LIA Investigated Again

The news around Love In Action — which runs the Refuge programs Zach’s parents are forcing him to attend — keeps getting more and more interesting. The lastest is that the state of Tennessee is launching another investigation of LIA, one that sounds decidedly more serious than the previous one.

The state of Tennessee continues to probe Love in Action, the Memphis facility that has drawn protests since a 16-year-old known as “Zach” blogged that his parents were sending him there for treatment intended to change his sexual orientation.

The Tennessee Department of Health has sent a letter to Love in Action notifying the group that it is suspected of operating illegally, according to Andrea Turner, communications director for the department.

Turner said that if the program is strictly faith-based it would not require licensing by the state, but that according to the group’s Web site, Love in Action has licensed counselors and provides services related to alcohol and drug addiction on site.

“If this is the case, they are required to be licensed as a drug and alcohol treatment facility in Tennessee,” Turner said.

If employees there are providing counseling on homosexuality, it is possible that they are operating outside their area of expertise, Turner added.

I noted in a previous post that LIA has one license counselor, but that he may be licensed only for drug and alcohol counseling. If he’s involved in their “reparative therapy” program, that could be the key to further problems for LIA. This is from the previous Blade article about the close of the last investigation.

Danny Cobsy is the only staff member listed on the Love in Action Web site who is licensed by the state of Tennessee as a counselor.

Cosby is an alcohol and drug treatment counselor and works directly with the clients at Love in Action.

Cosby said that adolescents and adults are treated together as a group and that in addition to the two teenagers who are currently in the program there are between five and 15 adults. Cosby said that the presence of adults in the group is critical in helping teenagers “not glamorize the lifestyle.”

The question is whether Cosby participates in the “reparative therapy” practiced at Refuge, and if so just what problems does that cause for the facility. I’m not an expert, but having a staff member participating in therapy he’s not licensed to do sounds like a pretty serious problem. It also sounds like Cosby’s presence would require them to be licensed, which they’re not. Again, sounds like enough of a problem to warrant some sort of action on the part of the state

One thing’s certain, none of this would be happening if people hadn’t picked up this story and blogged it until it got wider notice, and people started taking action. We basically made it impossible for people in positions to do something to ignore this story.

About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
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17 Responses to LIA Investigated Again

  1. wappy says:

    The group of us over at free zach are doing a postcard campaign to send Zach some words of support. It’s a statement in itself, because if even half the group sends a card or letter, it will be 2,000 messages flooding the Refuge camp’s mailbox. That would be hard to ignore.

    c/o Refuge
    P.O. Box 171444
    Memphis, TN 38187

  2. When I attended LIA back in 96-98, they sent me to meet with Dr. Duff Wright at the time. Of course they claimed that he was to help folks who were having trouble additional to same-sex attractions, but much of what we did can be termed as gay reparative therapy.

    Interestingly enough, Dr. Wright was actually quite influencial in helping me separate the issues of same-sex attraction wtih the other issues that plagued me. As a license counselor (well licensed at the time) he knew enough to guide me out of some real confusion that untrained “ex-gay” workers only made worse.

  3. This is going to take things to the mat. Any time a facility employs licensed counselors who are involved in any aspect of treatment, the facility is required to be licensed. They have successfully skated around the regulations for a very long time.

    What will happen: John Smid and Nathan Bell will make certain not to keep Danny in any open session involving patients dealing with issues of homosexuality.

    What it will take: anyone who has been at the facility coming forward with information. If someone has checked themselves into LIA/R for the purpose of dealing with dual issues, and they have been in sessions with counselors that are licensed for drug & alcohol counseling while talking about sexual issues, LIA/R will be in serious trouble.

  4. Mike Rock says:

    This is just a quibble, but the blogs and stories keep saying that LIA tries to change one’s orientation, but their materials actually seem to say that the focus is merely on suppression of one’s instinctive urges – ie self-discipline, which can be a good thing if you take out the self-loathing part. Not much better, but teaching self-control vs. changing something inherent is a big difference. The whole unlicensed thing definitely sounds fishy for sure.

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  6. Mike, one thing is certain: the Love in Action website clearly says, in bold letters, “There is no such creation as a “gay” or “homosexual” person. There is only homosexual attraction and behavior; accordingly, there can be no change from a sexual identity that never existed in the first place.”

    I’d call that an argument for telling people that they aren’t who they are, and it goes beyond behavior.

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  9. Mike Rock says:

    EJ, actually as a gay guy myself [with teeny bi leanings] I agree with LIA that “gayness” as identity is a social contruction. That seems to be what they are saying about that. Used to be a guy could just screw who he wanted or just be in love, without labels. That to me is the ideal. “Gayness” is a 20th century cultural artifact with a whole lotta baggage with it. Remember we didn’t even have the word “homosexual” until the late 19th century. Then again these days a “gay identity” is more of a marketing niche for corporate exploitation than anything else, as if wanting to kiss a dude is supposed to tell you what to wear, how you take care of your body, what music you listen to, and further subdivides people by sexual fetishes or kinks – blech. Look at the back of “gay” magazines and you would think that if you didn’t have these kinks like “bear” or “leather” or are always looking for sex that you aint really “gay”. We all WOULD do well to leave these consumerist “identities” behind. Like one dead sorcerer who kissed the boys once said “Love is the law, love under will.” An identity IS a trap if it limits your possibilities of who you are and what you can be. That is why we want to be careful who we ask to help us tinker with them.

    I don’t think a teen that has not fully formed his identity has any business being forced into such a program as LIA/R. He should be exposed to a variety of viewpoints and possibilities. That should include possibilities beyond “gay and straight” IMO which LIA/R is not going to provide. And their rules are out of this world. Like a monastery. Not that I’m against monasteries if you choose to be a monk!

    I look forward to a time when “sexual preference” only refers to stuff like “slow and sensual” or “rough and fast” ie is about what we like rather than who we like.

  10. James Lovette-Black RN, PhD (ABD) says:

    I am an RN, psychotherapist, and a gay man. I grew up in the Deep South, also known as the “Bible belt, unbuckled”. At 51, I have worked through enough of what was force-fed to me as religion, politics, and sexuality as a child and young adult and make better decisions in such areas.
    It appears to me that the LIA/R folks are using methods that are viewed by legitimate clinicians as abusive and that violate numerous ethical and human rights standards that are held universally.
    Zach was bright enough to see what might be coming, given a fundie/Christer environment of unquestioned moralism. The fact that Zach publicly declared his same-sex orientation speaks loudly of his courage and of the strength of his emerging identity. It is in his best interests for us to keep the pressure on the LIA/R hypocrites and to save Zach.
    Long live Zach!

  11. Left Coaster says:

    Mike, regardless of the word you use to designate it, same-sex orientation has always been a part of human diversity. Yes, the current, uniquely American incarnation of “gayness” is specific to our consumerist 21st century culture. But then so is the current American construction of “heterosexuality”. That doesn’t make these orientations any less innate. The whole Kinsey scale is a mere bipolar approximation, only a line. A debate, if there is one, is to recognize there are more than just two poles. That sexual orientation is n-dimensional, with each dimension being independent variables.

  12. greg says:

    The idea of a postcard campaign is great! James Lovette is right – Zach has great strength, knows who he is, and will survive this assault on his human integrity. Write and let him know that there’s a world of people out here who support him. Let him know that there’s a hero within him that will win this battle!
    c/o Refuge
    P.O. Box 171444
    Memphis, TN 38187

  13. Terrance says:

    That’s assuming that the folks at Refuge would give him the postcards. I have my doubts that they would.

  14. Sean Strub says:

    I am concerned, also, about mail sent to Zach being delivered. Theft of mail sent through the US Postal Service is a federal offense, one taken seriously. It might be a good idea to send mail to Zach certified, to be able to prove delivery.

  15. Bill R. says:

    The postcard campaign is meant to flood LIA/R with a show of support for Zach. Those at the MySpace, Free Zach group know it is unlikely he will actually receive them but, we are showing them our support for him.

    Someone there equated it to the barrage of owl mail at the beginning of one of the Harry Potter movies.

  16. wappy says:

    It’s not so important right now that Zach gets them–and I doubt he will–as it is that people send them. I see it as a protest for those of us who can’t go to Memphis to protest in person. It floods LIA and is more visable than any internet campaign out there. They can ignore the internet and all Zach’s blog comments, but it is much harder to ignore snail mail.
    The volume of cards sent sends a message that we support Zach, and that these actions won’t be tolerated. Whether Zach reads them or not, isn’t the issue, because even if he has the access afterwards, if enough cards are sent, it would be very tough for him to answer them. Bruce Garrett did a great article about it on his blog, equating it to a patriotic act.

  17. Louise says:


    Y’all don’t have a clue about what you are alleging. No one in their right mind would believe an angry 16 year old. Y’all need a reality check. It is easy to lift things out of context, claim santimonious “objectivity” and blame everything on “right-wing fundamentalists.” In the end, all you are doing is empowering a troubled teen and destroying a family. This is not to deny that abuse happens. But in this case you are the abusers and LIA the victim. Grow up.

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