It's No Surprise the Air Force Academy Has a Gay Conversion Therapist

Don't Ask, Don't Tell is dead, so opponents of gay military equality have to fine-tune their message again. Or to simply conceal it behind a veneer of "character" pseudoscience. Which probably explains why the once-gay Dr. Mike Rosebush has a job teaching leadership to future Air Force officers.

AmericaBlog's Gary Aravosis broke the story Tuesday of Rosebush, who for several years has been a research fellow at the Air Force Academy's Center for Character and Leadership Development. Located in Colorado Springs — often dubbed "the evangelical Vatican" because so many conservative Christian groups have made it their home — the Academy has long faced charges that it's a hotbed of evangelical proselytizing and right-wing politics.

They surely found their man in Rosebush. He is "a former vice-president at Focus on the Family (2000-2004) [and] a clinical member of and contributor of The National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality. Dr. Rosebush also worked with Exodus International, the world's largest faith based organization in helping those who live with unwanted same-sex attractions."

That's according the website of "Strength in Weakness," a gay-conversion ministry where Rosebush is listed as a fee-charging counselor. In 2008, he contributed an essay to the site that tries to help gays understand where their sexual proclivities come from. It begins thus:

Is there any male out there who has struggled with unwanted same-sex attractions who has not wondered, "How did this become a part of me?" Didn't think so. Indeed, that question haunted me for years and years.

After exploring the case of "Bob," a "sensitive" boy who exceled in "the 'creatives': art, writing, drama, cooking, appearance, music, etc", Rosebush offered his final analysis on the origins of same-sex attraction:

"What did I do to cause this?" Nothing. It began when you were "sensitive."

So, what's Rosebush doing these days at the Air Force Academy? According to a statement given by the school to Rachel Maddow, he's a mere quantitative researcher, performing dry and boring analyses of the Academy's leadership assessment's and coaching programs. He is, after all, a PhD in "counselling psychology" at the University of North Carolina (except that UNC doesn't offer a PhD in "counselling psychology"; perhaps they meant clinical psych).

But Rosebush's ethical biases could be very pertinent to the numbers-based research he does. Last year, he performed a statistical "validation" of the Academy's "Character Mosaic," an assessment the school uses, among other things, to help predict what type of cadet is disposed to misconduct.

Rosebush posited three kinds of moral decision makers: those who act in "personal interest"; those who value "maintaining norms," acting in accordance with existing laws and mores; and what he called "post-conventional" deciders: those who consider "what would best serve society, produce harmony among the majority, and adhere to principles of fairness & justice."

That latter group — which you can reasonably assume to include most advocates of LGBT equality and gay marriage — "has demonstrated no relationship to behavioral integrity at USAFA," Rosenbush found. The only group that behaved reliably well was the "maintaining norms" bunch.

He went on to surmise that the greatest predictors of whether a cadet would lie or cheat were his "self-control" and which of the three decision-making groups he belonged to.

That the Air Force Academy's character and leadership program trucks in this pseudoscientific veneer for conservative morality is hardly surprising, though: The department's annual symposium — whose poster is emblazoned with a romantic rendering of Ronald Reagan — is sponsored in part by the conservative Anschutz Family Foundation, which donates heavily to the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Koch-related political groups, and anti-union organizations. And the Academy character-development program's "Falcon Heritage Forum" is backed by SAIC, a Beltway contractor that's pulled down hundreds of millions to (poorly) quarterback the NSA's electronic spying efforts and the Iraq War.

In his statement to Rachel Maddow, the Academy's public affairs officer said that the school's character coaching program focuses on "lifting others to their best possible selves, and elevating performance toward a common and noble purpose." The best possible self, evidently, is a straight man who shuns deviations from the norm, except for the spying and dropping bombs on people.

[Photo credit: AP]