It would be insane to demand that universities dispense materials that might lead to students having mental health problems or committing suicide. Yet, The Washington Times reports that a Christian legal outfit, Liberty Counsel, is doing just that. They are sending threatening letters to Virginia’s top universities calling on them to carry “ex-gay” literature or face lawsuits.
This legal posturing is in response to an undercover “report” created by “ex-gay” activist Christopher Doyle, who is the founder of Voice of the Voiceless:
“While it appears that the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students are being adequately served” on Virginia campuses, “there exists a population of individuals that are either questioning their sexual orientation and/or have unwanted same-sex attraction that may not be receiving equivalent support,” the report said.
There are seven universities being targeted by these rabidly anti-gay activists: George Mason University, James Madison University, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Old Dominion University, and College of William and Mary.
If any of these universities are foolish enough to take the bait, they are setting themselves up for major lawsuits. The American Psychiatric Association could not be clearer when it says that attempts to change sexual orientation can lead to “anxiety, depression, and self-destructive behavior.”
A press release headline and sub-headline from the American Psychological Association’s landmark 2009 report on “ex-gay” therapy summarizes the organization’s position: “No evidence that sexual orientation change efforts work, says APA….Practitioners should avoid telling clients that they can change from gay to straight.”
At the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting, August 10, 2006, the organization released the following statement: “For over three decades the consensus of the mental health community has been that homosexuality is not an illness and therefore not in need of a cure. The APA’s concern about the position’ espoused by NARTH and so-called conversation therapy is that they are not supported by the science. There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Our further concern is that the positions espoused by NARTH and Focus on the Family create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.”
If a student at any of these universities harms themselves after reading “ex-gay” brochures, officials at these colleges could be held liable. With such clear and unambiguous warnings from the mental health establishment, there is zero justification to litter the classroom with propaganda that helps “create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.” To ignore these stark admonitions is reckless, irresponsible, and a glaring example of negligence.
Yet, Voice of the Voiceless founder, Christopher Doyle, claims that negotiations are ongoing to “make meaningful policy reforms for the 2014-2015 school year.” Doyle and Liberty Counsel’s central argument is that universities must “balance” the viewpoints of mental health and medical experts with the religious opinions of ideological, anti-gay extremists. This would be as absurd as forcing institutions of higher learning to balance African American studies with material from racist organizations or including creationist brochures to counter evolutionary biology lessons.
Furthermore, Doyle wants to distribute materials that include information from the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). This group has been quite explicit on its advice for adolescents. According to NARTH board member Gerard ven den Aardweg:
“I suggest that as a preferable reaction to young people who disclose their secret feelings something like this: You may indeed feel that interest in your own sex, but it is still a question of immaturity. By nature, you are not that way. Your heterosexual nature has not yet awakened. What we have to discuss is a personality problem, your inferiority complex.”
In what universe is such unscientific, inflammatory rhetoric healthy for the psychosexual development of college youth?
The truth is that the modern “ex-gay” myth is not a real movement. Anti-gay activists in a stealth committee in Colorado Springs conceived of the idea to promote this lie. At a 1997 meeting of Religious Right donors known as The Gathering, anti-gay activist Herb Schlossberg said that “ex-gay” advertising efforts that were soon to be launched in 1998, were designed to “help us in the public relations area.”
University administrators should be aware of what is happening and should not be bullied into participating in the Religious Right’s PR campaign to smear LGBT people. All they have to do is embrace modern science and point out the homophobic nature of the literature championed by “ex-gay” activists, as well as the bizarre techniques that they use. These methods include “touch therapy,” where the student is asked to cuddle with the counselor.
Virginia’s universities are under no obligation to help political organizations peddle harmful anti-gay junk science and hate speech under the auspices of “viewpoint discrimination.”
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”