Should the head of the CSBQ stand down?

A post by Neil Hart on homosexuality, LGBT, lesbian and gay stuff and the Lutheran Church of Australia.

The Lutheran Church of Australia’s Dr Robert Pollnitz, head of the Church’s Committee on Social and Bio-ethical Questions has found himself in the news. This is story of scientific findings and statements made by legitimate doctor’s representative bodies, versus faith-based statements made by a few fundamentalist christian doctors under the guise of medical opinion.  Follow the story with me, Reader.

Lachlan Dunjey is the head of “Doctors for the Family”. They are a faith-based group of doctors established in 2011 whose objective, it would seem, is to promote Christian principles in health care. Dr Dunjey, church musician of 40+ years, 2004 candidate for the Christian Democratic Party and former head of the Baptist Church in WA denies that the group has religious objectives  although the Christian roots and membership of the group are impossible to ignore.

Dr Dunjey was interviewed on a Melbourne radio station because “Doctors for the Family” made a submission to the recent Government enquiry objecting to marriage equality and concerned that such a move would “normalise” deviant behaviours . The submission was signed by around 150 doctors who, it would seem. make up the organisation’s membership.  Dr Dunjey quoted the American College of Pediatrics who claim that gay marriage will be harmful because it will increase gender confusion for young people.

I have written about the bogus American College of Pediatrics before. The legitimate representative body is  the American Academy of Pediatrics. This  is a 60, 000 strong professional body that represents medical practitioners in the United States. In 2002 they endorsed same-sex parent adoptions. A small group of conservative Christians then broke away from that body in protest and formed the American College of Pediatrics. The membership of this breakaway group is not released for public scrutiny but it is estimated to be between only 60 and 200 people. This breakaway, bogus group exists not to further the cause of paediatrics but to fight against gay rights in America. They have been caught misusing the research of members from the legitimate organisation in a dangerous anti-gay letter that was sent to every school district in America.

Following the bogus College of Pediatrics, Dr Dunjey, in the radio interview, asserted that through “psychological counselling” a person’s sexual orientation can be changed. This is in direct contravention to the longstanding posted advice of the legitimate Academy of Pediatrics.

Therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.

American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement, “Homosexuality and Adolescence,” Pediatrics, October 1993.

Dr Dunjey  acknowledged that the gay youth suicide rate is at least 4 times higher than the rest of the youth population but did not believe that this was because of vilification and discrimination such as that promoted by the American College of Pediatrics and the “Australian Doctors for the Family”.

The Doctors for the Family Submission asserts that children fare better in all parameters when raised by heterosexual parents.

In an ABC News report  AMA president Steve Hambleton has rejected the claims, saying there is no evidence that children with same-sex parents are any different to those with heterosexual parents.

“There is a growing body of evidence that says there’s no difference in their psychological development, their general health, their sexual orientation,” he said.

Dr Hambleton says the opinions expressed in the submission do not reflect the views of the wider medical community, stating that there are nearly 90,000 AMA members in Australia (as opposed to the opinions of the 150 “Doctors for the Family).

He says doctors must be mindful of putting their opinions forward because they hold influential positions in society.

“That’s part of the reason why it’s a bit disturbing that these opinions have been proffered. It’s certainly not the opinion of the AMA body of doctors,” he said.

At this point, dear reader, the story heats up a little.

Included in the list of doctors who signed the objectionable submission was Victoria’s Deputy Chief Psychiatrist and member of the Equal Opportunities Board Professor Kuruvilla George.

After listening to Dr Dunjey’s interview Melbourne radio personality Derryn Hinch called for Dr Georges resignation.

How Professor George can embrace all that from the Board of Equal Opportunity is beyond me.  He can have that personal opinion. But he can’t keep that position.

As a Government psychiatrist he must be aware of the discrimination and fears especially in the minds of troubled  gay teenagers with a suicide rate four to six times higher than other teens.

To exacerbate those fears with this homophobic scare letter to the Senate is a disgrace. And even more so since it hides a religious agenda. Professor George must resign.

Crikey in an article on 15th May announced that Prof. George had indeed fallen on his sword. It was untenable that he should hold those views and maintain that Board position.

And this is where the trail leads us to the LCA’s own Dr Robert Pollnitz.

The same Crikey article names Dr Pollnitz as another medico with “impeccable God links” who has signed the “Doctors for the Family” anti-gay submission. This submission follows on from Dr Pollnitz’s earlier personal submission to the senate enquiry. In fact, the Doctors for the Family submission, Dr Pollnitz’s personal submission and the LCA Presidents Submission which Dr Pollnitz helped prepare, all share the same references with the same wording.

I reviewed Dr Pollnitz’s personal submission here and here. Allow me to copy a paragraph from one of these posts.

If Dr Pollnitz is indeed adding his expertise as a paediatrician of 30 years experience to the church’s discussions as he himself claims in each of his submissions on behalf of the church, then one would expect that the information supplied would be factual and from the best possible up to date scientific and medical research on the matter. Rather than that, we have unsubstantiated and inflammatory statements that have been presented by conservative religious bodies who have broken from the accepted scientific views of their own governing medical bodies.

Of greatest concern is that  Dr Pollnitz has made public statements that would seem to add to the guilt and anxiety, social stigma , hostility, hatred and isolation of young gay people. According to the Academy of Pediatrics these types of statements promote a culture of increased risk of suicide.

I repeat what Derryn Hinch said of Professor George.

To exacerbate those fears with this homophobic scare letter to the Senate is a disgrace.

Like Professor George, Dr Pollnitz has every right to make a personal submission to the Senate voicing his own opinions on homosexuality. But when those opinions reveal such an attitude as to be completely out of step with what would be expected of the Head of the CSBQ his personal opinions becomes a matter of public concern for our church.

The CSBQ is a group entrusted with a fair, open-minded and informed investigation and discussion on the issue of homosexuality and the LCA.

However…

  • Dr Pollnitz’s submissions to parliament reveal his willingness to use sources that have been completely discredited and widely condemned.
  • His submissions show a willingness to ignore the findings of the legitimate paediatrics association which supported gay adoption and to publish the questionable findings of a small group of religiously based anti-gay doctors.
  • His submissions presented these finding uncritically as if they were the findings of a legitimate medical organisation.
  • Like Prof George he has added his name to what has been called by the media a “homophobic scare letter” that “hides a religious agenda” under the guise of medical opinion.
  • His submissions reflect badly on the church. As Dr Hambleton the head of the AMA said, “…it’s a bit disturbing that these opinions have been proffered. It’s certainly not the opinion of the AMA body of doctors.”

Marginalised Lutheran, one of the gay commentators on this blog has called for Dr Pollnitz to stand down. Just as It was completely fitting that Professor George stand down from his position so it would seem that Dr Pollnitz’s position as head of the CSBQ seems increasingly shaky.