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Bad News for
"Ex-Gay" Movement

Bad News for
"Ex-Gay" Movement

Two scholars funded by the "ex-gay" ministry Exodus reported greatly mixed results this week in the most ambitious study yet on whether faith-based therapy can "cure" homosexuality.

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Two scholars funded by the "ex-gay" ministry Exodus reported greatly mixed results this week in the most ambitious study yet on whether faith-based therapy can "cure" homosexuality, days after a counselor in another "ex-gay" program was sentenced on felony charges of sexually attacking his male clients.

Christopher Austin, 43, was sentenced in Dallas to 10 years in prison on two counts of felony sexual assault in connection with his work in the "ex-gay" program Renew, operated out of the Church of Christ South MacArthur in Irving, Texas. A judge last week reduced his sentence to seven years' probation, not concurrently, on each charge, a district attorney's spokesman told

One of several victims who came forward, Mark Hufford, testified that Austin used "touch therapy" to ostensibly "cure" him of homosexuality, a treatment that progressed to include nude sessions and even oral sex.

The tale serves as a painful counterpoint to a book published this week by psychologists Stanton Jones of Wheaton College and Mark Yarhouse of Pat Robertson University, who attempted to show the extent to which sexual-orientation change is possible though a study of 98 participants of "ex-gay" ministries over four years.

Their book, Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation (InterVarsity Press), concludes:

Fifteen percent of participants reported substantially reduced homosexual desire and attraction.

Twenty-three percent experienced satisfactory reductions in homosexual desire and were living chaste lives.

Twenty-nine percent experienced only modest change in the desired direction but expressed commitment to continue changing.

Fifteen percent experienced no change and were conflicted about the future.

Four percent expressed confusion about their identity but did not label themselves gay.

Eight percent reported change in the "undesired" direction.

Twenty-five of the original 98 participants dropped out of the study.

Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, cheered the findings Monday in a Nashville news conference.

"Finally, there is now scientific evidence to prove what we as former homosexuals have known all along -- that those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction can experience freedom from it," Chambers said.

Critics claim Chambers's assertion is, at best, wildly optimistic, given that more than 60% who made it to the fourth year did not significantly change; nearly a quarter were completely celibate, and 8% claimed they were "gayer" after the study.

Even the study's authors appear to call their findings into question.

"Our study examines a representative sample of the population of those in Exodus seeking sexual orientation change.... Most of the individuals who reported that they were heterosexual at Time 3 did not report themselves to be without experience of homosexual arousal.... We believe the individuals who presented themselves as heterosexual success stories at Time 3 are heterosexual in some meaningful but complicated sense of the term," they wrote.

"They say it's representative, admit they can't prove it, but they're confident anyway," Jim Burroway, editor of the LGBT blog, told Burroway also suggested the high dropout rate is a red flag.

"In most studies which take place over a number of years, dropouts are to be expected, and they usually aren't relevant. But about a quarter of this study's participants dropped out, and we should have a clear understanding of why they dropped out before we write them off as irrelevant," Burroway said.

"Exodus should be embarrassed that even their hand-picked participants in this hoax of a study showed such a meager success rate," Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, told

Resounding success was not the study's point, however, according to Besen: "It was created to suit their political agenda, which is spreading myth that if one person can change, anyone can change.

"And the study also tried to show that there is no harm in ex-gay therapies, when there's plenty of evidence to show that they are harmful," Besen said.

According to Besen, Austin was affiliated with the "ex-gay" National Association For Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), even teaching a seminar at NARTH's 2004 convention titled "Understanding and Treating Compulsive Sexual Behavior in Men with Value-Incongruent Homosexual Issues: A Multidimensional Approach."

Austin lost his counseling license and was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine and to register as a sex offender, the district attorney's office said. (Larry Buhl,

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Bad News for
"Ex-Gay" Movement

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