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NARTH: Forced Therapy Is “Unethical and Unworkable”

Jim Burroway

December 29th, 2009

Getting the National  Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) to say specifically whether coercing people into conversion therapy is unethical or not appears to have been extraordinarily difficult, but Grove City College professor has managed to get them to do just that.

The issue has arisen again lately in Uganda, where the Parliament is currently taking up the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would provide for the death sentence for LGBT people under certain circumstances. While the entire bill is wide-ranging and dangerous for straight people as well as gays, the death sentence has garnered particular scrutiny. Now backers of the bill say that they may drop the death penalty and add a clause to provide forced conversion therapy for those convicted. It is unknown whether the forced therapy would be as an alternative to the lifetime prison sentence, or an adjunct to it.

The idea of forced conversions appears to have come from Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, one of three American anti-gay extremists who led a conference in Kampala last March. The other two Americans, Exodus International board member Don Schmierer and International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Lee Brundidge, were there as conversion therapy “experts,” but they remained completely silent as the idea was allowed to fester for the succeeding nine months. NARTH also remained silent, even though Scott Lively touted NARTH as the leading experts on conversion therapy during the conference.

Finally, Warren Throckmorton was able to get a statement from NARTH. The group’s past president, A. Dean Byrd, wrote this reply to Throckmorton:

Dear Dr. Throckmorton,

As you are aware, NARTH’s Governing Board has accepted the Leona Tyler Principle which states that NARTH, as a scientific organization, takes no position on any scientific issue without the requisite science or professional experience.  NARTH members, as individuals, are free to speak on any issue.

NARTH values the inherent worth of all individuals and respects individual right of autonomy and self determination.

NARTH’s position on homosexuality was clearly articulated by Dr. Julie Harren Hamiliton in a recent edition of the APA Monitor: homosexuality is not invariably fixed in all people – some people can and do change.  And psychological care should be available to those who seek such care.

NARTH encourages its members to abide the Code of Ethics of their respective organizations and such codes proscribe the coercive efforts. It goes without saying that NARTH would support the humane treatment of ALL individuals.

We are aware of the situation in Uganda but thank you for bringing this to our attention. I am sure that you are aware that as a scientific organization, NARTH does not take political positions; however, we are happy to provide a summary of what science can and cannot say about homosexuality for those who do.

Dr. Throckmorton, if history is a good indicator, you will likely not be happy with this response. However, I hope such responses will help you understand NARTH’s mission as a scientific organization.

With warm regards,

A. Dean Byrd, PhD, MBA, MPH

The line about NARTH not taking political positions is utterly laughable. You don’t even have to go beyond the front page on NARTH’s web site before you find links decrying the supposed “dangers” of same-sex marriage.

That aside, it was difficult to find the denunciation of forced conversion therapy. If you blinked, you might have missed it. But here it is again, with my emphasis:

NARTH encourages its members to abide the Code of Ethics of their respective organizations and such codes proscribe the coercive efforts.

After further inquiries from Throckmorton, Byrd clarified:

Research tells us that forced therapy is almost always a failure. It is unethical and unworkable.

Scott Lively specifically recommended NARTH to his Ugandan audience, saying, “After my web site, this is the one I consider the most important.” But if Ugandans go to  NARTH, they will not find a single statement anywhere which provides guidance on coercive therapy. Exodus also continues to refrain from placing a statement on their web site as well, although Exodus President Alan Chambers did say in a Facebook posting, “I am NOT for forced therapy for gay and lesbian people.”

It’s good that NARTH and Exodus leadership has now come out against forced therapy. But since this is not the first time this issue has come up — and it certainly won’t be the last time either — isn’t it time these two organizations finally made these statements official and accessible? What reason could they possibly have for keeping them hard to find and off of their own web sites?

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Comments

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Timothy Kincaid
December 29th, 2009 | LINK

Perhaps, just perhaps, they don’t clarify their position on forced therapy for the exact same reason that they don’t clarify what they mean by “change”, what a participant can expect to happen as a result of either Exodus ministry or therapy, and what the attributes are that they define as “success”.

I’m not making any guesses what that reason might be… I’m just saying.

Burr
December 29th, 2009 | LINK

A true “scientific organization” would take great care to make sure that people do not misinterpret their findings or opinions, instead of withholding details in order to intentionally sow confusion and disavow responsibility for the consequences.

Mike Airhart
December 29th, 2009 | LINK

I disagree that Exodus has come out against forced therapy.

Alan Chambers made a cautiously parsed personal statement, and he is known for offering contradictory personal statements to different audiences.

Various Exodus member ministries practice forced therapy, and the organization’s flagship Love In Action practiced forced therapy until the state of Tennessee intervened in 2006-2007.

Exodus board member Don Schmierer has been promoting ex-gay therapy combined with harsh punishment of homosexuality in Uganda since at least 2002; that position is unmistakably one of support for therapy under extreme duress. Furthermore, he continues to support Scott Lively’s positions regarding homosexuality.

Eric in Oakland
December 29th, 2009 | LINK

A true “scientific organization” would also welcome legitimate peer review of its “studies” and does not have a stake in or prejudice in favor of a particular interpretation of available data.

NARTH is no more a “scientific organization” than Answers in Genesis or the Templeton Foundation. All three are religious organizations promoting fake science to support a political agenda.

Quo
December 30th, 2009 | LINK

Eric in Oakland,

I’m aware that I’ll be abused for saying this, but NARTH is no more promoting “fake science to support a political agenda” than the mainstream medical and psychiatric organizations in the United States are doing this.

NARTH is neither perfect nor above criticism, but the mainstream perspective has become so extreme and distored that they really look pretty good by comparison.

Quo
December 30th, 2009 | LINK

To answer the question why NARTH has not advertised its position against forced therapy on its website:

they would probably argue that their position against it goes without saying, and also that it is not a major issue.

Priya Lynn
December 30th, 2009 | LINK

Quo, when someone with attitudes as bizarre as yours thinks Narth looks pretty good it merely adds to the concensus that they’re charlatans.

Similarly your attitude that its not a major issue for Narth not to be vocal about its opposition to forced therapy when Uganda is proposing to use it is particularly stupid.

wackadoodle
December 30th, 2009 | LINK

Quo, we’ll say this one last time:

You saying something does not make it true

The Heartland Institute is full of crap when they say smoking is okay and the AMA is biased.

Answers in Genesis is full of crap when they say evolution hasn’t been proven and over 99% of biologists are biased.

NARTH is full of crap when they make up sh!t about gay people that’s been laughed at by mainstream science for decades and say the APA is biased.

Notice a pattern with these organizations? With one being a small fringe group funded exclusively by people with a huge stake in the conclusions of their ‘research’ while the ‘biased’ opposition to them is EVERY SINGLE OTHER RESPECTED INSTITUTION IN THEIR FIELD.

Your whining and conspiracy theories don’t work for AIG and the heartland Institute, they dont work for NARTH

John
December 30th, 2009 | LINK

quo

Wouldn’t you favor forced therapy? In another thread repeatedly supported parents subjecting their kids to sexual abuse, despite the fact that it is against the law is a huge human rights abuse and raises very troubling questions about your being in contact with children. So why would you object to forced exgay therapy by people who have never demonstrated any ability to change anyone’s sexual orientation.

Also, you are quick to criticize the America medical societies despite not living in the US. What about in your country (which I believe is South Africa)?

Priya Lynn
December 30th, 2009 | LINK

You’re right, John. Someone like Quo who says parents have a right to sexually abuse their children has no grounds upon which to say they can’t also force their children into pseudo-therapy.

Quo
December 30th, 2009 | LINK

wackadoodle,

Some of NARTH’s “sh!t” about gay people, for instance the idea that having a bad relationship with one’s parents is a contributing factor in the development of homosexuality for some people, is perfectly accurate.

As you note, “mainstream” science usually rejects this idea. Partly that’s because the evidence can be read in different ways, but the main reason is certainly bias (the reasons for that bias are more complicated, and have less to do with political correctness or any desire to please homosexuals, than is usually supposed by either side in the debate).

It would be pretty tedious to rehash the issue in this thread, and I won’t try; have a look at the most recent post on my blog if you want to see what I have to say about it. I am working on a longer, more thorough discussion of the causation issue, but don’t look for it to be completed for months.

To the other commentators,

You prove my point about your willingness to abuse me because I disagree. I didn’t say anything in favour of forced therapy, but you immediately assume that I think it’s a good idea, and make distorted comments about my views about a different issue from another thread. You do not seem to be able to distinguish between supporting someone’s right to do something and thinking that they should do it.

Priya Lynn
December 30th, 2009 | LINK

Quo said “Some of NARTH’s “sh*t” about gay people, for instance the idea that having a bad relationship with one’s parents is a contributing factor in the development of homosexuality for some people, is perfectly accurate.”.

Nonsense. You’re in no position to make such a statement, there is no evidence whatsoever to support that theory. The tiresome examples you give of correlations between distant fathers and gayness are readily explained by the fact that gay sons cause distant fathers.

Quo said “You prove my point about your willingness to abuse me because I disagree. I didn’t say anything in favour of forced therapy, but you immediately assume that I think it’s a good idea, and make distorted comments about my views about a different issue from another thread.”.

You aren’t criticized solely because you disagree, you’re criticized because your logic is irrational, your ideas are bad, and your attitudes are frightening. My point remains unrefuted: When you claim parents have a right to sexually abuse their children you have no grounds upon which to deny them the right to force their children into pseudo-therapy. After all, according to you adults don’t own their bodies, much less children. Given that on what basis does anyone have a right not to be forced to do anything?

John
December 30th, 2009 | LINK

The reason that I remind people of Quo’s support for parents sexually abusing their children is that it is germane to looking at everything else he posts.

I can’t read through any of his posts now on any subject without thinking about how strenuously he argued that parents have the right to sexually abuse children. I don’t think that will ever change for me. That is just how disturbing I felt his posts were.

Quo
December 30th, 2009 | LINK

Priya,

I know what your line on this subject is, because you’ve repeated it dozens of times; I note you don’t find your own repetition of that line tiresome.

I have tried to explain on my blog, patiently and at considerable length, why the arguments (or simply the assertions) that view of the issue is based on are wrong, and will be doing so at even greater length in future, not for your benefit, but for that of others.

Regarding the issue this thread is supposed to be about: I don’t consider it unreasonable that parents should have the right to force their children into therapy intended to alter their sexual orientation, as this is no different in principle from them forcing their children to do other things they consider necessary for their well-being. I also don’t believe that they should do this.

If you find my attitudes “frightening”, maybe you should stop reading BTB?

Quo
December 30th, 2009 | LINK

Also, if you read Jim’s post above more carefully, you’ll see that the issue is actually forced therapy for adults, an altogether different issue from adults forcing their children into therapy.

Tara TASW
December 30th, 2009 | LINK

Former NARTH head Joseph Nicolosi claims to have worked his “ex-gay therapy” on children as young as three. As those preschoolers can’t very well have requested it, NARTH clearly is in favor of forced “therapy” when it suits their anti-gay agenda.

Leaving aside Nicolosi’s gross lack of ethics, you have to admire the scam: convince gullible parents that their children are going to turn out gay, and take their money to work your, ahem, “cure.” Of course, it’s at least 90% likely that any given child will turn out straight, so he can pretend his “therapy” had something to do with it. And if not, hey, he’s long gone with the money by then.

wackadoodle
December 30th, 2009 | LINK

“As you note, “mainstream” science usually rejects this idea. Partly that’s because the evidence can be read in different ways, but the main reason is certainly bias (the reasons for that bias are more complicated, and have less to do with political correctness or any desire to please homosexuals, than is usually supposed by either side in the debate).”

Just say it, say what you mean: “THEIRS A VAST CONSPIRACY AMONG EVERY SINGLE REMOTELY CREDIBLE PSYCHOLOGICAL ORGANIZATION TO HIDE THE EVIDENCE ABOUT GAY PEOPLE”

Thats what your proposing. no different in any way from the people claiming the earth is 6000 years old. Dont try to weasel around the fact that you have absolutely no argument other then bitching about bias that has the exact same evidence as the ‘bias’ against creationism among biologists.

Priya Lynn
December 31st, 2009 | LINK

Quo said “If you find my attitudes “frightening”, maybe you should stop reading BTB?”.

And allow you to spread your immoral ideas without my opposition? Doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. Sticking one’s head in the sand when encountering evil rarely makes the evil go away.

Quo said “Also, if you read Jim’s post above more carefully, you’ll see that the issue is actually forced therapy for adults, an altogether different issue from adults forcing their children into therapy.”.

Irrelevant. Doesn’t matter if its children or adults, when you believe people don’t own their bodies there is no basis upon which to assert anyone has a right not to be forced to do anything. When thats your attitude all your left with is a “Might makes right” morality – if you’re powerful enough to force your will on others then its okay, too bad for you if your not powerful and someone rapes or kills you.

Jason D
December 31st, 2009 | LINK

John said: “The reason that I remind people of Quo’s support for parents sexually abusing their children is that it is germane to looking at everything else he posts.

I can’t read through any of his posts now on any subject without thinking about how strenuously he argued that parents have the right to sexually abuse children. I don’t think that will ever change for me. That is just how disturbing I felt his posts were.”

Agreed. The other point that I think is just as strong is when Quo said that he does not believe that people own their own. That ties directly into his point that it’s perfectly acceptable for parents to force sex upon their children.
This is also why I’ve resolved not to respond to, or acknowledge his posts anymore.

Jason D
December 31st, 2009 | LINK

sorry, that Quo said he does not believe people own their own BODIES.

Quo
December 31st, 2009 | LINK

wackadoodle,

I don’t think (and wasn’t implying) that there’s a conspiracy among mainstream psychological organizations to reject NARTH’s views about the causes of homosexuality. The organizations are guilty of systematic bias, yes, but not conspiracy, since that refers to something done in secret.

Priya,

It does make a difference whether one is talking about children or adults. They have different capacities, and the law recognizes this by treating them differently.

I refrain from commenting about the rest of what you wrote about morality and rights, other than to note that your remarks about my views are fantasy.

Priya Lynn
December 31st, 2009 | LINK

Quo said “It does make a difference whether one is talking about children or adults. They have different capacities, and the law recognizes this by treating them differently.”.

Oh, it makes a difference to me, and to most people all right, but it does not make a difference under the presumption you operate under – that one does not own one’s body. Under your scenario its irrelevant whether or not one is a child or an adult, one has no basis upon which to be free form being forced to do anything.

Priya Lynn
December 31st, 2009 | LINK

Quo said “I refrain from commenting about the rest of what you wrote about morality and rights, other than to note that your remarks about my views are fantasy.”.

Not fantasy at all, it follows directly from your statement that “we do not own our bodies”. If you do not own your body on what basis do you deny anyone the right to shove their hand down your pants, rape you, or kill you? Based on your statement they have just as much a right to your body as you do.

Eric in Oakland
December 31st, 2009 | LINK

QUO said “I’m aware that I’ll be abused for saying this, but NARTH is no more promoting “fake science to support a political agenda” than the mainstream medical and psychiatric organizations in the United States are doing this.”

Except that the entirety of the mainstream medical and psychiatric community do not and CANNOT share a single political agenda. Also, the consensus of the medical and psychiatric fields in this regard is hardly limited to the U.S. To claim as you do, QUO, is to imply that there exists some global conspiracy of scientific organizations and universities. Paranoid much? It is also rather irrational (and insulting) to suggest that the majority of legitimate scientists rely on the same unethical practices as NARTH and AIG.

“NARTH is neither perfect nor above criticism, but the mainstream perspective has become so extreme and distored that they really look pretty good by comparison.”

That statement is totally nonsensical. How can the mainstream perspective be “extreme”? By definition, if it is mainstream it is NOT extreme.

“I don’t think (and wasn’t implying) that there’s a conspiracy among mainstream psychological organizations to reject NARTH’s views about the causes of homosexuality. The organizations are guilty of systematic bias, yes, but not conspiracy, since that refers to something done in secret.”

You may not have intentionally implied a conspiracy in the scientific community, but the only reasonable alternative to that would be to suggest a serious flaw in the scientific method itself. Is that what you meant?

I would also like to point to the results of a recent study that clearly show the psychological harm posed by not accepting the sexual orientation of LGBT teens.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-sexual-continuum/200901/surprise-families-matter

wackadoodle
January 1st, 2010 | LINK

“The organizations are guilty of systematic bias, yes, but not conspiracy, since that refers to something done in secret.”

EXACTLY like the ‘systematic bias’ against creationism, the ‘systematic bias’ against tobacco being healthy, the ‘systematic bias’ against homeopathy…

Remember, all of those ‘theories’ that are only held by a handful of fringe groups are true. The ONLY reason over 90% of real scientists laugh at them is because of ‘systematic bias’.

Not because they’re full of crap and completely unwilling to live up to serious scientific standards.

Ben in Oakland
January 3rd, 2010 | LINK

Quo needs all of this because he hates himself so very much that the only way he can deal with his self hatred is to join the people that hate him. It validates him, just as it validates our DT lady.

As Jason has noted, you can only argue with a crazy person so much before you start making yourself crazy.

Quo, as I have said many times before, get help to deal iwth your self hatred. but not from Old Nick. As always, when Old nick says he is going to help someone, he usually means he is going to help himself.

Mykelb
January 4th, 2010 | LINK

I would like to know the percentage of thier clientele under age 18 and whether or not those kids were coerced by their parents into going into therapy. I bet the majority with my life savings.

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