Well, not yet, but soon. This week’s Washington Blade runs a story about Zach’s impending release from Love In Action/Refuge (LIA/R). The article, for the first time in any gay publication I’ve seen, uses Zach’s surname. It also notes the interview Zach’s dad gave to CBN, and his dad’ s confirmation that Zach was enrolled in the program at LIA/R. A disappointment, perhaps, to those who claimed (and continue to claim) that Zach’s story was a hoax.
Early last month, a Love in Action administrator said that two male teens in the program were both enrolled for six-week stints in the “ex-gay” camp, and last week in an interview broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Zach’s father, Joe Stark confirmed his son’s identity as one of Love in Action’s clients.
The article notes the effect that blogs had on the story, including the most recent investigation of LIA/R by Tennessee state authorities.
As a consequence of the publicity around Love in Action, the Tennessee Department of Health began an investigation and notified the unlicensed group that it appeared to be functioning illegally and could potentially be referred to the county district attorney for prosecution.
According to a report in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Love in Action executive director John Smid said that Love in Action would change its program to remain unregulated by the state.
But Andrea Turner, spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Health, said Love in Action has not yet told the state how it plans to come into compliance with the law.
If you ask me, it’s a victory that LIA/R had to face two investigations, and the possibility of being referred to the county district attorney for posible prosecution. They have been forced to change their program in order to remain unregulated. What that means, I don’t know, but the article hints that LIA/R may have to send clients offsite for drug and alcohol treatment.
Where that leaves the lone licensed counselor at LIAR — Daniel Cosby, who is only licensed for drug and alcohol counseling — I also don’t know. But if Cosby remains at LIA/R, even after the facility no longer offers on site alcohol and drug counseling, then the only therapy left for him to participate in is the “reparative therapy.” That means the only therapy he’ll be taking part in is therapy for which he’s not only unlicensed, but the State Board of Certification of Health Related Boards and professional bodies like the National Association for Addiction Professionals may have a problem with it. And the American Counseling Association considers it unethical for a counselor to practice outside his area of training. So, if Cosby is still at LIA/R and participating in their “reparative therapy” program, there may be more to do about LIA/R yet. And possibly even Cosby’s license.
And then there’s Zach. Little has been heard from him since he entered LIA/R. With his cell phone confiscated, his internet access cut off, and his only real contact with his parents and the folks of LIA/R, it had to be impossible for him to communicate much. His release from the program leaves some questions lingering.
It is not yet known what effect the Love in Action experience has had on Zach, who initially blogged that his parents’ reaction to his coming out was driving him to suicidal thoughts.
But there have been hints that Zach hasn’t bought the LIA/R program. But one of Zach’s last messages before his immersion in the world of LIA/R is encouraging.
Don’t worry. I’ll get through this. They’ve promised me things will get better whether this program does anything or not. Let’s hope they aren’t lying.
I have my doubts that his parents — who would him in a program like LIA/R in the first place — will allow him the same level of freedom and contact with the outside world that he enjoyed before. My bet is that the cell phone and internet access will remain cut off or closely monitored.
But then there is reality. No parent, at least not one who isn’t clearly abusive, can monitor and control their kid’s every moment. That’s how kids still manage to find ways of doing stuff their parents would rather they didn’t. My guess, my hope, is that a kid as smart, communicative, and strong-willed as Zach appears to be will find a way of reaching and letting the thousands of people who have been rooting for him all this time know that he’s OK, that he will be OK.
That’s my hope, anyway.