Author Wayne Besen released an explosive letter today by Love In Action's co-Founder and former ex-gay John Evans, which rebukes gay conversion groups saying that they "shattered lives". The group he started has recently made headlines because it runs a boot camp for gay teens called "Refuge" that tries to turn adolescents heterosexual, often against their will.
"In the past 30 years since leaving the 'ex-gay' ministry I have seen nothing but shattered lives, depression and even suicide among those connected with the 'ex-gay' movement," Evans writes in his letter to John Smid, Love In Action's current director. "I challenge Christians to investigate all sides of the issue of being gay and Christian. The Church has been wrong in the past regarding moral issues and I'm sure there will be more before Christ returns."
Evans, a gay man, founded what may be the first modern ex-gay group in San Raphael, Calif. in 1973, along with a heterosexual preacher Kent Philpott. Evans left his life partner of ten years to start the gay conversion group. He later dropped out after he realized it didn't work and his best friend committed suicide because he could not turn heterosexual.
"Having the founder of Love In Action step forward to admonish the ministry he started speaks to the utter hopelessness and futility of these groups, not to mention the danger they represent," said Wayne Besen, Author of Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth (Haworth, 2003). "Most disturbing are the compulsory gay boot camps for teens which are tantamount to child abuse. They should immediately be shut down."
In May, 16-year old Zach told his fundamentalist Christian parents that he is gay. Horrified by the news, they vowed to fix him by sending him to an "ex-gay" boot camp in Memphis to be reprogrammed. Like a modern day message in a bottle, Zach used his Internet blog to send an SOS.
"I told my parents I was gay," he wrote. "This didn't go over very well," and "They tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me, and they 'raised me wrong.' 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."
The next day, Zach threw another bottle into the Cyber-sea.
"It's like boot camp. If I do come out straight, I'll be so mentally unstable and depressed it won't matter."
Besen is a nationally recognized advocate for gay and lesbian rights. He has been a guest on leading news and political talk shows. He made international news when he photographed "ex-gay" poster boy and Love in Action graduate John Paulk cruising a gay bar in Washington, D.C.
The link also contains the full text of the letter to Mr. Smid.