This is an issue I have been getting involved in, as have thousands
of others (And more everyday). (Other "Press release" below)
Tenn. investigates ex-gay camp
Teen's blog leads to outcry, charges of abuse at unlicensed facility
(Story was also picked up by:
Also: Read this:
Free Zach group on myspace.com
Zachs profile, and depressing and disturbing blog:
I can provide more info if needed. I have joined a growing group of
people fighting these kinds of concentration camps.
(This is more a story idea, then a letter to the editor)
In late May in Bartlett, a small suburb of Memphis, Tennessee, a lone
16 year old boy wrestled with an important decision: should he tell his
parents that he is gay? He ultimately decides that he should. The boy,
an avid blogger, described his parents' reaction: "This didn't go over
very well, and it ended with my dad crying, my mom tearing, and me not
knowing what I'd done - or what to do."
His parents, however, knew exactly what they wanted to do. His mother
informed him that he was going to be sent to Refuge, an "ex-gay" camp
run by Love in Action International. According to Refuge, homosexuality
is a "sinful lifestyle" and can be "healed" through religious -
evangelical Christian - instruction.
The teenager found the rules and regulations of Refuge in his parents'
email in box. To his horror, he found that many of the rules were
harsh, bordering on child abuse: to cite one example, for the first
three days in the program, a child may have absolutely no communication
with anyone - no speaking, no hand gestures, not even eye contact.
His response to the rules in his blog captures the shock and fear of
what would be done to him in the coming weeks: "I can't take this... no
one can... not really, this kind of thing tears you apart emotionally.
To introduce THIS subject... I'm not a suicidal person... really I'm
not.. I think it's stupid - really. But.. I can't help it, no I'm not
going to commit suicide, all I can think about is killing my mother and
Refuge, run by Love in Action, is not the only "ex-gay" camp for
teenagers in existence. These camps are spread out all over the nation.
What goes on inside of them is a well-kept secret; we have only the
testimonials of those who were sent to such camps and came out still
sure of their identities.
A chilling quote from the Rev. John Smid, the director of Refuge, shows
just how far his group is willing to go in their fight to "cure"
teenagers of homosexuality: "I would rather you commit suicide than
have you leave Love In Action wanting to return to the gay lifestyle.
In a physical death you could still have a spiritual resurrection;
whereas, returning to homosexuality you are yielding yourself to a
spiritual death from which there is no recovery."
It is important to note that this is not expressly a gay rights issue.
If an unwilling child was subjected to such conditions in order to
force him or her to change some other element of his or her being -
religion or politics, for example - it would be an equally clear
example of psychological torture.
Many mental health and health professional groups have issued
statements that not only rebuke the validity of "reparative therapy",
but also statements that "Homosexuality is not a mental illness or
disorder, and therefore cannot be treated." These organizations
include: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling
Association, American Federation of Teachers, American Medical
Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological
Association, The Interfaith Alliance, National Association of Social
Workers, National Education Association, and several others.
The American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement in 1993
entitled "Homosexuality and Adolescence" It was critical of any form of
reparative therapy. They commented:
* Some adolescents are uncertain about their sexual orientation; for
them, a "counseling or phychotherapeutic initiative" aimed at
clarification might be useful. "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."
*"The psychosocial problems of gay and lesbian adolescents are
primarily the result of societal stigma, hostility, hatred and
*The statement mentioned that about 30% of "a surveyed group of gay and
bisexual males have attempted suicide at least once."
There is much more information about these professional groups and
their opposition to "reparative" or "conversion" therapy, and the
underlying idea that ones sexual orientation can be changed. Some of
this information can be found at: http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_expr.htm
But one of the major legal issues here is; do parents have the right
and legal authority to force an unwilling minor child into such
programs? Especially ones that are unlicenced, unaccredited, and who's
methods and "therapies" have been soundly rebuked by just about every
professional health association in the country?
Is there anything being done to supervise these groups? To date, only
the state of Utah has a law requiring certification of "reparative
therapy" centers. However, Representative George Miller (D-California)
recently introduced a bill - HR 1738 - that would provide $50 million
in funding to states to support the licensing of residential child
treatment programs, provide for federal criminal and civil penalties
for the abuse of children in such programs, and expand federal
authority to cover programs run by US citizens or organizations in
foreign nations. This bill is a solid start to protecting children from
abuse at such programs as Refuge and the hundreds like it nationwide.