More on Exodus youth standards

Recently Peterson Toscano wrote a series of posts describing his belief that Exodus International provides inadequate guidelines to protect the safety of youth involved in it’s programs.

In the first of three posts, Peterson stated:

On June 26, 2006 I initially left voice messages for Alan Chambers of Exodus International and another national ex-gay leader about inappropriate incidents that affected youth at an Exodus member ministry. I will not go into the details at this time, but I shared three specific situations that happened within the previous year. The shocking details of the third situation compelled me to contact Alan and this other national leader.

This post set bloggers to posting with headlines like: Former Ex-Gay Says Exodus Admits Mistreatment of Youth but Stalls on Safeguards and Exodus Without Guidelines.

However, some commenters on ExGayWatch and Peterson’s blog raised questions about why the “shocking incident” was not reported to the police. In Peterson’s second post, he said:

Although clearly inappropriate, the incidents that I related to Alan Chambers last July did not include criminal acts. The incidents revolved around interactions between adult and youth participants in an Exodus member ministry. Even though the incidents did not require contacting authorities at that time, the situations and the conditions that existed, (and as far as I know still exist), at the Exodus member ministry where these situations occurred, were such that minors were at risk for potential harm.

But then in his third post on the subject, he said:

Thank you to those of you who have shown concern for the youth in Exodus programs. From your comments and your questions, e-mails and calls, I see that many of you really care about these kids and wanted to make sure that if any child is at risk, that all necessary and possible steps have being taken. And they have, at least for the situations I alluded to in my last posts. Proper authorities (and parents) had been contacted, action had been taken. When faced with an immediate problem, Exodus dealt with it. That has never been the issue.

Some of the uproar over these posts may be have inflamed somewhat by the original title of the ExgayWatch post, which used the word “abuse” in the place of “misconduct” as it is now. However, I think it might have been more clear for Peterson to specify what the incidents were up front. It still is somewhat confusing to me, in that in the second post above, he says “the incidents did not require contacting authorities at that time…” but then in the third post, he says, “at least for the situations I alluded to in my last posts. Proper authorities (and parents) had been contacted, action had been taken.”

So from his accounts, readers are left in the dark about the nature of the incident(s).

I asked Alan Chambers about his view of the matter and he sent this email which he gave me permission to post:

As for the actual issue, Peterson called two other leaders and I (separately) during the Exodus conference [June 27-July 2, 2006]threatening to go to the media about an 18 year old former client of a member ministry who met a 40 year old client through that same ministry. At the time the 18 year old was 17. Once the young man turned 18, the two announced they were going to move in together.

The two leaders in question and I met and agreed that the authorities and parents needed to be called and that the leader of the group was the one to do it. The authorities and parents were called immediately and Peterson was informed that this wasn’t an issue between he and Exodus, but one for the authorities. I don’t understand why Peterson never even hinted at wanting to report it, even months later.

Prior to this, Exodus was in the process of revising its standards for member ministries to clearly state that no youth could ever be involved in adult groups or have any interaction if a ministry was to be a member of Exodus. Those standards are now being used during the annual renewal process. By February all ministries seeking renewal will be complete.

As for attempted sex between a minor and adult that never happened. In fact, I am told that the 18 year old and 40 year old didn’t actually end up together.

I also was sent the guidelines that are currently in place for Exodus member ministries which seems to address many concerns that have been raised. Some of the rhetoric over this issue could be interpreted as concern that Exodus had no standards in place; however they did have guidelines in place with revised guidelines coming in gradually. As member ministries renew membership, they must agree to these guidelines. The last of these updates will be complete by February of this year. So, it seems to me, that the upshot of this whole episode is that Exodus handled an unfortunate incident appropriately and that Exodus had guidelines in place to protect youth. Furthermore, they have an internal process that reviews them and updates them as necessary. Pretty much nothing has changed. I suspect any feedback from readers here will be taken seriously by Exodus leaders as the standards are revised in the future. Furthermore, where the guidelines are not followed, as far as I can tell, Alan and the Exodus board is committed to enforcing them. Anyone aware of discrepancies should provide that information to Exodus.

27 thoughts on “More on Exodus youth standards”

  1. I would have to disagree, interjecting that “look, over here, someone has lower standards” is not helping this particular issue which is “More on Exodus youth standards.” And in general, I can’t see that this particular discussion is accomplishing much at all now. The earlier significance was due to Alan deciding to use you as an outlet for his comments.

    Since this is the case, I will bow out as I should have the moment someone started quoting DL. That is always a good time to leave 😉

  2. David – The issue is broadly how to provide safety in groups where adults and children mix to discuss sexual identity. I do not think anyone I know in the discussion on this blog wants to see anyone get a pass on appropriate boundaries.

    In my view, the Exodus standards are a beginning and as time moves along, they will likely get stronger. I feel really good about the fact that we who comment here on this blog will have some input into that process. Despite our differences, this is a valuable way to work together.

  3. Michael; Is the issue here whether or not we can find another organization which has inappropriate standards, or what are appropriate standards for Exodus?

  4. * Do not bring anyone with you to the group unless they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning their sexuality and between the ages of 14 and 21. ”

    That really scares me. Would such youth groups have ex-gay men (who by their own admission still struggle with gay temptations) mentoring emotionally troubled and vulnerable boys who are struggling with the very same temptations? Isn’t this taking a terrible risk?

    A group of gay boys “questioning their sexuality between the ages of 14 and 21” sounds like a smorgasbord for pedophiles.

  5. Instead of holding ex-gay youth groups accountable, Bert, DL, and Concerned Parent seem to believe that Exodus should live down to the worst “guidelines” that they can find in a cursory glance elsewhere.

    I’m glad that some in Exodus are gradually aspiring to do better than that — and I’m gladder that several gay- and gay-affirming youth organizations have tougher guidelines than those of Exodus’ and are working with pro-youth advocates to make their guidelines even tougher.

    If ex-gay advocates would spend more time minding the plank in their own eyes, and learning from the best that others (including gays) have to offer them, then they would have fewer problems with endangerment of youth in their “ministries.” The same is obviously true of any gay-affirming groups whose own standards are subpar.

  6. Bert/Beth

    Wow, parents! Just think, if your son comes out to you as “gay”, in no time he can get hooked up teaching men how to put a condom on and get into “hottest” (that means sex)homosexual clubs.

    You’re showing your ignorance here. Pick up ANY magazine that discusses culture (People, US, etc.) and you’ll quickly see that a “hot club” is not a sex club – either gay or heterosexual – it’s just whichever is the most current and popular.

    Also, though it may not have occurred to you, “Educate men about the importance of safe sex and condom use” is not the same thing as “how to put on a condom”.

    Burt/Beth, you came on this site and made a bunch of accusations. But you have nothing to back them up (other than just repeating the baseless claims of DL). That probably works really well on websites where the only access to actual gay people is via inuendo, accusation, and rumor. But, unfortunately, the readers here are a bit more informed and this leaves you appearing uninformed and, well, hateful.

    Maybe some better research – and some realistic assumptions – would better serve you in the future.

  7. FYI on the ROSMY website and there are no posted requirements for the youth leaders.

    I would think these rules would preclude inviting your parents.


    We ask all the youth who attend meetings to conform to the following basic rules of respect and safety. On rare occasions we have had to ask some individuals to leave or bar them from attending meetings because they have not been followed. The message? We do enforce the rules!

    * Confidentiality is essential. “Confidentiality” means always keeping the names of ROSMY youth, their words and stories secret and private. Don’t talk about other young people outside of the group, unless the person clearly tells you that it is okay.

    * Be respectful of others attending the meeting.

    * No drugs, alcohol or weapons are allowed at the group meeting.

    * Do not attend the group meeting if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

    * Smoking is not permitted inside the building.

    * Do not bring anyone with you to the group unless they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or questioning their sexuality and between the ages of 14 and 21.

  8. Bert Savare said:

    “It is amusing to wath gay groups moralize about protecting teens when hundreds of gay teens are in gay clubs smootching on older men and no one says anything.”

    It is incorrect that no one says anything. Harvey Fierstein has made a series of video commentaries (for the “In the Life” series I believe), one of which he did address this topic. The gist of his comment was that when older men see these kids in the bars they should help them by being a mentor not a “sugar daddy.”

  9. It is amusing to wath gay groups moralize about protecting teens when hundreds of gay teens are in gay clubs smootching on older men and no one says anything.

    The truth is all one would have to do is take a hidden video camera into a few gay community centers and youth groups and find that the standards are lacking.There are tons of gay youth groups whose standards are not as open as Exdous yet they get a break.

    Recently, gay activists have been up in arms about Memphis based Love In Action’s program for teens who have homosexual issues. Among other names the program and ministry has been branded a “deprogramming camp” by detractors. Last year DL Foster exposed ROSMY the Richmond Virginia group fro gay youth for a webpage that read


    · Do you want to go to some of Richmond’s hottest gay clubs for free?

    · Educate men about the importance of safe sex and condom use?

    Wow, parents! Just think, if your son comes out to you as “gay”, in no time he can get hooked up teaching men how to put a condom on and get into “hottest” (that means sex)homosexual clubs.

    Where was Peter and Wayne Bessen about Rosmy I thought they wanted to “enhance the general well-being of sexual minority youth.”

    On 07.29.05 ROSMY removed references to man-boy sexual interactions from their website after the above post was published. Instead of posting an explanation as to why the references were removed, ROSMY simply left big blank spots.

    There should not be a double standard already many faith based groups are looking into gay youth groups and

    no one wil know they will find but I am sure it will anything

    but “well-being”. Here is alist of pro gay youth groups I wonder how well there standards are.


    (Moderator’s note: This commenter then produced a long list of GLB youth clubs. I deleted them for space purposes and because I feel one can go to the web to find examples of such clubs. Also listing them did not provide any information about their standards. If someone wants to provide a link to standards or lack thereof, then I would welcome that. Also, let me take this opportunity to say, if you make an accusation, please offer some evidence to back it up).

  10. My issue is this:

    1. There was inappropriate contact of some nature between at least one adult and one youth in an Exodus program.

    2. Alan was fully aware of this incident.

    3. In December 2006, Alan claimed that Exodus had not had such an incident.

    While we can argue about who said what to whom and when and whether this person or that person should have or did or didn’t call whichever authority ad infinitum, this is for me a key issue.

    Now Alan may be able to parse his sentence and come up with some way in which some word meant something other than what we beleive or that he really meant something else. But that too remains for me a concern.

    It becomes increasingly difficult for me to assume that Alan and/or Exodus has done what it says – or what a reasonable person would translate his language to mean. It becomes ever more difficult to assume that Alan did the right or appropriate thing when time and again his words just don’t allign with facts.

    This is not simply bias. When I hear some claim of fact from Warren or from David I assume that they are not lying. If Warren said “we’ve never had this problem on my campus”, I don’t have to wonder if he’s “forgetting” or parsing his words.

    I would like to have the comfort of knowing that when Alan said something that this made it true. Then we wouldn’t have to worry about whether guidelines had or had not been created. We could believe whatever Alan said. And these disagreements and inconsistencies and inuendos would not arise.

    But as it stands, Alan’s word cannot be taken as truth. And for as long as Alan operates within the framework of deception, my first instinct will be to believe anyone but him.

  11. David, XGW is eager to tell all sides of the story. But when one side (Exodus) is uncooperative then we tell the part of the story that we know. I enthusiastically encourage Exodus (particularly its membership director) to become more constructive and transparent.

    Please clarify which facts were unsubstantiated and unproven. It seems to me that Exodus and Toscano agree on key points and that Exodus has chosen to smear Toscano rather than thank him for his discretion and dialogue over the past couple years.

  12. Michael,

    In an ideal world, I would like for XGW to have asked that question sooner. Unfortunately, Exodus has been persistently unwilling to provide clear information to XGW or Peterson Toscano directly, and Toscano (as you know) has been reluctant to break with his process of private dialogue. Ex-Gay Watch was formed in 2002 precisely because the then-new Exodus president and membership director had stopped being transparent and factual in response to inquiries that were of concern to the public, and because they had begun injecting their own political grudges into the organization’s agenda — as happened this week with their tirade against laws that would discourage hate crimes.

    As for Exodus’ schedule for guidelines development: The guidelines were not in fact contingent upon annual contract renewals. Exodus could have circulated the guidelines as contract addenda to the local ministries at any time during the year. If local ministries were reluctant to sign addenda that were not tied to required renewal process, then this suggests that some Exodus ministries were in fact resistant to guidelines (weak as they are) and had to be forced to sign.

    The weakness of the guidelines and the resistance of local ministries will be interesting to investigate going forward.

  13. Does anyone want to talk about “GOTCHA” politics?

    It seems we scrape the bottom of the facts, looking for something odd, decaying or just crusty and then fling it at our opponents.

    Inuendo and “appearance of wrongdoing” is the key to this process.

    Exoneration after vague allegations are proved unsubstantiated, is not part of the process.

    You can’t “unring the bell.” At that is the point of “GOTCHA” it is about the ability to make a “justifiable accusation,” without the responsibility of honoring the accused when the facts don’t support the allegation.

    Keep working on the beam, I’ll work on mine.

  14. Peterson had nothing to do with us creating Standards related to youth. No one was stalling on creating them. Spin this how you want and credit who you want. Our renewal process happens once a year and we make any and all changes for the year at that time. Our standards were drafted by my management team, finalized by an attorney on my staff and submitted to the membership.

    Prior to January 1, 2007 there were very few Standards for ministries—Today, there are plenty. If the Youth Standards fall short, we will revise them. If you have suggestions or another organization’s documents that outline important additions we should make, send them to us.

    If you want to see our standards, request a copy from Exodus Membership. Don’t keep requesting things from me personally. You can call the Exodus office and ask for membership–they will gladly help you from there.

    Back to Peterson, he had no intention of going to the authorities. He wanted to engage us, dialogue, etc. This wasn’t a situation that warranted any of that–the potential there was something illegal involved warranted us simply turning it over to the authorities. I am thankful that there was nothing illegal–just a good lesson for us to strenghten our standards.

    I won’t be making any more blog comments on this. If you want to contact me, please feel free.

  15. Mike: It just seems that a lot of this could and should have been said up front. The original article on XGW stated “EXODUS Admits Abuse…” but did not give any details and did not address whether or not ANYONE had called the authorities. That’s why I kept asking. It seemed (to me at least) that Toscano was very reluctant to answer this simple and important question. I still don’t understand why. In his third post, Toscano finally clarified that:

    “Proper authorities (and parents) had been contacted, action had been taken. When faced with an immediate problem, Exodus dealt with it. That has never been the issue.”

    In my opinion THAT should have been included in the original XGW article. The way it was originally titled (“EXODUS Admits Abuse…”) and the article’s strong implication that EXODUS had not taken the situation seriously made me wonder if anyone thought it was serious enough to call the police. Now, I understand that Chambers did. He at least deserves some credit for that. Enough said. I got my answer. EXODUS dealt with it. I’ll let it drop.

  16. It seems that either Toscano contacted the authorities, or, as Chambers seems to suggest, Toscano was reassured that Chambers had contacted authorities.

    Forgive me if I’m not seeing a problem in this respect.

  17. I understand why Peterson did not go immediately to the press — and I respect him for not “sensationalizing” it. I also understand that he felt he was doing the right thing by calling EXODUS directly to report the situation. That was also a good thing to do.

    He then put strong pressure on Alan Chambers to move ahead with establishing clear guidelines for EXODUS youth workers. I strongly commend Peterson for doing that. I also believe that EXODUS was probably stalling on creating such guidelines and needed pressuring. We need more folks like Peterson!

    But — Peterson has still totally avoided the perfectly reasonable question as to why he decided not to call the police — or at least confer with Child Protective Services anonymously to see if he SHOULD have done so. That doesn’t make him a bad person, but it does raise the question: why not? In his zeal, did he have a lapse in judgement? Why didn’t he just say “No, I didn’t call the police, but in retrospect I probably should have?”

    Notifying the police should be standard practive for ALL of us whenever we have a resonable suspicion of abuse. NEVER trust that the organization the alleged abuser works for will do it. (Remember the Catholic Priest Scandals?)

    David has a very good point that “the practices or lack of guidelines which allowed such things to happen were not being addressed.” I agree that that’s the MOST important point here. But at least in terms of notifying proper authorities (which is also an essential part of protecting kids), it seems clear that Chambers acted and Toscano did not.

  18. Warren, I think the point is that the practices or lack of guidelines which allowed such things to happen were not being addressed. It’s one thing that something happens and, when it is brought to your attention, you call the authorities (they would have been nuts not to at that point). But it’s another to then go on allowing the circumstances to remain as is.

    Peterson was trying to make certain that changes were made – it’s a big concern of his having gone through such a program himself. It is also my understanding that his conversations with Exodus on that score go back a couple of years. Whatever happened last year simply added an exclamation point to the problem.

    Alan’s attempt to shift this to Peterson in his email above is quite disappointing. He is ultimately responsible for Exodus and their member ministries, and this is the best he can do?

  19. My difficulty in casting this as an either – or thing is that Exodus did indeed handle the child welfare matter by immediately reporting the matter to the authorities and parents. For sure, it was good that Peterson did not go to the press back in June but I am uncear as to why he was vague in his first blog post that everything had been handled at the time. As I pointed out in my post above, his statements about the incident were confusing but now all that seems to be clarified.

  20. Toscano said in his blog that he was initially withholding the details of several incidents in order to give Chambers the opportunity to take the high road and to make child welfare — not media circuses — the shared goal. Toscano has shown a preference for youth welfare, privacy and discretion over the sensationalism that Norm and others seek via instant media disclosure of any scandal that occurs.

    It is regrettable that, thus far, Chambers has not taken the high road and has not devoted much time at all to substantive guidelines.

  21. No one claimed Peterson was perfect. But he does seem to have been using his good faith, “nonviolent” approach to allow Exodus time to do the right thing. He waited 6 months before making a single public post. I probably would have been more aggressive but then who knows if they would have done anything. We have only Alan’s word that they were ever considering any guidelines at all before Peterson’s contact.

    I’ve written Alan asking for a copy of the original guidelines, if they indeed existed. I don’t like guessing. If things are as he described, then that should be disclosed for the sake of honest debate. Concern is not going to wavier, and anything Alan can do at this point to show good faith would be a plus.

    As for the current guidelines, I think anyone who is honest about it will admit they fall dreadfully short of what is expected from such an organization. They are really just pathetic, which is sad.

  22. Chambers says:

    “Peterson wanted to blog about the issue and we wanted to call the police”

    That much is plainly false. There was nothing stopping Peterson from blogging about it at the time, yet he waited six months during which Chambers withheld public access to the alleged old guidelines and scrambled to assemble very flimsy new guidelines.

  23. The new guidelines fall well short of the standards set by organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America and Youth Guardian Services. And they contain loopholes allowing the ministries not to enforce the guidelines. In-depth analysis of the new guidelines is forthcoming from XGW and no doubt other third parties.

    It is regrettable that no one has come forward with a copy of the alleged guidelines that preceded the new ones, despite several requests from XGW and other interested parties. We are still eager to see these earlier guidelines.

    All that being said, thank you very much, Warren, for raising these issues and providing a place for thoughtful discussion.

  24. Peterson said: “Proper authorities (and parents) had been contacted, action had been taken. When faced with an immediate problem, Exodus dealt with it. That has never been the issue.”

    But, folks, that IS the issue. At least, it is a very important PART of the larger issue of protecting kids. I TOTALLY agree that EXODUS needs to do more to PREVENT abuse from happening. But, It is OUR job to notifiy the proper authorities if they don’t.

    So it is still unclear: who, exactly, called the authorities? Chambers? Toscano? Someone else? Chambers claims EXODUS did: “Peterson wanted to blog about the issue and we wanted to call the police—exposes his possible motives a bit. The authorities and parents were called immediately and Peterson was informed that this wasn’t an issue between he and Exodus, but one for the authorities”.

    I totally understand that Toscano and Exgay Watch raised this issue to point out the real dangers that EXODUS poses to kids — and the need for strong safeguards. I get it. But, it still does not seem very fair to accuse EXODUS of stalling, being apathetic or not taking strong enough action to protect kids — when it appears that (for some unknown reason) Peterson, armed with the information he had, decided NOT to call the authorities himself.

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