Conservative columnist says, “ex-gay leader returns to sodomy”

Fred Hutchison, a conservative columnist, yesterday sent an email to a small distribution list criticizing a variety of conservative and liberal evangelicals over their positions and statements on homosexuality. This email was then widely distributed among social conservatives. One claim stood out:

Ex-gay leader returns to sodomy

According to Paul Cameron of the Family Research Institute Alex Chambers, (sic) Director of Exodus International, the largest Evangelical organization for ex-gays declared that he is no longer ex-gay and is not sure he has ever met an ex-gay! He is now calling to Evangelicals to reconcile with practicing gays.

I contacted Mr. Hutchison and he cited again Paul Cameron and also added the LA Times as sources. He is referring to the LA Times article where Alan was quoted discussing realistic views of sexual orientation change. It is beyond me how one could reach Hutchison’s conclusion from the LA Times article. I wonder what Paul Cameron had to say. I have emailed to ask but have no response as yet.

As for Alan, he has not had a change of heart regarding homosexuality and is understandably unhappy about the false claims, asking for a speedy retraction.

When Mr. Hutchison has a response, I will include it here.

UPDATE: Mr. Hutchison sent an email response to this post and asked me to publish it.

“I was doing confidential research on the evangelical left and selected a few good men to supervise me to keep me on track. I really thought Paul Cameron and the LA Times were adequate sources because I had no intention to publish. One of my trusted advisors published the piece all over creation resulting in tremendous criticism from many quarters. He publishes my stuff and then chides me for not having deep enough sources for publication. A double game. I do regret using the word “sodomy.” Other than that I must finish my research, get all the facts and retell the story more perfectly in line with the truth. At the moment I am in communication with Alan Chambers and intend to give him a fair hearing. If retractions are needed I will not hesitate to retract. This was my intention from the start of this explosive controversy. However, I respect facts and not pressure or public calumny. Fair enough? Fred Hutchison

Developing…

Comment on reactions to the Jones and Yarhouse study

Reaction has been swift to the Jones and Yarhouse study. Many on this blog and elsewhere are questioning the ability of Jones and Yarhouse to fairly present their data because they are Evangelical Christians reporting on people supplied by Exodus International and funded by Exodus. While I understand the question, I believe that the book and their public presentations make it clear that, from the beginning, they intended to present the results of their prospective study no matter what the results were. And in fact, the results are not glowing endorsements of complete change, thus adding to the credibility of their promise and delivery.

Another criticism leveled is that Jones and Yarhouse should take public notice and offense at the misuse of their work. On this point, I have some experience given the concerns over the misuse of my documentary I Do Exist. Clearly, some critics and proponents have gone far afield of this study. Wayne Besen is perhaps the biggest offender, calling the study a “sham” before it was even out. And then an article in today’s Washington Blade quotes Chrisine Robinson as having problems with the study – which she hasn’t read.

Sociologist Christine Robinson, a professor at James Madison University who focuses on social control of deviance and sociology of sexualities, said she has two major concerns about the study, which she has not yet read. The first is that some will abuse its findings and the second is the methodology.

“The authors are right to say that one limitation … is the lack of independent/objective measures of sexual attraction beyond self-reports,” Robinson wrote in an e-mail. “This is a major weakness of the study. In addition, and even more problematic to me, is that the study is being touted as evidence to counteract the claim that reorientation therapies are not inherently harmful, but the study doesn’t examine reorientation therapies of Exodus ministries.”

The study would have been stronger, Robinson said, if it included an independent, in-depth assessment of the therapeutic methods themselves.

She notes one limitation already mentioned by the authors (and addressed in the book) and then faults the study somehow for how others will use it. And indeed it will be cited in a variety of ways — some misleading. For instance, Lifesite News wrote that Christian counseling helps people leave the “homosexual lifestyle.” Unless you consider Exodus involvement Christian counseling, this is of course incorrect. I suspect other types of spin on both sides will occur.

In all of this I am reminded of another study. The study of harm by Ariel Shidlo and Michael Schroeder is one that has been advanced by critics of change therapies as proof that such therapy doesn’t work and is uniformly harmful. I have documented this error in previous posts, most notably when psychiatrist Alicia Salzer said on the Montel Williams Show that:

Science has shown us that 96% of people cannot change and along the way, absorb an enormous amount of self-loathing, a lot of confusion, a lot of family conflict, so I know the harm.

And then a PFLAG representative misrepresented the study in a replied to a Chicago Tribune article. No one on my blog or anywhere else I can find called on Shidlo and Schroeder to chastise the PFLAG speaker, or Alicia Salzer for misreprenting their work. Why not?

Anything alledged against Jones and Yarhouse about objectivity could be said about Shidlo and Schroeder. The authors are gay psychologists who started with a desire to find harm from change efforts. Their study was sponsored by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and funded by the H. van Ameringen Foundation (a frequent GLB benefactor). Their original call for participants was titled: Homophobic Therapies: Documenting the Damage” and included this description:

“You can be of help in the long process of getting the message out that these conversion therapies don’t work and do the opposite of healing by informing your l/g/b communities of our search for participants to be interviewed. Please announce our project in any upcoming lesbian and gay community meetings and spread the word. Help us document the damage!”

Sometime during the process of seeking participants, some people reported benefit and so they changed the title of the study and the call for participants to:

Changing Sexual Orientation: Does Counseling Work?

If you have taken part in counseling or psychotherapy that has attempted to change your homosexuality please give us a call. We are conducting a national study of individuals who have gone through such counseling. Did it work? Did it fail? We want to know how it affected you.

For a confidential interview please call: Dr. Michael Schroeder and Dr. Ariel Shidlo at 1.800.592.9815 or 212.886.3770. You can also E-mail us at therastudy@aol.com, or visit our Web site at http://www.jasperweb.com/therastudy.

Any quantification of their participants into categories is pointless because the sample was clearly non-representative and the study not prospective. Jones and Yarhouse’s made a good effort at representativeness (although not completely successful) and their study was prospective. Shidlo and Schroeder were anticipating and seeking their results in the call for participants.

Regarding misuse of their study, Shidlo and Schroeder noted as much in their study:

The data presented in this article do not provide information on the incidence and the prevalence of failure, success, harm, help, or ethical violations in conversion therapy. (italics in the original, p. 250).

So if critics want to discount Jones and Yarhouse based on perceptions of bias and limitations, then Shidlo and Schroeder must go too. And when advocates refer to their study improperly, I expect us all to call on Drs. Shidlo and Schroeder to take them on.

Debate continues on the Jones-Yarhouse study of sexual orientation

Although only one mainstream newspaper has picked up the Exodus study, blogosphere is providing some dialogue. A particularly civil exhange can be found on BoxTurtleBulletin. Stanton Jones has gotten involved as well…

InterVarsity Press to Publish Research on Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation

Here is the official announcement of the release of research regarding religiously mediated changes in aspects of sexual orientation. Conducted by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse, this study will likely influence the discussion of this topic for quite some time. Next week will be a big week in Nashville with the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference, the Exodus Regional Conference and several other events around town. Watch the blog for more information and events.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

InterVarsity Press to Publish Controversial Research

Westmont, IL — In September, InterVarsity Press will publish the results of a longitudinal study conducted by researchers Stanton L. Jones (Wheaton College) and Mark A. Yarhouse (Regent University). Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation directly addresses two of the most contentious and disputed questions of our day—Is change of sexual orientation possible? and Is the attempt to change harmful?—and the findings of the study appear to contradict the commonly expressed views of the mental health establishment. InterVarsity Press will hold a press conference at the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) World Conference on September 13, 2007, in Nashville, Tennessee, to announce the results of this study.

In a joint statement, Jones and Yarhouse explain the reasoning for their research: “We are evangelical Christians committed to the truth-seeking activity of science. In conducting and reporting this study, we took seriously the words of one of our heroes, C. S. Lewis, who said that science produced by Christian persons would have to be ‘perfectly honest. Science twisted in the interests of apologetics would be sin and folly.’ ”

Stanton Jones is provost and professor of psychology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. He is a member of the American Psychological Association and served on the Council of Representatives, the central governing body of the APA, representing the Psychology of Religion division from 1999-2001. He has published many other professional and popular articles and books, including Modern Psychotherapies, coauthored with Richard E. Butman.

Mark Yarhouse is professor of psychology and director of the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity (www.sexualidentityinstitute.org) at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he has taught since 1998. He has written extensively for professional publications and has authored several books, including Modern Psychopathologies, coauthored with Richard E. Butman and Barrett W. McRay, and Sexual Identity Synthesis, coauthored with Erica S. N. Tan.

The InterVarsity Press book, scheduled to be published in September 2007, is the most scientifically rigorous study of its kind to date, and uses multiple measures regarded as “industry standards.” Knowing their results would generate controversy, Jones and Yarhouse have thoroughly described the rationale for their procedures. George A. Rekers, Professor of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Science Emeritus at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, states that the study “meets the high research standards set by the American Psychological Association that individuals be validly assessed, followed and reported over time with a prospective, longitudinal outcome research design.” The study will set the standard for all future work in this field and demands a serious reading from social scientists. Publisher Bob Fryling comments, “In a highly politicized environment, this book is another ‘inconvenient truth’ of scientific research data countering prejudice and ignorance.”

Founded in 1947 as an extension of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, InterVarsity Press serves those in the university, the church and the world by publishing thoughtful Christian books that equip and encourage people to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord in all of life.

PRESS CONFERENCE INFORMATION

American Association of Christian Counselors Conference

September 13, 2007

Opryland Hotel

2800 Opryland Drive

Nashville, TN 37214

Room: Jackson E/F 3:30 p.m. Central Standard Time

MEDIA CONTACTS

PRINT: Heather Mascarello, 630.734.4012, hmascarello@ivpress.com

ELECTRONIC: Heather Mascarello, 630.734.4013, kkcarnet@ivpress.com

Although results of the research are embargoed until the press conference, my endorsement of the book is as follows:

Can some motivated people alter aspects of their sexuality through religious ministry? With the publication of Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation, Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse have produced the most rigorous study to date to address this question. Knowing their results would generate controversy, the authors have thoroughly described the rationale for their procedures. While the authors fully acknowledge that change in sexual attractions did not occur for some individuals, they offer cogent and compelling reasons to believe that participation in religious ministry resulted in durable changes for others. The Jones and Yarhouse study will set the standard for all future work in this field and demands a serious reading from social scientists. For anyone interested in the study of sexuality, values and human change, this book is a must read.

Former ex-gay leaders in Australia renounce ministries

Today’s Sydney Star-Observer reports on 5 ex-ex-gays who have denounced their former programs. I was struck by the mention of discipline in the arsenal of techniques.

Many former leaders believed that homosexuality was a choice, including Vonnie Pitts, the former leader of Living Waters, an organisation that conducts disciplinary programs for those pursuing “sexual wholeness”.

I don’t know much about Living Waters. Readers who do, what could she be referring to by the use of the term, “disciplinary programs?”

The emphasis on rigid gender roles sounds sadly familiar:

After attending Australia’s first ex-gay program in 1972, Anthony Venn-Brown spent 22 years trying to change his sexuality.

The program, he said, was about “modifying your behaviour to become more masculine”.

“You were never allowed to work in a kitchen – that was women’s work,” he said. “You were always doing maintenance work and manual labour outside … and they also removed any articles of clothing from my wardrobe that they believed were not masculine.

…and

“They believed you should have a good, strong male role model because your father was emotionally distant. Therefore they gave me a minder, who would be with me 24 hours a day and who would make sure I was behaving myself.”

Theories have consequences and thus it is important to stay true to the data and to be tentative where the data are not very clear. Dubious theories of sexual orientation development can lead to dubious practices — as is illustrated here. I may have mentioned this before on this blog, but this reminds me of an illustration Ariel Shidlo gave at the 2000 APA convention when he and Michael Schroeder presented their data on harm from reorientation. He noted a young man was asked by his reparative therapist to give up a piano scholarship because piano playing was too feminine. He gave it up but, of course did not lose his attractions to men. The client however, was angry and frustrated.

Edge Boston on ex-gays

The gay publication, Edge Boston, is in the midst of a 4 part series on ex-gays and religion. Today’s article recounts both ex-gay and ex-ex-gay narratives. The series covers some familiar ground but goes into depth with interviews of some people who also comment here.

UPDATE: 7/20/07 — The article originally stated that Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper were the founders of Exodus. Michael Bussee wrote to David Foucher at Edge to inform him of the complexity of the matter (multiple founders). The Edge then altered the story to correct the first impression.

Queersighted: Imprison conversion therapists

AOL’s GLBT community blog Queersighted has an article by Richard Rothstein this morning that marks tomorrow’s first meeting of the APA Sexual Orientation Task as an important date in gay history. Why? Because he hopes the task force will suggest to the APA that all reparative/conversion therapy should be banned. And what if the APA bans reparative therapy (never defined in this piece)? Well, round up the posse, boys, Mr. Rothstein has the answer:

If the APA does in fact ban reparative or conversion therapy, we will at long last have a solid legal argument for shutting down such groups as Exodus International and Homosexuals Anonymous. This will also mean that under standard and existing malpractice laws, psychologists and therapists who continue to advocate and practice such therapy would be subject to license revocation, hefty fines and even imprisonment.

So if Mr. Rothstein’s vision is realized, reparative therapists and maybe the Exodus crew will be answering questions like: “Hey, doc, what are you in for?”

This is disturbing.

One recent commenter here proposed that what I do under the framework of sexual identity therapy was really reparative. I was fired from Magellan’s Provider Advisory Board in 2005 (and later reinstated) because it was alledged that I was a reparative therapist. People who should know better in the academic community refuse to acknowledge the distinctions I make between what I do and reparative therapy. So should I set up a trust fund for the kids?

The APA may not advocate such strong legal measures, but as the recent AP story made clear, the audience for the APA’s decisions is not only a professional one. PFLAG and the Task Force are ready, presumably with lawyers.

Ex-ex-gays make public statements

This has been widely reported by now but the AP has a story making the rounds that report statements by Michael Bussee, Jeremy Marks, and Darlene Bogle lamenting their work in ex-gay ministries. Actually, this is old news as Michael has been ex-ex for a long time, Darlene since 1990 and Jeremy since 2000. What made it irresistable to the AP, I suspect, was the tension between the ex-ex-gay conference and the Exodus conference occuring this week.

By now, the dinner is over I suppose. I wonder if anyone who was there will be giving any kind of report. My understanding is that such disclosures would not occur but we shall see.

I have lots of mixed feelings about the entire series of events. I have little time to explore this now but I do have one question for anyone involved in any of the ex-ex-gay organizations to react to: What are you wanting to accomplish? Ok, a follow up question. Do you want to see your vision of reform at Exodus or do you want to see Exodus shut down?

To the degree that the objective is to see Exodus discredited to the point of closing up shop, there will continue to be polarization and distance.

Paula Zahn to examine “changing attitudes and lifestyles”

Wednesday June 27, at 8pm (est), Paula Zahn will examine changes in attitudes among people doing sexual identity therapy and ministry. I was interviewed for this segment as was Alan Chambers. Not sure what the exact focus will be. But the Zahn website has this brief description:

Wednesday’s show

Boys who want to be girls… women who want to be men.. and gays who want to be straight! Uncovering changing attitudes and changing lifestyles, this Wednesday on “Paula Zahn NOW,” 8 p.m. ET.

UPDATE: Apparently it is a kind of GLB-fest today on CNN with several segments devoted to research about causes and change of sexuality. Here is a segment that was posted today online. Douglas Abbott takes the environmental view. You can read more about his views here.