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The latest incarnation of Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation

Timothy Kincaid

July 3rd, 2013

One of the highest profile – and astonishingly clueless – advocates who ever championed fixing Teh Ghey is Richard Cohen.

Richard was never the one to quietly live a life of example. Nor did he hit the church circuit selling the redeeming power of Christ and showing off his wife (which, since he married her in a Moonie mass wedding, would be odd anyway). Nope. Richard opted for publicity.

In 2000, he wrote Coming Out Straight – with forward by Dr. Laura Schlessinger – about how he was cured of his homosexuality through reparative therapy. And though it included cringe-worthy photos of the process, it was his passport to credibility.

ComingOutStraight-208d.jpg

Soon Richard was founder of the International Healing Foundation and president of PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays), the most colorful of the ex-gay organizations. He was a speaker at NARTH and Exodus events and an ex-gay therapist with a rising star. Richard used that platform to launch his image to a greater audience, CNN’s Paula Zahn Now.

But he probably didn’t realize just quite what impression he was giving while he explained that one’s homosexuality could be healed through hitting a pillow with a tennis racquet while screaming, “mom! mom! mom! mom! Why did you do that to me?” or cuddling in another man’s arms (a method he calls “good touch”). Rather than praise his clever methods, most people just fell off their couch laughing.

Richard Cohen on CNNI attribute that moment to be the beginning of the end of the ex-gay movement.

It was around that point that some supporters of Cohen’s reparative therapy theories began to see exactly what kind of lunacy they were connected to. Most notably, Dr. Warren Throckmorton told PFOX that either Cohen took a hike or he would pull his support (over time Throckmorton would disavow reparative therapy, acknowledge possible biological bases for orientation, and eventually publicly question some of evangelical Christianity’s assumptions about what expectations can be put on gay people).

Then Cohen unwisely followed his CNN debacle with a 2007 visit to The Daily Show. Either he didn’t notice that the show was on the Comedy Channel or he didn’t guess who would be providing the laughs.

National public mockery was too much even for NARTH, who scrubbed mention of him from their sites.

Page 7 of Cohen’s “children’s” book

Shortly after that a much earlier endeavor got noticed, Richard’s 1993 children’s book, Alfie’s Home, all about how little Alfie got molested.

With illustrations.

Even for Cohen, this was really really icky.

It was time for a change. A new direction. A new image.

Having realized that his brand of hands-on therapy was not well accepted by much of anyone, Cohen took a new tack. He decided that parents of gay kids were truly in need of his services. So November 2007 brought us a book to help them, Gay Children / Straight Parents.

After all, who doesn’t need a book to tell fathers that what they really needed to do was touch their sons more? (Okay, it was creepy just writing that). I can’t possibly do justice to this in a sentence, but fortunately Jim wrote an extensive review.

But this was just the ticket Cohen needed to get back into the good graces of PFox. They praised his book and his ideas. But it came with a price.

Cohen had kept his religious connections pretty low key and PFOX and NARTH had long sought to sell themselves as secular. But with a growing social acceptance for gay people, increasingly the ex-gay movement was narrowing itself down to social conservative Christians. And there just wasn’t a whole lot of room for followers of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.

So Cohen’s International Healing Foundation needed a new face. And in February 2009, IHF gave a trial run to Caleb Lee Brundidge.

It didn’t exactly go well.

Brundidge’s first run out the gate was to Uganda, where he spoke at a conference on homosexuality to pastors in Kampala and where he had an audience with the legislature. Cohen’s Coming Out Straight was presented as a primer and source.

That conference led to Uganda’s notorious Kill The Gays Bill, which not only resulted in at least one death, but severely damaged Uganda’s relationship with most of it’s Western supporters. By the end of the year, Cohen and IHF were reeling from the bad publicity and issued “statements” and “disavowals” and Brundidge became invisible.

In 2010, CNN’s Kyra Phillips ran a piece on a California legislator’s bill to remove from the books a forgotten and obsolete law from 1950 that authorized the state to look for cures to homosexuality. To “balance” the segment she decided to bring on Cohen. This time it was Phillips who was embarrassed by the association and who had to apologize – well, bitch and whine, really – for her lack of wisdom.

And that was it for a while. He joined PFOX in their amicus brief in support of Proposition 8, but that was small potatoes.

Again, it was time for a new angle.

So in late 2011, Cohen decided that he would apologize and just love everybody. His new mantra would not be “change is possible” but “coming out loved”. It was painful. Just sort of imagine Paula Deen inviting African-American leaders over to apologize for her recent comments, and serving them chitlins and watermelon… that kind of painful.

Beginning today, IHF’s doors are wide open to everyone in the LGBTQ and straight communities. The new mission, “Coming Out Loved,” is the catalyst of true tolerance, real diversity, and equality for all. IHF staff will assist anyone who is conflicted about their sexuality and other challenging issues that arise for many in the gay community.

The universe yawned. Perhaps the universe found Cohen’s disingenuous definitions of “true tolerance” and “real diversity” to be more pathetic than shocking.

Because it didn’t take long for us to learn that “true tolerance” is for those who demand that you acquiesce to their demands over your life or you are the “real bigot” who doesn’t accept their “sincerely held beliefs”. And “real diversity” is one that puts Cohen on an equal standing with a person of character and integrity.

Not that anyone paid attention or cared.

But I decided to see what Cohen’s IHF is up to these days. And, as it turns out, his IHF has a new face, a new name, a new site, and a new project.

Yes, Cohen is speaking up for those who have no way to speak for themselves. He’s calling for their recognition and to make them feel valued. And especially to defend their rights.

The mission of Voice of the Voiceless is to defend the rights of former homosexuals, individuals with unwanted same-sex attraction, and their families. We also support the faith-based community and work actively in the United States to defend the constitutional rights of all Americans to share their views of homosexuality in the public forum. We support similar international efforts and provide assistance, whenever possible, to individuals and organizations abroad who align with our mission and goals.

Translation: we insist that it’s possible to change your orientation. We insist that those who seek to bash and attack and harm gay people can do so without criticism. And, of course we didn’t mean it when we disavowed the murder in Uganda. We celebrate the nations that deny rights to gay people.

Cohen himself is invisible from the group. It’s cofounded by one of the IHF “counselors”, Christopher Doyle, and none other than the old ranting racist loon, D.L. Foster. And just because it must be ol’ home week, the vice president is the unfortunately named David Pickup (whose original ex-gay counseling advertisement was mistaken by many to be a parody).

And as for the ex-gays, well they deserve a month of their own to… well, I’m not sure what, but if those who “suffer from same-sex attraction” get a month, then so should ex-gays.

So, if you want to catch up on these fellows and see how they are all doing, you can do so right here in July, Ex-Gay Pride Month. You can write ex-gay music or better yet, go to their dinner. It is bound to be entertaining – though you may be the only one there who thinks so. And God only knows what insanity, embarrassment, or tragedy will ensue.

Comments

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jpeckjr
July 3rd, 2013 | LINK

I want to say something, but I seem to have lost my voice. Thanks, Timothy, for all this rundown on Mr. Cohen various public identities. All designed to scam vulnerable people out of their money.

David Cary Hart
July 3rd, 2013 | LINK

I thought I should mention that I was stunned when I reviewed the organization’s 990 for 2011. Perogram service revenue for 2011 grew from $19K to $550K. On information and belief this is the result of a project, funded in part by the Moonies, to introduce ex-gay crackpottery into secondary schools – back door through a supposed anti-bullying program.

So while Cohen is an easy target for derision, he represents a clear and present danger to the community.

PRESTON
July 3rd, 2013 | LINK

Organizations to promote ex-gay rights???? Exactly what rights does one lose when becoming an ex-gay? This tends to send the message that to undergo these “therapies” that are being promoted, one must relinquish the rights already enjoyed. What kind of motivation is there to engage in these treatment modalities (other than martyrdom)? I am trying to see their logic, but so far I have failed miserably.

StraightGrandmother
July 3rd, 2013 | LINK

Good writing Tim, excellent article.
I think that they should rebrand themselves. Dump ex-gay instead go with “Newly Straight” Why don’t you think they will go that?

sue jeffers
July 4th, 2013 | LINK

ah, mr. pickup tried unsuccessfully to convince me that NARTH published a peer reviewed journal, and really was quite unprofessional and quick to attack. not surprised to find that he’s involved with the crap i’ve seen coming out under the guise of the voice of the voiceless (sic)

homer
July 4th, 2013 | LINK

I attended a lecture he gave back in 1990 or 1991 at Arizona State University. He was creepy. He provided a laundry list of reasons why people were gay- so long and detailed that every person in the audience could identify with at least one or two. I started laughing loudly and soon everybody in the audience was laughing too. He got super angry at me. I still smile thinking about that.

Richard Rush
July 4th, 2013 | LINK

“The mission of Voice of the Voiceless is to defend the rights of former homosexuals”

Exactly what rights are they denied? For example, have they been denied the right to place a bumper sticker on their car that reads? ~~~

Honk if you’re a former homosexual like me . . .
. . . (and give me your phone number.)

Richard Rush
July 4th, 2013 | LINK

There seems to be a typo whenever the IHF’s name is spelled out. I think it should read:

International Heeling Foundation

(You know, like you expect from an obedient dog.)

Smith
July 4th, 2013 | LINK

To be honest, Kincaid, I don’t think you looked very deeply at what this group is doing. For example, if you were to look at their latest Form 990, you would find a rather surprising development. Their reported revenue suddenly skyrocketed from $108,020 in 2010 to $635,834 in 2011. (Their 2012 filing should come in August.)

What accounts for this sudden six-fold increase in revenue? A large bequest or individual contribution or an infusion of cash from some Christian organization? No. Their contributions and grants have actually declined from the previous year. The 990 indicates that all of this additional revenue ($540,000) originates from something called the “Special Schools Project.“ That has an off-putting ring to it in any context, but considering this is the International Healing Foundation, it is downright creepy.

There is nothing on the IHF website that I could find that describes or even mentions the “Special Schools Project.” The only way to find out what this is and what IHF has been doing to kids in our schools is to get on the phone and call Richard Cohen and ask. *That* would make for a good report.

Will you try to make that inquiry? If you do, and if Cohen is willing to talk, here’s a few other items that you can ask him about:

- Why does his filing with the IRS represent that IHF has no employees, even though the same filing shows that he and Doyle both work 40 hours and take a salary?

- Why is his wife serving on IHF’s board of directors? Does she have any experience in sexual orientation change therapy or in nonprofit management? Or is she simply there to provide a captive vote on the board?

- What does IHF do in its “counselor training” program? What has it “trained“ counselors to do in its recent sessions in Croatia and Spain?

- According to the IHF website, IHF now offers gay-affirming therapy. Do Richard Cohen and Chris Doyle actually help gay clients improve their homosexual love lives?

Eric in Oakland
July 7th, 2013 | LINK

The idea of a “pride” month for those ashamed of their orientation is pretty funny.

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