Love In Action Investigation Concludes

Via the Washington Blade and ABC News comes word that the Tennessee Dept. of Childrens Services investigation of “Love In Action” on allegations of child abuse has ended, without findings of abuse.

From the Blade.

Tennessee said Monday it has found no evidence to support child abuse allegations against a Christian group that works with gay teenagers.

The group, Love In Action International, believes instilling strong Christian beliefs can keep gays from acting on their gay sexual desires.

The group, which also works with adults, has a program called Refuge for teens 15 to 18 years old.

The state Department of Children’s Services said last week that it was looking into a report of child abuse at the Refuge program. The program drew protests earlier this month from gay advocacy groups.

From ABC News.

Tennessee officials closed an investigation into a so-called ex-gay ministry because of a lack of evidence to support child abuse allegations. But the Memphis organization that says instilling Christian beliefs can keep gays from acting on their homosexual desires continues to be the center of controversy.

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services began an investigation into Love In Action, which advertises homosexual conversion therapy for adolescents, after a 16-year-old boy’s blog started causing a stir in the blogosphere.

“Zach” wrote in his blog that he was admitted into the facility by his parents after he told them he was gay.

He said he was to be admitted to Refuge, a camp associated with Love In Action on June 6 and was to remain there at least until June 20, according to a June 3 blog entry. According to some fellow bloggers who have been in intermittent contact with Zach, he gets dropped off at the facility daily and returns home with his parents.

Love In Action is supported by several Memphis-area churches, and accredited by Exodus International, an organization that describes itself as “a worldwide interdenominational, Christian organization called to encourage, strengthen, unify and equip Christians to minister the transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ to those affected by homosexuality.”

“DCS dispatched its special investigations unit to the facility, and after conducting a full investigation, determined that the child abuse allegations were unfounded,” Rob Johnson, an agency spokesman, told The Associated Press.

“DCS dispatched its special investigations unit to the facility, and after conducting a full investigation, determined that the child abuse allegations were unfounded,” said Rob Johnson, an agency spokesman.

The failure to find evidence of abuse isn’t that surprising. As noted earlier, by a representative of Tennessee DCS, emotional abuse is difficult to prove. That doesn’t mean that the program isn’t damaging to the youth who are made to complete it. Peter Toscano talks about a fellow LIA client who commited suicide during Toscano’s time there. (Registration required. Use Bug Me Not.) Tomorrow’s podcast report on PlanetOut’s “This Way Out” radio show covers how one founder of LIA left the program after a friend of his who also did the program committed suicide. Activist and author Wayne Besen notes the suicide of one of the founders in his brief timeline of LIA.

** Love in Action was founded in 1973 by John Evans, a gay man, and Rev. Kent Philpott, a heterosexual preacher

** In 1974, Philpott wrote an influential ex-gay book called “The Third Sex?” featuring the testimonies of six people who said they had prayed away the gay. It later turned out that none of the people whose stories were featured had changed.

** Soon after The Third Sex? is published, key Love in Action participant Jack McIntyre commits suicide because he was unable to change from gay to straight. In his suicide note he writes, “To continually go before God and ask forgiveness and make promises you know you can’t keep is more than I can take.”

** After McIntyre’s death, co-founder John Evans drops out and renounces the group as a sham. He dedicated his life to helping people escape the ex-gay trap.

** Love In Action’s Director John Smid admits his group is useless. “I am not totally healed from homosexuality. It is part of my emotional, physical and spiritual history,” Smid wrote. “It will not be erased as though it did not exist. I still struggle at times…I still shut down with my wife at times. I periodically have sexual thoughts regarding men.”

** In 2000, Love In Action’s youngest graduate and spokesman Wade Richards, comes out of the closet and condemns ministry as a fraud. Today, he is a gay activist today and appeared in the wonderful (Five Stars) movie, Fish Can’t Fly.

** On Sept. 19, 2000, Love In Action’s most famous graduate and ex-gay poster boy John Paulk is photographed in a gay bar in Washington, DC

Besen has more at the website for his book Anything but Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay MythIt’s also noted in a Wikipedia entry. (The neutrality of which is disputed on Wikipedia.)

The upside is that now LIA and other programs like it will operate under more scrutiny than before, because more people now (a) know that they exist and (b) know what their about. Part of that is due to the internet, because teenagers like Zach can use it to reach out to people who will support them, and because folks like those who were moved by Zach’s posting went online and raised enough of a hell to generate media attention and get an investigation launched. Without any of that Zach’s story wouldn’t have reached much further than his parents’ house. And the next time a teenager finds themselves in the same situation and reaches out online, it’s more likely that their story will get the same level of attention and orgnizations like LIA will find themselves under even closer scrutiny. The story might end differently next time.

At this point, the state of Tennessee has probably done all that it can do or will do, and Zach will most likely have to complete the full program as his parents wished. Since his last post, from what I understand, he’s been pretty cut off from the rest of the world. He posted that his cell phone was taken away, and his internet access (remember he put up his last post while his parents were sleeping, because he wasn’t allowed to be online anymore).

So, except for the few friends who manage to keep in touch with him, it’s hard to say when anyone else will hear how he’s doing. At least, unless his parents allow him access to the internet after he completes the program, and I think that’s highly unlikely. The LIA program seems to be “big on temptation avoidance,” giving even graduates instructions like only “grocery shop just before closing so you will go at a time when there won’t likely be people you are attracted to.”

With any luck, maybe Zach will be able to get online, and get back to his blog to discover how much support he has and to tell everyone how he’s doing. But, that might not be possible as long as he’s beholden to his parents and living under their roof. That means two years, two long years for a 16-year-old who’s just coming out.

About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
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5 Responses to Love In Action Investigation Concludes

  1. ol cranky says:

    I just read (and posted) about this myself. He will, most likely, be beholden to his parents longer than 2 years if he’s unanble to find a way to support himself pretty quickly. I hope that whatever happened to him, his parents will respect and support him in being the person he really is. Unless they do that, I doubt he’ll be able to keep the blog or let it represent his true feelings (at least not unless he creates an alter ego with a blog since I’m sure his folks know the scrutiny he is under). It sounds like he has some good, support friends who will hopefully be allowed to remain as such as they’ll be the key to propping up his morale when necessary. If his folks do allow him unsupervised access to his computer and the net, he’ll at least know there is a light at the end of the tunnel that includes a community of people of all races, religions & sexual orientations that wish him the best and will accept him for who he is.

  2. Mark says:

    Well, it’s a damn shame that they didn’t find anything concrete enough to shut this place down. All we can hope (or pray, if you’re into that kind of thing) is that he can still be himself and doesn’t suffer the same fate as others who have failed to fully accept who they are (like Jack McIntyre).

    If he wants to come to Missouri and be treated like a person, The Mrs. and I have an extra room. 🙂

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  4. Hysterical Woman says:

    I hope that one day the camp is empty and gay teenager will be accepted by their parents, if not their peers.

  5. stemper says:

    I left home at 17 to get away from my parents. He can do it too.

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