Reparative shake up in Northern Ireland

Yesterday, Alan Chambers posted about a trip to Belfast in order to speak about his newest book, Leaving Homosexuality. In the post, he disclosed that the two men hosting the series (note: according to Dr. Davidson, the recent sessions of Bergner and Chambers are hosted solely by Core-Issues), Michael Davidson and Paul Miller have

broken ties with Mr. [Richard] Cohen and neither utilize or endorse his practices. 

This would be a change for Dr. Miller since he is quoted on Richard Cohen’s website with a glowing endorsement about Richard Cohen’s “counselor training program.” On Cohen’s website Miller says: 
The Counselor Training Program was delivered in an event co-sponsored with ABEO, JONAH and IHF in Northern Ireland. People attended from all over the world (UK, Ireland, Israel, Egypt, Estonia, Germany, Lichtenstein), and the outcome of the training was an amazing equipping for these professionals to work in an evidence-based way with people seeking to change their sexual orientation. It was one of the best training events I have ever attended: clear, evidence-based, stimulating and pragmatic.

         Paul W. Miller M.D., BCh, BAO, DMH (Belfast), MRC Psych

         Consultant Psychiatrist

         Managing Director, ABEO

In 2007, Paul Miller hosted a healing workshop and training session in Belfast (the brochure remains on the Core-Issues website). Then in 2008, Miller was embroiled in controversy surrounding remarks about him by then MP, Iris Robinson. At that time, he described Cohen’s 2007 workshop as “very valuable.” More recently, journalist Patrick Strudwick reported on alleged sessions with Miller. Charges filed over that event will apparently be heard this month by the General Medical Council there. Meanwhile, Dr. Miller has removed his website (www.abeoonline.com) from view. Prior to the recent removal, he advertised a link to Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation (archived copy). Note there that he offered trainings in collaboration with IHF.
ABEO also provides training to those professionals working in the area of unwanted SSA. Through links with NARTH, JONAH, the International Healing Foundation and a number of international experts we are seeking to spread evidence based skills that will help professionals working in this area.
Miller once served as NARTH’s UK representative but appears to have stepped down from that position as he is no longer listed on the NARTH website. I have asked Dr. Miller for additional description about this change and will provide any statement he gives.
Additional note: in contrast to the statement that Core-Issues does not endorse the practices of Richard Cohen, their website does offer his two books, Coming Out Straight and Gay Children, Straight Parents.

Exodus International rejects statement from Uganda’s social workers

This just out in a press release from Exodus:

Exodus International Responds to Ugandan Social Worker Association’s Endorsement of Country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

ORLANDO, FL – Last week, the National Association of Social Workers of Uganda (NASWU) issued an endorsement of the African nation’s controversial anti-homosexuality bill, arguing “there is justification for Uganda to put in place appropriate legislation to comprehensively prohibit homosexuality.” The organization did recommend changes to the legislation, such as an exemption for counselors helping those struggling with same-sex attraction to report “homosexual offenses” to the government. However, overall, the NASWU recommended the bill continue through the legislative process so that “an appropriate law will emerge from this process that even other countries will want to emulate.”

 

In response, Exodus International President Alan Chambers said, “Although the NASWU seems genuinely concerned in helping those struggling with same-sex attraction, the organization fails to see that Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009–as any legislation that criminalizes homosexuality–does more to hurt than help homosexuals. Exodus continues to urge Uganda’s Parliament to reject this hurtful legislation; we also ask the country’s evangelical churches to take the lead in offering hope and healing to all people, regardless of their particular struggles.”

 

Exodus recently released a letter from its Board fully outlining the organization’s position on Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill. To view the letter, click here

Exodus International Board and members condemn Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill

As a follow up to a letter delivered to Uganda’s President Yowari Museveni, the board and many member ministries of Exodus International have issued a statement condemning Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009.

Due to the continued threat of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, introduced before the Ugandan parliament on October 14, 2009, and bills like it in other nations, the Board of Directors of Exodus International and its North American membership felt a vital need to issue the following statement:

The statement is very similar to the letter which was delivered to the Ugandan President in November, 2009. The statement in full after the jump:

Continue reading “Exodus International Board and members condemn Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill”

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill: What are American Christians doing?

This post will be a work in progress in that I am going to list organizations with connections to those in Uganda who are suporting the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. As I learn of various statements and positions of American Christian groups, I will post them, even if there are no particular ties to promoters of the bill. I need to caution readers that being listed here does not mean that the organization or anyone in it supports the bill. Reactions have varied and those reactions are what I am trying to capture. As organizations change there positions or views, I will change this page to reflect new information.

I will begin with the three Americans who spoke at the Kampala conference “Understanding the Gay Agenda” in March. I posted on this here early and was quoted in the Ugandan press as a critic of the conference as it was about to begin.

Scott Lively (Defend the Family International) – As of January 10, Scott Lively endorsed a revised Anti-Homosexuality Bill which removes the death penalty and encourages counseling. The problem is that I cannot confirm that such a revision exists. In an email exchange, Lively would not disclose whether or not he has seen a revision.

Caleb Brundidge (International Healing Foundation) – Initially, there was silence from Brundidge and the International Healing Foundation about the ex-gay conference and the bill. Cohen’s book Coming Out Straight was referred to positively during the Kampala conference and at a follow up conference. In the IHF’s Summer, 2009 newsletter,  Brundidge wrote an article detailing the trip. When the national and international media began to report this story, Brundidge’s former therapist and mentor at IHF, Richard Cohen, stepped forward to comment, on the Rachel Maddow Show and via an open letter to the Ugandan parliament. In the letter, he expresses strong opposition to the bill but then asks them to emphasize therapy.

Don Schmierer (Exodus International) – In contrast to the above two organizations, Exodus International did not send Don Schmierer to Uganda. The organization was warned that the conference was to take place and advised to contact Mr. Schmierer and ask him to reconsider taking part. They did not do so and seemed slow to grasp the significance of the event. Initially, Exodus supported Mr. Schmierer’s attendance there even as they condemned criminalization of homosexuality in March, 2009.  Later, after the bill was introduced, Exodus International expressed strong opposition to it saying so in a letter signed by Alan Chambers, Randy Thomas, Christopher Yuan and me (I am not affiliated with Exodus but signed as an expression of support for the move Exodus made to engage).  Later, Don Schmierer added his signature.

Mr. Schmierer has recently told several news sources that he felt duped into participating and was misled about the intent of the conference by organizer Stephen Langa.

“It wasn’t what we agreed on for advertising,” Schmierer said. “He had me write out 45-minute speech on healthy parenting. I found out a week before I got there he made it a three-day event and added more people. One guy was speaking on fighting the gay agenda. The way we were all listed on the program, I can see why people lump us together.”

Schmierer said he didn’t want to back out of the conference because he wanted to be gracious to the host, and said he didn’t have any indications at the time that his talk about parenting would become a lightning rod for criticism.

Since no actual revision has materialized, it is not clear how Mr. Brundidge or Mr. Schmierer would feel about a bill which removed the death penalty and added counseling.

The following people and organizations have various connections to the principle people in Uganda who support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I also note whether they have commented on the bill.

Rick Warren – Initially many critics looked to the Saddleback pastor as being involved with the bill because of his prior connection to Ugandan Martin Ssempa, who spoke at an early AIDS conference hosted by Saddleback Church. On October 30, Rick and Kay Warren released a statement to me revealing that they had severed ties with Martin Ssempa in 2007 because “his views and actions were in serious conflict with our own.”  Martin Ssempa is relevant because he has been a vocal champion of the bill from the time of the first reading and is now chair of the Uganda National Pastors Task Force Against Homosexuality. The mission of the task force is to promote the passage of the bill.

Rev. Warren followed his statement regarding Ssempa with this video and print message to Ugandan pastors. The video made clear his personal opposition, enhanced the visibility of the story and laid out a clear rationale for broad Christian opposition to the bill. Then, the Uganda pastors task force issued a print and video rebuttal to Rev. Warren using Martin Ssempa as spokesman.

The Fellowship Foundation – The Fellowship Foundation (aka The Family) sponsors the upcoming National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC. They also recruit people to conduct similar events in countries around the world. In Uganda, the prayer breakfast is organized by Nsaba Buturo with assistance from parliamentarians, including Anti-Homosexuality Bill author David Bahati. These connections, disclosed by author Jeff Sharlet on National Public Radio led to questions about the role of the Fellowship.   Later, Mr. Sharlet provided a guest post confirming and expanding on my reporting that the Fellowship opposes the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Fellowship member, Bob Hunter, has spoken candidly to Sharlet that the Fellowship has opposed the bill from the time they first became aware of it.

America’s Survival – This group, headed by Cliff Kincaid, published Scott Lively’s endorsement of the bill on their front page. Mr. Kincaid has also published articles defending Mr. Lively’s speeches in Uganda and in one called the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, “pro-family legislation.”

The organization is also requesting that constituents contact Ugandan officials with the following message:

Contact the Embassy of Uganda in the U.S. and express your support for their efforts to keep homosexual influences out of their country.

Family Watch International – This Gilbert, AZ organization promotes adoption and abstinence programming. Martin Ssempa is listed as being a volunteer team member:

Martin Ssempa, FWI African Coordinator (volunteer) – Internationally renowned family activist.  Helped Ugandan government develop its national policy on abstinence in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  Has spoken extensively on the subjects of AIDS, marriage, pornography and drug addiction.  Testified before the U.S. Congress, explaining how the U.S. aid programs that rely on condom promotion and distribution have exacerbated the AIDS problem in Africa.  He is helping Family Watch coordinate pro-family efforts in Africa.

College of Prayer – Led by Atlanta’s Fred Hartley, the College of Prayer has an ongoing relationship with David Bahati, Benson Obua-Ogwal (co-sponsors of the bill) and Nsaba Buturo (Minster of Ethics and Integrity who has strongly supported the bill). The CoP mentors and supports the Parliament leaders who take advantage of these meetings. Regarding the bill, Rev. Hartley told me he saw an early draft of the bill in the Summer of 2009 which did not contain the death penalty. In fact, he doubted that critics had the actual bill since Hon. Bahati told him that electronic copies were unauthorized.

Another bill supporter and CoP connection, Apostle Julius Oyet was scheduled to speak in Atlanta for a CoP event in early February. Oyet, presiding Apostle of the Born Again Federation,  was in parliament’s chamber when the bill was introduced and afterward prayed to thank God for the bill the introduction of which he believed would keep God from destroying Uganda. Apostle Oyet was scheduled to speak at a College of Prayer event in Atlanta during February 4-6. I recently learned from the CoP that the speaking engagement had been cancelled. No reason was given.  The CoP has issued no public statement regarding the bill, however, director Hartley told me that he opposes the bill and opposes criminalization of homosexuality. He also indicated that CoP activities in Uganda are on hold. It seems clear to me, despite the lack of public disapproval, that the CoP does not support the bill and had no part in creating it.

WAIT Training – After meeting Martin Ssempa at the Saddleback AIDS conference in 2005, Joneen Mackenzie, founder and director of WAIT Training decided to assist Ssempa spread his abstinence message in the US. She helped him construct a website and agreed to distribute a DVD of his speeches and book speaking engagements. 

Initially, when contacted about their stance on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Mackenzie provided a statement which neither endorsed or opposed Ssempa’s efforts (scroll down to comments). However, Mackenzie recently alerted me that WAIT Training had severed ties with Ssempa over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. As an aspect of this move, she place a statement on her website and asked Ssempa to remove references to WAIT Training from his website (which he has done). 

Disciple Nations Alliance – The African representative of mission organization DNA is Stephen Langa. Langa organized the ex-gay conference in March which was designed to kick off efforts to enact stonger laws against homosexuality. DNA issued a statement here maintaining confidence in Mr. Langa while expressing significant concerns about the bill.

Teen Mania – Recently, Teen Mania issued a statement about the Anti-Homosexuality bill. Initially, TM had informed people that the bill covered only child abuse and rape, however, on their Facebook page, the group issued a statement expressing concerns about the bill and promising to evaluate African ministry partners in light of those concerns. Specifically, the prominent ministry partner is Martin Ssempa as Teen Mania is contemplating setting up a leadership training organization in Uganda.

World Outreach Ministries – This organization is an organization which processes funds for the Ssempas. They are not a “sending board” which would mean an organization who trained and mentored them on their way to the mission field, but rather a service agency. The Ssempas are supported by Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas and until recently New Hyde Park Baptist Church on Long Island. Director Jason Peebles told me that he and his staff are evaluating the situation but felt that Teen Mania’s statement was a good expression of their position.

Canyon Ridge Christian Church – Canyon Ridge supports the Ssempa’s financially and via mission trips to assist his Makerere Community Church. Regarding the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009, executive pastor Mitch Harrison provided this statement:

Canyon Ridge Christian Church partners with missionaries and ministry leaders around the world, including Martin Ssempa, for the purpose of reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ and providing humanitarian aid where possible.

 

With the oversight of our elders and missions team, we constantly evaluate our ministry partners and their activities. We will only support those who engage in and promote activities consistent with the redemptive and grace-filled purposes of Jesus Christ in the world.

 

Canyon Ridge Christian Church does not wish to enter into the debate over the legislation in Uganda. We do encourage those involved to seek God’s leadership in humility and grace and to follow Jesus command to love one another as they wrestle with this difficult issue. Our prayers are for the good of the people Uganda.

Oral Roberts University – Martin Ssempa is on the Board of Reference for ORU. Public Relations Director, Jeremy Burton explained the Board of Reference duties:

  • This Board of Reference is to provide for effective communication an informative exchange and service among the public, ORU’s stakeholders, and the University.
  • A board of reference is for the purpose of credibility, for reputation, and for influence.
  • As a member of the Board of Reference, your name and your circle of influence lends reputation to the credibility of Oral Roberts University.
  • A board of reference has no voting privileges and does not have any regularly scheduled meetings.

Mr. Burton declined to issue any other statement regarding the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Watch this space for updates…

The New York Times finally gets around to covering the Ugandan ex-gay conference

The rest of the world has been talking about it for months. Finally, the New York Times decides to report.

Lots of old ground was covered but there is a some new quotes from Exodus board member, Don Schmierer.

“I feel duped,” Mr. Schmierer said, arguing that he had been invited to speak on “parenting skills” for families with gay children. He acknowledged telling audiences how homosexuals could be converted into heterosexuals, but he said he had no idea some Ugandans were contemplating the death penalty for homosexuality.

“That’s horrible, absolutely horrible,” he said. “Some of the nicest people I have ever met are gay people.”

The first clue should have been involvement with International Healing Foundation and Scott Lively but that is water long under the bridge.  The other two Americans are cited but with no new interviews.

One activist puts into words what many of us warned about in March.

“What these people have done is set the fire they can’t quench,” said the Rev. Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian who went undercover for six months to chronicle the relationship between the African anti-homosexual movement and American evangelicals.

Mr. Kaoma was at the conference and said that the three Americans “underestimated the homophobia in Uganda” and “what it means to Africans when you speak about a certain group trying to destroy their children and their families.”

“When you speak like that,” he said, “Africans will fight to the death.”

Scott Lively’s protests that he had nothing to do with the harshness of the bill must be evaluated in light of Kaoma’s observations. When you tell an audience that gays caused World War II and assorted other atrocities (e.g., Columbine, Rwanda, etc.), you should not be surprised when the audience becomes hostile. It is like yelling fire in a theatre and wondering why people get trampled in the rush. It is called “inciting a riot.” 

When it comes to homosexuality, Uganda already has several riot inciters so the role of the Americans was to add a perception of credibility and urgency. What would really be helpful is for the three to say directly to the Ugandan people: we were wrong in what we told you. Gays didn’t cause the holocaust, they aren’t ill people who will respond to a forced cure and they aren’t the cause of all your problems. Disagree on the moral questions if that is your conviction but for the sake of Christ, do it agreeably.

NOTE: The NYT published a companion article titled “Gay in Uganda and Feeling Hunted.”

Anti-gay sentiments are one thing, and hardly unique to Uganda. But what seems different here is the level of official, government-sponsored anti-gay hate speech.

“I detest gays in my heart,” said Kassiano E. Wadri, a member of Parliament and the chief whip of the opposition. “When I see a gay, I think that person needs psychotherapy. You need to break him.”

It’s no surprise, then, that many homosexual people here insisted on being interviewed anonymously, including one car salesman who goes by Bob. He lost his job working in a hotel a few years ago after the Red Pepper, a Ugandan tabloid, published a list of names of homosexuals, including his.

NARTH: Forced therapy unethical and ineffective

In the recent letter from the Ugandan National Pastors Task Force Against Homosexuality to Rick Warren, the Task Force disclosed that the Uganda Joint Christian Council agreed to support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill with the following amendments:

a. We suggested reduction of the sentence to 20 years instead of the death penalty for the offense of aggravated homosexuality.

b. We suggested the inclusion of regulations in the law to govern provision of counseling and rehabilitation to persons experiencing homosexual temptations. The churches are willing to provide the necessary help for those seeking counseling and rehabilitation.

c. Even with the provision for counseling and rehabilitation in the law, homosexuality should remain a punishable offense to control its spread.

These amendments sound very much like the suggestions of Scott Lively who spoke to the Ugandan Parliament in March of this year. According to a post on his website, Lively suggested these points at that time.

My trip was quite successful, encompassing multiple seminars, sermons, media appearances and private meetings with key leaders, all packed into a single week. My hosts were very pleased. But the high point of the week was my address to members of the Ugandan Parliament in their National Assembly Hall. In it I urged the government to shift the emphasis of its criminal law against homosexuality from punishment to rehabilitation by providing the option of therapy, similar to the option I once chose after being arrested for drunken driving many years ago (in my wild pre-Christian days). Such a change would represent a considerable liberalization of its policies (currently a holdover from Colonial British common law, similar to US policy until the 1950s), while preserving sufficient legal deterrent to prevent the international “gay” juggernaut from homosexualizing the society as it has done in Europe and other countries. I thought it was an inspired compromise.

Lively’s “inspired compromise” seems to have inspired the Ugandan pastors’ coalition. Lively elaborated a bit in a recent posting:

In my view, homosexuality (indeed all sex outside of marriage) should be actively discouraged by society — but only as aggressively as necessary to prevent the mainstreaming of alternative sexual lifestyles, and with concern for the preservation of the liberties of those who desire to keep their personal lifestyles private.

The suggested changes in the Anti-Homosexuality Bill could follow Lively’s suggestions although it is not clear how the regulations would be written. Would counseling be available for those who present themselves as having temptation as framed by the pastors’ coalition or would counseling be available to those who offend the law in some way as an option to jail? Or will Bahati re-write the bill to include both options?

Ethics and Integrity Minister Nsaba Buturo may have signaled the direction he favors with recent comments to Ugandan television, saying:  

“…we are saying, that look… instead of killing somebody, provide mechanisms for counseling, and other supports, so that the person may actually be rehabilitated. And I see logic in that one, because already we have some former homosexuals who are being rehabilitated.”

Given how closely the pastors and the legislators seem to be there, the changes may appear in the second draft of the bill. The “kill the gays” bill may turn into the “cure the gays” bill by February, 2010.

Because the changes may appear soon, I want to engage the discussion on the topic of reorientation therapy in an environment where the other option is jail or worse. Almost immediately after there were rumblings of the bill being changed to included coerced therapy, Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International came out in opposition to the proposal. On the Facebook group dedicated to opposing the bill, Chambers said:

I am NOT for forced therapy for gay and lesbian people. While no one chooses their attractions I do believe that it is everyone’s God given right to choose what you do with those attractions (consenting adults). I believe that those who are conflicted by their faith and feelings have the right to choose therapy and those who aren’t conflicted shouldn’t be forced into anything.

I also asked the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality to give their opinion of the proposed therapy option. Past-president A. Dean Byrd responded in an email:

Dear Dr. Throckmorton, 

As you are aware, NARTH’s Governing Board has accepted the Leona Tyler Principle which states that NARTH, as a scientific organization, takes no position on any scientific issue without the requisite science or professional experience.  NARTH members, as individuals, are free to speak on any issue.

NARTH values the inherent worth of all individuals and respects individual right of autonomy and self determination.

NARTH’s position on homosexuality was clearly articulated by Dr. Julie Harren Hamiliton in a recent edition of the APA Monitor: homosexuality is not invariably fixed in all people – some people can and do change.  And psychological care should be available to those who seek such care.

NARTH encourages its members to abide the Code of Ethics of their respective organizations and such codes proscribe the coercive efforts. It goes without saying that NARTH would support the humane treatment of ALL individuals.

We are aware of the situation in Uganda but thank you for bringing this to our attention. I am sure that you are aware that as a scientific organization, NARTH does not take political positions; however, we are happy to provide a summary of what science can and cannot say about homosexuality for those who do.

Dr. Throckmorton, if history is a good indicator, you will likely not be happy with this response. However, I hope such responses will help you understand NARTH’s mission as a scientific organization. 

With warm regards,

A. Dean Byrd, PhD, MBA, MPH

Leaving aside the comments about NARTH not taking political positions, I want to point out the money quote:

NARTH encourages its members to abide the Code of Ethics of their respective organizations and such codes proscribe the coercive efforts.

Byrd’s answer did oppose coercion (although undefined), but did not comment on the efficacy of such measures. Given that Byrd’s answer was not clear, I wrote back to ask for clarification. David Pruden, NARTH administrative director answered saying:

Research tells us that forced therapy is almost always a failure. It is unethical and unworkable.

Normally, I do not look to Exodus or NARTH for research state-of-the-art on sexual orientation, but there are two important reasons to ask their position on this question. One, since the proposal may call for some kind of treatment or ministry, it seems reasonable to poll the views of the two most prominent groups who currently provide those efforts. The second reason is because the guy who recommended the option in the first place, Scott Lively, highly recommends Exodus and NARTH.

Here is a 2007 video of Scott Lively in Latvia recommending Exodus and NARTH. Note how crucial it is to Lively to convince the nation of a gay cure.

And then in Uganda, he continued his praise of NARTH by saying their website was an important source of information, second only to his.

Here is what Scott Lively could not have told his Ugandan audience but can now be told. One, both Exodus and NARTH have removed any reference to Scott Lively’s work from their websites (click the links to read about these actions). Two, NARTH and Exodus (at least informally through Alan Chambers) consider coercive therapy to be unethical and ineffective.

Let me speak directly to the Ugandan supporters of the bill. The man, Scott Lively, you brought to speak in Parliament to recommend a rehabilitation option has been removed from the websites of the organizations he recommended to you. Furthermore, the organizations which Scott Lively encouraged you to trust says coercive therapy is not ethical or effective. I know he has said that such measures were once used effectively but this is not the case.

I need to add that I do not agree with NARTH about very much and certainly think that they are wrong in the way they discuss sexual orientation as a fluid trait. However, even this group, who exists to promote the idea that some people can change, rejects the idea that a coercive environment is appropriate. While they dramatically underestimate the role of social stigma as an aspect of why people seek their services here in the US, at least they see clearly that forced therapy of the kind contemplated by Lively and UJCC are in David Pruden’s words, “unethical and unworkable.”

Discover article on sexual orientation change and the APA report

Discover magazine has an online article out today which covers the APA report, NARTH and the Jones and Yarhouse study.

Here are some excerpts:

Joseph Nicolosi, a psychologist in Encino, Calif., says he can rid adults, teens, and even children of homosexuality. For nearly 30 years, he has offered a “psychodynamic” form of reparative therapy for people—mostly men—seeking to change their sexual orientation.

“If [a patient] can accept his bodily homoerotic experience while staying connected to the therapist,” he wrote in “The Paradox of Self-Acceptance,” “the sexual feeling soon transforms into something else: the recognition of deeper, pain-generated emotional needs which have nothing to do with sexuality.”

He cites the following case: A 43-year-old married accountant was recalling another man that he had seen at the airport while on a business trip. “This had awakened his sexual fantasies and dreams. I asked him to hold onto that image and observe his bodily sensations while staying connected to me. As he did, he felt an intense sexual longing. But as he followed that fantasy through an imaginary sexual scenario, quite unexpectedly, he then experienced an embodied shift to sadness, longing, and emptiness. In tears, he spoke of his sense of deep unworthiness. ‘I would just love him to be my friend! He’s the kind of guy that I always wanted to be close to. How much I just want to be friends with a guy like him.'”

This describes an aspect of the approach advocated in Nicolosi’s new book, Shame and Attachment Loss. People I have seen who have been through this approach describe it as being a chase for making sense of what they eventually come to see as an automatic reaction in search of a justification. Having said that, perhaps this gives some men a greater sense of control over their automatic impulses.

The center of this so-called “reparative therapy” is the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). Its membership—around 1,100 people, according to current NARTH president Julie Harren Hamilton—is dwarfed by the APA’s 150,000 members.

Treatments follow from the assertion that homosexuality is not an innate trait, but rather a result of childhood trauma and lack of attachment to members of the same sex.

“The treatment is different for men and women,” Nicolosi, one of NARTH’s former presidents, told DISCOVER. “The principles are the same—we find that for the lesbian, there is a traumatic attachment loss with the mother, and for the males it’s a traumatic attachment loss with the fathers. We believe the male homosexual should work with a male therapist, and the lesbian should work with a woman.”

It is always difficult to know who Nicolosi is referring to when he says, “we.” Is he referring to NARTH or those who are reparative therapists, or the royal we, referring to himself? However, Hamilton seems to distance NARTH from the singular approach used by Nicolosi when she says:

These treatments take on several approaches. “Psychological care for individuals with unwanted homosexual attractions includes a variety of approaches. There are many paths that lead into and out of homosexuality,” NARTH president Julie Harren Hamilton wrote DISCOVER in an email. “Therapists who assist clients with unwanted homosexual attractions vary in their…methods, [which include] object relations, interpersonal therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, and many others.”

This would be a welcome departure for NARTH and Hamilton. On her video Homosexuality 101, she lays out the typical reparative drive explanation as the most common pathway. If NARTH truly wants to move away from the singular cause, it should make it clear what other pathways they view as possible.

Then the article turns to the Jones and Yarhouse study.

SOCE advocates have done studies in recent years to try and show that their efforts are working. One of the more influential among sexuality-change advocates was a study by two professors at Christian colleges: Mark Yarhouse, a psychology professor at Regent University, and Stanton Jones, provost and professor of psychology at Wheaton College.

The six-year study started with 98 subjects, most of whom were white, male, and religious—92 percent identified themselves as “born again.” All of the treatments were provided by Exodus International. Of the 61 who provided data in all six years, 14 of them—23 percent—reported that they had successfully converted to heterosexuality “in some form or another,” according to Jones. Meanwhile, 18 subjects—30 percent—reported that they had dis-identified as homosexuals and were now “chaste,” meaning no overt sexual activity at all. The results were based entirely on self-reported surveys.

I think Judith Glassgold’s assessment of the study was too harsh when she said:

The study was dismissed by the APA task force on multiple grounds, and held as an example of the systematic scientific problems of SOCE today. “Everything was wrong with that study,” Glassgold says. “[Yarhouse and Stanton] chose the wrong statistics to evaluate, they violated statistical laws, and they didn’t have a control group—just a small sample of people recruited from religious groups. They followed the individuals over a couple of years, but didn’t specify that the subjects should only try one intervention at a time, so they tried many at the same time. So we aren’t sure which, if any, intervention was causal.”

The reporter is a little sloppy here referring to Yarhouse and Stanton (Jones, I assume; a little later someone named Miller is named without a first name or introduction) and does not interview another person to provide another perspective. I think if anything the Jones and Yarhouse study is not very positive for sexual reorientation. Flaws aside, it does not help those who want to promote change as the proper focus of therapy or ministry.

There is a historical review of some of the behavioral sexual reorientation methods that might be new to some readers. The article notes that the polarization continues between NARTH and the APA. However, the article failed to really grasp the important news from the APA report, i.e., the respectful and appropriate treatment of religion as a diversity variable and the interface with client self-determination.

Thoughts on the status of the Reorientation Wars

So now that the dust has started to settle from the APA convention in Toronto, let’s review the status of the Reorientation Wars.

Does therapy change orientation?

In anticipation of the APA’s report, NARTH fired an opening salvo with their paper (What Research Shows…). Perhaps sensing, incorrectly as it turns out, that the APA would advocate a ban on reorientation therapy, NARTH tossed every positive reference to change they could find into the paper. They noted problems in defining sexual orientation but did little to distinguish the various definitions and their meaning in the many studies they cited. They concluded, of course, that therapy can change orientation.

The APA on the other hand, differentiated sexual orientation and sexual orientation identity. Sexual orientation for them is the biological responsiveness to one gender or both. According to their literature review, the evidence that therapy can change orientation is not sufficient to permit therapists to inform clients that therapy can change their orientation. However, sexual orientation identity (i.e., self-labeling) may shift and be responsive to a variety of factors, including religious mediation.

It seems to me that what NARTH is calling sexual orientation includes the APA’s sexual orientation identity. While this statement risks taking us into the “all or nothing” dead end discussion about change, I do not mean that one must change completely for change to be important and psychologically relevant. I suggest instead that what many studies measure is how people see themselves, even if their sexual responsiveness (orientation) has only shifted by a degree (e.g., an average of less than a point on the Kinsey scale in the Jones and Yarhouse study). Jones and Yarhouse suggest as much in their recent paper when they write:

There is also the question of sexual identity change versus sexual orientation change (see Worthington & Reynolds, 2009). Recent theoretical (e.g., Yarhouse, 2001) and empirical (e.g., Beckstead & Morrow, 2004; Yarhouse & Tan, 2004; Yarhouse, Tan & Pawlowski, 2005; Wolkomir, 2006) work on sexual identity among religious sexual minorities suggests that attributions and meaning are critical in the decision to integrate same-sex attractions into a gay identity or the decision to dis-identify with a gay identity and the persons and institutions that support a gay identity. In light of the role of attributions and meaning in sexual identity labeling, is it possible that some of what is reported in this study as change of orientation is more accurately understood as change in sexual identity?

I believe the answer to their question is that it is not only possible but probable that change in sexual identity is what is being reported. The distinction between orientation and identity (or attraction and identity as we often describe it here) is key, in my view, in order for us to understand the experience of those who say they have changed while at the same time experiencing same-sex attraction. I also believe that men and women are different and their change may be different. Women seem to describe less exclusivity than men. Fluidity may be more likely with complete shifts described. I think we need to accommodate atypical experiences such as men and women who completely shift for a time and then shift back. Whatever the pattern, I hope we can agree that sexual attraction patterns may be one thing while meaning making aspects may lead two people with the same attraction pattern to identity in disparate ways.

Is sexual reorientation harmful or beneficial?

NARTH says reorientation might harm some people but that for the most part it is not harmful. The APA says existing studies are not good enough to allow conclusions. Point for the APA here. All we can say is that some people report harm and some people report benefit. The APA notes that the benefits can occur in programs which promote congruence with religious faith. This is clear and the Jones and Yarhouse study demonstrate that health status improves modestly for those who remained in the study. However, I would say we do not yet know much about what the potent or beneficial elements of those programs are. The APA report identified some of those elements.

Homosexuality and pathology

NARTH says homosexuals have more pathology than any other group of similar size. The APA says homosexuality is normal. By this they mean that homosexuality is not a developmental disorder or indicator of a mental disorder. The two recent reports go off in different directions but some observations can be made.

The NARTH report spends lots of time reporting on greater levels of mental health and health problems among homosexuals as compared to heterosexuals. The APA report does not do this. However, I believe the point regarding different levels of symptoms would be stipulated by the APA. However, the APA raises the minority stress model as responsible for many difficulties faced by non-heterosexual people. The NARTH report discounts the role of stigma.

I doubt the APA would dispute the health status data for another reason: greater group pathology does not mean inherent disorder. The APA’s position is not that gays have equal health outcomes but rather that the unequal health outcomes do not imply inherent pathology – that SSA is not inherently the result of pathological development. This is of course in great contrast to the reparative therapists. Joseph Nicolosi says that the only way you get SSA is to traumatize a child.

The reparative impulse to find trauma behind every gay person is misguided I believe, conceptually and for sure empirically. Women have greater levels of mental health problems than men but we would not consider women inherently disordered. NARTH has chosen some good studies to cite in the section of their paper which relates to health status (as well as some really bad and irrelevant ones). However, I don’t think it really gets them where they want to go.

And where do they want to go? This is clear from their press release complaining about the APA task force report. They state:

Further, if some clients are dissatisfied with the therapeutic outcome [of reorientation therapy], as in therapy for other issues, the possibility for dissatisfaction appears to be outweighed by the potential gains. The possibility of dissatisfaction also seems insignificant when compared to the substantial medical, emotional, and physical risks associated with homosexual behavior.

NARTH would suggest that these medical and emotional risks, along with the incongruity of homosexual behavior with the personal and religious values of many people will continue to be the motivation for some individuals to seek assistance for their unwanted homosexual attraction.

According to NARTH, gays ought to seek reorientation therapy because being gay is a risky life, full of health and mental health disadvantages. Their hypothesis is implied but hard to miss: reduce the SSA and reduce the health risks. The assumption appears to be that ex-gays will have better health outcomes than gays. One problem with this line of thinking is that there is no empirical evidence for it and some evidence against it.*

One researcher quoted in the NARTH paper regarding health risks was New Zealand’s David Fergusson. Dr. Fergusson has done significant work in this field. I asked him to look at the section of the NARTH paper in which his work was quoted. Here is a statement he provided about it:

While the NARTH statement provides a comprehensive and accurate analysis of the linkages between sexual orientation and mental health, the paper falls far short of demonstrating that homosexuality should be classified as a psychiatric disorder that may be resolved by appropriate therapy. To demonstrate this thesis requires an in depth understanding of the biological and social pathways that explain the linkages between homosexual orientation and mental health. At present we lack that understanding. Furthermore it is potentially misleading to treat what may be a correlate of mental disorder as though it were a disorder in its own right.

Fergusson also told me that one would need to develop studies to demonstrate that any changes in orientation associate with improvements in health status. The Jones and Yarhouse study provide some very general assessment but many potential confounds are uncontrolled. For instance, it is not possible to say that the modest shifts on the Kinsey scale were responsible for the shifts in health status. These folks were quite religious and religion is associated with enhanced health status. I suspect religious gays have a better health status than non-religious gays, on average. The point is we do not have evidence that sexual orientation status per se is what leads to the differences in health status.

While I am on the subject of health status, I need to mention that there are other factors which NARTH ignored. One, gender non-conformity is strongly correlated with adult homosexuality and is also associated with poorer mental health. Two, homosexuals report higher levels of sexual victimization which is also associated with higher levels of mental health problems. And, three, no one can discount the possibility that biological factors which associate with the development of homosexuality may also influence the development of emotional problems (i.e., in the same way women are more likely to report depression than men).

So where are we? I hope we have a larger middle and smaller numbers of people at the opinion extremes. People on both sides can agree that erotic responsiveness is extremely durable for men and perhaps less so for women, but behavior and self-identity reflection is alterable. People on both sides agree that conclusions about benefit and harm are not possible in any general sense. Also, I hope we can agree that full informed consent should be conducted prior to engaging in counseling. Regarding health status, both sides can agree that homosexuals have higher levels of problems but there is little agreement about what the differences mean.

Those on the far sides of the continuum will continue to argue that change is possible or change is impossible, and/or that reorientation is always harmful or never harmful and/or that health status difference mean something vital or irrelevant about inherent pathology.

The wars will continue but perhaps fewer people will be engaged in them; now is the time rather to reason together.

*Nottebaum, L. J., Schaeffer, K. W., Rood, J., & Leffler, D. (2000). Sexual orientation—A comparison study. Manuscript submitted for publication. (Available from Kim Schaeffer, Department of Psychology, Point Loma Nazarene University, 3900 Lomaland Drive, San Diego, CA 92106) – In this study, the authors found that mental health was better among the gay sample than the Exodus sample.

Jones and Yarhouse Exodus study follow up

This morning at the American Psychological Association annual convention, Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse are presenting their Time 6 and final follow up to the study of Exodus participants seeking change of orientation. The paper is titled, Ex Gays? An Extended Longitudinal Study of Attempted Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation. They are presenting these data as a part of a APA symposium titled Sexual Orientation and Faith Tradition Symposium chaired by Dean Byrd.

You can review the paper in full so I will only highlight a few points in the post.

The paper begins by recounting the skepticism toward change evinced by the professional mental health associations. Then, they note an important limit and hypotheses of the study:

Our study addresses the generic questions of whether sexual orientation is changeable, and whether the attempt is intrinsically harmful, by focusing only on the religiously mediated approaches to change; this is not a study of professional psychotherapy. Our hypotheses for this study were taken directly from the prevailing professional wisdom: We hypothesized 1) sexual orientation is not changeable, and 2) the attempt to change is likely harmful. We already cited the American Psychological Association’s (2005) claim that sexual orientation “is not changeable.” Regarding harm, our study was framed in light of the American Psychiatric Association’s (1998) claim that the “potential risks of ‘reparative therapy’ are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior.” The tools of scientific study are ideally suited to investigate empirically such strong, even absolute claims.

I bolded the statement about the study not being an examination of psychotherapy because I predict that NARTH affiliated therapists and various religious conservative groups will not clearly communicate this point when messaging the results of this study. Despite the fact that Christian self-help groups are different than therapy as practiced by many psychodynamic therapists, I suspect some therapists will hope the public does not catch the distinction.

Now for some results. Retention is sure to be an issue as this study is discussed:

Retention. We began with 98 subjects at T1. Our sample eroded to 73 at T3, a retention rate of 74.5%. This retention rate compares favorably to that of respected longitudinal studies. 63 subjects were interviewed or categorized at T6, for a T1 to T6 6 to 7 year retention of 64%.

Kinsey scale changes:

Table 1

This table shows the shifts in Kinsey scale scores (7 is exclusively homosexual with 1 being exclusively heterosexual). You can see that the shifts on average were about a point on the scale – less than one for the entire group and more than one for the group which were deemed more gay identified at the beginning. Although statistically significant, this would not on average take the group to the straight side of the continuum but rather by considered bisexual by most observers.

They also used the Shively-DeCecco scale which asks participants to rand both same-sex attraction and opposite-sex attraction. As you can see below, the change reflected in the Kinsey moves was due to reductions in SSA and not increases in OSA.

Table 2

Regarding categorical self-assessments, Jones and Yarhouse report modest shifts.

Table 5

Regarding these changes, Jones and Yarhouse say:

Several results are particularly notable. Despite a smaller N for the T6 sample than at T3, we found growth in absolute size in the two Exodus “success” outcome groups moving from row 1 to row 3: Conversion cases grew from 11 to 14 and Chastity cases from 17 to 18. But the group that grew the most in absolute and proportional terms was Failure: Gay Identity which doubled in absolute size from 6 to 12. The percentage of those showing stability of outcome T3 to T6 (row 4) is greatest in columns 1 and 6: the Success: Conversion (73%) and Failure: Gay Identity (67%) categories, with slightly less in the Success: Chastity category (53%). Of the one subject each that shifted from the Success: Conversion and Failure: Gay Identity categories from T3 to T6, each moved to the Continuing category at T6. The largest absolute shift from T3 to T6 of those who participated in the T6 interview was a T3 Success: Chastity case that became a Failure: Gay Identity case; next largest was a Non-Response case at T3 that became a Success: Conversion case.

Most germane to our principal hypothesis that change of sexual orientation is not possible, 53% of the T6 sample of 61 cases that self-categorized (row 3) did so as some version of success, either as Success: Conversion (23%) or Success: Chastity (30%). At T6, 25% of the sample self-categorized as an Exodus failure (Confused or Gay Identity).

In my view, this means of description confuses success with change. Over half did describe some version of success but that is not the same as over half describing sexual orientation change. I will be interested to see how this is reported in the press.

The changes reported here are significant and no doubt welcomed by the people involved. However, they are not the types of changes which I suspect the various mental health groups mean by “sexual orientation change.” Whatever happened to the participants in this study, they do not appear to have gone from gay to straight — in the sense that people who have always been straight are straight. They have gone from gay to less gay and a bit more straight. I do not mean to suggest that this is not important information; it is. But I am wondering if anyone at APA would dispute the within category changes reported here. I am going to ask and will report what I learn.

Jones and Yarhouse seem to be aware that the results can be understood as a change in identity and not orientation. They write:

There is also the question of sexual identity change versus sexual orientation change (see Worthington & Reynolds, 2009). Recent theoretical (e.g., Yarhouse, 2001) and empirical (e.g., Beckstead & Morrow, 2004; Yarhouse & Tan, 2004; Yarhouse, Tan & Pawlowski, 2005; Wolkomir, 2006) work on sexual identity among religious sexual minorities suggests that attributions and meaning are critical in the decision to integrate same-sex attractions into a gay identity or the decision to dis-identify with a gay identity and the persons and institutions that support a gay identity. In light of the role of attributions and meaning in sexual identity labeling, is it possible that some of what is reported in this study as change of orientation is more accurately understood as change in sexual identity?

The entire section on identity and orientation in the discussion section of the paper is good reading. Finally, in light of the APA task force report, I wonder if the discussion section of the Jones and Yarhouse paper could be revisited. The APA report, while skeptical of categorical change, did not take a strong stance regarding harm. Actually, the APA report and the Jones and Yarhouse paper agree on the inconclusive nature of the evidence on that question.

Bryce Faulkner’s parents say he willingly entered program

Here is a story about a young man who may have entered an ex-gay program. I am not going to comment much at this point as the details are still fuzzy.

One side, a former boyfriend and activist looking to make a name for himself, say the young man was forced into a program. The other side, including the fellow’s parents say he chose to enter.

Eventually, we will find out.

(via Exgaywatch)