Love in Action quietly closed the Refuge program. This was a nearly two-month long intensive ex-gay program for young people under the age of 18. Many of these young people attended against their will, forced by their parents who wanted to straighten out their kids.
This program is closed. But Love in Action is still in business.
In early May I wrote about my parents and the painful experiences they had when they attended Love in Action’s Family and Friends weekend. In the post, What About the Parents? I also mentioned how Love in Action recently announced the launch of a new program–The Family Freedom Intensive.
This four day seminar targets parents of lesbian, gay and questioning youth. The Family Freedom Intensive is a concentrated four-day course designed for parents with teens struggling with same-sex attraction, pornography, and/or promiscuity. Lecture, workshops, and break-out discussion groups give parents the information and tools to defend righteousness in their homes while interacting with their family in healthy respect.
Four days to deconstruct the family, to look at “root” causes, to unearth family dysfunction, to assert the father’s authority over wife and children in the family and to infect the parents with blame and shame. At least that is what my parents got when they went to Love in Action. Of the experience my father recently told me,
They made me feel that I failed you. That’s how I felt after they got through with me. That’s how they made all the parents feel.
I recently spoke by phone with recent participant of Love in Action about his family’s experience. He couldn’t speak about the experience without breaking down. He expressed heartache and anger. The relationship he had with his family fell apart as a direct result of the intervention they endured by Love in Action’s untrained staff. He sees no easy way to repair it.
I try hard to see the humanity and good intentions of ex-gay leaders like John Smid, whose programs have caused most of us more harm than good. I try to tell myself and others that they mean well, thathey really believe they have something good to offer and that they are doing it out of their sense of calling to God and others.
But with the Family Freedom Intensive, I find it much harder to extend this same consideration. Sure, unlike Refuge it is for parents who elect to be there and apparently youth can only attend the four days if they are willing to do so, but what are the costs?
Well, we spent time this past weekend looking at the emotionally, psychological and spiritual damage many of us experienced after we submitted ourselves to the care of ex-gay therapists and ministers. We know firsthand how our relationships have been impacted even today. And yes, we know of the financial costs.
I spent over $30,000 pursuing ways to change or suppress (or at least manage) my same-sex attractions. Much of that was spent at Love in Action, which at that time cost $950 each month. Altogether I attended for a little over two years. Before LIA, there was the specialized counseling in Colorado Springs that my then wife and I paid several thousand dollars to receive. Then there were the books, the conferences, the seminars, and the tapes I paid for. This stuff is expensive.
In keeping with that tradition, Love in Action charges for their Freedom Family Intensive. I was FLOORED when I saw the cost of the four(4) day seminar. Four days–take a guess at how much that would cost? $400? Gosh that would be $100 per day. Nope, it costs more than that. $1000? Nope. Guess again.
According to Love in Action’s web site (check while you can, they have had a habit of rewriting their site once folks blog about it), the cost of these four days under the supervision, care and ministry of the untrained Love in Action staff costs $2000 for parents. Should you bring your queer child along it costs $3000!
Good news! If you can’t afford the fee, (and who can???), you can encourage your family and friends to give tax-deductible donation. Love in Action is a ministry after all.
I feel thrilled that John Smid chose to finally close the Refuge program. I am not sure all of his reasons, and he will most likely release something about this some time. Perhaps he realized that having youth and adults in session caused them more harm than good, that forcing young people to attend and sit in sessions without any contact with the outside world actually caused some of them to be despondent and dishonest as they faked it until they were able to make it out of their houses or through college.
John, I ask you to consider the weighty burden you place on parents’ backs when you infer that they mess up their children. I know you don’t use those words, but for many of these parents, that is what they hear. Just like many of the youth and adults in your program walked away hearing the inferred messages that we are messed up and sinful simply because of the desires they feel and our inability or unwillingness to suppress them.
John, you want to see change in these families. As for my own, my parents were never the same after they passed through your ministry. They felt depressed and guilty. They felt blamed. You wounded them even though you intended to help them and me. No one can afford that sort of misery, particularly at the prices you charge.