Focus Exec Has No License to Bark

This week the Colorado Springs Independent exposed that Bill Maier, Focus on the Family’s vice president and psychologist in residence, does not actually have a license to practice psychology in the state of Colorado.

Maier, who is one of Focus’ top five paid employees, regularly acts as a media spokesman for the Colorado Springs-based nonprofit, expounding the organization’s positions on family, gay and lesbian issues. In his role as a psychologist, he has recently been widely quoted criticizing the city’s “Born Different” campaign, in which a dog named Norman moos instead of barks. Maier, who has lived in Colorado four years, has also been critical of Soulforce, a national Christian gay and lesbian organization that marched to Colorado Springs last week to protest Focus on the Family’s stance, that being gay is a curable malady.

The following is the Independent‘s findings about Maier, reprinted here with permission:

If he walks like a psychologist and barks like a psychologist, is he a psychologist?

In the case of Bill Maier, Focus on the Family’s official psychologist-in-residence, the answer is no. At least to the state of Colorado – which takes very seriously its regulation that practicing psychologists be licensed in this state.

Last year, the Colorado Legislature adopted a statute, effective July 1, 2005, establishing a board of psychological examiners that can take disciplinary action against those practicing without a license “in order to safeguard the public health, safety and welfare of the people of this state and in order to protect the people of this state …” 

If that is not perfectly clear, here are the words of Gayle Fidler, program director for Colorado’s mental health board: “If they are holding themselves out as a licensed psychologist, then they have to have a license.” Fidler confirmed last Friday that Maier does not hold a license in Colorado.

“Psychologists have spent millions of person-hours and dollars helping to get legislation passed so the public will have confidence when they go to someone who calls him- or herself a psychologist,” notes Colorado Springs psychologist Michael Galvin.

At its Web site, Focus on the Family promotes Maier as its resident “licensed child and family psychologist” who “acts as a media spokesperson for Focus on a variety of family-related issues.” The nonprofit’s 2005 tax form lists Maier as one of its five highest-paid employees (not counting Focus officers, directors and trustees), pulling in a compensation package of $108,000. He lives in Colorado Springs with his wife and two children.

Over the past week, Maier-the-psychologist has been quoted widely, from the New York Times to the Rocky Mountain News, to the Colorado Springs Gazette to Channel 9 News in Denver. He’s weighed in critically on the Denver-based Gill Foundation-sponsored “Born Different” public interest campaign, which suggests that people may be born gay. He’s also criticized Soulforce, a nonprofit whose members marched to Colorado Springs last week to protest Focus on the Family’s mischaracterizations of gays and lesbians.

On July 18, the Gazette even gave Maier a platform. In a long op-ed piece, he asserted that “no one is born gay,” that “thousands” of people have “walked away from homosexuality,” and that the Gill Foundation’s advertising blitz was merely designed to get voters to approve a proposed domestic partnership proposal likely to be on this November’s statewide ballot.

“The truth is, no one is born gay,” Maier wrote in the opinion piece, which is not available online. “A variety of complex environmental, social and temperamental factors can coalesce into leading men and women to be attracted to the same sex. The process is different for every person, and it’s certainly not a choice in the sense that a person wakes up one day and says, ‘You know, this is as good a morning as ever to be gay.’ “

In the op-ed, Maier also accused the Gill Foundation’s dog-says-moo campaign of being “terribly misleading.” However, Maier used at least one terribly misleading claim of his own. Citing a “fact sheet” issued by the respected American Psychiatric Association on gay and lesbian issues, Maier pointed out the group states that “to date there are no replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological etiology for homosexuality.”

That snippet came from a much more extensive position paper issued by the APA. While no one knows what causes heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, the APA maintains it “opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapy, which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder, or based upon a prior assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation.”

Gee, Maier conveniently didn’t mention that part of the fact sheet. Perhaps that’s because the APA’s stance is in stark contrast to Focus on the Family’s claims that gays can be “cured.” 

Focus’ online biography of Maier describes him as having received master’s and doctoral degrees from the Rosemead School of Psychology at Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., which advertises itself as the “only all-Christian research university in the country.” 

This week, Gary Schneeberger, Focus’ public policy media director, iterated Maier’s university credentials, and said that he has been licensed in California. (Records list his status in that state as currently inactive.)

“Because [Maier] does not provide psychotherapeutic services as part of his role here at Focus, he has not pursued getting a license here in Colorado,” Schneeberger said.

Just in case you’re wondering, Focus on the Family founder and Chairman James Dobson is, indeed, licensed in Colorado, as a marriage and family therapist. State records show that Dobson first received his license on Aug. 28, 1992; it was renewed on July 1, 2005 and is good through June 30, 2007.

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Cara Degette

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