By Wayne Besen
I always begin my traveling presentation on the “ex-gay” industry with a Daily Show segment (view video at bottom of this link) featuring Richard Cohen, former president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX). No matter the audience — activists, university students or medical professionals — his antics are sure to bring uproarious laughter. This is because the “therapy” promoted by Cohen and PFOX is outright bizarre. Even conservatives in attendance will often admit they are witnessing quackery at its finest.
Unfortunately, PFOX is nothing to laugh about these days. It is teaming up with an anti-gay legal organization to bully GLBT university groups. This unholy alliance is ordering these gay resource centers to hand out ex-gay materials or face possible lawsuits.
If PFOX and their lawyers are harassing your GLBT Center, Truth Wins Out advises you to do the following:
1. Contact Truth Wins Out and let us know about your situation. If you can provide us with the materials used by PFOX, it would be most helpful. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
2. Immediately contact Lambda Legal for advice on your specific legal circumstances. (email@example.com)
3. Make sure that all students in your group and relevant administrators are aware that PFOX’ therapy models are rejected by every major medical and mental health organization in America. This includes the American Psychological Association, American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The American Psychiatric Association says that attempts to change sexual orientation can lead to anxiety, depression and self-destructive behavior.
4. Because PFOX practices a fringe therapy considered potentially dangerous, it should be rejected, unless legal counsel specifically and unequivocally says otherwise. In the rare instance that such material is displayed, consider stamping it with the following words: WARNING: THE AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION SAYS THAT ATTEMPTS TO CHANGE SEXUAL ORIENTATION CAN CAUSE ANXIETY, DEPRESSION AND SELF-DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR. Ex-gay literature should be treated like a package of cigarettes and those exposed deserve to be warned of the potentially harmful side effects.
5. University groups should consider rejecting PFOX’ materials because it puts students at risk. This is because the organization refers clients to Richard Cohen, who founded the International Healing Foundation. Mr. Cohen was expelled for life from the American Counseling Association in 2002 for multiple ethics violations.
His work includes a controversial method called “touch therapy.” (See Video) This technique includes lying in the lap of a person of the same sex while they caress you. It is supposed to be non-sexual, but some consider it a gateway to sexual abuse. There have been several instances where this method has been exploited to harm vulnerable clients. Based on PFOX’ promotion of this technique, we strongly advise universities to keep all PFOX materials off campus.
6. Caleb Brundidge is a protege of Richard Cohen. Brundidge is also affiliated with Extreme Prophetic ministries, which takes groups to mortuaries to attempt to raise the dead. Clearly, any university or affiliated groups should be very careful before they place students in the hands of people with such extreme views.
7. Please refer all relevant college and university staff to videos of Richard Cohen. It is crucial to see this man in action before deciding if PFOX materials are appropriate for campuses. Administrators must be asked point blank: “Do you want our students in Richard Cohen’ hands?”
8. PFOX is already represented in all schools, since so-called ex-gays are allegedly heterosexual. There is no “ex-gay” sexual orientation in the medical or psychological literature. It is a term invented by anti-gay activists whose goal is to pass anti-gay legislation. Indeed, PFOX was founded in 1998 with an $80,000 grant from the Family Research Council, a Washington, DC lobby group.
9. Another primary resource of PFOX is the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). This organization has been accused of distorting research. It also published an essay that claimed gender variant children should be “ridiculed” and another one that seemed to justify slavery. NARTH has also widely quoted Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively.
10. If someone at your college or university has been harmed by the ex-gay industry – including PFOX – there may be legal options. Please download “Ex-Gay & the Law” to find out more. Or, request that hard copies be sent to your school.
Finally, this is not about free speech as PFOX contends. This is about rational people studying the medical and psychological literature and concluding that PFOX’ methods are peculiar and possibly dangerous. The first role of a college or university is to protect its students. Based on the methods promoted by PFOX and the dubious people associated with the organization, it is reasonable to conclude that their content is unfit for schools.