For several years, the religious right took its “conversion therapy” campaign quite seriously, and it remained a leading movement priority, right up until it collapsed under the weight of its own ridiculousness.
To reiterate what we discussed in April, the religious right movement’s main argument against LGBT rights has been that sexual orientation is a choice, and to that end, far-right groups and leaders became heavily invested in the 1990s in an effort to convince gay people that they could be “converted” to heterosexuality. An entire ministry was built around idea that Christian “therapy” could turn gay people straight.
A few months ago, John Paulk, the ministry’s former chairman and chief spokesperson resigned, apologized, and conceded that his sexual orientation never actually changed, despite claims to the contrary. This week, the ministry itself has ceased to be.
A Christian ministry that was the leading proponent of the “ex-gay” movement – which held that gays could be “cured” through prayer and psychotherapy – said that it was ceasing operations amid widening internal rifts and growing skepticism of its mission.
The decision by the board of Exodus International to stop operating comes as the group’s president, Alan Chambers, has been increasingly vocal in proclaiming that there was no cure for homosexuality and that therapy did not work in changing a person’s sexual orientation. In a statement posted on the group’s Web site Wednesday, he cited a recent letter he had written to gay men and lesbians.
“I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced,” he said in the letter. “I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents.”
The “conversion therapy” campaign was a cruel and pathetic initiative, which even many conservatives now prefer to forget. The demise of this faith-based campaign is welcome, though it clearly never should have been launched in the first place.