Saturday, July 16, 2005

Zach & LIA/R make the NY Times

via Pam. The NY Times has picked up on Zach's story printing an article in the Fashion & Style section, of all places. The article includes a telling and disturbing statement dismissive of Zach's mental health from LIA/R Executive Director, John Smid [emphasis added]
"All of a sudden, 80,000 Internet hits later on our Web site, the world has decided that he should be freed," Mr. Smid said. "Maybe he didn't ask for this. Maybe he doesn't really have the personality that really is going to be able to deal with this. And they talk about our 'abuse' of him."
Does it not concern Mr. Smid that a vulnerable 16-year old boy may not have the personality that could handle the sort of rejection he is going through? Does it not concern Smid that the pressures of hearing G-d rejects your feelings as an abomination and you can only be right with Jesus if our ministry helps turn you away from the evils of homosexuality may have a significant and detrimental effect of this young man's psyche?
Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a psychologist at faith-based Grove City College in Pennsylvania and a leading advocate for the view that sexual orientation can be changed, said that he believes that Love in Action is mixing ministry with treatment and that people can be damaged by sexual reorientation therapies offered by unprofessional practitioners.
Throckmorton's assertions are supported by the mental health community [emphasis added]
Critics of programs that seek to change sexual orientation say the programs themselves can open a person to lifelong problems, including guilt, shame and even suicidal impulses. The stakes are higher for adolescents, who are already wrestling with deep questions of identity and sexuality, mental-health experts say.

"Their identities are still in flux," said Dr. Jack Drescher, the chairman of the committee on gay, lesbian and bisexual issues of the American Psychiatric Association, which in 2000 formally rejected regimens like reparative or conversion therapy as scientifically unproven. "One serious risk for the parent to consider is that most of the people who undergo these treatments don't change. That means that most people who go through these experiences often come out feeling worse than when they went in."
Smid responds to those who question the safety and appropriateness of treating a teenager such as Zach by saying that [emphasis added]
offering Love in Action to teenagers is vital to combat what they see as a growing tolerance of homosexuality among young people. "We just really believe that the resounding message for teenagers in our culture is, practice whatever you want, have sex however, whenever and with whoever you want," he said. "I very deeply believe that is harmful. I think exploring sexuality can lay a teenager up for numerous lifelong issues."
In response to the state of Tennessee's investigation of LIA/R, Smid insisted the program is a spiritual, not a counseling, program and told the NYT that "he is removing references to therapy on his web-site." I'd like to know what part of the program has been altered such that it's suddenly spiritual only, not therapeutic? It appears as though the change is in language and advertising only and made to avoid penalty from the state for operating without a license. How then can they explain statements by former adminstrator Tommy Corman indicating that LIA/R had helped clients commit insurance fraud by helping those clients convince insurance companies to pay for services rendered by LIA/R?

As I've said before (and supported above), this sort of spiritual program comes with an emotional and psychological cost to the adolescent children of its clients (the children treated are not the clients, the parents are). Are we as a society, knowing the potential threat that is posed, willing to allow them to keep conducting these programs without mandating they include the necessary emotional support and objective counseling to ensure the safety & well-being of the adolescent participants (including allowing an impartial licensed psychologist to perform unhindered access and evaluation of participants and, if necessary, order removal of a child from the program)?

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