Last week, ABC 20/20 took a look inside of disturbing practice that affects our most endangered constituency, gay youths. Parents, worried that their children might be gay, are sending them to conversion camps promising to change their child sexual orientation.
ABC’s Brian Ross visited some of these organizations across the country in a year-long investigation and found that in some cases their methods can range from simply controversial to extremely cruel.
The Story of Sarah
The piece starts with the story of Sarah, a 17-year old lesbian girl who was sent away by her parents because of her sexual orientation. Sarah was being held incommunicado at the Heart Light Christian Boarding School, outside Hallsville Texas. Heart Light is a well-kept, sprawling ranch-like facility in the Texas desert. Sarah was sent there because she had a
girlfriend, but Heart Light says it is a place of refuge for all teens, including gay and lesbian.
Additionally, leading medical groups and the US Surgeon General say that it is not effective and may cause harm to the patient, usually a young and vulnerable person.
Enter Jeremy Jordan
It just so happens that Sarah had a famous cousin, Jeremy Jordan from Supergirl, who was able to do something about the situation. He set out to use his celebrity to launch an Internet campaign to raise money for lawyers to get Sarah out. A GoFundMe page is there to tell their story. The campaign for Sarah seemed to work, in the wake of all the public attention, the Heart Light Christian School sent Sarah home.
Down a dirt road in Alabama, the Blessed Hope Boys Academy, a place where the Christian pastor in charge told our ABC News undercover investigators that he sometimes uses a Bible and sometimes a belt. Calling himself Brother Gary, the individual who runs the “academy” claims an 80% success rate without providing a shred of evidence.
The “academy” requires parents to give written permission so he can strike their children if they act up. Under Alabama’s religious freedom law there is no requirement for this place to have a license or supervisor because it is a part of a Christian ministry.
For every camp like this, there are hundreds more that nobody knows about, that nobody’s exposing on TV, including another place 20/20 discovered in Alabama.
The Story of Lucas
This unlicensed compound surrounded by barbed wire is run by a man called William, who also calls himself a Christian pastor, but has a track record of physical abuse and cruelty. Lucas Greenfield, a gay teen from Florida, was sent there at the age of 13 by his Christian parents, who though he would benefit from isolation. Tragically, he was the victim of countless abuses and he felt trapped in the hell that had become of his life.
Fast forward a few months, we find Lucas at the Circuit courthouse in Mobile Alabama. His case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Keith Blackwood, who had this to say: “these are people that are using religion as a weapon against these kids.”
Lucas Greenfield and five other teens, both gay and straight, took the stand, coming face-to-face with the man who abused them for so long. It was it difficult, but Lucas was able to pull through and tell his story for the jury. After 5 days of testimony, the jury reviewed the case.
The verdict? Guilty on all counts! Additionally, two other so-called “Christian pastors” were
taken away in handcuffs and sentenced to 20 years in prison. During sentencing, the judge said he hopes sends a message across the country.
How I Feel
Gay conversion therapy doesn’t convert and it isn’t therapy. Therapy is here to help you live a more healthy and happy life. A therapist is a trained professional whom uses scientifically-proven methods to assist their patients. Therefore, I consider gay conversion therapy to be an oxymoron.
Furthermore, this propaganda war is going on against the most vulnerable members of our society, LGBT Youth. This was a real wake-up call for me. Our community feels like there has been so much progress, and there has, but it’s not enough for Sarah. It wasn’t enough for Lucas. So it’s not enough for me! When one person hurts, we all feel the pain.
LBGT Conversion Camps
Do more research on the subject here: http://www.hrc.org/resources/the-lies-and-dangers-of-reparative-therapy and do something!