Bioethics, healthcare policy, and related issues.
[Note: A consensus is growing that, because the young man mentioned below is still a minor and is in a very vulnerable position, bloggers should remove direct links to his blog or uses of his name. I have removed them below and made minor revisions to the text to avoid using his name. I can say, though, that I have seen his blog and it appears to me to be authentic.]
Lindsay at Majikthise alerts us to this appalling story:
[Name deleted] is a very courageous 16-year-old guy from Tennessee who recently come out to his parents. He’s also a damn good writer who has been blogging about their hateful anti-Christian reaction.
[His] parents have decided to ship him off to a self-professed “Safe Place” known as Refuge–a Christianist residential program that promises to turn kids straight.
From his blog:
Well today, my mother, father, and I had a very long “talk” in my room where they let me know I am to apply for a fundamentalist christian program for gays. They tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me, and they “raised me wrong.” I’m a big screw up to them, who isn’t on the path God wants me to be on. So I’m sitting here in tears, joing the rest of those kids who complain about their parents on blogs – and I can’t help it.
I wish I had never told them. I wish I just fought the urge two more years… I had done it for three before then, right? If I could take it all back.. I would, to where I never told my parents things and they always were mad at me– It’s better than them crying and depressed cause they will have no granchildren from me. It’s better than them telling me that there’s something wrong with me. It’s better than them explaining to me that they “raised me wrong.”
But there’s more: his parents apparently signed him up for the program without his knowledge, then lied to him by saying that they didn’t know what the program entailed. He then found – and posted to his blog – the 6,200-word packet of 112 rules and 36 Bible quotations that his parents had been sent three days previously – including the section at the end marked “Parental Rules (not to be given to client)”. The secret section includes this rather creepy regimentation:
Respect all Love In Action and Refuge rules. If you do not understand them, support the program in front of client at all times and gain clarification from LIA staff. Do not sabotage or defocus your client.
Don’t allow client to split your family. Unite to present stability and unity.
Your client is not allowed to talk to anyone outside of your home including friends or family. Do not tell client who has called for them or who is asking about them. Keep the thoughts of the client focused on his/her treatment.
The main section is what you would expect: hyper-regimentation of all kinds (no long hair, no short hair, no baggy pants, no tight pants, no being alone, no being overly friendly, you must attend counseling once per week, you may not attend counseling more than once per week, . . .) overlaid with Biblical prejudices about what constitutes “right” and “healthy” action. All of it is controlling and intrusive, with a bunch of pop-psych workshops thrown in (“Moral Inventories” to be written out 4 times per week; “Introduction” presentations to be made in all group meetings, etc.). Some of the rules are decidely unsettling:
[selected from various sections of the rules:]
To make special requests of the staff or inform the staff of something (e.g. asking permission to leave the safe zone for some reason, informing the staff of a breach in program rules, etc.), Refuge clients must communicate appropriately. This means filling out a Chain of Command (C.O.C.) form. All C.O.C.¹s must be signed by the Refuge client¹s parent or guardian before being submitted to a staff member, or the C.O.C. will be returned with no answer. All C.O.C.¹s must be concise and not “story tell” or “whine.” Such will be returned with no reply.
No continuing education while in the program. Home-school Refuge clients may be allowed to continue their studies during the program, pending approval by LIA staff.
Refuge clients and their parents/guardians are required to attend Love in Action¹s host church, Germantown Baptist Church, on Sunday mornings.
Refuge clients are expected to maintain a committed pursuit of a positive and thankful attitude.
Absolutely no journaling or keeping a diary outside of the MI process unless directed or approved by staff.
Clients may have no contact with anyone who has left the program prior to graduating without the blessing of the staff to do so. Clients may address off-limit persons they inadvertently encounter with a polite “hello” only.
While in the program, clients may have no contact with anyone involved in unrepentant emotional dependencies, inappropriate sexual behaviors, or chemical dependencies. This includes any contact with friends struggling with dependency issues or inappropriate sexual behavior that was known about prior to entering the program. If such a person is encountered, the client must make his/her staff worker aware of this.
Refuge clients and their parents/guardians will be participating in off-campus events and meetings where non-program strugglers are in attendance. To encourage the safety of all involved, clients are required to be in phase [i.e., escorted by other "clients" who have been in the program longer] when communicating with non-program strugglers at these meetings, and will be prohibited from establishing contact with them outside of the these meetings.
All new Refuge clients will be placed into Safekeeping for the initial two to three days of their program. A client on safekeeping may not communicate verbally, or by using hand gestures or eye contact, with any other clients, staff members, or his/her parents or guardians. In case of a practical need, Safekeeping clients may write down their question or request and show it to another client, staff member, or their parent or guardian. Writing may only be used when absolutely necessary. Parents and guardians must enforce their child¹s safekeeping status at home or in their temporary lodging.
Refuge clients may C.O.C. to be removed from Safekeeping status. Safekeeping clients will be removed from Safekeeping at their staffworker¹s discretion.
Any client may be placed into Safekeeping at any time, at a staffworker¹s discretion.
Safekeeping clients are permitted to say ³hello² and to communicate enough information to be courteous in public interaction (mostly in the clients¹ church setting).
Safekeeping clients are required to spend a minimum of two hours (in one sitting) a day alone in their room (note: by ³alone² it is understood that parents or guardians can be in the room but are not to interact or disrupt the alone time of the safekeeping client). During the alone time Safekeeping clients may work on their treatment plans, read program materials or the Bible, pray, or work on other assignments from their staffworkers.
In the evenings, all Refuge Safekeeping clients must remain at home or at their temporary lodging with their parent or guardian (i.e. no going out to eat, to the store, etc. during Safekeeping.)
Non-Safekeeping clients are responsible to protect and uphold the Safekeeping parameters of the Safekeeping clients.
No discussing therapeutic issues at home. Keep conversations positive.
Clients must gain permission through C.O.C. to make or receive phone calls from friends and family members outside the program.
No cell phones, beepers, computers, or e-mail/internet access at. Exceptions by C.O.C. approval only.
No visitors from out of town without permission via C.O.C.
Refuge clients may only read materials approved by staff.
No television viewing, going to movies, or reading/watching/listening to secular media of any kind, anywhere within the client¹s and the parent¹s/guardian¹s control. This includes listening to classical or instrumental music that is not expressly Christian (Beethoven, Bach, etc. are not considered Christian). The only exception to the media policy is the weekly movie.
Refuge clients may watch one video/DVD per week that has been approved by staff via C.O.C. Movies submitted for approval must be rated G or PG. The parents/guardians are responsible for securing the video/DVD.
Weekend curfew (Friday and Saturday) is 10:00pm. Weekday curfew (Sunday through Thursday) is 9:30pm.
Refuge clients must be with at least one parent or guardian at all times when off-campus.
Refuge clients may not enter any restuarants with bars, even when accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Refuge clients must be accompanied by a parent during any trip to a public restroom.
No access to malls of any kind.
Clients are not allowed to visit any video, music or media stores that are not expressly Christian, even if accompanied by a parent or guardian. Clients may visit LifeWay Christian stores with a parent or guardian.
Total silence time at home begins at 9:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Refuge clients may use this time for resting, but are encouraged to make a habit of using it for a nightly quiet time with God.
Lights-out time will begin each night at 10:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.
Refuge clients are allowed a one-time 15-minute maximum closed bathroom door time for shower/grooming purposes. The only other closed-door alone time allowed is for using the restroom.
Refuge clients must keep their bedroom doors open at all times, day or night.
Proper bedclothes must be worn during nighttime sleeping hours. Appropriate bedclothes include full pajamas (tops and bottoms) or a pair of non-underwear-type shorts and a T-shirt. Nightgowns are not allowed.
Refuge clients are expected to cook dinner one time per week.
[and much more . . .]
The “False Image” section is particularly fascistic:
False Image (FI) Concerns
Through the Source, God renews clients¹ minds and lives, helping them to put off the old self and put on the new. False images are items or behaviors that are of the old self.
Proverbs 8:6-8: 6 Hear, for I will speak excellent things. The opening of my lips is for right things. 7 For my mouth speaks truth. Wickedness is an abomination to my lips. 8 All the words of my mouth are in righteousness. There is nothing crooked or perverse in them.
Ephesians 4:17-25: 17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their hearts; 19 who having become callous gave themselves up to lust, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ that way; 21 if indeed you heard him, and were taught in him, even as truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put away, as concerning your former way of life, the old man, that grows corrupt after the lusts of deceit; 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new man, that like God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth. 25 Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak truth each one with his neighbor. For we are members one of another.
1. LIA wants to encourage each client, male and female, by affirming his/her gender identity. LIA also wants each client to pursue integrity in all of his/her actions and appearances. Therefore, any belongings, appearances, clothing, actions, or humor that might connect a client to an inappropriate past are excluded from the program. These hindrances are called False Images (FI¹s). FI behavior may include hyper-masculinity, seductive clothing, mannish/boyish attire (on women), excessive jewelry (on men), mascoting, and “campy” or gay/lesbian behavior and talk.
2. As non-residential clients, Refuge participants must submit to an F.I. search every morning. With the exception of the very first program day, when they may arrive no later than 9:00 a.m., Refuge clients will arrive daily at the Love in Action campus no later than 8:50 a.m., waiting in a designated area until a staff member meets them to perform the F.I. search and check them in. Refuge clients may not enter any of the client spaces on campus before submitting to an F.I. search. All belongings brought to campus will be searched, including book bags, notebooks, wallets, handbags, purses, etc. Items that violate the F.I. policy or the dress code will be held for the client, to be returned no later than the client¹s last day in program. Clients may request to have their F.I. items returned by filling out a C.O.C.
3. All photographs will be taken for the purpose of sobering re-evaluation. Clients may request to have pictures returned to them via C.O.C.
4. Refuge clients will not be allowed to use personally owned computers during the program, whether on campus or at home/in temporary lodging. Computer stations are normally available on campus when clients need to type something.
5. Clients should report all FI’s (with discretion), whether their own or another’s, to staff.
Replete with creaky, pseudo-hip language (group therapy sessions are “rap sessions” – at which “clients” are expected to remain standing at all times and forbidden to respond when given “constructive criticism” by other “clients”) and effusive, but obscure, psychobabble (“Be honest, authentic, and real”; “Clients are expected to affirm one another and edify their personal and corporate pursuit of growth and transformation”; “Clients are expected to actively re-evaluate the influences of secular media”), the thing is a Christian indoctrination center for those showing worrisome signs of individuality.
Queer Action Coalition has been following the story; they are in their 5th day of two weeks of picketing the program center, and are organizing media response. They also have information on “Love in Action” (the umbrella group that runs “Refuge”) and its almost-uniformly psychologically-untrained staff.
The LIA Web site is here.
Exploring the Homosexual Myth
There is no such creation as a “gay” or “homosexual” person. There is only homosexual attraction and behavior; accordingly, there can be no change from a sexual identity that never existed in the first place.
Love In Action International exists on a beautiful 5 acre “park like” setting on the northern edge of Memphis in an area called Raleigh. . . . On the grounds we have four intimate prayer gardens, hundreds of beautiful trees, two peaceful reflective chapels, and a baseball field! . . .
Refuge is an intensive program designed to minister to adolescents struggling with broken and addictive behaviors, such as promiscuity, alcohol & drug addiction and homosexuality.
[He] has been in the program for about a week; he’s scheduled for another week to 10 days of it. He’s not happy:
It’s been a week of torture – anger, and crying.
Current mood: worried
Hi. I’m not sure if I’m even supposed to be on. I ran away for a short while. I came back and they took everything from me, they don’t want me to have outside influences– i dont know how long im going to be on, because if tehy wake up, im screwed. The program starts June 6 and is until either teh 17th or the 20th. I’m sorry I don’t have time to write back o all of the comments and messages. I’m just here to let everyone know I am still alive, I’m sure you’ve left messages on my cellphone, they took that.. and my keys… and the computer.. and I’ve been homebound. -=sigh=- I just need this to be over. Don’t worry. I’ll get through this. They’ve promised me things will get better whether this program does anything or not. Let’s hope they aren’t lying. I’ve been through hell. I’ve been emotionally torn apart for three days… I can’t remember which days they were.. time’s not what it used to be.
. . . Soon. Soon, this will be all over. My mother has said the worst things to me for three days straight… three days. I went numb. That’s the only way I can get through this. I agree, if you’re thinking that these posts might be dramatized.. but the proof of the programs ideas are sitting in the rules. I pray this blows over. I can’t take this… noone can… not really, this kind of thing tears you apart emotionally. To introduce THIS subject… I’m not a suicidal person… really I’m not.. I think it’s stupid – really. But.. I can’t help it, no im not going to commit suicide, all I can think about is killing my mother and myself. It’s so horrible. This is what it’s doing to me… I have this horrible feeling all of the time… I wish this on no person… I’m so satisfied–happy’s too strong of a word the state I’m in– that everyone’s taking the time to email and write letters in complaint to these people. I dont know if it will do anything, but if something did happen it would be — awesome.
The worst is that his situation is far from unique. And even if the media attention and protests lighten his burden somewhat, he will have to find some resolution with his parents on his own terms. Parents such as his are driven by fear and confusion, fanned by fundamentalism and manipulated to their advantage by organizations such as “Refuge”. There are programs like this – as well as fundamentalist “boot camps” for “delinquents” – all over the country, and some operated by US companies in foreign countries to evade US regulatory control. There are a lot of [young people like this].
One Response to “The Rules (For Your Life According to Someone Else’s Vision)”
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