Friday, October 07, 2005

LIA/R blames QAC (again)

In the lawsuit filed by Love in Action claiming they don't need to be licensed because they are a faith-based ministry, they defend themselves by accusing QAC of a laundry list of complaints, among them publicizing Zach Stark's blog entries.

I had heard of Queer Action Coalition from the odd mainstream media newstory on gay issues (that's how I know about PFLAG and GLAAD too) but never had any reason contact the organization until this past June after I posted this. The people at Love in Action are human, and like all of us, susceptible to human failings that include anger, retribution and cruelty. I was concerned that the firestorm that had erupted over Zach Stark could lead to a degree of overzealousness in treatment to make an example of Zach or lead someone losing their temper and crossing the line in treatment of him - neither of these would be acceptable. Shortly after posting, I sent the following email to QAC
I’m glad you guys are doing everything you can on the behalf of gay kids subjected to the emotional abuse that is “Refuge”, and those of us in the blogosphere are behind you 100% as you can tell from the flurry of posts over the week-end. My only concern now (well, not my only one, but my biggest one) is that those wingnuts will actually manage to get even more overzealous in their treatment of Zach in an effort to make an example of him as payback for the [deserved] bad press they’re getting. If there’s anything you can do to ensure that doesn’t happen (including putting a bug in someone’s ear just to raise the specter they could do even more damage to him), please do so.

Keep up the good work

about an hour later I received the following response [emphasis mine]
Thank you for your email. We are feeling the same concern that you are
that actions will be taken against him to make his time spent in LIA
even worse than it has to be. We are attempting to defray any
unneccessary focus upon any one teen in the program; we are asking and have asked that bloggers not link directly to Zach's blog. We do understand, however, that it is much easier for the public to latch onto a story with an identity, so all of our attempts may not be successful. Thank you for sharing your concern, and rest assured that we are doing our best to make sure nothing bad comes to Zach because of our actions. In the meantime, if you see anything that you deem to be questionable or personal about Zach, feel free to email us with the website's address.
Thank you,
As a result I contacted about 15 bloggers with the following message (with Carly's email attached)
I'm writing to you (some of whom I know, some of whom I'm just starting to read) because we all share a common concern about human rights, tolerance and, most recently, a concern about a 16 year old Tennessee boy whose parents are more concerned about him being gay than about his actual emotional well-being. I'm sure we're all glad to see the blogosphere reacting to get Zach's story out and hope something good can come from publicizing the plight he shares with too many people in this country.

Unfortunately, as I read & watched the coverage, I was gripped by a sudden horror that the folks at LIA/Refuge (whatever bullshit inaccurate name they use to call themselves) could decide to make Zach an example. I posted as much earlier today and then shot an email to the folks at the Queer Action Coalition to express my concerns (with hopes they would tell me I was overly paranoid and instructions to take off the tin hat). Unfortunately, they too are concerned with the potential for retribution. We've already helped put his identity out there (with the best of intentions), but based on the following, maybe we can broaden our future discussion of the topic to address at risk teens and additional programs.

Maybe an overreaction, maybe not. [Bear in mind you, the only reason I (and many other bloggers) know Zach's last name is because his father made his full name public knowledge in an appearance on CBN.]

I can also state that I am the one (though I don't know if anyone else did it) who contacted the insurance division about the possibility of insurance fraud based on statements I'd read by Tommy Corman (I linked to the one I had a written reference for) and other stories in which I'd heard that various groups (not limited to LIA/R) that offer some sort of "reparative therapy" had claimed to have successfully submitted for reimbursement from health insurance agencies (or encouraged family members to do so) usually submitting with the code for psych disorder NOS since homosexuality is not a medical or psychological disorder (which means it's not covered by insurance). Insurance fraud is bad enough when a licensed practitioner does it, but it's even worse when a non licensed agency does it and, knowing that insurance companies pass the cost on, it irked the shit outta me.

Look, if these people thing homosexuality is a sin that's their prerogative. Their churches can preach about the evils of homosexuality til the cows come home and, while I don't agree with them and don't like how it marginalizes non-adherents, I will support their right to practice their religion.

To devout fundamentalist Christian parents faced with a child who thinks (s)he is gay, Love in Action's Refuge program looks like a godsend for what they see as the fight for their child's very soul. The problem is, the description of the Refuge program doesn't fit a typical praise Jesus retreat or youth group program that's part of a faith based ministry, and they
billed themselves as though they did (do) offer counseling coupled with ministry and spiritual guidance. LIA/R is mixing treatment with ministry in an unhealthy manner. The descriptions posted on Zach's blog makes it seem cult-like in its control of communication and access to information about the outside world.

I'm not trying to shut down churches and ministries, I'm not trying to prevent people from adhering to their moral beliefs or live in accordance to the doctrine of their religion. I support their right to reject homosexuality, choose not to socialize with homosexuals and boycott private organizations that don't operate in what they consider a manner acceptable to or consistent with Christianity. What I do not support is them trying to impose those views and actions on the rest of us or endangering the mental and physical welfare of a minor by offering services that exceed the boundaries of religion and encroach on a regulated field unless the meet the state and federally mandated requirements to do so.

Who raised the stink about LIA's programs is inconsequential. The state of Tennessee's department of mental health has deemed that Love in Action does, indeed, offer services that fall under their jurisdiction and the fact that they are a religious organization whose primary purpose is spiritual does not and should not allow them to operate outside the laws and guidelines that programs which offer similar regulated services adhere to.

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