The False Image of LIA

John Smid and me-Graduation 1998 (above) & John Smid today (left)

By now many have heard that Tennessee’s Department of Mental Health & Developmental Disabilities determined that the “ex-gay” program, Love in Action, is operating two “unlicensed mental health supportive living facilities”. LIA has until Friday, September 23 to respond.

If LIA statements in Eartha Jane Melzer’s article are indicative to how the “change” program might respond, we may see LIA change right before our eyes from a clinical mental health compound into a house of praise and worship.

Gerard Wellman, business administrator for Love in Action, and a former Love in Action client, said Sept. 13 that the organization has been in contact with the state but would not comment further.

“As a church, we operate under a different set of rules,” Wellman said.

Curious, and what rules might these be?

What is even more curious is that according to LIA’s site only one staff member advertises as a licensed minister–The Rev. John Smid.
But what does that really mean?

When parents with concerns about a child’s sexual and spiritual welfare turn to someone with the title of minister, they may do so with certain assumptions. They may assume that a minister…

  • Has been trained for ministry.
  • Attended seminary
  • Took college courses in theology, psychology, and counseling
  • Received a Master of Divinity degree (MDiv)

They may further assume that only after a supervised internship and an intensive review by a church board, that someone can receive the honor and responsibility to serve as an ordained minister.

That’s what the majority of ministers in the US do to earn the credibility to lead a congregation and give out spiritual advice.

But John Smid never attended seminary. In fact, the highest degree he holds is a high school diploma. He was handed the title of “Rev.” by Germantown Baptist Church.

John Smid, who never took psych 101 or any college-level counseling course, denounces the American Psychiartic Association’s professional assessment of homosexuality. Not only has he been running a mental health facility without a license, he has done so without the training.

John Smid, who never attended seminary or even audited an undergraduate Bible class, publically expounds on what the Bible has to say about same-gender loving people and false images.

The Rev. John Smid presents a false image of himself to the world. I can overlook the full head of hair he added to his look a couple of years ago, (apparently to hide a small unsightly scar from surgery), but to claim that LIA is a church or a ministry because the execuitve director received the title of minister (without receiving any of the training) smacks of deception.

In the end, LIA may continue to carry on without a license as they parade as a “ministry”. Although they may ultimately be allowed to legally operate behind a flimsy fabricated religious cloth, what they do can never be called ethical.

While in the LIA program, we were expected to confront each other when we suspected a fellow participant of hiding behind a false image. We were told that homosexuals often hid behind masks to cover our true identities. (We even had to shave everyday so that we did not hide behind our facial hair.) The stafff instructed that we used false images to make us look better in the eyes of others. We used these fasle images to cover over our insecurities.

John Smid proudly displays the title of Rev. and refers to himself as a licensed minster in statements to the press, and in so doing deceives people to believe that he and the program he leads are authorities in regards to therapy, mental health and spiritual well-being.

In words I learned during my two years in LIA, I say to John Smid, “I want to challenge about your false image.”

This post has 12 Comments

  1. car on September 18, 2005 at 11:57 pm

    Thank God for John Smid, we need to get these filthy hippy queers out of the conservative church!

  2. Anvilcloud on September 19, 2005 at 4:14 am

    Peterson, you need to read this blog of mine. It’s very funny. It’s in response to a comment that I got from one of your fans. I think you’ll like it.

  3. Willie Hewes on September 19, 2005 at 6:54 pm

    False image. Indeed. Or, in other words, it’s a scam.

    I liked the “We operate under a different set of rules” line. “We don’t have to comply with the law, we’re a religious group.” Yeah, that’s a valid argument. I can just imagine the reactions if Bin Laden was to claim that. “We operate under a different set of rules. We believe God instructs us to destroy your country.” “Oh, that’s all right then, Mr Laden! We didn’t know this was about Religion! Of course you don’t have to follow our laws!”

    LIA’s mix of pseudo psychology and religion annoys me, because I know it’s going to pull people in that would otherwise turn away. The whole pseudo-Freudian “you-weren’t-close-enough-with-your-father” crap… It’s just a theory they came up with, there has been no research, they just decided it was true because they wanted it to be. It makes me mad.

    And reminds me of this online comic from Truth for Youth. It’s bad science at its worst. I don’t think it’s bad to tell teenagers to wait with having sex, whether for Jesus or any other reason, in fact I think it’s a good thing to wait. But telling them condoms don’t work is evil. And I don’t use that word lightly.

    The character in that comic, unsurprisingly, is not convinced by the Jesus freak but by the stat monkey (who lies). They lie because they have to. Smid pretends that what he does is psychologically sound because he has to. He knows it wouldn’t work half as well if he was actually truthful about what he offers. It’d be pathetic if it wasn’t so dangerous.

    OK, on a lighter note, check the three ads google ads I got for this blog, they illustrate the point perfectly:

    Free Instant Ordination: Be a legally ordained clergy person Perform weddings, baptisms, etc.

    Fast Christian Ordainment: Be ordained fast to do weddings and religious services everywhere.

    Mental Health: Financial support, health services rights for disabled people, & more

  4. Anonymous on September 20, 2005 at 1:59 am

    Peterson- nicely done. much love- Stuart

  5. Anonymous on September 20, 2005 at 4:15 am

    Thank you Peterson for all that you are doing to open people’s eyes to the truth of these programs. You are often in my prayers.


  6. Jeff Harwood on September 20, 2005 at 5:01 pm

    Keep up the good work, Peterson. I am continually proud of you.

  7. Peterson Toscano on September 20, 2005 at 8:09 pm

    John Smid can “technically” use the title Rev. because a Southern Baptist Church gave it to him. He is a “licensed” minister and not an ordained minister. Most licensed ministers can marry people and preach in a specific local church. I don’t know if Smid ever claimed to be ordained, but the key thing is that he uses the term Rev in such a way to command authority in the work he does. He is a licensed lay minister and not an ordained minister. In other words he has none of the training of a minister but can use the title. Most licensed ministers do not use the title except within a local congregation. John has broadened the use of his to extend into the media and by doing so misleads people to think that he has the education and oversight that most ministers possess.

  8. EJ on September 21, 2005 at 1:32 am

    A well thought out and expertly written response, Peterson. Thanks for all of your continued support to the folks here in Memphis. I am going to have vegan BBQ Nachos RIGHT NOW in celebration!

  9. Clint from GCN on September 22, 2005 at 1:35 am

    I grew up in a denomination in which it is very rare for a pastor to have more than a Bachelor’s degree, and even a freshman or sophomore may take on *his* first church. This is mainly four two reasons. One was because of a gradual split in the denomination, starting ca. 1920, that roughly paralleled the fundamentalist/liberal split in greater American Christendom at the time. Many churches were getting pastors more liberally educated than they were prepared for, so they bucked the trend, started their own schools, etc. Another reason is the belief that only a cruel God would give us a Bible difficult to understand. They believe that to presume that the Bible can only be trusted in hands of the highly educated (and, since this is America, moneyed), is arrogant and dangerous.

    I recognise the flaws in the thinking. But it is important to recognise that the belief that a pastor must have lots of education is hardly universal.


  10. Peterson Toscano on September 22, 2005 at 11:15 am

    Clint, as a Quaker, I completely agree with you that one does not any formal training to minister in a worship service. We are all ministers because the Light of Christ in us directs and empowers us for service.

    Sure a minister of a local church with the daily pastoral and preaching duties does not need any formal education.

    Love in Action is not a local church. It is an intensive program that works with people to address issues of sexuality. Many of these people have suffered from mental illness (depression, bipolar disorder, etc).

    This sort of work extends far beyond the daily operation of a church. Beacause of the lack of education, the staff at LIA and their actions damage their participants. They ignore, misunderstand or outright reject any view contrary to theirs and refuse to acknowledge the scholarship that has gone before.

    John Smid, using the title of minister, deceives himself and others into believing that he can address the deep spiritual and psychological needs of the people he has taken under his care.

  11. Travis on September 22, 2005 at 5:25 pm

    I find it interesting that LIA (Love in Action) also counsels individuals with alcohol and drug abuse problems. It seems as if they place homosexuality in just as “bad of a category”. I recently broke up with my boyfriend. Our relationship did not fit what most of society, particularly many “Christians”, believe being gay to be. We did not do drugs or party every night. Most of our time together was spent cuddling, talking, joking around, and really communicating and getting to know each other. I cannot think of any better example of a healthy relationship.

    I do not blame LIA for our problems, as we have all as homosexuals had to deal with being both Christian and gay at some point: Being told as children that we are going to hell, being made fun of by people who don’t understand. However, I do blame certain “Christian” organizations who, without proper training and knowledge of what being homosexual REALLY is, continue to ruin innocent lives.


  12. Anonymous on September 22, 2008 at 4:07 am

    I used to be on staff with LIA. At that time they, we, genuinely loved the guys and believed in the message. We were never focused on outward appearance. Something must have changed.

    I’ve changed my beliefs about homosexuality and religion, but my time there was invaluable.

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