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On November 19, 2013, John Aravosis revealed that the United States Air Force Academy has hired "ex-gay" activist Dr. Mike Rosebush to oversee its counseling program. Rosebush, whose entire career has been devoted to the cause of "curing homosexuality" is now in charge of the Academy's "character and leadership coaching program." The revelation of the appointment of a man devoted to a practice that has been condemned by every reputable professional organization in the field of psychology has raised troubling questions about the Academy's vetting policy, the influence of anti-gay religious groups at the Academy, and the climate at the Academy for gay and lesbian cadets and employees.
As Aravosis writes in his Americablog, the news of the hiring of Rosebush to head the Academy's counseling program "comes on the heels of growing concerns as to whether the academy is serious about becoming a welcoming place for gay cadets in the post-'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' era."
Rosebush's entire professional experience before being hired by the Air Force Academy was in "curing" homosexuality and "sexual addictions." He is a former vice president of the hate group Focus on the Family, which, like the Academy is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He also served as a clinical member of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), the leading proponent of the discredited practice of reparative therapy. In addition, he served as director of the Professional Counselors Network of Exodus International, which was the largest "ex-gay" counseling group until its leadership recently admitted that its practice of reparative therapy was both ineffectual and dangerous.
Aravosis has asked some pointed questions about the hiring of Rosebush and how his presence in such a significant position affects the climate for gay and lesbian cadets, which some have described in interviews as a "nightmare" where "extreme homophobes" are "outspoken and proud about it." They add that little happens to correct the character and leadership deficiencies of homophobic cadets at the academy.
Perhaps the most pertinent question is how does a man end up directing counseling programs at the Air Force Academy when his main counseling experience is in anti-gay pseudo-science that has been rejected not only by the American Psychological Association but even by his own former anti-gay employer, Exodus?
After Aravosis exposed the hiring of Rosebush, he was contacted by Academy officials who claimed that Rosebush himself does not counsel cadets. Rather, he is "only" in charge of "coaching" them on developing good character and leadership skills.
As Aravosis writes, "Unfortunately, that explanation falls short of addressing the underlying problem. A man who has devoted the last twenty years of his life to 'curing' gay people is now in charge of a mandatory program, that he designed, to help Air Force Academy cadets develop 'character' and 'leadership.'"
In his latest post about the hiring of Rosebush, Aravosis alleges an attempt to cover up cadets' concerns about an anti-gay climate at the Academy.
In addition to contradicting their previous explanations of why they hired Rosebush, Aravosis says, "the academy appears to be engaging in a classic 'blame the victim' strategy in order to stifle any potential whistleblowers. The academy claims it wants to hear any concerns that gay cadets have, while at the same time making clear that those cadets will be 'harming the academy' if they express their concerns."
Chief exhibit in the cover-up is a press release issued by the Academy that recounts a meeting the Commandant with members of the glbq affinity group, Spectrum. According to the press release, "In that forum, the cadets expressed to Academy leaders that they are proud to be in the Air Force and do not feel like the Air Force Academy culture inhibits them in any way. Rather, they expressed their concerns about the media reports and how those reports may affect the decision of young Americans to attempt to come to the Academy."
Air Force Capt. Michelle L. Reinstatler, an Instructor, Department of English and Fine Arts, and the Officer in Charge of Spectrum, is quoted as saying that "During the forum with leadership, the cadets of Spectrum expressed multiple times that the Academy is a safe and validating place to be LGBQ. Several cadets have told me they are frustrated with the articles disparaging USAFA; these articles do not take into account the extensive support our LGBQ cadets have received from Academy leadership or the reality of the Academy's inclusive environment."
However, in response to the self-serving press release, an Air Force cadet utterly contradicted the reassuring words from the Academy's leadership. As Lisa Shapiro reports in Huffington Post, the closeted cadet sent a letter to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation describing the press release as a "crock" and describing life at the Academy for gay students as one of great anxiety. "Those of us who are LGB live in the worst fear of being outed at any moment and suffering for it."
Having as director of the counseling program at the U.S. Air Force Academy an anti-gay quack is not reassuring for the mental health of any of the cadets, especially those who are gay or lesbian.
Rachel Maddow has also covered the hiring of Rosebush and the climate at the Air Force Academy.
In the segment below, Maddow puts the story in context and interviews Scott Hines, an Air Force Academy alumnus who underwent reparative therapy while he was at the Academy.