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"Prevention" programs for gay teens should be regulated

"Prevention" programs for gay teens should be regulated

A national gay and lesbian group is accusing several religious organizations of causing gay teens long-term harm by offering parents what they call bogus therapies to allegedly keep children from becoming gay. In a report released Thursday in Miami Beach, Fla., the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute questioned whether the therapies are ethical or effective and said state and federal authorities should provide greater oversight when these programs are aimed at youth. The report said some Christian-based gay prevention and treatment groups have used the First Amendment protection of religion to avoid sanctions by state health officials regarding counselors who offer therapy without a license. Task Force executive director Matt Foreman said officials need to ensure that those offering such therapies are licensed as opposed to simply being clergy and that clients and their parents should be informed about the programs' long-term success rates. The report maintains that increasingly, those attending seminars on homosexuality prevention and treatment are parents who have gay or lesbian children. Foreman called the programs frightening, adding that they play into stereotypes and caution parents to worry if their sons are "too feminine," often blaming parents for their children's sexual orientation. "Many of these programs are crossing the line as to what is approved under freedom of expression," Foreman said during an interview with reporters. "This deserves attention. It deserves to be regulated." Foreman said he'd like to see more long-term studies on the success of the treatment. The report was released in Florida because it is home to Exodus International, the umbrella organization for Christian ministries nationwide that seek to "convert" gays to heterosexuality. Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, said he had not seen the report but maintained that the ministries are successful. Chambers said Exodus's 130 affiliated ministries use clinically trained professionals, though he added that only 30% have on-site professionals. Religious leaders lead support groups, as they might in the case of an Alcoholics Anonymous group, he said. "The truth is that there are hundreds of thousands of men and women like me who have found that change is possible," said Chambers, who counts himself among the "ex-gay." (AP)

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