NARTH: Forced Therapy Is “Unethical and Unworkable”
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?