While perusing the New York Daily News (Hey, I need a good chuckle now and then!) I ran across a story about an ex-head of a “pay to pray the gay away” (also known as “conversion therapy”) ministry that had married his partner.
At first I thought this was yet another instance of a hypocritical anti-gay activist finally owning up to his (or her) own homosexuality. I figured the irony of the situation ought to be good for a snark or two, so I decided to do a little research. Turns out, the marriage may be the least interesting part of the story.
In 1980, John Smid, (That’s him on the left.) came to the conclusion that he was gay and divorced his wife. Four years later, he came to the conclusion that he was just confused and was really straight after all.
“Homosexuality always comes out of a distorted view of oneself”
In 1986, John joined the leadership of Love In Action, a pay to pray the gay away group. (You didn’t think they were doing this as a public service, did you?) By 1990, he was the executive director, remaining in that post for 18 years. He also sat on the board of directors of Exodus International, an umbrella network of “ex-gay” groups, for 11 years.In 2005, a teenager who had been forced into an LIA program by his parents, posted the rules of the program, which sparked a Tennessee state investigation. The investigation determined that there was no child abuse, but LIA had been operating two “unlicensed mental health supportive living facilities” and dispensing drugs. LIA agreed to quit doing those naughty things, then turned around and sued the state of Tennessee for religious discrimination.
Two years later, after watching a documentary on conversion therapy and its effect on the LGBT community, John shut the program down. A year later John left LIA and opened up a fellowship, Grace Rivers, for Christian gays.
A couple of years after that, he posted an apology to the LGBT community.
”I want to say I am very sorry for the things that have wounded you or hurt you by my hands of leadership at Love In Action or anything I have done personally that has harmed you.” “Please forgive me.”
In 2011, he announced that he really was gay.
Around that time, he met his future mate, though according to John, they didn’t start dating until a year ago. Late last month, John married his partner.
Sometimes, people really do grow up!
A post script or two:
Love In Action is no longer Love In Action. As of March, 2012, it’s “Restoration Path“.
So if you or a loved-one are afraid of gay, there’s still a way to pray it away (if you’ve got the bucks). If you can’t make it to Memphis, there’s distance counseling for $500. If you are fortunate enough to live close by, have Skype or even a telephone, one-on-one counseling is available for $75 an hour. And, if you’ve got a real bad case of the “gay”, there’s a 4-day intensive option for just $2,000. (Price does not include transportation or lodging.)
Sadly, (NOT!) Exodus International is no longer with us. In June, 2013 it shut down. In announcing its end, EI’s president, Alan Chambers, (who is also gay) apologized to the LGBT community.
“I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents.”
The war is being won, but there are still battles to be fought!