstitutional to subject Dr. Holsinger to a religious litmus test.

Institute for Religion and Democracy: These critics of Dr. Holsinger would seem to establish a new litmus test for public office–a test that would exclude any nominee who is an orthodox Christian with traditional beliefs about sexual ethics. This would appear to violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the provision in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution stipulating that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

What makes Holsinger’s nomination particularly interesting is the sudden silence of the Family Research Council which, just last month, issued a prayer alert regarding his nomination:

Dr. Holsinger’s credentials are impeccable. He served as Kentucky’s health secretary, chancellor of the University of Kentucky’s medical center, has taught at several medical schools and spent over three decades in the Army Reserve, retiring in 1993 as a major general. Holsinger is being subjected to character assassination for doing precisely what a Surgeon General should do, bring health facts to light.

* Pray that Dr. Holsinger will receive an honest and fair hearing from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Since then, FRC seems to have learned something that caused them to stop defending Holsinger. What possibly could it have been?

Tom McCluskey, vice president for government affairs at the Family Research Council, said that Dr. Holsinger spoke to a Kentucky state legislature committee in 2002 and “testified in support of loosening regulations around cloning and embryonic-stem-cell research.”

“We’re not supportive of his nomination right now,” Mr. McCluskey said, adding that “we’ve been told he’s come around on the issue, but the surgeon general is such a strong bully pulpit position that we want to be sure.”

So when Holsinger was claiming that homosexuality was unnatural and dangerous, FRC defended him by hailing his impeccable credentials and willingness to tell the truth. But when they found out that his views on stem-cell research might not match their own, they grew concerned that he might use his “bully pulpit” to advocate for a position at odd with theirs and suddenly his supposed impeccable credentials and willingness to tell the truth weren’t so impressive.