Anatomy of a Pseudo-Science

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IN SUMMER 2005, Zachary Stark wrote in a web log about his parents’ forcing him to attend Refuge, an ex-gay outpatient program for adolescents aged thirteen to eighteen sponsored by an organization named Love In Action (LIA). While there, Zachary wrote: “[My parents] tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me. … I’m a big screw-up to them, who isn’t on the path God wants me to be on. So I’m sitting here in tears” (Associated Press, June 23, 2005). Public outcry and media attention led the state of Tennessee to investigate allegations of child abuse at Refuge. While it found no evidence of child abuse, the state investigated whether Refuge was providing mental health services without proper licensure. In February 2006, seventeen-year-old DJ Butler also reported that his parents had forced him to attend LIA’s Refuge program. According to Butler, his father drove him to LIA’s facilities in handcuffs.

Love In Action is one of many ex-gay organizations with new programs specifically targeted at youth. Exodus International, which claims to include over 170 ex-gay programs in seventeen countries, launched its Exodus Youth teen program in 2002. Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) was founded in 1998 and modeled after the pro-gay Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (pflag). In 2005 PFOX successfully challenged a pro-gay sex education curriculum in Montgomery County, Maryland.

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