Juxtaposing the two videos is jarring.
Video number one is an excerpt from a documentary, Chasing the Devil, where the International Healing Foundation’s (IHF) founder, Richard Cohen, is completely unhinged and bares his fangs.
“And they took over, they put their faces in the faces of the people,” Cohen barks as he leans in towards the camera. “And they said, ‘how dare you. And they said, ‘We’re going to kill you, you F’n this and that. We’re here, we’re queer, you better get used to it!’”
In the second video, which appears on a syrupy new website site, Coming Out Loved, Cohen is eerily calm and speaks in a soothing voice as new age music floats softly in the background. Wearing a white, preppy tennis jacket, the “ex-gay” therapist tries to portray himself as conciliatory figure by declaring, “Us versus them is so over.”
Cohen’s superficial new website is designed to trick people into believing that IHF offers an accepting environment, rather than the fount of judgment it truly is. Clearly, Cohen can read the polls and is trying to tone down his bilious rhetoric in an age where more than half of Americans support marriage equality. The problem with this insincere effort is that Cohen and IHF have a long, shameful history that won’t be easy to rewrite.
For example, in his disingenuous video Cohen states, “Before founding the International Healing Foundation, I volunteered for three years in the gay community. I wanted to show my love to all gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender men and women.”
In reality, Cohen’s stint with LGBT community was an unmitigated disaster. After leaving a religious sex cult in Seattle that practiced nude therapy in church, Cohen was hired as an HIV educator for the American Red Cross.
“The Gay and Lesbian Task Force of the mayor’s office in Seattle requested that the American Red Cross fire me,” Cohen wrote in Coming Out Straight. “Their reason was that I was homophobic and spreading hate.”
Instead of truly loving gay people, Cohen proselytized to the sick and imparted shame to people who needed support. What we are talking about is a shameless individual who has no compunction about harming vulnerable people and twists reality like it’s a ballpark pretzel.
Dishonesty permeated Cohen’s work as a counselor in Maryland, where he was permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association in 2002 for multiple ethics violations, which included peddling his products to clients.
In his new video, Cohen tries to portray himself as a beacon of family values and depicts a fairytale marriage to his wife, Jae Sook. In reality, he met his spouse for the first time at a mass Moonie wedding and then proceeded to cheat on her with men, even as he portrayed himself as a former homosexual.
“It was a very bizarre time,” Cohen writes in his book. “I was running around New York City with my boyfriend, and she was at home taking care of our son, knowing her husband was out with a man.”
Given Cohen’s temper, it might have been better that the self-described “rageaholic” wasn’t at home.
“My rage got so bad that I even felt like killing her at times…At home, Dr. Jekyll turned into Mr. Hyde.”
Cohen’s staff is also knee deep in the extreme makeover. For instance, IHF staffer Christopher Doyle is all smiles when he appears in another video on the site. What IHF is not telling clients is that Doyle, who works with youth, admits to sexually molesting girls when he was an adolescent.
“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.”
As of press time, Doyle has not returned a call requesting that he reveal the ages of the girls he admits to sexually abusing.
A second staffer, Caleb Lee Brundidge, is known for his efforts to “raise the dead.” When he wasn’t helping corpses levitate, he went to Uganda in 2009 for an anti-gay conference that featured Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively. The end result of this monstrosity was the introduction of the “kill the gays” bill in Uganda. Despite this ignominious history, Brundidge appears in a slick IHF video cynically holding a sign, “I love hanging out with the gays.”
No doubt the gays will be hanging if Uganda’s Anti-homosexuality bill ever passes. So, don’t be fooled, Coming Out Loved is simply an exercise in deception that hijacks the language of love to mask a significant history of hate.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”