What's Your Favorite Color: Blue or Lavender?
After Minneapolis police Chief Tim Dolan suspended psychologist Michael Campion last month, pundits and protesters nationwide practically labeled it a crime. Campion—who has previously written about "curing" homosexuality—was the victim of the "thought police of Minneapolis," of "anti-Christian bigotry," and of "pro-homosexual activists." As the Illinois-based conservative pundit J. Matt Barber put it in a column widely published on "pro-family" internet sites, "If a person has Christian beliefs, he's disqualified from working in the city of Minneapolis."
Most of the protests came from afar. "Of the 40 calls and emails I got, two were local. Everything else was from out of the state," says MPD spokesman Greg Reinhardt. Reinhardt reports that some of the messages were hateful but most stuck to the same basic theme: "'How dare you do this? This is religion under attack,'" Reinhardt recalls. "I had one call me up and say, 'You wouldn't hire a Muslim, would you? Their purpose is to kill all the Christians in the world.' I just said we hire whoever is best for the job."
As it turns out, the excitable Campion-backers need not convene their prayer groups—not yet at least. Last week, in a letter to the City Council, Chief Dolan formally rescinded Campion's suspension. The reason? According to Reinhardt, an investigation found no verifiable evidence of antigay bias committed by Campion, Barrow & Associates, the Illinois-based firm that the MPD uses to conduct psychological evaluations of prospective hires. An earlier inquiry into whether Campion's firm was unfairly flunking African American applicants also failed to demonstrate any bias (for more on that, see "Psyched Out," May 3, 2006). That review actually gave him high marks for "specific cultural fairness."
Still, it's questionable how much longer Campion will continue to work for the city. At a meeting last week with the Police Community Relations Council (PCRC), Chief Dolan announced that he plans to solicit other possible vendors for the job of screening potential officers—a task that consists of face-to-face interviews conducted by psychologists such as Campion, as well as the administration of standardized tests such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. With the city poised to hire an additional 47 new officers in 2007, there's little question that the firm that lands that gig will have a significant influence on the future face of the MPD.
That's why the prospect of Campion resuming his duties troubles Rebecca Waggoner Kloek, a member of the PCRC and the antiviolence coordinator for the GLBT-advocacy group OutFront Minnesota. Initially, Waggoner Kloek says, her curiosity about Campion involved allegations of racial bias in the officer screening process. But after she and her fellow PCRC members met face-to-face with Campion for an hour and a half on August 22, she began to question his fitness.
"He was disrespectful. He refused to answer specific questions, even the questions about his evaluative process," Waggoner Kloek recalls. "I asked, 'How do you separate your personal beliefs from your professional work?' He just said, 'You need to trust me.' Well, I need a little more than that." Waggoner Kloek says Campion also disclosed his affiliation with Focus on the Family. This prominent evangelical organization, based in Colorado Springs, is known for its opposition to practices such as gay adoption and rejects the widely accepted scientific view that sexual orientation has a genetic component.
Discouraged by their exchange, Waggoner Kloek then did something the city of Minneapolis evidently failed to do in its initial research on Campion: She Googled him. Among other things, she discovered a peculiar essay Campion co-authored in 1977, titled "When was the last time you hugged a homosexual?" In the piece, Campion outlines a Christian-based approach for "curing" homosexuals of their "habit." He also argues vehemently against the proposition that sexual orientation has an innate component, writing, "It is time that the homosexual is told that he has chosen this lifestyle and that he is responsible for it."
Given that Campion's essay is nearly three decades old, one might guess that his opinions have evolved with the times. (It was only in 1973 that the American Psychological Association de-listed homosexuality as a "disorder.") Yet that does not appear to be the case, though it's difficult to know, since Campion did not return phone calls to either his home or office for this story. (He has also refused interview requests from other reporters.) However, Campion does have a recent history of affiliation with the Illinois Family Institute, a group known in gay rights circles for its "pray-it-away" approach toward homosexuality.
According to former IFI executive director Peter LaBarbera, Campion resigned his post on the IFI board of directors about three years ago. But LaBarbera, founder of a new group called Americans for Truth that is dedicated to fighting "the homosexual agenda," says he thinks Campion shares his core beliefs about homosexuality. If true, Campion's personal views about gays would fall outside the professional norms of the psychological community. According to the American Psychological Association, for instance, the guideline in treating lesbian, gay, and bisexual clients is that "psychologists understand that homosexuality and bisexuality are not indicative of mental illness."
Not that any of that matters to LaBarbera: "I believe gays can change. I've interviewed over 100 former homosexuals," he says. "Does that mean I should never have a public job?"
Told that Campion's suspension has been lifted, LaBarbera theorizes that Chief Dolan may have been motivated less by a desire to be fair than by the prospect of a legal battle. LaBarbera, who calls Campion's suspension the product of a "New McCarthyism" aimed at evangelicals, says that an array of Christian legal groups expressed interest in taking the MPD to court on a religious discrimination complaint.
Whomever the MPD hires to conduct its employee screening, there's little question that Campion, Barrow & Associates will retain a significant presence in Minnesota, where it maintains an Arden Hills satellite office. Currently, the firm is under contract with both the Minnesota State Patrol and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, as well as a host of smaller police departments. Neil Melton, the executive director of the Minnesota Board of Peace Officers Standards & Training, says Campion works extensively in the state, though Melton keeps no comprehensive list.
By all indications, there have been few complaints. "Dr. Campion has done our psych testing for several years and his work has been very satisfactory," says Major Bill Spence of the Minnesota DNR. "Nothing has indicated he has done anything other than a professional job." Bob Jacobson, the public safety director for the city of New Brighton, echoes that sentiment. "We'll continue to use him unless we get information that there are some issues," Jacobson says. "We have not had any difficulties, no complaints about the professional conduct of Dr. Campion."
At the State Patrol, Lt. Mark Peterson only says that staff will "take a close look" at the issues generated by Campion's affiliation with the IFI.
Meanwhile, at the MPD, the response to the Campion flap seems mainly to be confusion. Unlike many police departments, the MPD has a highly visible GLBT presence. Top-ranking MPD brass such as Assistant Chief Sharon Lubinski and Deputy Chief Rob Allen are out. (By contrast, St. Paul, according to OutFront Minnesota, has no openly gay officers.)
Allen, who has been with the department for 17 years, says he has interacted with Dr. Campion several times over the years. "I never had an issue with him," Allen offers. "He seemed very professional and he was very concerned that the employees' best interests were being looked out for."
Consequently, Allen was all the more shocked when he read Campion's 1977 essay on homosexuality—and then made a cursory examination of the IFI website. "His personal values aren't aligned with those of the city," Allen observes. "The question is, 'Does he put those aside when he does the testing?' I don't know the answer. But that clearly is the question."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter