Monday, July 18, 2005

Theocratic Cure-All

File this under 'this is what theocracy looks like."

What happens when faith meets a reality that is not included within its world view?

One answer is to try to cure it with evangelism; and then pass off the evangelism as medical science; claim victory; move on. This is what is going on in the area of so-called "reparative therapy," a bizarre profession created by operatives of the theocratic Christian Right to cure homosexuality through conversion.

Reparative, or "conversion therapy" claims that homosexuality can be "cured," and that "faith-based" approaches can do the job. Major medical and psychological organizations think its bunk and potentially harmful. But since a teenager named Zack went public and described the abusive and patently bogus alleged therapy at an ex-gay boot camp in Tennessee, government agencies are taking a closer look as is the media -- notably, Salon.com which has a 4-part investigation that ought to help crystallize the debate.

Salon reports that reparative therapy is "according to virtually all mental health professions, wrong, bizarre and potentially dangerous."

"'I can give you a short answer of where reparative therapy fits in with the modern mental health profession: It does not," says Dr. Douglas Haldeman, president of the Association of Practicing Psychologists, a group affiliated with the American Psychological Association. "These theories have been discredited for years.'"

"Despite their dubious scientific and therapeutic standing, reparative therapy ministries, some of which accept kids and operate like a cross between churches and boot camps, largely function without oversight and licenses."


Calculated Compassion: How The Ex-Gay Movement Serves The Right's Attack on Democracy by Surina Khan is pioneering study of the various ex-gay ministries and the general subject of therapy through evangelism. It was published by Political Research Associates, the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and, Equal Partners in Faith.

The study examines ex-gay ministries in the wider context of the agenda of the theocratic Christian Right. The executive summary of the report reads in part:
"Tolerance and pluralism are bedrock principles of American society. Yet, as this report shows, the ex-gay movement and the Christian Right are attacking these principles and furthering a divisive political agenda which offers fundamentalist Christian dogma and heterosexuality as the only acceptable norms. Challenging the leadership of the ex-gay movement is essential if equal rights for all people, regardless of sexual orientation, are to be defended. To be effective, such a challenge must take into account the broader theocratic agenda of the Christian Right which the ex-gay movement is being used to promote."


It is worth pointing out that the repackaging religious belief and evangelism as science is not unique to ex-gay ministries. This is also what is happening with the Christian Right's strategy of attacking the teaching of evolution in the public schools: disguise creationist beliefs by repackaging them as a scientific theory: "Intelligent Design."

Currently, the Christian Right feels the need to be fairly covert. The law and public opinion are not on thier side in most placees, most of the time. For two decades they have generally had the advantage that their opponents have often vastly underestimated the Christian Right in its many manifestations. But that is changing, even as the Christian Right has been emboldened since George W. Bush came to power.

A thorough debunking of ex-gay, repartative therapy is long over due. It may be happening now. If so, there is much to learn from how the mainstream religious, scientific and medical communities address the matter -- not to mention the media and public officials at all levels.

[Crossposted from FrederickClarkson.com]

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