Thanks to The Disenchanted Forest
, Law Dork
, aTypical Joe
, and KipEsquire
for their posts on this ongoing story and for linking to my previous update
The Washington Blade has an editoral and a longer story than yesterday's piece from ExpressGayNews, which includes this excerpt from an Exodus International representative.
According to Julie Neils, spokesperson for Exodus International, an umbrella group for "ex-gay" projects, Love in Action's Refuge program is the only project they are affiliated with that focuses on gay teens.
Love in Action has only offered services to adolescents for two years. Administrator Tommy Corman said that the program has treated 23 adolescents and that there are currently two teenage boys in the program, both signed up for six-week programs.
Corman confirmed that teens are sometimes forced to participate in the programs, but dismissed the idea that this is wrong.
"Youth camps, vacation bible school, Sunday school, how many places do parents put their children against their will," Corman said. "It's like when I tell my three-year-old to take a bite of broccoli. You have a legal, moral and ethical obligation to mold a child."
Corman has worked at Love in Action for about a year and a half. He said that though the program advertises treatment for problems associated with drugs, alcohol and pornography, it is homosexuality, which the organization sees as a "deviant sexual behavior," that is the main focus of the program. Corman said that some clients come to Love in Action after de-toxing from drugs to "heal" themselves of homosexuality.
Corman said that he has helped clients convince insurance companies to cover the costs of the program.
"Mold a child," indeed. It appears drugs, alcohol and pornography are not the main focus of the program. Also, the lone licensed therapyist listed on Refuge's website may be in violation of the American Counseling Association's standards of ethics. ACA consider's it a violation for members to practice outside of their fields, and the Refuge counselor is licensed as a drug and alcohol counselor, but may very be participating in the "reparative therapy" aspect of Refuge as well, based on his quotes in the article.
I think what's most surprising here is that the program is sometimes covered by insurance programs. I'd be interested in knowing which insurers cover this program. My guess is that it's billed as a treatment program for drugs and alcohol, and that the "reparative therapy" is played down in appealing to insurers, but it wouldn't surprise me if that's not the case and that insurers are knowingly covering "reparative therapy." Some folks might want to find out if their insurers cover this kind of program and, if they do, encourage them to cease that practice. Sometimes a little consumer advocacy can go a long, long way.
As of yesterday, I've started getting the occasional comments about how Zach's whole story "might be a hoax," and suggestions that I and others should be more circumspect in what we say about it. Let me be clear about something. I'm not a journalist. I don't claim to be one, because I don't have the means or skills necessary to do in-depth investigation. In blogging about Zach's story, one of the things I hoped to do was to help raise its profile to the point that people who are journalists would take notice of the story and bring their investigative resources and skills to it.
What the outcome of the investigation will be is anyone's guess. What's relatively certain is that the media coverage and investigation focuses attention on LIA that it would probably rather not have to deal with. Plus, LIA will be forced to dedicate time and resources to the investigation, so it will end up costing them and making their operations more difficult, no matter what the final outcome is.
Sunlight is said to be the best disenfectant, and I hope that shining a bit of it on "reparative therapy" programs like Refuge/Love in Action will make it more difficult for them to operate as usual and for kids to be subjected to their practices. In this case, it looks like it's working.