What’s Next for LIA? Not So Simple

Saskatoon Jail
Originally uploaded by p2son.

Tomorrow is the deadline for LIA to respond to the state of TN allegations that Christian “ex-gay” program runs a mental health facility without a license. Some news reports and blogs mistakenly proclaimed the end to LIA. It is not that simple.

LIA can find ways to skirt the state’s requirements and legally proceed with their operations. Being connected to the two largest Southern Baptist Churches in Tennessee, LIA will most likely use the power and privilege of their church connections to get pro bono legal representation and may even turn to elected officials to plead their case.

Forget about the separation of church and state. In a case like this, LIA will use every contact they have to find the loop holes that will keep them in business.

I know lots of people hope for the end of LIA, but it is not that simple. Although they like to portray themselves as oppressed underdog with little power, Christian groups like LIA draw from huge resources through groups like Focus on the Family, the Christian Legal Society and mega churches like Bellevue and Germantown Baptist in the Memphis suburbs.

Sheltered under the church banner, LIA will assert that they do the Lord’s work and as a ministry, do not have to follow the same rules as others.

Will LIA react defensively and in their relentless drive to “help” others in spite of the evidence of the harm they cause, seek to exploit soft spots in TN state law? Or will they honestly assess their history and their limitations and humbly make needed changes to their program?

I believe John Smid has some of God in him, and if he stops talking and defending himself long enough, he might hear that still small voice of God showing him a better way.

This post has 3 Comments

  1. Bob P. on September 22, 2005 at 2:58 pm

    In a meeting earlier this week with the Tennessee Department of
    Licensure, LiA showed its political muscle. Two Tennessee state
    representatives along with a competent attorney attended the meeting
    in favor of Love in Action.

    According to licensure requirements, LiA cannot house anymore than
    one person who falls under the state’s jurisdiction. At this time,
    LiA has two persons who are considered “mentally ill.”

    Even though LiA was adamant about the fact that they do not fall
    under the state’s guidelines since they are a “ministry,” it was made
    known during the meeting that one of the two clients in question will
    be discharged by this weekend.

  2. Anonymous on September 22, 2005 at 11:42 pm

    OK, I am a bit more confused…
    Exactly WHO where the two Tenn State Reps? And by what authority and reason where they at this meeting?

    And this business about “anymore than one person who falls under the state’s jurisdiction.”
    Exactly WHAT is “States jurisdiction”? What exactly does that mean?

    Its not a surprize that LIAr would exploit the letter of the law in order to avoid fulfilling the spirit of the law.

    But what about the whole business of taking on unwilling minors in a way that directly contradicts what all of the medical proffessions have to say about that?

    Is their gambit one of finding ways that they DO NOT need state licensing? Or finding ways that they can GET state licensing? Just from what little I have seen, I suspect that they are trying to find a reason why they dont need state licensing.

    If they where to get state licensing, then they would be much MORE subject to inspections and rules to follow and therefore punishments and responsability.
    Obviously they dont want that.

    I hope that people in Memphis realize that if LIAr can have advocates at these kinds of meetings, then so can any opposition.

  3. Bob Painter on September 23, 2005 at 3:44 am


    I don’t know at this time who the TN representatives were, but I have a credible source and believe this to be true. Morgan for of Queer Action Coalition is seeking an interview with the Department of Licensure to ask the same questions you have posed. Hopefully, we’ll know by tomorrow.

    Your question in the second paragraph is easier to explain. This time around, LiA is being investigated by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities’ Office of Licensure.

    While the state does not consider homosexuality a mental disorder, it is known that clients from the LiA program often suffer from depression, mental angst and suicidal tendencies. The Department of Licensure has conducted an investigation to determine if–by virtue of the clients’ mental states–LiA needs to be regulated by their department.

    LiA pulled in a top-notch lawyer who found the only loophole: to avoid licensure by the mental health department, LiA can have no more than two men who fall into the category of having mental illness (clinical depression, etc.).

    When the state completed their investigation, it was found that two men in the current program were indeed mentally ill.

    To avoid fines (and licensure), LiA is discharging (“kicking out”) one of those two clients by this coming weekend.

    By doing so, they will be compliant with the law.

    I cannot answer your question about minors. It seems to me that the minors are just that–minors. And their parents can place them into a parachurch organization against their wills if they so choose–even when that program has no license whatsoever and the director of the program is a licensed but not ordained minister of a local church with a high school education.

    I hope that you understand from the past few paragraphs the fact that LiA does NOT want to be licensed. John Smid wants to be licensed by a local congregation so he can claim the title of reverend, but he doesn’t want state interference through licensure because that would impede the way the does his “ministry.”

    This battle may be lost, but the war is far from over…

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