More on Exodus’ New Guidelines for Youth

I am at a Quaker high school retreat in Chicago this weekend, so my Internet time is very limited, but I wanted to add a few more details because people are rightly concerned for the welfare of young people in Exodus programs.

Although clearly inappropriate, the incidents that I related to Alan Chambers last July did not include criminal acts. The incidents revolved around interactions between adult and youth participants in an Exodus member ministry. Even though the incidents did not require contacting authorities at that time, the situations and the conditions that existed, (and as far as I know still exist), at the Exodus member ministry where these situations occurred, were such that minors were at risk for potential harm.

In our conversation, Alan also expressed concern along with his intention to create guidelines that would ensure the safety of youth under Exodus member ministries’ care.

At that time I told Alan that I believe it is inappropriate and harmful to do any sort of ex-gay therapy on youth and with youth, particularly against their will. Knowing that Exodus will continue to do so, it is necessary that they do everything in their power to protect these young people.

The non-violent work that I do involves attempting to connect with people to create a “win-win” situation if at all possible. Building relationships, shedding assumptions, believing the best in people are all part of my Christian testimony. Joe Brummer outlines some of these non-violent steps in his most recent post. I don’t hate Alan or Exodus. I have used much restraint in hopes of seeing real change.

Some of us who feel we have been wounded by the ex-gay ministries and the anti-gay church may have sometimes wish to do them harm and to think the worse, to malign them the way that we feel they malign the LGBT community. For me Jesus’ teachings is that I should seek to do good and speak out against injustice but not exact revenge.

Perhaps some people would love there to be a major Exodus scandal. I want to see one avoided.

Alan has the power to keep young people from being harmed under his watch. He shared that he will bring forth new guidelines that will protect youth. I believe these should minimally include:

  1. Complete separation of youth and adult participants at all Exodus member programs and Exodus sponsored events.
  2. Full background checks for all staff working with youth.
  3. No youth should be enrolled in a program against his or her will.

If nothing else it this just good business and lowers their liability, but much more importantly it shows a genuine love and respect for these young people.

This post has 15 Comments

  1. Anonymous on January 13, 2007 at 5:29 am

    hey if you are in chicago check out an gay youth organization called horizons. I was a youth there many moons ago and I remember the rather strict guidlines they had as well as how protective they were of youth.

  2. Liadan on January 13, 2007 at 5:48 am

    I sincerely doubt that they’ll ever comply with the third guideline. I’d expect, based on my general experience with my own generation being far more gay-accepting than my parents’, that at least half (if not more like two-thirds) of their youth are teenagers or college-age young adults forced to attend by parents. If they comply with that one, they might as well not HAVE a youth program.

  3. Steve on January 13, 2007 at 8:02 am

    I really do respect the way you are carring out this complaint. Solutions are seldom found with angry words and insults, but are often found with a shared sense of concern.

    I’m just shocked at how dismissive Exodus and Alan appear to be, especially when the integrity of their organisation is at stake. Maybe they can dismiss my assumptions of them, and actually show concern about their own integrity, but I just have the feeling that even if they do it on this occasion, it won’t be taken to heart.

  4. Scotmagicman on January 13, 2007 at 9:03 am

    Peterson, I so admire you for what you are doing here and for the way in which you are doing it. Joe Brummer’s outline is really good – and particularly helpful to me at this time. If all those in conflict situation could come to resolution this way….

  5. M on January 13, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    This may not be a good post to say this on, but I wanted to let you know that I linked to your blog via mine and wanted to ask if that is okay.

    I wish you best of luck in your endeavors. You are doing amazing work – keep it up. And I sincerely hope that last guideline becomes enforced.

  6. grace on January 13, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    I knew that kids were entered against their will…but the other two…oh my!!! I’d had thought that would have been something they were all ready doing. Yikes!

    I’m not agreeing with the “against their will” part either. Just commenting. 🙂

    Maybe we can talk soon!

  7. Joe Brummer on January 14, 2007 at 4:09 am

    I have gone into middle schools and taught nonviolence to children. It is hard to get them to see that this works.

    I have taught nonviolence to community groups and again, it is hard to prove to them it works.

    You have given me the opportunity to show them real life evidence that nonviolence works. I am confident that Alan Chambers will do the right thing. I believe you are on Step Number 5 of Direct Action to apply gentle pressure on Exodus to do the right thing. I know this will work. Mostly I am happy the goal is reconciliation with Alan. When these guidelines are put into place Exodus wins, We win, and more importantly the kids win…it is a win-win and no one walks away bitter. It is these steps that create peace even in cultual wars. When we cannot all agree on things, we must negotiate for the best to bring about the Beloved community.

    I love the statement from Gandhi….Nonviolence is not about bringing your adversary to their knees, but bring them to their sense. I am so happy you are working towards such a compassionate outcome.

    Much love and admiration.


  8. Peterson Toscano on January 14, 2007 at 4:10 am

    thanks anonymous. This trip I will have little time. After a VERY FULL schedule with the teens today, I am exhausted. We did this really cool Bible study, Bibliodrama, where we acted up step by step some parts of the Gospels. Very powerful and the teens really got into it. Great stuff, but it wipes me out!

    liadan, you may be right about that. We shall see and hope.

    steve, thanks you are a so helpful to me.

    scotmagicman, so glad Brummer’s piece was helpful. It is Martin Luther King, JR weekend here in the states, so his Brummer’s words are timely. I think I may do a post about King and his non-violence mentor, Bayard Rustin, a wonderful Queer Quaker Black man who has been almost lost in history.

    m, thanks, can’t wait to see your blog.

    grace, I know! You would think with an organization as large as Exodus with such close ties to Focus on the Family that they would be better prepared for the work they do. But it may reveal the heart of their ministry that it is not about helping people who are looking for help but rather pushing an agenda that is more political than spiritual.

    Okay, time to go to bed!

  9. Peterson Toscano on January 14, 2007 at 4:12 am

    Ah, Joe, you posted that just as I was posted my comments. Thanks for that and for the Gandhi quote. Something to chew on for a LONG time.

  10. Mike Airhart on January 14, 2007 at 6:55 am

    None of us, including Peterson Toscano, is qualified to decide what’s legal and what’s not, for purposes of police action.

    Nor are we qualified to decide whether incidents are of interest to state regulators.

    Those decisions are ONLY for regulators, judges and courts to decide.

    Did Toscano report the offenses to qualified authorities, as he is ethically obligated to do?

  11. Christine on January 14, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    There are pretty basic guidelines, though, right? Either something is a criminal act or it isn’t. I think most of us know what laws are as far as minimum age, or what constitutes consent, for example.

    If someone has done something that I am sure is not criminal activity, even though it may be very very wrong and harmful, I have no “ethical obligation” to report it to the authorities, especially when they aren’t going to do anything.

    There are many things that are clearly not criminal but are still wrong and should not be happening in churches and ministries and I think that it’s possible that people can make those assessments.

    I have seen many things go on in churches or Christian ministries that are just plain wrong and hurt other people, including youth. But that doesn’t mean they are criminal. Hell, even dragging your kid to Love In Action isn’t criminal (unfortunately).

    I think that Peterson knows what the laws are, and I think that if he knew about something that was criminal activity he would have reported it as such to the authorities.

    (by the way, out of curiousity, why post on someone’s blog and not address the questions personally?)

  12. Anonymous on January 15, 2007 at 1:06 am

    The line of what constitutes a crime or a legally sanctionable harm isn’t so clear as “I know it when I see it.” Negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress… these are both recognized as grounds for civil liability under certain circumstances. As to crimes… well, roughly speaking, a crime is anything the state chooses to punish as against the moral conscience of the community, so long as there is a pre-existing statute against the behavior and the perpetrator is morally culpable. Since these guys take on a duty of care for the juveniles in their custody, harm that comes to them might well be sanctionable – legislatures are pretty thorough about laws protecting kids. I’m not a lawyer – just rambling my thoughts.

  13. nonsequitur on January 15, 2007 at 1:27 am

    Peterson, both on your blog and other ex-gay related websites I have followed your method of action concerning this issue. If the offenses committed were not a case of clear-cut criminal activity, then your course of action in this case is, I believe, the most prudent and effective way of handling it in the long-term. May you continue to be blessed with presence of mind in the midst of the mini-drama that this has spawned. 🙂

  14. Elliot on January 15, 2007 at 1:59 am

    I think that what you’re doing by posting this is really great. I’m proud of you. And I thank you for doing it.

    But I have to agree with liadan’s statement about how they probably won’t agree with the third guideline. I mean, parents could coach their children to say that they want to go into the programs even if they are totally against it. Their parents could threaten them that if they don’t go to the program, they will be kicked out. I know some people who, if that was their ultimatum, they would choose to go into the programs as opposed to being strong and making their own decisions about that kind of thing. Parents can be very manipulative to their children, and Exodus might be able to trick youth into entering their program by saying that they offer things that “regular” teens appreciate. That promise of inclusion could be intoxicating to youth who just don’t feel like they fit in anywhere else. Believe me — I used to be that kind of kid. But I’m not anymore, for the record, and I’m much happier for it.

  15. David Roberts on January 15, 2007 at 2:45 am

    None of us is beyond making bad decisions, misguided mistakes, even with the best of intentions. There is nothing wrong with questioning, even out loud, the decisions that Peterson made concerning an issue with deep moral implications. To that end, I would have to disagree with some of the comments above – I don’t trust any human being beyond my conscience.

    That said, after discussing this with Peterson in more detail, I am confident now that he is handling this situation correctly and responsibly. Should I have further concerns however, I won’t hesitate to call him 😉

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