International Healing Foundation: A Christian organization?

UPDATE: 10/4/07

Since I entered this post regarding the International Healing Foundation, I have been contacted by Hilde Wiemann with explanations offered for the information I posted below. I also have spoken with her by phone. She told me that most of what I wrote below was incorrect about her and the IHF. In the spirit of fairness and openness, I am adding her explanations at the beginning of this post for the benefit of any new readers who come here. You will read her statements first and then you can consult the body of this post. In the final analysis, readers who are interested in this will review our exchange and the linked websites and come to their own conclusions.  In the midst of her comments, I will intersperse some observations.

First off, Mrs. Wiemann felt that my question regarding IHF being a Christian organization was misplaced. She said it is a non-profit educational foundation and not intended to be viewed as a Christian organization. She wrote: “IHF was established in 1990 as a therapeutic and educational foundation to assist those with unwanted same-sex attraction and their loved ones. It was not founded as a religious organization.”

She also told me that she converted to Christianity in 1995 and left the UC along with Cohen.

She continued by noting my comments from the original post below and then providing her response:

Here are more clarifications regarding all incorrect statements in your piece:

1. “After review of the IHF website, one thing that can be said for the organization is that many religions are represented by his staff…:

All IHF staff members are Christian: Richard Cohen, Becca Kellner, and Hilde Wiemann.

2. “A brief review finds professionals operating from within Latter Day Saint, Jewish, Christian and Unification Church traditions.”

No one on our referral list is associated with the Unification Church.

3. “However, in 1997, Cohen incorporated the IHF in Washington state with two Unification Church members (Victoria Clevenger and Hilde Wiemann) on the board.”

IHF was incorporated in 1990. No Unification Church persons were founding members. According to Richard, this was an independent project of his own which had nothing to do with the UC.

I did err in reporting the 1997 annual report as being the incorporation paper. I corrected this below. Mrs. Wiemann is correct that the IHF was incorporated in 1990. I now have a copy of the incorporation papers supplied by a former board member. As listed, the three founding directors were Richard Cohen, Betsy Jones, and Nora Spurgin. Click the links to review a website regarding the people involved. This does not confirm that the IHF was a project of the UC but these websites identify the people as UC members at that time.

4. “Cohen is listed as President and Vice President, his wife Jae Sook Cohen as Treasurer and Hilde Wiemann as Secretary.”

Richard Cohen is President, Arthur Goldberg is Vice President, and Jae Sook Cohen is Secretary-Treasurer (2007).

The IRS Form 990 for 2006 lists Mrs. Wiemann as treasurer. Mrs. Wiemann told me this was a mistake of the IHF accountant to list her and that she is not now on the board.

5. “Hilde Wiemann, an associate since his Unification Church days, continues to serve as Secretary for the board.”

I have not been an officer or on the IHF board members since 2002.

6. “Mrs. Wiemann is also listed by the Blessed Family Department of the UC as the national co-director of Coaching Ministries for the Unification Church.”

I have never been in such a position with that church. Furthermore, I repeatedly requested that they remove any reference to myself from their websites.

As noted below, her name is listed here and here (click the link Download a list of ministries) as having this volunteer role. If this is a mistake, it is an honest one on my part. Mrs. Wiemann told me she left the UC in 1995. The references to her on UC websites are here, here, here, here, and here.

7. “It is inconceivable that he is unaware of this connection, since he dedicated his book on family healing to Mr. & Mrs. Wiemann and she was one of the incoporating board members of his organization.”

Warren, your words are misleading. Mr. Cohen dedicated his book first and formost to God, second to his family, and finally to many of his friends. You make it sound as though he only dedicated it to my husband and myself. Please correct this. And as previously stated, I was never one of the incoporating members of IHF.

I agree that some readers might get the impression that the book was dedicated only to the Wiemanns. As she notes, there are multiple dedications.

Now, some of what I corrected and noted here are details that have little impact on the basic point of the post. My initial comments were in response to requests for information from my readers and those who seek sexual identity services. I trust this exchange will provide that information for those seeking it. In short, Mrs. Wiemann says there are no Unification Church connections, and that she and Mr. Cohen both converted to Christianity in 1995. She says that the references to her on Unification websites are based on occasional work in coaching she was hired to do by the Unification Church. She says the websites do not properly represent her and she has and will continue to ask the webmasters of these sites to change how she is represented on these sites. Indeed, she thanked me for bringing these references to her attention.

To view the original post, continue reading and come to your own conclusions…


Beginning of original post dated 10-3-07

Recently, a reader wrote to ask what I thought of Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation (IHF) as a source of Christian assistance for someone who wished sexual reorientation. I indicated that do not endorse the techniques demonstrated by Mr. Cohen, nor do I believe his views of same-sex attraction to be an accurate representation of the research. While my opinions were of interest to the reader, the questioner was specifically looking for help within an evangelical Christian framework. I knew Mr. Cohen said he had converted to Christianity, but I was not sure about a specific religious orientation at IHF.

Continue reading “International Healing Foundation: A Christian organization?”

Paul Cameron questions VP Cheney at Salt Lake gathering

Here is my question: Is this news release referring to the same gathering that is reported on here? This Tribune article says about the gathering: “But for all the mystery, it was pretty mundane, according to those who were inside…” If indeed, this is the same gathering (same place, same time), then Paul Cameron didn’t think things were so mundane. See below.

Dems Endorse Gay Marriage Pitch to Second Graders; Cheney Ducks Question

Contact: Dr. Paul Cameron, Family Research Institute, 303-681-3113

SALT LAKE CITY, Oct. 1 /Christian Newswire/ — Speaking to a group of conservative leaders gathered at the Grand America Hotel, Vice President Dick Cheney pointedly ducked a question Democratic presidential candidates had recently answered during their debate at Dartmouth College.

On Wednesday night, Allison King of New England Cable News had asked the Democratic contenders: “Last year, some parents of second-graders in Lexington, Massachusetts, were outraged to learn their children’s teacher had read a story about same-sex marriage, about a prince who marries another prince…. Would you be comfortable having this story read to your children as part of their school curriculum?”

Former Senator John Edwards said, “Yes, absolutely.” Senator Barack Obama had answered: “I feel very similar to John.” And frontrunner Senator Hillary Clinton had agreed: “I really respect what both John and Barack Said.”

Two days later, when researcher Paul Cameron of the Family Research Institute asked Vice President Cheney essentially the same question at Salt Lake City, substituting “American children” for “your children,” Cheney refused to answer “yes” or “no,” saying it was a question for the states to decide.

“I gave him the opportunity to distance himself and the Republican Party from the Democratic position,” Cameron said, “and he wouldn’t do it. A lot of people will find this apparent lack of conviction highly disturbing.”

Both the Romney (“This is a subject that should be left to parents, not public school teachers”) and Thompson campaigns (“Fred wants to let kids be kids while the Democrats are trying to turn them into mini activists”) condemned schools telling 7 year-olds that homosexual activity is OK.

The Family Research Institute, a think-tank in Colorado Springs, does research on demographic and sexual trends.

Our bodies tell us who we are

Warning: Long post…

This post could be part three of the series on sexual identity therapy and neutrality but I chose this title because I want to focus on one specific issue, at least in my mind, with telling psychotherapy clients that “our bodies tell us who we are.” Saying something like this to a client is the expression of a natural law argument that is expressed by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi in his article “Why I Am Not a Neutral Therapist.”

Our Bodies Tell Us Who We Are

Philosophically, I am an essentialist — not a social constructionist: I believe that gender identity and sexual orientation are grounded in biological reality. The body tells us who we are, and we cannot “construct” — assemble or disassemble — a different reality in which gender and sexual identity are out of synchrony with biology.

The belief that humanity is designed for heterosexuality has been shaped by age-old religious and cultural forces, which must be respected as a welcome aspect of intellectual diversity. Our belief is not a “phobia” or pathological fear.

Natural-law philosophy says this view derives from mankind’s collective, intuitive knowledge; a sort of natural, instinctive conscience. This would explain why so many people — even the nonreligious — sense that a gay identity is a false construct.

Clients who already believe a natural law argument would most likely look for a therapist who believed as Dr. Nicolosi does. In that case, I do not see how he could be accused of imposing his values on the client; clients who are committed to this perspective (many conservatives, for example) might not work well with a therapist who did not articulate a similar view. On the worldview front, I suspect many people are directed by their spiritual advisors to look for counselors who are amenable to the teaching of their church. I also suspect, that feminists look for feminist therapists and so on. This will no doubt continue no matter what the professions pronounce.

What I want to raise now are some issues with the natural law argument. Specifically, I propose that if we know who we are via our bodies, then a fairly solid argument can be made against Dr. Nicolosi’s conclusions. He argues that genitalia and procreative capacity is the definer of correct identity. However, there is more to body than genitals and secondary sex characteristics. Brain is a part of body. As an organ of the body, the way the brain functions and is organized must be important as well. I am not here talking about psychological constructionism or the constructed opinion of a person that he/she is gay or straight, male or female. I am talking about the automatic response of the brain to triggers both sexual and otherwise that differentiate gay and straight people. In the research available, brain reactions differentiate people based on sexual preferences. In other words, if the body tells us who we are, and brain is body, then our brains tell us whether we like the same sex, the opposite one, or both. And our brains do this well before we have time to think about it.

I have written before about the pheromone studies conducted by a team led by Ivanka Savic from Sweden. Here is what I wrote about their study of lesbians:

This study shows that sexual orientation at the extreme (5-6 Kinsey scale) differentiates how the brain responds to a putative pheromone. The response from lesbians is not as clear cut as gay males. Lesbians process estrogen derived pheromones both in the normal olfactory fashion and via the hypothalamus (a link in the sexual response). The participants did not experience any sexual response so it is interesting that these lesbians’ brains registered the pheromones in a different way than did straight women. Lesbians were somewhat like straight men but not exactly like them. The reference is: Berglund, H., Lindstro”m, P., & Savic, I. (2006). Brain response to putative pheromones in lesbian women. Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Science, Early Edition (

I also reviewed their initial study of males:

• The study does show involuntary hypothalamic response associated with self-assessed sexual orientation

• The study shows that gay males do react to the estrogen condition but in a different manner than they react to the testosterone condition

• The study cannot shed light on the complicated question of whether sexual orientation of the participants is hard wired.

• The brains of these participants may have acquired a sexual response to these chemicals as the result of past sexual experience. In other word, the response described in this study could well have been learned.

• If these results hold up, this could explain why varying sexual attractions seem so “natural.” Also, such conditioning could give insight into why changing sexual attractions is often experienced by those changing sexual preferences as a process of unlearning responses to environmental triggers.

There are other lines of research that also find large involuntary differences in brain response or perceptual response associated with sexual attractions. I could add the brain imaging work of Miichael Bailey which I referenced recently.

As noted above, whether these differences are innate in some way, learned early, or learned gradually through life, they appear to be real, substantial and involuntary. Furthermore, many ex-gay and ex-ex-gays testify to the perceived naturalness of the attractions to the same sex. For these individuals, if their bodies tell them who they are, I suspect they are experiencing mixed messages.

So what are we to make of the research on brain differences? Clearly, for those who are at the extreme ends of sexual orientation continuum, their brains tell them one thing and if they believe natural law, the rest of their bodies tell them something else. Here is one element of dissonance: which part of body to believe? I suppose in an interesting irony, those who go with brain are also following a naturalistic argument — if I feel it or experience it as natural, it must be supposed to be that way. Isn’t that what natural law arguments do? Read again, Dr. Nicolosi:

Natural-law philosophy says this view derives from mankind’s collective, intuitive knowledge; a sort of natural, instinctive conscience. This would explain why so many people — even the nonreligious — sense that a gay identity is a false construct.

For Dr. Nicolosi, what seems natural according to anatomy must be so. For the person arguing from brain research, what seems and feels natural surely must be so as well.

Now it does not seem to me that science can resolve this dilemma of belief and intuition. Science can collate stories of how people feel about their anatomy and inner worlds and report those results, but ultimately, it is up to the individual to weigh the evidence (which certainly includes brain reactions and body make-up) and make a decision. For reproductive anatomy to win out over brain response, one would have to argue that environment, during development, packs a pretty powerful punch in wiring the brain for sexual response. Of the two main theories (reparative drive and exotic becomes erotic), I would say EBE has more empirical support but neither describes the differentiation of brain from neutral (EBE) to gay or straight; or in the case of reparative drive theory, from basically straight to gay. Although I am not arguing for an inborn orientation, I am neither able to describe at the neurological level how the brain differences get there.

Reasoning as I am here, I suppose it might be accurate to say values tell us who we are or more precisely, we get data about who we are from what we value. From this point of view, sexual orientation could be more than what the brain does in response to triggers. It certainly would incorporate brain response and anatomy, but the guidance for action comes from chosen values and beliefs.

Here I am very close to a school of psychological thought known as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Steven Hayes is often considered the founder of ACT and has been the subject of several popular articles on the subject. Regarding values as reflection of self-direction, Dr. Hayes says:

Values are like directions on a compass. They’re never achieved, but in each and every step they influence the quality of the journey. Values dignify and make more coherent our life course—and they put pain in a proper context. It’s now about something. Let me go back to that movie A Beautiful Mind. It’s only when the hero has to decide between what he values and entanglement with insanity that it’s possible and sensible to accept the delusions; to notice them; and to abandon trying to control them—all in the service of being a husband, father, and a mathematician. In the same way, we only put down our avoidance, addictions, and mental wars because it’s costing us something dear, whatever it is that we want our lives to be about. Without that cost we would be lost.

It’s amazing how often people have never really thought about what they want in their lives. They’ve been fighting a mental war, waiting for life to start, and have never really asked or answered the question of what kind of a life they’re waiting to live. The joyful vision of ACT is that you can start living that very life NOW, with your thoughts, feelings, memories, and sensations. You start that journey by asking what it is that you really want your life to be about.

Where there is conflict between givens, we step up and choose meaning. For some, there will be a synthesis of religious beliefs and sexuality; for others, the conflict will seem like competing sides where one side wins out.