Mankind Project Houston has not implemented Scinto court settlement

Mankind Project came into public view via a Houston Press article on the suicide of Michael Scinto. Due to statements made after the New Warriors Training Adventure weekend by Mr. Scinto, his parents came to believe that the weekend conducted by MKP-Houston was responsible for the tragic death. The Scintos sued and settled with MKPH in June, 2008. The settlement called for MKPH to provide a new level of disclosure about the activities of the NWTA. MKPH agreed to several changes in disclosure on their website:

-MKP of Houston agreed to have its pre-New Warrior Training Adventure Adventure questionnaire reviewed by a licensed mental health professional for recommendations about how it can be improved. However, the MKPH board must approve changes before they can be implemented.
-Each application for the NWTA must be screened by a mental health professional who has personal knowledge of the weekend. The screener shall determine whether the applicant shall be accepted or not with the decision written on the application.
-The following changes will be made within 30 days of a required MKP of Houston Board review of the website:
1. Change the website to provide adequate information from which potential applicants can make an informed decision about whether to attend the NWTA.
2. The website shall disclose that a mental health professional will screen applications to determine suitability for participation.
3. The website will need to disclose that people who wish to leave the NWTA are free to do so.
4. Applicants will be told that the NWTA may involve optional nudity and certain elements of Native American traditions.
-MKPH agrees to develop a written protocol which will allow any participant to leave NWTA safely with MKPH assistance. Participants requesting to leave shall be allowed to do so immediately unless the action would result in further risk of harm. Once a request is made, the participant is not required to do any other activities unless the participant changes his mind.

These changes were to be made within 6 months of approval of the MKPH board. It is now January, 2009 and no changes have been made. In fact, the secrecy surrounding the weekend is still offered as a selling point on the group’s website:

Why aren’t the details of the Weekend divulged in advance?
There’s all the difference in the world between a concept and an experience. Our commitment is to give you a transformational experience along with information you can use.
Traditional initiations utilized fasting, isolation, sleep deprivation, mind altering substances and painful physical ordeals to break down the psyche’s natural resistance to change.
While we don’t use those extreme conditions, we do rely on the element of confidentiality to intensify and deepen the process. We ask you to trust us in this regard. All activities during the weekend are optional but you will get the most benefit if you participate fully. Remember, the training is mostly staffed by volunteers who have gone through the same experience and found it very worthwhile.

What is ironic about this description is that MKPH says NWTA does not use “fasting, isolation, sleep deprivation” techniques to “break down the psyche’s natural resistance to change.” However, as described by prior members, NWTA clearly involves at lease some level of food and sleep deprivation and isolation. Some people who view themselves as survivors of MKP would alter MKPH’s description of NWTA to say that the weekend simply breaks down the psyche.
I wrote the MKPH director for a comment or clarification of their position which I will post if I hear back. For more information regarding NWTA and MKP, see this page.

Accountability sought at MKP annual meeting

New Warrior brothers Fred “grow some” Saldutti and Reid “new warrior man” Baer are men on a mission. MKP’s annual meeting is coming up in Glen Ivy, CA and our boys want to find the truth. Fred wants to know what MKP is doing about sexual harrassment on the New Warriors Training Adventure weekends (so there is sexual harrassment, Fred?) and Reid wants to be the free press. Let’s listen in…

Spirit of transparency? Reid, you said you reported on the MKP annual meeting for six years but it was for the secret MKP journal. To my knowledge, there has not been an independent reporting of MKP dealings or annual meeting to date. Good luck with the transparency thing.

Year in review: Top ten stories of 2008

As in year’s past, I have enjoyed reviewing the posts from the year and coming up with the top ten stories.

1. Cancelation of the American Psychiatric Association symposium – Amidst threat of protests, the APA pressed to halt a scheduled symposium dedicated to sexual identity therapy and religious affiliation. Whipped up by a factually inaccurate article in the Gay City News, gay activists persuaded the APA leadership to pressure symposium organizers to pull the program. Gay City News later ran a correction.

2. The other APA, the American Psychological Association, released a task force report on abortion and mental health consequences. Basing their conclusions on only one study, the APA surprised no one by claiming abortion had no more adverse impact on mental health than carrying a child to delivery. I revealed here that the APA had secretly formed this task force after a series of research reports in late 2005 found links between abortion and adverse mental health consequences for some women. New research confirms that concern is warranted.

3. Golden Rule Pledge – In the wake of Sally Kern saying homosexuality was a greater threat to the nation than terrorism, I initiated the Golden Rule Pledge which took place surrounding the Day of Silence and the Day of Truth. Many conservative groups were calling for Christian students to stay home. This did not strike me as an effective faith-centered response. The Golden Rule Pledge generated some controversy as well as approval by a small group of evangelicals (e.g., Bob Stith) and gay leaders (e.g., Eliza Byard). Some students taking part in the various events were positively impacted by their experience.

4. Exodus considers new direction for ministry – At a leadership training workshop early in 2008, Wendy Gritter proposed a new paradigm for sexual identity ministry. Her presentation was provocative in the sense that it generated much discussion and consideration, especially among readers here. It remains to be seen if Exodus will continue to move away from a change/reparative therapy focus to a fidelity/congruence ministry focus.

5. New research clarifies sexual orienatation causal factors – A twin study and a study of brain symmetry, both from Sweden and a large U.S. study shed some light on causal factors in sexual orientation.

6. Letter to the American Counseling Association requesting clarification of its policies concerning counseling same-sex attracted evangelicals. Co-signed by over 600 counselors (many of whom were referred by the American Association of Christian Counselors), I wrote a letter to the ACA requesting clarification regarding how counselors should work with evangelicals who do not wish to affirm homosexual behavior. The current policy is confusing and gives no guidance in such cases. Then President Brian Canfield replied affirming the clients self-determination in such cases. He referred the matter back to the ACA ethics committee. To date, that committee has not responded.

7. Paul Cameron’s work resurfaces and then is refuted – Insure.com resurrected Paul Cameron’s work in an article on their website about gay lifespans. The article was later altered to reflect more on HIV/AIDS than on homosexual orientation. Later this year, Morten Frisch produced a study which directly addressed Cameron’s methods.

8. Mankind Project unravels – This year I posted often regarding the Mankind Project and New Warriors Training Adventure. Recently, I reported that MKP is in some financial and organizational disarray.

9. Debunking of false claims about Sarah Palin’s record on support for social programs – I had lots of fun tracking down several false claims made about Sarah Palin during the election. Her opponents willfully distorted her real record to paint her as a hypocrite. I learned much more about Alaska’s state budget than I ever wanted to know but found that most claims of program cuts were actually raises in funding which not quite as much as the agencies requested. However, overall funding for such programs increased.

10. During the stretch run of the election, I became quite interested in various aspects of the race. As noted above, I spent some time examining claims surround Sarah Palin’s record. I also did a series on President-elect Obama’s record on housing, including an interview with one of Barack Obama’s former constituents.

I know, I know, number 10 is an understatement. (Exhibit A)

Happy New Year!

Former Mankind Project journal editor plans YouTube revolution

Reid Baer doesn’t go quietly.
Former Mankind Project (MKP) member-only journal editor is planning an online meeting for men who dislike MKP for one reason or another and those who are remaining in it. Mr. Baer was recently fired from the editor position for several vague reasons, one of which was using New Warrior in his online screen name. MKP claims such use is a copyright violation.
If using New Warrior online is a copyright violation then get ready for an orgy of violations. Here is Baer’s plan. He wants men who have interest or who have ever been involved with MKP to go to this YouTube page and register as a New Warrior. Currently, there are only a few names (e.g., NewWarriorObserver, NewWarriorMan2). We could all go over and be NewWarriors. Like NewWarriorDrowssap or NewWarriorEddy or something (I think NewWarriorMary would be kind of humorous). Anyway, the “event” will be 12/1 and 12/2.
MKP also recently terminated the contract of long-time MKP administrator Drury Heffernan. The reason given was the need for someone to improve MKP technological capabilities. Whatever the reasons for these changes, MKP’s numbers are dropping and the financial crunch continues. According to Baer, the organization needs to become more transparent. The release of Baer indicates that the group has opted for maintaining the secret lodge-like approach. The Houston Press article and Scinto case which triggered it have clearly had an impact on MKP.
For more information, see my page on MKP.

Mankind Project self-destructing?

After a steady rise in influence and numbers, the Mankind Project may now be in decline. More about that in a bit.
Today,
Chris Vogel writes about a dispute within the murky inner-circle of the MKP which has become public. Vogel writes:

Here’s some news for you readers who’ve been keeping up with The ManKind Project, the controversial so-called men’s self-help group that detractors have criticized for targeting members of 12-step recovery groups, practicing therapy without a license and maintaining a dark cloak of secrecy regarding its “New Warrior” rites and rituals.
Reid Baer, the former editor of the non-profit organization’s monthly publication, the New Warrior Journal, says he was fired from the position because the group’s leadership is tired of him demanding more transparency to the public.
“The problem,” Baer tells Hair Balls, “is that they have been a secret organization for so many years that they don’t know how to stop being secret. I fought for stuff for five years and I think they just got tired of me telling the truth, because I would interview men who had dissenting views, and they hated it.”

Nice that Baer confirms what has been obvious: MKP deliberately keeps practices secret from initiates and requires participants to keep these activities secret. Baer’s firing may have been multi-determined though, as Vogel explains.

But, Baer concedes, that was not the official reason he was let go from his $10,000 a year post. According to a letter Baer says MKP’s Executive Director Carl Griesser wrote him, Baer, a former journalist turned poet on the Internet with his own Wikipedia entry, was terminated because he uses the nom de plume “NewWarriorMan.” In his letter, Griesser says the name “New Warrior” is a registered trademark of The ManKind Project and therefore Baer cannot use it.
Baer says that while MKP has trademarked similar phrases to the one he uses, his specific Web name is not one of them.
Griesser also complains in his letter that Baer made the “unilateral decision” not to publish the organization’s periodical in November (to which Baer says his supervisors made the call) and is concerned with “some especially offensive videos in recent weeks.”
One such video Griesser points to, taken by Baer, shows the poet drop trou in front of the camera, bend over a desk, smack lube across his backside and then say, “Go ahead, I’m ready.” The segment is titled, “Jack Nicholson is ready for Barack Obama, et al.”

Thanks to the Houston Press, and several websites, including this blog, men who want to know more about the MKP can find out almost everything about a New Warriors Training Adventure via an Internet search in advance. So Baer argues that MKP should become more transparent, saying,

“Some of the things we do we keep from the public because the surprise value of it, historically speaking, has had more impact. But now that we’re in the Google world, I have for the last five years been campaigning to be more transparent and to share more about what we do on the weekends because men now, before they go, will Google ‘MKP,’ and if all they see are the bad stories, a lawsuit, this and that, then that’s not doing us any good. And so for them to fire the very guy who wants to put good information out there is insanity.”

Another reason Baer may have been fired is to save money. MKP is not doing well and has recently informed members of significant financial problems.

The Mankind Project is currently facing one of the biggest financial challenges of its life. Due to a significant decline in men enrolled in NWTA’s, and despite $30,000 in budget cuts over the past three months, we are facing a projected shortfall this year of $75,000. We need your help.
Historically, about 90% of the revenue generated by the Project has come from tuition from our trainings. The rest is raised through contributions, primarily to the Chairman’s Campaign. For the first
time in 23 years, our average number of men per training has decreased significantly – by about 10%. We expect to initiate 2849 men this year, down from a high of 3209 in 2005. We are budgeting
for a similar decrease in 2009.

MKP is now holding re-initiation weekends where men who have been through the weekend Training Adventure can do it all over again. Despite the gay friendly nature of New Warriors, NARTH, JONAH, Richard Cohen, and Northern Ireland’s Paul Miller continue to recommend New Warriors as a kind of reparative therapy intervention to reduce same-sex attraction via an enhancement of masculinity feelings.
Back to Mr. Baer; he is not too happy about the copyright issue and has created another YouTube identity at NewWarriorMan2.

AHO!

Mankind Project on marriage: Is this good or bad advice?

Jim Belushi is a funny guy. He apparently is also into “the men’s movement.” He gave an interview to the Mankind Project’s journal (which normally is password protected) you can read via a link on the MKP website. The interview was conducted by MKPer Reid Baer and contains what is portrayed as wit and wisdom about true masculinity in the context of relationship with a woman. The title of Belushi’s book is “Real Men Don’t Apologize” and there are some rules he recommends:
Here are Belushi’s 5 Commandments for his wife:

Thou Shalt Not Shush Me
Thou Shalt Not Steal
Thou Shalt Never Banish Me to the Couch
Thou Shalt Not compete With me
Thou Shalt Not Expect an Apology for Something I am Not sorrieth For

There are many more tributes to the frat guy approach to masculinity. Here is another:

“Women say they want a man who is kind, gentle, compassionate, polite, considerate and nurturing,” Belushi intoned. “Bullshit! They just described a chick! Women really need a man who is mysterious, powerful, passionate, confident, unpredictable and a little dangerous. That’s the guy they will sleep with … the most interesting person in the world to a woman is someone they know nothing about. The stuff they come up with in their own head is a lot more interesting than you. That’s why so many women out there have a crush on Tony Soprano. He cheats on his wife, works in an illegal business and kills people.”

And then more specific to the masculinity work of MKP, Belushi advises:

“I’ve been doing men’s work for a long time because I’ve had to … to survive,” he said. “There’s a lot of healing that we men need because we’ve got some wounds to deal with. Women may want to fix them, but they can’t. We have to use the tribal approach and let the men work with the men.”

So women cannot help men be men. This is a common theme in the MKP stuff I have read. Women are of some other tribe and the coming together is apparently not for companionship or for mutual completion. In fact, I am not sure what (other) role women play for men when I read

“Love without sex is friendship, sex without love is spring break, and if you want companionship, get a dog.”

Ok, let me open it up. Does this look like a respectful, winning approach to heterosexual relationships? This is one of two featured interviews on the MKP page, so they must think this is good stuff. I am wondering what wives think reading this interview — (“Is that what my husband will come home expecting?”). Readers, chime in here…
PS – This is the thought for the day (7/23/08) on the MKP website:

Thought for the Day:
When a man finds his own heart, he outgrows his unreal romanticism about women, as well as the neurotic need to please them.

Call me neurotic but I like to make my wife happy. And besides, I do not know what that even means. To me, it sounds like, when a man gets self-centered, he puts himself first. Is the MKP vision of manhood a guy who finds some great thing to conquer and then puts that mission in first place?

Mankind Project clarifies stance on reparative therapy

Within the last day or so, Mankind Project members received an email from Executive Director, Carl Griesser with an alert to a new feature on the MKP website.

…the next time you visit www.MKP.org you will find a rainbow flag with the word Friendly superimposed as a navigation button linked directly to a slightly modified version of the reparative therapy statement. The Executive Committee and our IT Team believe this is an effective way of indicating our welcoming attitude to all men, while making the statement easily accessible to the public.

Click on the link and you will find the following article titled Sexual Orientation & the Mankind Project:

· The ManKind Project creates trainings and circles in which men are invited to discover their deepest truths.
· We welcome men of all sexual orientations: gay, straight, and bisexual, as well as those who identify as having unwanted same sex attraction, to do their own work as they define it, to respect the identity and value of others, and to take responsibility for the impact their words and behaviors have on others.
· We support each man in pursuing his path to deeper authenticity. We do not provide therapy nor endorse any particular therapy, including reparative therapy. Any group or organization that states or implies otherwise does so without our permission.
· We do not, and will not, attempt to change a man’s sexual orientation.
· We stand firm in support of gay and bisexual men. We support men who believe that homosexuality is a normal part of the spectrum of human sexuality and of mature masculinity.
· We will not tolerate proselytizing for any religion or belief and do not tolerate discrimination on our trainings or in our communities. We support our training and community leaders in identifying and challenging discriminatory language and behavior.

I provided a link to this statement in a previous post. Essentially, some reparative therapy clients/therapists were recommending the New Warriors Training Adventure to same-sex attracted men as a means of enhancing their sense of masculinity. Reparative therapists believe male same-sex attraction derives from a sense of distrust of men and a disconnection from natural masculinity. Via the reparative drive, he sexualizes his desire for masculine closeness and seeks homosexual relationships. Get a man feeling all masculine and his SSA disappears. Perhaps one of the clearest statements of this hypothesis and the proposed remedy is David Pickup’s the Workout program.
Mr. Pickup recommends the New Warriors Training Adventure and notes on his website that he serves as training coordinator of the Los Angeles branch of the Mankind Project. This is the branch which hosted Joseph Nicolosi, Narth co-founder and father of reparative therapy, at a training session in 2005. This session was quite controversial and eventually led to the MKP statement.
The email to MKPers provided this rationale for the new rainbow link:

Men,
As many of you are aware, the Project Council approved a Position Statement on Reparative Therapy in February 2007. Based on initial text prepared by Jim Mitchell, I prepared a statement which was then revised by a group of gay, bi, and straight men, and men who identify as having Unwanted Same Sex Attraction (USSA). We decided that it was necessary to take this stand because many men were being referred to the NWTA by reparative therapists and groups who had little or no experience with MKP (as well as by some reparative therapists and USSA men who had been through the training.) It was our intention to clarify for ourselves and for these men what they can expect if they attend our trainings. I sent the statement to the reparative therapists and groups I knew about, and have continued to do so when I learn of others. I asked organizations which implied on their websites that MKP offered or supported reparative therapy to remove such statements and any links to our website. Some complied with the request, though not all.

I got a chuckle out of this sentence: “It was our intention to clarify for ourselves and for these men what they can expect if they attend our trainings” since the MKP is so secretive about what men can expect. In any case, I believe it is valuable for MKP to indicate to men that they do not adhere to the masculinity enhancement model of reparative therapy for men who might be encouraged by reparative organizations/practitioners to seek NWTA for that purpose.

Mankind Project – Calling all spirits

I have started a page devoted to the Mankind Project on the blog. The initial topic is the practice of calling in spirits which opens weekly the Integration Groups (I-Groups). This practice is an aspect of creating sacred ritual space for the various processes (Guts Work, etc.) that take place in these meetings. Like many pagan and earth spirituality rituals, the I-Groups begin with casting a circle of sacred ritual space. Then an invocation is given to call in the spirits of the directions (Calling in the 7 Directions – east, west, north, south, up, down and within) and any other spirits that may be important (grandfathers, etc.).
I suspect for some of the initiates, this is regarded as a formality with no thought that any real spirits are being or even could be summoned. However, in reading stories and accounts written by MKP writers and leaders, it seems to me that some of them take this more literally. In any event, given that Christian ex-gay groups continue to recommend MKP and NWTA, and given that MKP are secretive about these practices, I want to provide this information for people in order to make an informed decision about participation. A work in progress, I will add to the page as I get new information.