CommunityPam's House Blend

Follow-up to Love in Action's 'ex-gay' re-education camp

Refuge, an ‘ex-gay’ brainwashing program led by “former homosexual” John Smid, is being picketed by protestors; Zach, a young blogger, was sent to this place by his fundamentalist parents after coming out to them.

“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.”

–The Final Indoctrination from John Smid, Director, Love In Action (LIA)

After a reading a quote like that, you want to hurl; what kind of sickness has taken over in this country? How can this be the word of someone that calls himself Christian? At least he doesn’t hold back; as wifey Kate told me — he’s only saying bluntly what many in the AmTaliban community dance around. You can read Smid’s f*cking bullsh*t “testimonial” here (PDF); my earlier post is here.

The good news is that Zach’s story is making its way around the blogosphere, and into local media. A blog has been set up, Queer Action Coalition, that is chronicling the protests at Love in Action, the discredited ‘ex-gay’ ministry that has set up a program called Refuge, that allows parents to commit children, like 16-year-old Zach into a lock-down facility in order to get the homo “religiously cleansed” out of him.

The local station in Memphis, WMCTV, covered the story. Video is here. The station asked for viewer comments; here are some of them from its web site:

Being Gay is NOT a choice! This program is ridiculous. It’s like asking someone born with blue eyes, to cut them out and replace them with eyes that aren’t their own, just because someone else tells you to. If these people believe in God’s will and way, then why would they think he’s made a mistake by creating gay people and animals. So are we saying that worms (which are asexual) a mistake? Why don’t we give worms sex change operations. That’s how ridiculous this is.

I wonder how long it will be before the religious fascists begin their torchlight parades and rallies at the zeppelin field. Anyone not displaying enough Christian fanaticism will need to be interned for re-training. Rationality, if thou still have voice, SPEAK OUT!

The practice of sending gay teens to ‘rehab’ for a cure absolutely heinous. Their parents should be prosecuted for child abuse. I must admit this is the most peculiar place I’ve ever lived, and I grew up here. The mind set of that group of people was considered a fringe element 40 years ago, but now it’s flourishing. I cannot understand why. It is a real shame.

As a well-educated and openly lesbian Christian, I think it is not only futile but harmful to use fear to turn gay youth straight. Homosexuality is not a choice, and the American Psychiatric Association has said for years that it is not a disorder. Moreover, it is hypocritical for Christian leaders to act as if God only loves certain types of people. The acceptance and love he teaches is unconditional.

I just saw the news story “scared straight”. What are these parents thinking?? Please do not do this to your children. This is the worst thing you can do! I am a straight married female who has lots of gay friends as well as a gay daughter. Being gay is not a disease or a lifestyle choice. We are born with predetermined (by God) sexual preference. It is not something you can “cleanse” or make it go away. These parents that are trying to change their children are so misinformed. What your gay teen needs is your support and your love. He/she does not need to be told that there is something wrong with them or that they are going to hell. I have seen first hand what has happened to people submitted to these kind of programs or abandoned & shamed by their parents. They either commit suicide or are very messed up. But the children that are accepted for what they are, love & nourished grow up to be happy well adjusted adults. For the parents that can’t accept this…you are the ones that need help.

This is a response to your “Scared Straight” story. As a 47 year old man, I can still recall the painful experience I had at age 13 when I had my first homosexual attraction. I was afraid because I had been raised in a loving Christian home were homosexuality was considered a sin. I feared discussing any of my feelings with my priest, my parents, my teachers or my siblings. I retreated to the infamous gay closet and stayed there until after college. I am grateful that more and more “gay kids” have the courage in today’s world to discuss their sexuality with their parents, teachers and friends. Unfortunately, homosexuality still cannot be discussed with fundamentalist Christian ministers because they refuse to approach the subject with any sense of open-mindedness. Christian fundamentalists (in spite of the vast amount of psychological data, scientific research in sexuality and updated theological research) refuse to view homosexuality as anything but sin. They can only respond by attempting to scare gay kids into heterosexuality. This approach has been attempted by every generation and the bottom line is that it has not worked. In the long run a person’s sexuality is with them for life. The only thing these ministers are doing is insuring that some gay kids will be scared into marriages which will lead to devastating divorces and broken families years from now. It amazes me that we refuse to learn from our past mistakes.

Love in Action is a good program at its core. Teaching fundamental Christian values and beliefs is laudable, but teaching that homosexuality is deviant and sinful is not only disparaging, but wrong in the views of many Christians. Christianity teaches tolerance, and Biblical verses can be twisted and misconveyed to distort the Bible’s true message. It’s sad when there’s not enough religion to love, but plenty enough to hate. The Bible should be taught for what it truly stands for: Christ’s love to all individuals, and the chance of redemption through Him.

I would like to comment on your story tonight about the effort of certain churches to “convert” gay people, now especially gay teenagers to being straight. These so called “christians” (I use a small c, I feel capital C is for true Christians who believe that God loves all his people) need to understand that being gay is not a choice or really a life style. We cannot “convert”. This is who we are. We feel that God made us this way, and since according to these same people God doesn’t make mistakes, then He must have wanted us to be this way. If people would be more accepting, then teens and others would not have to feel so badly about what they
are. I have been in a committed relationship for over 15 years. We are happy, healthy, and luckily are both accepted by our families and in our respective careers for are “lifestyle”.

If these people need some cause to take on, how about all the abused children in Memphis. The kids that come to school hungry, dressed in rags, and cannot afford to participate in fieldtrips, etc.?

Regarding Scared Straight….Does the Reverend John Smid think Vice President Cheney and his wife raised their lesbian daughter Mary wrong? The rev states that parents are accountable as they see fit…..are the Cheney’s not fit parents? Did he vote Republican in ’04, if so why if the Cheney’s are immoral?

I just watched your story on gay teen’s being scared straight by religious folk. As a gay man who tried for 15 years of marriage to subdue my homosexuality, I cannot tell you how much the actions of these misguided people anger me. Let me put the shoe on the other foot and ask you how you would feel if someone tried to convince you that your heterosexuality was an abomination and God wanted you to change. It is the same for a homosexual. I have lived throught growing up trying to deny who I was. I know that God made me the way I am. How can these so called “christians” think they know the will of God? Do they propose that God made a mistake by making people homsexual? They are the abomination. They who tout their “culture of life” are the cause of many a young gay person’s suicide. And shame on you for not holding them in the contempt that thinking people of this nation should. They have become America’s Taliban. If they have their way, they would install a theocracy in our nation. They scare me – tremendously – but will never scare me straight.

It was with some dismay and frustration that I saw your report on Mr. Smid and his “Loving in Action” ministry. As a native of the Midwest and someone who struggled for years to reconcile his identity with his spirituality, it concerns me greatly that every message that gets put out there sends a signal to people about what is acceptable and what is not. And, unbeknownst to you or me, many young people get those signals and are hurt or emboldened as a result. Specific to your report, I would only say that it appeared to give undue legitimacy to a type of ministry that has existed for decades and has a conspicuous record, at best. A little bit of history of these sorts of ministries might have enlightened your reporting some to show that they may have the best of intentions but few results to show for it. And for good reason – the more we learn about gay people, the more we realize that the idea of “choosing” their behavior is an inaccurate portrayal. To report on this ministry and the current matter without some background on these sorts of ministries and the emerging scientific body of evidence to show that biology plays a factor, thus debunking the notion of choice, is a disservice to your viewers, and I would encourage you and others in your position to be more thoughtful and scrupulous in your future work.

In response to the story “Scared Straight”:

I am greatly concerned over the ideas of legal discrimination, religiously approved prejudice, and the political endorsement of hate which is beginning to spread in the US. This disease is not unlike those of the past in which women, blacks, jews, and immigrants were targeted as being inferior, evil, “wrong”, or dangerous. Have we so soon forgotten that discrimination against ANY group endangers ALL, even those who are the perpetrators of this hatred and fear? Have we forgotten that Germany’s legal discrimination of jewish people, black people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gypsys, and others, began with legal discrimination of homosexuals? Have we forgotten that the Nuremburg laws of Germany which forbade marriage between Jews and Germans were based on the laws of the United States in which marriage between whites and blacks was illegal? Are we forgetting the lessons of the civil rights movement in which we were supposed to have learned that it is NOT ALRIGHT to discriminate against those which we believe to be different from us?

Why do we continue to repeat mistakes of the past by simply choosing a new group to be harassed and hated? Is it that we haven’t learned from history and are therefore destined to repeat it? Is it that we refuse to face history and ourselves and admit that we are fearful of those who are unlike us?

It appears that homosexuals are now the targeted group. Will this country eventually require gays to were pink triangles as the Germans did, so that identification and legal discrimination can be perpetrated? What next? Will we then require Muslims to wear a symbol? How about instituting a constitutional ban on adulterers, liars, fornicators? Aren’t these groups spoken about much more harshly in the Bible than homosexuals? Why weren’t homosexuals told they would not enter the kingdom of heaven as the other groups were? Why does the “christian” community lobby against a group that WAS NOT condemned by Jesus, but allows the other to infiltrate their ranks? When will we allow white christians to teach their children they are sinning if they love blacks? Oh wait! We have already done that in our not so distant past. That would be wrong, wouldn’t it? So why is it ok to teach children they should not love someone of their own gender? I suppose for the same reasons the black/white issue existed in the past. So when will we be able to lynch a woman if she flirts with your wife, or a boy if he happens to make a pass at your son?

Let’s call it like it is. We are either perpetrators of hatred such as the Nazi’s, by hiding behind supposed heaven-ordained condemnation, we are victims of that hate by being refused the constitutional guarantee of “Liberty and Justice for ALL” and the right to ” Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” because we happen to love someone of the same sex, or we are bystanders that allow the “Nazi’s” to start small with denial of rights, then move on to punishment for being of a certain group.

I am reminded of a poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller, who was sent to a concentration camp because he dared to oppose Adolf Hitler. He wrote:

‘First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I said nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat, so I did nothing. Then came the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist. And then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did little. Then when they came for me, there was no one left to stand up for me.’

Who will be the next group? Yours?

TerranceDC has a DKos diary up on this. You can email the protestors as well.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding