Christian Conservative Groups ‘Raise Concerns’ over White House AIDS Office Nominee, Seek Clarification of Bush AIDS PoliciesFocus on the Family and the Family Research Council, two "leading" Christian conservative groups, have "expressed disappointment" in President Bush's selection of Scott Evertz, an openly gay man, to head the White House Office of National AIDS Policy and intend to "petition" the White House to "clarify the administration's true AIDS position," Scripps Howard/Nando Times reports. If confirmed by the Senate, Evertz would become the first openly gay official to serve in a Republican White House. "For the administration to appoint Mr. Evertz to this position is to advance a fundamental misunderstanding of what causes AIDS in this country," Focus on the Family President James Dobson said. "AIDS is primarily spread through promiscuous sexual behavior and such behavior is rampant among male homosexuals," he said, labeling the nomination a "conciliatory effort towards homosexual activists." Dobson added, "I hope the White House will reconsider the potentially harmful message it is sending Americans regarding the issue of homosexuality." Family Research Council President Kenneth Connor echoed Dobson's fears, saying that Evertz "favors drug needle giveaways, thinks abstinence-only classes for teens should be balanced with condom distribution and opposes the Defense of Marriage Act," which bars marriage between homosexuals. These positions are "not only contrary to sound AIDS policy," Connor said, but they also "contradict positions President Bush has publicly taken." FRC, Focus on the Family and other groups plan to "petition" the administration to "determine how it intends to proceed" in the fight against HIV/AIDS, he added.
Redrawing the Lines
This marks the first time there has been a "significant break" between Bush and social conservatives, who up until this point had been his "strongest blo[c]" of supporters, Scripps Howard/Nando Times reports. The AIDS activist community has been "substantially" less critical of Evertz's nomination. Claudia French, executive director of AIDS Action, recently met with Evertz and said, "Scott understands the importance of a strong HIV prevention effort. The recent statements from Family Research Council and their allies clearly demonstrate how difficult it will be, not just for Scott Evertz, but for anyone in the administration who is committed to sound HIV prevention policies to get their message out in such an intolerant climate. ... I'm not overly optimistic about how much room he will be given to voice his views." The White House has maintained its support of Evertz, declaring him "the best man for the job" (Straub, Scrips Howard/Nando Times, 4/23).