Editorials

I'm OK. You're OK, unless you're gay?

Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler is making some moves to bring diversity into government and public policy, but he's made a misstep in picking for the county mental health board a conservative theologian who would rather make everyone the same.

That's fine for the appointee’s beliefs and his church. It's not fine for a public policy position.

The Rev. Robert Weise is a professor emeritus at Concordia Seminary. He believes homosexuality and transgender issues are matters of "feelings" that conversion therapy can chase away.

OK. You're free to practice that within your church and attract others to your beliefs. It's even noble of you to say you keep an open mind and don't discriminate.

But we separate government that serves us all from the tenets of individual religions to ensure we do not discriminate. We also strive to prevent individuals from using matters of unprovable faith to determine others' access to the science of public health care.

The doctors of the American Psychiatric Association as well as researchers from the American Psychological Association oppose conversion therapy. You can't treat the gay away — any more than you can treat the heterosexuality away — and you are wrong to treat transgender and homosexual people as mentally ill, according to the associations.

Still, when gay and trans community members need public mental health services, should those taxpaying members of our community face an elemental belief that they are "damaged" because of "poor choices?"

Prenzler wants Weise to serve on a county board that oversees about $3 million in public money and decides who gets what. Weise individually will not have the power to swing county dollars to conversion therapy practitioners, but he will set a tone.

His appointment also sends a message to the homosexual and transgender community about what their government thinks about them. It is unlikely Prenzler wants to send that message. More likely Prenzler didn't do enough homework on Weise, as he admitted to a reporter.

But now he knows. He has until March 21 to pick someone else.

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