The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

One Less LIA/R

It’s interesting how a story takes on a life of it’s own. It’s been a couple of years since I started blogging about Zach, the kid in Tennessee who came out to his parents only to get sent to a “reparative therapy camp.” The story went from a handful of bloggers covering it to The New York Times covering it.

Investigations were launched. The camp was shut down for a while. Then there was as lawwsuit. Then a settlement. Then the camp closed. Sort of. I stopped following the story closely once Zach left the camp and returned home. But now and again I read about developments like the lates one, which I learned of via Box Turtle Bulletin.

John Smid, the guy who was running the place when Zach was there, has resigned.

The rumors are true. I spoke with Josh Morgan, communications manager at Love In Action. He has confirmed that John Smid has resigned from the Memphis-based residential ex-gay program. A quiet announcement was made to staff and supporters, and an official announcement will be made in their April 1st newsletter to subscribers. Josh had no further details or statement about the announcement.

Love In Action gained worldwide attention in 2006 when a gay 16-year-old by the name of Zach posted on MySpace blog that he was about to be involuntarily committed to Love In Action’s youth live-in program “Refuge.” Thanks to Zach’s myspace post, the world was able to learn about the complicated and bizarre rules that all house residents are expected to follow. When he was committed to a two-month stay in the residential program, his plight spawned international outrage along with unprecedented protests in Memphis. It also inspired filmmaker Morgan Fox to begin filming the documentary, “This Is What Love In Action Looks Like,” which is currently in post-production. La

Jim links to some “must-see-to-believe” videos of Smid holding forth about the the evils of masturbatin and his wife’s vagina (about two minutes in). He also links to a former inmate of Smid’s former camp. It’s a bit more sobering, and a reminder of what happens to people under the leadership of a man who says stuff like this.

I would rather you commit suicide than have you leave Love In Action wanting to return to the gay lifestyle. In a physical death you could still have a spiritual resurrection; whereas, returning to homosexuality you are yielding yourself to a spiritual death from which there is no recovery.” –The Final Indoctrination from John Smid, Director, Love In Action (LIA), San Rafael’s “ex-gay” clan.

I can’t imagine the folks at LIA/R have “no further details” about Smid’s departure. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was something they’re just not telling. These places, after all have a questionable success rate.

On the testimonies you mention in the post, if I don’t know any of those individuals, how can I prove them wrong? By the same token I can post similar testimonials from ex-”ex-gays” (they do exist) who say that it didn’t work for them; that all it did at the most was make them change their behavior without removing the desire, and thus setting up a impossible psychological conflict for them.

You mention Anne Paulk, but fail to mention her spouse John Paulk and his “slip” in a D.C. gay bar a while back, which got him spanked by Exodus Int’l. The Paulk’s may still be married, but he’s not the ex-gay poster boy he used to be.

And there are “testimonies” from ex-ex-gays too; people like Ron Poindexter, who was involved in “reparative therapy” from high school until the age of 31 and found it didn’t work for him.

There’s John Evans, a founder of an “ex-gay” therapy group who wrote a letter to the effect that it doesn’t work and that he’s seen “shattered lives, depression and even suicide” among some participants in those groups. 

There’s Jeremy Marks, founder of another “ex-gay” therapy group who says “we learned this ministry policy was ruinous to the lives of people we were there to help.”

There’s Janet Rix, whose observation of cult-like tendencies in her “ex-gay” group led her to distance herself from it.

Within the group – and within myself as a member of the group – I recognized the unhealthy signs of addiction. The group fostered conformity and dependency rather than personal maturity and responsibility. I’d set an unrealistic goal, then work toward it until I felt exhausted, then feel like a failure because there were no results. I’d feel guilty as if I wasn’t trying hard enough and then start the whole process over again.

Wade Richards was another “poster boy” who spoke at national “ex-gay” conferences and gave media interviews, but realized after going through the whole program he was still gay.

Peter Toscano is another “ex-gay survivor” who’s created a performance piece about his experience in the “ex-gay” movement (soon to be a book). Toscano spent  years in one of those programs and decribes a “mock funeral” for one participant and a suicide attempt by another during that time. He also maintains a blog.

And there are more stories like those out there. There’s even a booklet about some of them.

Just last year there was a series of articles in Salon.Com stating that the very therapy you recommend failed some people and even left them suicidal.

And, of course, there are more stories. There are people like Tim Wilkins.

In his sermon, Wilkins repeatedly made the stunning acknowledgement that people do not choose to be gay. Instead, he erroneously blamed homosexuality on a wide array of possibilities including the standard pseudo-scientific canards of parental abuse and dysfunction. To his credit, Rev. Wilkins confessed that his “theories” could not be applied to all gay people.

Equally surprising was that Wilkins unwittingly admitted that he was not cured, but merely suppressing his sexuality. He tried to spin this message by reducing the deep, intrinsic identity of “sexual orientation” to a nagging “temptation.” However, it was striking how after 30 years of ex-gay ministry and marriage, Wilkins was no more than a wink from a twink away from falling off the hetero wagon.

To drive home this point, he reiterated that he would not watch Brokeback Mountain because he feared that his resistance might melt like butter near a fire. I pointed out that as a gay man I have watched hundreds of heterosexual dramas and not once was enticed to become straight. Watching Pretty Woman, for instance, did not make me want to sleep with Julia Roberts. He had no answer for this.

And there are people like Paul Barnes, whose story I blogged about earlier, out there too.

On Sunday, Paul Barnes, founding pastor of the 2,100-member Grace Chapel in this Denver suburb, told his evangelical congregation in a videotaped message he had had sexual relations with other men and was stepping down.

Dave Palmer, associate pastor of Grace Chapel, told The Denver Post that Barnes confessed to him after the church received a call last week.

The church board of elders accepted Barnes’ resignation on Thursday.

On the videotape, which The Post was allowed to view, Barnes told church members: “I have struggled with homosexuality since I was a 5-year-old boy. … I can’t tell you the number of nights I have cried myself to sleep, begging God to take this away.”

Barnes, 54, led Grace Chapel for 28 years. He and his wife have two adult children.

And there’s Ted Haggard’s failed “restoration”.

New Life Church said Tuesday that former pastor Ted Haggard has prematurely ended a “spiritual restoration” process begun when he was fired for sexual misconduct.

…New Life said in a written statement that “the process of restoring Ted Haggard is incomplete and (New Life) maintains its original stance that he should not return to vocational ministry.”

He had agreed shortly after his dismissal to the restoration process, which was expected to include counseling and prayer and last five years or longer. New Life officials made it clear that restoration would not include a return to the pulpit.

On Tuesday, New Life said Haggard will maintain an undisclosed “accountability relationship” with Phoenix First Assembly of God and the Rev. Tommy Barnett.

So, there’s no word on why Smid stepped down. But it seems like if there were some reasonable explanation, LIA/R would probably have given one. Just makes me wonder if Smid’s departner is another “incomplete restoration.” Of course, when you’re trying to “restore” something that was never there in the first place, or “fix” what was never broken to begin with, it’s bound to be messy. And disappointing.


  1. Pingback: Ex-Gays Reccomend Death over Gayness « Mcgiffert’s Weblog

  2. When I was coming out to my family, some relatives sent me a bunch of material from Exodus or some similar organization. Fortunately, I was 100 miles away from anyone who could have tried to coerce me, and I had a network of friends upon whom to rely.

    The remark about suicide being preferred over homosexuality is amazingly awful. I want to see every mainstream Christian organization immediately and forcefully repudiate this nonsense. Otherwise, they have absolutely no credibility.