National's rookie New Plymouth MP, Jonathan Young, is a former fundamentalist church minister (City Church Waitakere) and on the Board of Directors of Teen Challenge, a fundamentalist alcohol/drug recovery group. Why should this worry us?
I do not object to the fact that Teen Challenge works to remedy adolescent substance abuse problems, and if that were all that was involved here, I would support their work, as long as it provided access to qualified professionals in the substance abuse prevention field.
During the election, Mr Young expressed the following views in last month's Taranaki Daily News:
"One of my associates was an ex-lesbian," Young told the newspaper.
"She discovered through her own journey and talking to others that a lot of things happened to her in her childhood that affected her deeply and caused her to become [homosexual].
"One of the things I do strongly object to in terms of the people who have made this choice is the presentation of it as a normal alternative," he concluded.
Mr Young is on the Board of Directors of Teen Challenge, and it seems that it was in that capacity that he met the young 'ex-lesbian' in question. She has been identified as Janelle Hellman, involved with Teen Challenge USA.
It also appears that Teen Challenge bases its work on the perspectives of the following author, Rev David Foster Kyle. Note who uses the book, and also note that I found the reference on an Exodus ("ex-gay") website:
Before his salvation, "David Kyle" Foster was a successful film actor in Hollywood. Then in 1980, while on a search for truth in Israel, Jesus Christ rescued David from his empty pursuit of fame, drugs, gurus, and immorality and set him afire for things of the Kingdom of God. David became the founder and president of Mastering Life Ministries in 1987. His first book, Sexual Healing: Godâ€™s Plan for the Sanctification of Broken Lives, (available in English and Spanish), is now in its 4th printing and has been used by Prison Fellowship, Insight for Living, Jesse Duplantis, Josh McDowell, Teen Challenge, Exodus International, Youth With a Mission, and many other ministries and church counseling programs around the world.
It should come as no surprise that Teen Challenge USA includes Exodus as one of the organisations on its links page, then. Or that Teen Challenge South Australia includes the 'testimony' of fundamentalist 'ex-gay' convert, John.
While browsing, I also found references to a Teen Challenge meeting where an Exodus International staffer, Janelle Hellman, talked to them about gay conversion therapy, as well as a chilling reference to an 'ex-gay' boot camp for young teenage gay men where they are pressured into fundamentalist conversion, described in detail on the Daily Kos website, and referenced below. One hopes that Mr Young did not condone such practices at Teen Challenge NZ.
Nor are we the only ones who may be pressured to convert to fundamentalism in this context. Before a Congressional subcommittee, former Teen Challenge US President Dan Castellani stated that Teen Challenge USA had no "non-Christian" employees, and that several Jewish clients ended up converting to fundamentalist Christianity (or "messanic" or "completed" Jews, which many Jewish organisations regard as anti-Semitic).
I am deeply concerned at its apparent philosophy that lesbian/gay sexuality should somehow be seen as 'pathological' as substance abuse. Mainstream psychoanalytic, psychological, psychiatric, pediatric and developmental psychology organisations view lesbian and gay sexual orientation as a developmental variant, not a pathology. Fundamentalist 'exgay' groups don't. Unfortunately for Teen Challenge, it has close organisational connections to Exodus International, an organisation that preys on vulnerable and conflicted lesbians and gay men to try to engineer "reparative therapy" and "conversion" to heterosexuality.
What if LGBT adolescent substance abusers entered Teen Challenge's programmes? What if they are exposed to this unhealthy and unscientific message about the allegedly "essential" pathology of their sexual orientation? It is quite probable that they will experience sexual identity conflict, which could seriously impede their recovery from substance abuse problems, and/or face summary expulsion from fundamentalist oriented Teen Challenge programmes if they refused to "degay" themselves, without referral to mainstream counselors or psychotherapeutic professionals.
According to one professional study, the latter behaviour is rife in fundamentalist 'exgay' programmes, and not restricted to those alone. Over the last year, I've become aware of the toxic environment of "Mercy Ministries Australia," a fundamentalist organisation that stated to young women that it could assist existing problems from eating disorders, past child sexual abuse, self-harm, substance abuse and sexual identity conflict. They were told that they would receive 'professional' help, but did not have such access. Moreover, if young female residents complained about the programme, or were labeled 'non-compliant,' they were summarily expelled from the programme. There is a brave and courageous organisation of young female survivors of this outfit, "Mercy Survivors," which is dedicated to exposure of Mercy Ministries Australia, and their experience within it.
Incidentally, Mercy Survivors also provided a useful consumer checklist to consult when it came to fundamentalist counselors or psychotherapists in general. I would invite readers to consider whether or not these concerns may not also be applicable to Teen Challenge and its associates within Exodus International:
- Do you abide by a Code of Conduct that outlines client rights? Can I have a copy?
- Do you have professional indemnity and public liability insurance?
- Are you a financial member of an accredited professional body?
- Do you receive regular professional supervision and guidance?
- Are your qualifications from an accredited program?
- Have you completed your training as a counsellor?
I am also concerned that at a time when a centre-right government may be inclined to cut government spending, "Teen Challenge" and its ilk may obtain access to government funds to run their services. If that did happen, I think the LGBT communities should strenuously object to that development. One would expect them to comply with the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1993, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as the obligation to refer others to mainstream counselors and psychotherapists under the Code of Health and Disability Consumers Rights.
It hasn't escaped my notice that Mr Young appears to be on a tight leash. He doesn't seem to have his own MP website as yet, and if he hadn't won New Plymouth, then he was too far down the party list to enter Parliament through that avenue. After the weekend counting of special votes, he will become the most marginal MP in the country during the forthcoming parliamentary term. When National last won government in 1990, there were a crowd of obnoxious social conservatives swept in, and they were unceremoniously swept back out when the then Labour Opposition recovered significantly in 1993. It is to be hoped that Mr Young is in the same situation. In the interim, we would be well advised to monitor him closely during the next three years.
LGBT Criticism of "Reparative Therapy":
Jack Deutscher: "What Needs Changing? Some Questions Posed by Reparative Therapy Practices" New York Psychiatric Society Bulletin 40 (1): 8-10: 1997.
Jack Deutscher: "I'm Your Handyman: A History of Reparative Therapies" Journal of Homosexuality: (1998): 36:1: 19-42.
Jack Deutscher: "Sexual Conversion/ 'Reparative' Therapies: History and Update" in Billy Jones and Marjorie Hill (ed) Mental Health Issues in Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Communities: Washington: American Psychiatric Press: 2002: 71-88.
David Haldeman: "Therapeutic Antidotes: Helping Gay and Bisexual Men Recover from Conversion Therapies" Journal of Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy: 5 (3-4): 119-132 (2001).
M.Schroeder and A. Shidlo: "Ethical Issues in Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapies: An Empirical Study of Consumers" Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy: 5 (3-4): 133-168: (2001).
Teen Challenge Association with Ex-Gay Movement:
Teen Challenge: Our Team: http://www.teenchallenge.org.nz/our-team.html
Bruce Greig: â€śExgay Movement Still Toxic and Hate-Filledâ€ť (2000): http://www.rldbooks.com/Articles/Archives/Ex-Gay.html
Exodus International: Rev. Dr David Kyle Foster:
Teen Challenge: The Depths of Coercion at a â€śGod Warriorâ€ť Training Camp: (01.05.08): http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/5/1/164418/2864
Teen Challenge USA: Links Page (note Exodus International reference): http://www.teenchallengeusa.com/links.php
Teen Challenge South Australia: John: http://www.tc.asn.au/aids/aidsanotherkind.htm
Mercy Survivors: http://www.mercysurvivors.com