Southern Poverty Law Center article on ex-gay movement: Were the facts straight?

The Intelligence Report, a publication of the Southern Poverty Law Center has two articles regarding sexual identity issues in the Winter, 2007 issue. The first one, Straight Like Me, by Casey Sanchez reads like an expose’ of the ex-gay movement as a political ploy of the Christian right designed to undermine gay rights. He covers much ground familiar to readers of this blog. For instance the picture leading the article is a screen capture of Richard Cohen holding his client, Rob, on CNN with Deborah Feyerick watching. Sanchez also interviews Peterson Toscano and highlights the increasingly vocal ex-ex-gay movement. 

On several points, I share Sanchez’s observations of some elements of the ex-gay world. He notes the “bewildering array of techniques and philosophies” used to change sexual orientation and writes critically of holding therapies and reparative theories. He included New Warriors knock-off, Journey into Manhood as an example of an emerging method of reorientation and noted JIM’s connection to Richard Cohen in method and tone. Mr. Sanchez, however, needed to do some fact checking to tighten up this piece. I should note that I have spoken with Mr. Sanchez about my analysis here and while receptive to listening, did not offer to retract or change anything. However, there are inaccuracies in this piece that compromise the integrity of the article. For instance, Mr. Sanchez wrote:

Focus on the Family, the largest and wealthiest Christian Right organization in the country, now hires Smid to appear several times a year on an ex-gay lecture circuit called Love Won Out, where he speaks on masturbation and “healing homosexuality.”

This is false. Mr. Smid attends some Love Won Out events as an exhibitor but does not speak on any topic as one of the line-up of speakers.

Regarding the recent study from Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse, Sanchez wrote,

To back up their claims that homosexuality is purely a deviant lifestyle choice, ex-gay leaders frequently cite the Thomas Project, a four-year study of ex-gay programs, paid for by Exodus, that recruited subjects exclusively from Exodus ministries. It was conducted by Mark Yarhouse, a psychology professor at Pat Robertson’s Regents University, and Stanton Jones, provost of Wheaton College, an evangelical institution in Illinois. Both are members of NARTH. The study was conducted entirely via 45-minute telephone interviews conducted annually over the course of four years. Results were published this September.

First, the study was about whether change was impossible and whether attempting to change was harmful. The study had nothing to do with proving homosexual was either deviant or a choice. Second, the initial interview was 2.5-3 hours in person at Time 1, and about 90 minutes on follow up. Third, neither man is a member of NARTH.

Then in a section that needed no embellishment, Mr. Sanchez again casts some of his stones in the wrong direction.

One of the most controversial ex-gay therapy techniques is “healing touch,” which involves men striving to become ex-gay cradling and rocking other men in their arms. Last January, Richard Cohen, a licensed psychotherapist who claims to be personally ex-gay, demonstrated healing touch on CNN’s “Paula Zahn Now” and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” Cohen also demonstrated “bioenergetics,” which involves beating on chairs with tennis rackets and screaming, “Mom, Mom, why did you do this to me?” When Cohen appeared on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” one month later seated next to George Foreman, he demonstrated healing touch therapy by putting his arms around the former heavyweight boxing champion and explaining, “You comfort him and love him like he’s your own boy.”

But enthusiasts and ideologues of the ex-gay movement haven’t given up hope that science will confirm their view.

After his disastrous TV appearances, both Exodus and NARTH scrubbed any mention of Cohen from their websites and released statements publicly disavowing healing touch therapy. Yet both organizations continue to promote healing touch through a program called Journey Into Manhood, whose leaders are featured at Exodus conferences and highlighted on NARTH’s website. Journey Into Manhood is a nominally secular program founded by Catholic, Jewish and Mormon counselors. The counselors operate weekend outdoors retreats throughout the country that require men to bond with one another through wilderness adventures and holding each other in “non-sexual healing touch.”

In fact, Exodus does not recommend JIM and does not allow them to exhibit at Exodus conferences. I have a comment below from JIM to that effect. When I spoke to Mr. Sanchez, he noted that JIM representatives were at the Exodus conference passing out cards with their information. However, this is a far cry from being “featured.” I attended an Exodus conference and presented the Sexual Identity Therapy Framework. However, I would not claim that Exodus endorses or promotes the SIT Framework. On point, Exodus has been quite clear in their opposition to “touch therapy.”

In addition, I thought some of the reporting was off concerning JIM so I asked the JIM office to react to the SPLC article. Here is the reply from Rich Wyler:

About the Southern Poverty Law Center article: Thank you for sending it. This is the first I’ve seen it. It is filled with misinformation and inaccuracies.

1. Journey Into Manhood does not incorporate nudity or partial nudity.

2. I don’t know what the “10 week Journey Into Manhood curriculum” is that the article is referring to. It sounds like they are probably confusing us with another organization’s program.

3. We don’t do memory recovery work.

4. I don’t know who this Alex Liberato is – perhaps it’s a pseudonym – but in the article he admits that he didn’t go through the Journey Into Manhood weekend, so he is not a source of information on us at all.

5. Journey Into Manhood is not featured at Exodus conferences. We applied for a booth but were turned down because we are not a “Christ-centered” organization.

6. Our teaching on “healing touch” is that any such holding must be completely voluntary on the part of all participants, should be done in groups of three or more, with healing “father-son” or “brother-to-brother” intent, fully clothed, in non-sexual positions, and never in pairs of “strugglers” alone.

There are more mistakes in these two paragraphs, but that’s enough to show you how riddled with errors they are.

Rich told me via phone that the no one from SPLC had contacted him about the JIM organization.

To me, the article could have pointed out the extremes without attempting to reach for connections that aren’t there. Despite the rare acknowledgement that not all ex-gay ministries are the same, I believe the intent was to create a sense that ex-gay ministries are primarily politically motivated devices. This is a debatable point. But it seems to me that whatever the truth is about any given ex-gay ministry, there is a clear tension between ministry and policy aims. To me, it seems difficult at best to promote political aims, along with a focus on ministry and do both well. Social conservatives believe in the validity of a socially conservative political stance on sexual ethics as well as the need to offer the love of God, but the question is how should these ends be sought? In Christian ministry, offering Jesus trumps other considerations; in politics, winning seems paramount; further, in therapy, following client well being and values seems the leading indicator. I am surely open to suggestions on how to pull off an integration of those three aims that does not degrade any of them.

Back to the subject matter of the errors in reporting; in my opinion, ex-gay ministries that promote the narrow view that all or nearly all homosexuality is solely a gender-problem open themselves up for reporting such as produced by the SPLC. Given that ministry rule-books, holding, hugging, regression techniques and sports programs appear to be in the service of enhancing some sense of masculinity, it seems understandable that observers and critics will assume a seamless relationship between the theories of homosexuality and more extreme techniques to address the theorized deficits. I believe that ministries who do not condone or use the more extreme or boundary-compromising techniques need to draw sharp and public lines of distinction between themselves and those approaches with which they disagree.

I also wrote Rich Wyler of JIM in order to compare and contrast JIM with New Warriors. More on that in a future post.

What Might Have Been – The Man Who Could Have Reversed Roe v. Wade

This post is another in a series of interviews with Grove City College friend and colleague, Paul Kengor. In this interview, Dr. Kengor discloses behind-the-scenes events involving Ronald Reagan and one of his closest advisors, Judge Bill Clark. In his new book about Bill Clark, Paul provides rich detail about Judge Clark’s role in winning the Cold War. He also provides this look into the rest of the story behind what would eventually be the appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor.

Throckmorton: You have written about several prominent political figures. Your latest book is about Judge William P. “Bill” Clark, titled, The Judge: William P. Clark, Ronald Reagan’s Top Hand (Ignatius Press, 2007). Tell us a little about who he was and what roles he played in the nation’s recent political history.

Kengor: In so many ways, Bill Clark is the untold story of Ronald Reagan’s political career, from Reagan’s governorship to presidency, and was no doubt the most instrumental and forgotten player in the effort to defeat atheistic Soviet communism. Clark is one of the most important figures in the fall of communism—period. Among Catholics—Clark is a devout Catholic—he was the single most significant American Catholic in the collapse of communism, and, in that respect, I would argue the second most important Catholic in the world in terms of the Soviet collapse, next only to Pope John Paul II.

Naturally, one might ask: If Bill Clark was so central to this huge moment in history, why don’t we know more about him? Because of his striking humility: he never promoted himself, always refusing to tell his story, until now—in this book.

Throckmorton: Aside from what Clark did in the Cold War, you talk about “what might have been” in the Culture War, and the difference Clark could have made for the cause of life in the United States. Talk about that.

Kengor: This is the other untold story, and the one theme in the book that thus far has not received the attention it merits. In June 1981, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart announced that he was stepping down from the high court. Ronald Reagan, the new president, needed a replacement for Stewart. At that time, Bill Clark was serving as Reagan’s deputy secretary of state, fresh off a decade of service as a judge in the California court system, where Governor Reagan had appointed him all the way up to the California Supreme Court.

So, once Stewart resigned, Reagan called Clark into the Oval Office and asked him if he wanted to be considered for the court vacancy. Clark said no. He said he enjoyed what he was doing for Reagan’s foreign policy, and he never came to Washington to die there. He wanted to serve Reagan faithfully for a few crucial years and then return to California to get back to his family and life on his ranch.

When Clark said that, President Reagan pulled a note card from his coat pocket—which included only a few names, I believe with Clark’s at the top—and said, “That’s what I thought you’d say, Bill.” Reagan scratched off Clark’s name.

That was a great day for those who have no respect for the sanctity and dignity of unborn human life. They exhaled a huge sigh of relief.

I have no doubt that if Clark had said “yes,” he would still to this day be sitting on the Supreme Court. Instead, the job went to Sandra Day O’Connor.

Throckmorton: Would Judge Clark have voted to overturn Roe v. Wade?

Kengor: Absolutely. Bill Clark would have been the swing vote that overturned Roe v. Wade, particularly through the 1992 case, Casey v. Planned Parenthood. He would not have voted the awful way that Sandra Day O’Connor voted.

Furthermore, we need to consider the influence he could have had not only through his own vote but possibly on the vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan pick that came after O’Connor. Clark had known Kennedy well. They regularly had lunch together when they were both judges in San Francisco, Clark on the state Supreme Court and Kennedy on the federal court. Kennedy, a fellow conservative Catholic with Irish roots, was known to be pro-life, a key reason why Reagan nominated him. Kennedy, however, is a man easily influenced by others, including the anti-life culture in Washington and on the high court. He became a reliable anti-life vote for those who champion abortion rights.

Had Clark served on the high court, the vote on Casey could have flipped from 5-4 against Casey to 5-4 in favor, and perhaps even 6-3 in favor if Clark influenced Kennedy.

Throckmorton: Did Clark know at the time that he could have played this historical role?

Kengor: That’s a good question, and I’m not sure. This much was and remains certain: Rather than win the Culture War, Bill Clark instead went on to run the Reagan National Security Council, where, through roughly 100 National Security Decision Directives (plus much more), he laid the foundation to win the Cold War. He opted to defeat the evil of Soviet communism rather than the evil of American abortion.

I suppose that’s a large enough challenge and contribution for one man for one lifetime. He left the Culture War to others. That’s now our task.

Throckmorton: How can people find out more about this book?

Kengor: Ignatius Press has set up a website, Please take a look. This man’s life is a quite notable and moving story.

Call it Biagra – A drug to switch orientation?

The new fruit fly research has observers wondering about a drug to alter sexual orientation. This article by John Tierney raises some of the inevitable questions which will arise if indeed such a bridge can be made between flies and humans.

He quotes an email from researcher David Featherstone on the controversy:

I asked Dr. Featherstone if it might be possible one day to quickly alter humans’ sexual orientation. Here’s his answer:

Although I am not sure my research is a big step in this direction, I think that ultimately the answer will be: Yes. After all, the goal of neuroscience is a complete understanding of brain function. Understanding in science is typically demonstrated by the ability to control a process.This morning, I received an email from a transsexual 5 years into her hormone therapy. She told me she regularly modifies her libido and orientation with diet and drugs. She even sent me a scientific reference explaining why her regimen might work. Now that is amazing research.The question of whether or not homosexuality should be turned on and off is not a scientific question. It is an ethical/societal dilemma. I am glad my work is stimulating the discussion earlier rather than later. History is replete with poorly thought out attempts to ‘cure’ societal/behavioral ‘illnesses’ that turned out, with proper perspective, to not be ‘illnesses’ at all.

This seems like science fiction now, but deciding such matters may be ahead of us. Good to talk about it now.

UPDATE: John Tierney has posted more from David Featherstone with more explicit commentary about what is novel about his work. He ends his emails on this note regarding ethics:

So the question is not if we will understand the biological basis of homosexuality enough to alter it, but when. And what people will choose to do with the knowledge. If there is a demand, I guarantee some pharmaceutical company will make the stuff. Or will the government outlaw treatments for behaviors that are obviously no threat to the individual or society? Would this imply that the government officially thinks that homosexuality is no one’s business but one’s own?

Giuliani, Huckabee on homosexuality

You know you are a first tier candidate when reporters ask what you think of the big social issues. Does anyone know what Duncan Hunter thinks of homosexuality? Does anyone know who Duncan Hunter is?

So Mike Huckabee demonstrated his Baptist preacher roots in his answers to reporters questions about homosexuality and sin. He noted the word in the New Testament means “missing the mark” and said we all have missed the mark. The mark, as I was taught in Greek class, means the bullseye or the target of an archer. Huckabee views homosexuality as missing the mark as in any other behavior not condoned by his reading of the Scripture.

Elsewhere, Rudy Giuliani couldn’t find the mark with his comments on homosexuality also reported today.

Rudolph W. Giuliani was asked Sunday on the NBC program “Meet the Press” if he agreed with the statement made in 1992 by a rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Mike Huckabee, about homosexuality being “an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle.”

“No,” Mr. Giuliani replied. “I don’t believe it’s sinful.” But he then said something that puzzled and concerned some gay rights groups.

“My moral views on this come from the, you know, from the Catholic Church, and I believe that homosexuality, heterosexuality, as a way that somebody leads their life is not, isn’t sinful,” said Mr. Giuliani, who as New York mayor temporarily moved in with two gay roommates after he separated from his wife. “It’s the acts — it’s the various acts that people perform that are sinful, not the orientation that they have.”

Always vigilant, Wayne Besen jumped on the inconsistency:

Wayne Besen, the executive director of Truth Wins Out, a gay rights group, said that he hoped the campaign would clarify the statement, which he said “seemed to parrot the religious right’s cruel and empty ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ rhetoric.”

Perhaps not knowing where the mark was today, his campaign took the presidential route:

The Giuliani campaign declined yesterday to elaborate on the statement.

Wow, and we only have less than a year of this stuff to go.

Gay gene and bad parents out, neoteny in?

Desmond Morris, author of the Naked Ape, has a new book out called the Naked Man. Not a protocol for your next New Warriors Training Adventure, rather, it is an attempt to apply zoology to human behavior. In this article, Richard Brooks reviews reaction to Morris’ new theory where

…he concludes that men are “made gay” because they retain infantile or juvenile characteristics into adulthood – a phenomenon known as neoteny.

According to this theory, gay men also tend to be more inventive and creative than heterosexuals because they are more likely to retain the mental agility and playfulness of childhood.

With his new theory, he has left the reparative/Freudian reservation.

Morris, who is 80 in January, long thought that absent fathers led to boys and young male adults becoming gay. “[It is] the dominant and ever-present mother theory,” he said. “But now I’m convinced that is wrong, and that it is neoteny which makes people gay. Gays are using what is reproductive or creatively constructive to non-reproductive ends. This is very much a positive.”

Not all agree of course.

His theory was, however, attacked by Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London. “It’s arts faculty science to say that gays are neotenous,” he said. “It’s a stupid idea. Where is the real evidence?”

And as if we needed anymore whacks at the gay gene, we read

Most commentators though, including Morris, Tatchell and Glenn Wilson – co-author of the book Born Gay, published in 2005 – believe that the so-called “gay gene” theory is discredited.

Speaking of gay genes, fruit fly sexual orientation is of great interest to all people who like fruit. I, for one, would like it if the little critters would stop being so prolific in my kitchen. At any rate, researcher David Featherstone is pretty excited about the discovery of a gene he called genderblind (GB). GB is involved in distinguishing male and female and with some laboratory manipulation can make straight flies gay.

Putting the two studies together…well, I will leave that to you and Dave Letterman.

H/t on the neoteny article to Jayhuck

David Miller, AIDS Activist relates conversion experience

David Miller, former ACT-UP leader relates aspects of his conversion to Christ in this interview with Dan Wooding. The article begins,

David Miller has long been on of the most controversial AIDS activist in the world, but now there has been an incredible turn-around in his life – he has found Christ as his personal savior.

Miller surprised many at the recent Third Annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church at Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California, when Pastor Rick Warren asked him to be a keynote speaker at the event attended by about 1,700 delegates from around the world.

I am impressed with the boldness of the Warrens and Saddleback Community Church. Rev. Warren has used his considerable success in ministry to show compassion and do good.

H/t Ann

Change your gender, change your orientation?

Now here is an interesting wrinkle that proves nothing but may create some interesting theorizing. From the San Francisco Bay Times, an article titled “Changing Sexual Orientation” says,

“If gender identity is fluid, then sexual orientation is as well,” contends psychology grad student lorne m. dickey, who identifies as a gay FTM and spells his name entirely with lowercase letters. Though many scientists and laypersons believe sexual orientation is fixed and immutable, dickey disagrees. His own experience suggests otherwise: “Prior to transition, I identified as a lesbian. I’d never once had sex with a man. Shortly after beginning my transition, it was clear… I was more interested in being sexual with a man than I was with a woman.”

Read the whole article here…

More perspectives on New Warriors Training Adventure

In the last week I have heard from many sources regarding my posts about the Mankind Project and New Warriors Training Adventure. Admittedly, I have done more posts on this topic than I had originally intended — with more to come. This post brings together a hodgepodge of points of view that I would like to get in the discussion.

The first one is a post from Bill Cork who is an Adventist pastor in Houston and a veteran of one NWTA there. The subject of the October Houston Press article, Micharl Scinto also attended the NWTA hosted by the same group. Rev. Cork mentions this in his post. He also discusses his reason for not referring people to the event:

It isn’t done in a Christian framework, and so for that reason I wouldn’t recommend it. I think these are issues that men need to work on, but I think for Christians it is better done in an explicitly Christian setting. One of the Archbishop’s concerns was that some elements of the weekend smacked of “New Age” spirituality. He was right about that–but again, the leaders of the retreat were respectful of Christians who spoke from their own convictions. I was grateful for that, but still I think Christian men need to come together in an environment where Christian faith is assumed, supported, and nurtured, and not merely tolerated.

A skeptics viewpoint from a UK blogger with interests in sexuality and religion, also notes the incompatibility of Christian ministry (in this case Living Waters) with New Warriors.

I’m not sure why members of Christian organisations like Living Waters (UK) enroll in NWTA. There isn’t an scrap of Christian teaching in NWTA. Perhaps Living Waters, Mankind Project and even TfT all part of an extensive underground social network for SSA men?

NWTA drips homoeroticism. I don’t think it’s just my dirty mind. As I said, a very large number of men at the graduation ceremony were SSA men. My gaydar was buzzing all night. Officially, NWTA is a (Jungian) therapeutic way out of SSA. Unofficially, it might be one big dating agency for bi-curious men and SSA Christians.


BTW, I don’t really believe organisations like Living Waters and Mankind Project cynically promote an exgay agenda as a legimate cover for illicit encounters. It’s more likely that a large number SSA men are drawn to these groups and (unintentionally) start to create safe ‘cultural spaces’ to meet other similar guys.

I wonder if he is correct in his less cynical view that at least among some people, the entitativity of New Warriors is a draw for SSA men looking for fellowship and who have not found it in more traditional ways.

Speaking of matters gay, psychotherapist Joe Kort has emerged as a vigorous defender of NWTA on his blogs and at ExGayWatch. He posted on an blog and on his StraightGuise blog regarding what he considers to be false charges leveled at the Mankind Project. In a long and personal post, he recounts his own struggles with masculinity and how NWTA was vital in his own life. He believes the NWTA helped him in many ways. He specifically takes on the predictions of reparative therapists who believe enhancing masculinity diminishes same-sex attractions. About the experience, he says,

The New Warrior Training Adventure provided me with a group of men, mostly straight, whose mission in life is to help men become better and more mature. Still, I went to this workshop not knowing what to expect—and I’m glad I didn’t. That is exactly what made it so powerful for me. This workshop changed my life, liberated me as a man among men, and opened up new possibilities for me.

Given the apparent number of gay and bisexual men initiated into and leading NWTAs, it raises for me the question of the efficacy of sending questioning or struggling men, particular Christian men to them. If enhancing masculinity does not reduce same-sex attractions, then activities such as take place at NWTA could become a stumbling block. I welcome Mr. Kort or any reparative therapist to address that issue here.

APA declines to meet with religious coalition

I will have more to say about this in due time, however, while it is current, I wanted to post this Citizen link article regarding the APA sexual orientation task force.

In a nutshell, the APA solicited opinion from gay advocacy groups in regard to the sexual orientation task force mandate but thus far has declined to meet with a large religious coalition which asked for a meeting regarding that mandate. The letters to the APA are linked in this report.

For the record, Clinton Anderson and the APA GLBT office is open to conversation with callers and has been responsive to my inquiries and input. I do not want to imply otherwise. And I know that the task force is aware of a diversity of views. However, that being said, I do think it would be productive for the APA leadership to have a formal sit-down with those representing a major US demographic group.