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Love In Action, or LIA, is an ex-gay, Christian ministry founded in 1973 by John Evans and the Rev. Kent Philpott. It was the first group to publicize cases of homosexuals who had allegedly become heterosexual or managed to abstain from homosexual sex or homosexual feelings. After Evans's friend Jack McIntyre committed suicide out of despair about his inability to change, Evans left the project and denounced it as dangerous. He was quoted by the Wall Street Journal (April 21, 1993) as saying: "They're destroying people's lives. If you don't do their thing, you're not of God, you'll go to hell. They're living in a fantasy world."
Shortly after founding the group, Philpott wrote The Third Sex?, which claimed that his patients had successfully changed their sexual orientation through prayer. Some of his patients challenged these assertions; however, Philpott stated it was God's will that the book be written. Four members of the group, including Evans, filed suit for misrepresentation. Shortly after, Philpott had the book removed from the market.
In July 2005, Evans wrote a letter to current LIA director John Smid regarding the controversial activities of LIA.
Beginning in late 2005, the Tennessee-based Love in Action facility was the focus of a legal dispute which was settled with a compromise.
Zach Stark controversyEdit
Somewhat recently, as many of you know, I told my parents I was gay... Well today, my mother, father, and I had a very long "talk" in my room where they let me know I am to apply for a fundamentalist christian program for gays. They tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me, and they "raised me wrong." I'm a big screw up to them, who isn't on the path God wants me to be on. So I'm sitting here in tears, joing (sic) the rest of those kids who complain about their parents on blogs - and I can't help it.
The program Stark noted is a Love In Action-run camp known as Refuge. The subsequent protests drew both extensive local media attention and international interest, with individuals from Europe, America and elsewhere getting involved. Particular attention was given to a quote attributed to the man running the program, John Smid:
I would rather you commit suicide than have you leave Love In Action wanting to return to the gay lifestyle. In a physical death you could still have a spiritual resurrection; whereas, returning to homosexuality you are yielding yourself to a spiritual death from which there is no recovery.
Attention has also focused on the rules of Love In Action, which like most Christian camps includes dress codes, bans on several forms of communication with the outside world, and a ban on television. In a May 30 entry on Stark's blog, he posted the rules of the Refuge Program. Under a heading called Hygiene, it says, "1. All clients must maintain appropriate hygiene, including daily showering, use of deodorant, and brushing teeth twice daily."
In addition to the nature of the rules themselves, opposition to the course focused on Stark being sent to the camp against his wishes and against a background of existing concerns over ex-gay ministries such as Love In Action.
Stark's original two-week stay in the Love in Action program was extended to eight weeks. On August 1, Stark deleted his old material and began a new blog, which began with the following paragraph:
This isn't going to become my life. I won't let it. There's more to me than this. I've erased the original blogs. I know they're still out there somewhere, but the originals aren't. I haven't been able to see all of the news, newspaper, magazine, etc. articles and such, so I don't know exactly what to say. Currently I feel annoyed towards a lot of things. Love In Action has been misrepresented and what I have posted in my blogs has been taken out of perspective and context. I don't take back the things I've said, nor am I going to pretend like it never happened. It did. I refuse to deal with people who are only focused on their one-sided (biased) agendas. It isn't fair to anyone. I'm very frustrated with the things going on in my life now, but everyone has their issues. Homosexuality is still a factor in my life--- it's not who I am, it never has been. Those of you who really know me, know that homosexuality was always there but it didn't run my life, and it will not now.
On August 14, Stark updated his blog, stating that LIA had not pressured him into doing anything and he got along well with most of the clients there. He said his parents no longer let him hang out with girls as friends because it was unhealthy, and that his father had asked him to stop blogging.
Allegations and investigationEdit
A Tennessee investigation against the camp began shortly after Stark's story appeared online. As of June 28, 2005, the investigation has been dropped, with Tennessee officials citing a lack of evidence of child abuse at the facilities. "Department of Children's Services dispatched its special investigations unit to the facility, and after conducting a full investigation, determined that the child abuse allegations were unfounded," Rob Johnson, an agency spokesman, told the Associated Press. "Free Zach" campaigners, who aim to have LIA close down, have made allegations of corruption. On September 12,2005 the Tennessee-based Love in Action facility was determined by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health to have been operating two "unlicensed mental health supportive living facilities. LIA stopped accepting the mentally-ill and dispensing medications, and in February 2006, the state of Tennessee ceased legal action.
Love in Action sued the state of Tennessee for discrimination against their ministry. The suit was settled on October 27, 2006. Tennessee agreed that Love in Action would not need licensing as a mental health facility, and LIA agreed to make sure none of its employees administered or regulated the medication of its clients. The state of Tennessee was also told to pay Love in Action's legal fees.
- ↑ Palazzolo, Rose. "Ex-gay camp investigation called off", ABC News, 2005-06-28. Retrieved on 2006-04-11.
- ↑ Melzer, Eartha Jane. "Gay teen to be released from Tenn. ex-gay facility", Washington Blade, 2005-07-22. Retrieved on 2006-04-11.
- ↑ Popper, Ben. "Love in court", Memphis Flyer, 2006-02-10. Retrieved on 2006-04-11.
- ↑ Agreed order of dismissal. Retrieved on 2006-11-06.
- http://www.loveinaction.org - Love in Action's Official Web Site
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