Institute for Healthy Families Leader Shoves Ex-Wife’s Mom, Allegedly Strikes Wife and Accused of Grabbing His Children by Their Throats
Contact: Wayne Besen, Executive Director, Wbesen@TruthWinsOut.org
By Wayne Besen
Wayne Besen is the Executive Director of Truth Wins Out and the author of a new book coming out October 11, “Lies with a Straight Face: Exposing the Cranks and Cons Inside the Ex-Gay Industry.” Pre-orders are available at this link.
Critics have long deduced that Christopher Doyle is divorced from reality, but the ugly reality of his bitter divorce is what will likely cause the demise of America’s most notorious “ex-gay” conversion therapist. Doyle is a licensed therapist and the Executive Director of the Institute for Healthy Families, which is promoted as “a non-profit Judeo-Christian therapeutic organization in the Washington, D.C. area.” A new Truth Wins Out exclusive investigation, however, reveals that Christopher Doyle is the last person in America who should be doling out advice on what constitutes a healthy family.
Not only has Doyle betrayed the façade that he is an upstanding religious family man, but new evidence strongly suggests that he isn’t “ex-gay”. A series of bizarre text message exchanges with a fellow “ex-gay” activist raises profound doubt about Christopher’s alleged sexual conversion. Furthermore, Doyle appears to be in flagrant violation of the law, for years falsely portraying the Institute for Healthy Families as a 501c3 tax-deductible non-profit organization. In reality, the tax-exempt status for IHF was revoked May 15, 2020.
After receiving a tip from a disgruntled former colleague of Christopher’s, I traveled to Leesburg, Virginia’s Loudoun County Circuit Court to review the divorce records in Christopher J. Doyle v. Sherry Doyle (20-4461). Up until this point, the dissolution of their marriage had not been made public.
I contacted Sherry Doyle to ask for a comment. She said, “the public record is the public record.” She declined to comment further because the litigation is ongoing regarding child support and other financial considerations. I contacted Christopher Doyle moments prior to publication and he said that I was trying to “smear” him and threatened a lawsuit. I pointed out that the allegations were public record and Christopher threatened to write a piece on my divorce. I responded that it would be fine because I don’t run the Institute for Healthy Families and never had a protective order filed against me for alleged violence.
What I discovered in the divorce records was profoundly disturbing, with his now ex-wife alleging that Christopher was a verbally and physically abusive husband who sometimes terrorized his own family, while hypocritically dispensing wholesome “Christian” family advice to clients. According to his wife’s Counterclaim (Aug. 24, 2020):
Throughout the course of the marriage the Husband has committed acts of mental cruelty and physical cruelty towards the Wife, with the said act being successive, cumulative and increasing in intensity during the last few years.
The Husband would become enraged, often times about the Wife’s refusal to have sexual relations with him. When in a state of rage he would berate her and verbally abuse the Wife and at times batter her by shoving or striking her.
Before we reveal the remaining allegations made against the “ex-gay” leader in court documents, it’s critically important to establish the prominence of Doyle in the broader “ex-gay” industry.
He was a protégé of two notorious “ex-gay” leaders, the late Dr. Joseph Nicolosi of NARTH and Richard Cohen, a self-described “rageaholic,” who admitted in his book, Coming Out Straight, that he felt like “killing” his wife. Doyle is the founder and clinical director of Northern Virginia Christian Counseling. Doyle created “Ex-Gay Pride”, is a former board member of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) and is frequently quoted in major media outlets including, Dr. Oz, CNN, USA Today and The Washington Post. Most recently, he made headlines unsuccessfully suing former Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) to overturn Maryland’s ban on “ex-gay” conversion therapy.
Doyle is the author of several books including The War on Psychotherapy: When Sexual Politics, Gender Ideology, and Mental Health Collide (2019) and The Meaning of Sex: A New Christian Ethos (2018). He was featured in a documentary, The Sunday Sessions, where he tried (and failed) to turn a gay client heterosexual. Doyle is the founder of multiple small “ex-gay” advocacy organizations including Voice of the Voiceless, which bills itself as “the only anti-defamation league for former homosexuals.”
Doyle’s hatred for the LGBTQ community is palpable. Though he passive-aggressively feigns love, his seething disgust is evident and ineffectively concealed.
“Whereas I once held contempt for the LGBT community, that has completely transformed to love and compassion. So, I wish to express my gratitude for the many gay activist organizations out there spreading misinformation and committing mass fraud,” Doyle writes in The War on Psychotherapy.
Christopher Doyle and Sherry Montgomery married on August 3, 2006, in Vienna, Virginia. An innocent young Christian woman, Sherry accepted her husband’s word that he was supposedly “healed” from his homosexual feelings. Nonetheless, the marriage was rocky with intermittent outbursts of alleged uncontrolled rage and occasional violence.
One such eruption occurred in July 2020, during a family vacation in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. In an instant, the Doyle’s marriage unraveled with the Christian counselor arrested for attacking his family. The Counterclaim reveals (Aug. 24, 2020):
On July 9, 2020, the Husband became enraged and shoved both the Wife and her mother, resulting in felony criminal charges in the state of Florida. This incident occurred in the presence of the children.
In a protective order affidavit (JA030704-01-00) Sherry describes the terrifying scene:
“He was raging and shoved me and was throwing things at me and in the room—destroying the house. My mother entered and tried to help me and my children and he became angrier and shoved my mother and she fell backwards into a table…the children were scared and my oldest son threatened to call 911 on his father after seeing my mother shoved a 2nd time by his father. He was threatening to take the kids while enraged so we immediately called 911 to protect the children, my mother and myself.”
Another court document states:
This resulted in both felony charges in Florida and a permanent protective order on behalf of the Wife against the Husband in Loudoun County, Virginia.
A court document (August 28, 2020) further elaborates on the protective order’s restrictions for “violently shoving” his family members:
The husband is precluded by court order in Florida from having any contact with the Wife. Moreover, there is a permanent protective order entered against the Husband in favor of the wife in Loudoun, County, Virginia. Said order precludes husband from anything but limited contact with the wife.
(A credible source told me that Doyle was forced to take a course on domestic violence as a condition for release. Due to the incident, Doyle was dismissed as a mental health therapist at Patrick Henry University. His efforts at reinstatement were denied.)
In court documents, Sherry described herself as “an abused spouse at risk of further family abuse at the hands of the Husband.” Immediately following the incident, Sherry fled Florida to return to their shared home in northern Virginia. Once inside the couple’s 6,440 square foot home, she packed her bags and moved into her mother’s basement in Maryland, along with the Doyle family’s five children.
Only weeks prior to the violent altercation in New Smyrna Beach, Christopher was preoccupied with a matter closer to his heart. In the lead-up to an “ex-gay” retreat in Orlando, he engaged in a series of peculiar, eyebrow-raising text messages with Charles “Chuck” Peters. The two men began working together in 2013, with Peters interning for Doyle, as well as being his counseling client at IHF, then known as the International Healing Foundation. Peters is best-known for his 2013 speech where he led an hilarious chant in Washington, DC, “Hip, Hip, Hooray for Ex-Gays.”
The disquieting text messages between Christopher and Chuck, which were entered as exhibits into the court report, began June 6, 2020. Chuck wrote, “I’m sooooo excited you are coming to Orlando.” Christopher responded, “Me too.”
On June 10, Christopher wrote, “Hey Boo Boo, I’m just calling you back, I love you.” Chuck replies, “I love you,” followed by a heart emoji. On June 16, Christopher writes, “Is everything OK?” Chuck responds, “Yeah, just wanted to talk to you…you always make me smile.” Christopher responds, “Thank you, I love you too,” with smile and heart emojis included in the text.
In perhaps the most bizarre text message, Chuck wrote, “Daddy, Daddy” repeatedly, followed by “I love you” eleven times, interspersed with smiles and heart emojis. Christopher replied, “Thanks BuBu can you pick me up in New Smyrna Beach next Wednesday before the retreat starts?” There are several additional text messages where the conversion therapist and his client/research assistant express their love, with Chuck calling Christopher “Daddy” and Christopher calling Chuck “Boo Boo” or “BuBu.” (The different spellings are likely from speech prediction in voice texts)
“Another day, another ‘ex-gay’ fraudster caught lying. Christopher Doyle can’t get rid of his same-sex attraction, the same way I can’t stop being left-handed,” said Chaim Levin, a conversion therapy survivor. “I’d like to hope that Doyle will take this time to reflect on his very hurtful, dangerous actions and the pain he has caused so may gay men over the course of decades, but I’m not optimistic.”
A key source revealed to me that Christopher and Chuck would spend “Brokeback-style” weekends alone together and Chuck was a frequent presence in Doyle’s life. While there is no outright admission of sexual relations or a romantic relationship, the amorous banter is highly inappropriate among Christian men whose activism is centered around curing male clients of their homosexuality. The doctor/patient, boss/worker dynamic also raises serious ethical questions about Doyle’s relations with clients under his care.
In a Voice of the Voiceless post, Peters acknowledges he was a client of Christopher’s practice, claiming that he was “receiving therapy from the International Healing Foundation.” This apparently included the controversial practice of “touch therapy,” where a conversion therapist cuddles on a couch with a client.
“It took a great deal of courage for me, a sexual abuse survivor, to gather up the strength to trust a stranger to hold me in a non-sexual way, when I’ve only experienced abuse and unhealthy sexual touch for so many years,” Peters wrote.
Touch therapy has led to many instances of sexual abuse, where a trusted therapist takes advantage of his clients. In his book, The War on Psychotherapy, Doyle endorses the supposed efficacy of a therapist undressing gay therapy clients. “It is important to understand how nudity work may be beneficial to some individuals with unwanted same-sex attractions,” Doyle wrote.
Meanwhile, after the incident in Florida, the bitter divorce proceedings began in earnest. In the motion for Pendente Lite Relief, (September 4, 2020) Sherry’s legal team asked the court:
That the Husband be enjoined and restrained from physically or verbally assaulting, interfering with, molesting, annoying or in any manner threatening the Wife, and that the Husband be enjoined from imposing any restraint on the personal liberty of the Wife.
Based on her allegations in the court filings, Sherry had good reason to worry about her safety and that of her children. In one harrowing passage in the Counterclaim (Aug 24, 2020):
On June 21, 2020 the Husband became enraged and grabbed two of the children by the throat and threw them up against his motor vehicle. One of the children stated, “Dad, you’re hurting me” in distress while he was being choked. The Wife had to intervene and slowly and gently lower the Husband’s hands as to not enrage him further.
It was always questionable whether Christopher should be around children. In my new book, Lies with a Straight Face: Exposing the Cranks and Cons Inside the Ex-Gay Industry, there is a chapter on Christopher called “Snake Oil Doyle.” It discusses a creepy passage in “Christopher’s Story”:
Christopher Doyle was a very naughty boy.
In his personal testimony on the Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) website, where he served as a board member, Doyle admitted to a rather shocking crime. He wrote that during his youth, his mom ran a daycare facility, which gave him access to the kids in his mother’s charge. In his online confession, “Christopher’s Story”, he claimed that he molested some of these children.
“I tried to have sex with the little girls that my mother watched in her daycare, and eventually, one of the girls told her parents what I was doing. The shame that was placed on me by my parents was more than I could bear. Rather than rescue me, teach me, and put me in counseling, the ‘bad boy’ was left alone to deal with all of this shame.”
Instead of taking personal responsibility for his criminal behavior and the psychological damage he surely caused his prey, Doyle pitifully casts himself as a victim. One wonders why he wasn’t arrested and sentenced to a juvenile detention center. In lieu of doing time, or getting the help he so desperately needed, the largely untreated Doyle went on to pursue his own counseling career. I’m no psychological expert, but the mental health industry probably isn’t a good fit for a man with Doyle’s professed proclivities.
It seems that much of Christopher’s alleged violence and dysfunction stem from his “ex-gay” experience. The court documents reveal a portrait of a neurotic man always trying to prove his heterosexuality, sometimes by allegedly forcing sex on his wife. The Counterclaim states:
- The Husband is an ex-homosexual…and has further made sexual relations a focal point of his life and the parties’ marriage to a level of abuse of the Wife.
- May 2016 the Husband was demanding the Wife have sexual relations with him and the Wife refused. This enraged the Husband and he pushed the Wife down on a bed, got on top of her and punched her in the face.
- November 2013 the Husband became enraged because the Wife would not perform oral sex on him. The Husband screamed, yelled and threw a heavy mixing bowl at the Wife, narrowly missing her head. The Wife was pregnant at the time.
- The Husband attended sexual addiction class for approximately one year because he could not cope with the Wife’s refusal to have sexual relations with him upon demand.
- The Husband would frequently use pornography to satisfy his sexual urges and at least one time bragged about hiring a prostitute.
As the divorce proceeded, Christopher allegedly tried to make his wife suffer consequences. In one document (Jan. 13, 2021) Sherry’s legal team accused Christopher of “scorched earth tactics.” Although Doyle reportedly made $215,000 per year, the documents state he was “currently paying no support to the wife and children.” He reportedly, “proceeded to terminate the Wife’s access to any of the parties’ joint financial resources” and “terminated the wife from life insurance”, as well as “threatened to terminate the Wife from the family health insurance plan.” (The court has subsequently ordered Christopher to pay child support)
A former client of Christopher’s, in 2011, Jared Dixon, expressed disgust with the allegations made against his former therapist. While in therapy, Doyle idealized heterosexuality and belittled LGBTQ relations.
“Chris proudly professed that he was living his dreams in a heterosexual marriage,” said Dixon. “He interjected with his thoughts about LGBTQ life, including multiple sexual partners, drug and alcohol abuse, and narcissism. He told us that gay men were highly narcissistic, which explained why many of them did not have children. Leaving those sessions made me feel hopeless, depressed, and suicidal. He’s a total hypocrite and I hope that other survivors of Chris Doyle’s brand of conversion therapy find closure through this revelation.”
Christopher Doyle might fancy himself a “Christian therapist”, but if his divorce papers are any indication, it seems the counselor is in desperate need of a spiritual awakening and sessions with a team of legitimate therapists to help him wrestle with his inner demons.
“Christopher Doyle would force me to talk about my sexual feelings in his therapy session,” said Matt Ashcroft, another former client of Doyle’s. “Judging by his now exposed anger and violence, I finally know why. I am glad that he is exposed. Our community is safer.”