Randy Thomas, Exodus’ Director of Membership appeared for a radio interview on the Adam Carolla Show. They invited Randy under the guise of asking him questions about the Ted Haggard situation, but really they just went after him for his ex-gay lifestyle and his role in “change” ministries.
Regardless of their intent, they ended up getting Randy to talk about Exodus’ ministry and mission. Randy makes it clear that Exodus does not force people to attend their ministries.
Randy: We provide help for those who have unwanted homosexuality live their lives in a way congruent with their faith.
Carolla: So you have to not want to be gay. You can’t be wrestled in by a family member. You have to want to be in this program.
Randy: Absolutely. We respect a person’s right to self-determination.
Carolla: So Randy, How many people, how many successful folks do you think your company has dealt with over the years?
Randy: Our ministry has been around for 30 years. And I’m, you know, I’ve done an informal survey. We have about 11,000 people in our different groups and things of that nature every week. So I will say at least hundreds of thousands over 30 years.
Carolla: And again, are, you’re not interested in getting people to go straight who aren’t interested in going straight.
Randy: Right, we respect self-determination.
This confuses me. Perhaps Exodus has made a radical departure from the way they have been going about things these past two years. At the 2005 Exodus conference, keynote speaker Jerry Falwell railed against the dangers of homosexuality. Eartha Jane Melzer writing for Southern Voice reported on July 25, 2005
Falwell compared allowing a child to identify as gay with allowing children to play on the interstate and dismissed psychologists’ claims that consent is fundamental to a healthy counseling relationship and that parents should not force their gay kids into therapy.
Melzer, in another piece about the conference, referred to the story of Zach Stark, who was forced to attend Exodus’s flagship program Love in Action/Refuge that same summer. She refers to ex-gay proponent, Dr. Warren Throckmorton as he shares his opinion about forcing youth into ex-gay programs.
Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a psychologist and “sexual reorientation counselor,” criticized the approach of Love In Action and Zach’s parents, arguing that consent is critical to successful counseling, so parents shouldn’t force their children to participate.
Of course Falwell is an outsider to Exodus, an invited guest, so he may not know what is kosher in the Exodus world.
John Smid, the director of Love in Action, Intl, Inc., a former Exodus Board member and a frequent speaker at Exodus events and at Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out Conferences (a conference designed to help parents and pastors sort out queer youth) believes it is okay to take youth into his program against their will. He said this to me directly when we spoke over a year ago right before the Zack Stark story broke. I asked him about an eye-witness report of a 16-year-old lesbian placed in his program against her will in January 2005.
But you don’t have to trust my memory on this. Smid’s web site itself confirms this view in their Frequently Asked Questions section on their Refuge site, ironically self-proclaimed “a safe place for youth to be real!” (Here is the google cache of the page should it suddenly disappear)
Do parents have the right to force their child to come to our program?
There are currently no laws prohibiting Christian parents from rearing their children according to their faith. Because Refuge International, Inc., is a Christian discipleship ministry, no belief is forced on anyone; in Scripture, Jesus Christ never forced anyone to believe in Him.
What will happen if I make my child come against his/her will?
Again, as we trust in the inerrancy of God’s Word, we adhere to the commandments for relationships between parents and children. We believe God is faithful to bless those who strive for obedience to His commands.
So my confusion. Randy talks about helping only those who want to change. He claims that Exodus respects a person’s right to self-determination. So are youth not considered people? Is John Smid running his program contrary to Exodus’ stated principles? Is Randy being dishonest (aka lying) to improve Exodus’ public image? Did Randy misspeak having forgotten all about the protests against Love in Action/Refuge and the international bad press that program received?
I left Randy a voice mail to see if he would be willing to discuss this with me; he has not yet responded.
Now if memory serves me correctly, Zack Stark is not the only person to have been placed in an Exodus affiliated program against his will.