Antigay Activist Uses Robin Williams's Death to Defend 'Ex-Gay' Therapy

Peter Sprigg's circuitous argument: Williams's suicide shows rehab doesn't always work, and therefore reparative therapy is no less successful than rehab.

BY Trudy Ring

August 19 2014 3:38 PM ET

Peter Sprigg

While some of the coverage of Robin Williams’s death has sought to raise awareness of depression, offering links to suicide prevention organizations, right-wing activist Peter Sprigg is using the tragedy as a jumping-off point to promote “ex-gay” therapy.

Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the antigay Family Research Council, writes in an FRC blog post published Monday that Williams and other celebrities, such as comedian Andy Dick, have had multiple stints in rehab for substance abuse — which to Sprigg’s mind, means that the effectiveness of drug and alcohol rehab is comparable to that of so-called reparative therapy, which attempts to turn gay people straight.

“If we were to apply the same standards to drug and alcohol rehabilitation that the homosexual activists want to apply to reorientation therapy, why not ban rehab?” Sprigg writes. “After all, since some people go to rehab and still suffer relapses afterwards, rehab is clearly ‘ineffective.’ Robin Williams actually went to rehab, and shortly thereafter took his own life. Does that not clearly indicate that rehab is not only ineffective, but downright harmful?”

He goes on to note, “This kind of reasoning, of course, would be clearly absurd. … It would be absurd to ban rehab because it doesn’t work for everyone; doesn’t work 100% by eliminating all temptation; isn’t always permanent; is sometimes undertaken because of family pressure; or because bad things may happen afterwards. It would be equally absurd to ban rehab in order to protect the self-esteem of people who do not consider their alcohol or drug use to be a problem. But the argument that we should ban sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) is equally absurd — because it relies on all the same fallacious arguments.”

He also claims that the American Psychological Association and other mental health groups — all of which have denounced the discredited practice as ineffective and harmful — have only done so because of pressure by LGBT activists, who wish to stamp out the belief “that there is something wrong with homosexuality itself.” He ignores an overwhelming body of scientific evidence to the contrary when he says that reparative therapy’s “range of outcomes is no different from any other form of mental health treatment — such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation.”

In reality, Williams was not using drugs or alcohol at the time of his death, according to his wife, Susan Schneider, but he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. In checking into a rehab center a few weeks earlier, Williams was “simply taking the opportunity to fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment” to sobriety, a spokesman for the actor said.

David Badash, writing at The New Civil Rights Movement, sums up Sprigg’s column thus: “Nothing like abusing the memory of an internationally-beloved comic genius who devoted his life to the happiness of others, to try to advance a scientifically harmful and hate-filled agenda.”

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