Is this cardiology’s Israel Folau moment?

It’s not only sports celebrities facing the consequences of their homophobic comments, as a leading US cardiologist has been sacked by the American Heart Association as editor of one of its journals following his ‘inflammatory’ response to a gay ballet.

In a situation that parallels that of rugby player Israel Folau, Dr Roberto Bolli, a University of Louisville cardiologist, has been removed as editor-in-chief of Circulation Research after he responded to a flyer left at his house by the local dance company by telling them to stop sending them “filth” about a performance featuring a same-sex relationship.

“Your organization is EVIL. You people are minions of Satan, polluting our culture with your repugnant ideology and peddling perversion and immorality,” he wrote  to the Louisville Ballet about their performance of Human Abstract.

Dr Bolli emailed the company telling them the flyer portraying two men holding hands was “promoting homosexuality” and “contributing to the decay of our culture”.

His email was featured prominently in the local media, after the Louisville Ballet released a statement saying they were “not prepared for this grotesque display of hate.”

“We cannot and will not be bystanders to hate and prejudice,” they said.

A  spokesperson for the university where Dr Bolli is chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine said the content of the “inflammatory email”  was at odds with its values of inclusion, but it would not be taking any action as his comments were made in a private capacity.

However Dr Bolli’s comments were described American Heart Association as being in conflict with its policy on “hate speech” and they announced he would be standing down from the position as editor-in-chief of Circulation Research after more than a decade in the role.

“The AHA has a zero tolerance policy with respect to personal conduct that conflicts with AHA’s guiding values and commitment to an environment that embraces diversity and inclusion and values cultural, racial, gender, and other differences to help the organization succeed in achieving its mission and goals,” it said.

“Additionally, the association leadership stands steadfast to its commitment to ensure that the editorial integrity of the AHA’s scientific journals remains unimpeachable and unbiased.”

Dr Bolli responded on a local blog by saying that he did not let his personal beliefs affect his care of patients.

“As doctors, we have a duty to care for all patients to the best of our abilities irrespective of their lifestyle or actions or other considerations. I treat ALL PATIENTS, including queer patients, with the utmost compassion and respect,” he wrote.

In a farewell editorial in Circulation Research he described how he had boosted the readership and impact factor of the journal during his 10 year tenure, and claimed he had kept it ‘free from political bias’, unlike other leading journals.

He ended with a ‘prayer’ for cardiovascular researchers to accept Creationism over ‘scientific materialism’.

“I pray that we start questioning how stochastic, aimless collisions of molecules could have assembled a living cell—an astonishing marvel of engineering that no biologist … could dream of assembling.

“May we admit that it takes more faith to believe that life came about and evolved only by random chemical reactions than to believe in a supernatural reality.”

“I pray that each discovery, each paper, each study that illuminates the unfathomable complexity of life be a hymn to His glory. In this sense, I pray that we recognize that biology is, ultimately, theology.”

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