In reporting on the scientific debate over sexual orientation — what causes it, can it be changed — Cleveland’s Plain Dealer newspaper interviews an Ohio exgay ministry leader, a pro-exgay counselor, gay author/activist Wayne Besen, and two researchers.

The article’s overview of the debate is balanced, but a bit shallow and plagued by misspellings (Dean Hamer, Joseph Nicolosi). In the interest of providing some missing context, I present a profile of the exgay ministry, Prodigal Ministries of Cincinnati.

Prodigal Ministries at a glance

Founded 1986. Director: Jerry A. Armelli. Exodus referral ministry.

Religion: The ministry summary page states: "The
Bible is God’s inspired, infallible, authoritative word." But the
ministry devotes a full page to reinterpreting
Matthew 19:3-6 in order to rationalize the opinion that Jesus
personally condemned homosexuality. Despite its superficial commitment
to Biblical absolutism, Armelli’s ministry is selective in its
adherence to both science and Christian tradition.

Sexual orientation: The ministry redefines the word "gay," turning it into a vague political/social identity label rather than an honest reflection of one’s sexual attractions. The ministry rejects a distinction between attraction and behavior; both are considered sinful.

Gender: The ministry urges gay people to view the
world (and themselves) within a prism of traditional gender roles.
Nevertheless, according to the ministry director’s profile, Armelli and his wife operate a dance studio. The ministry’s FAQ page says,
"First, there is within every person born into the world a "blank
slate" as to gender identity." But no mainstream clinicians or other
conservative Christians are cited to substantiate the notion that
gender is, at birth, a blank slate.

Science: The ministry consistently adheres to the theories of the antigay reparative therapy movement. According to the ministry summary,
"Prodigal Ministries aligns itself with the scientific evidence of
today that finds no inborn cause for homosexuality." Armelli’s web site
also claims to know exactly what does trigger sexual orientation:

behavior is an attempt to fulfill normal, legitimate needs for love,
acceptance and identity through sexual intimacy with someone of the
same sex. The deepest root of homosexuality is a break in relational
bonds, which produces a lack of a sense of belonging, lack (sic)
affirmation and gender inferiority.

what the ramifications might be if homosexuality were genetically
influenced, the ministry responds that homosexuals should "change"

Discrimination: The ministry web site offers no opposition to any form of antigay discrimination. Its September 2004 newsletter supports a ban on gay marriage, but does not say how it should be banned.

Prior media coverage: The ministry was profiled
by Cincinnati’s CityBeat in December 2003. In the article, Jill Bley, a
clinical psychologist and member of the American Association of Sex
Educators, Counselors and Therapists, disputes the scientific claims of
reparative therapy. A followup letter to the editor
questions why the newspaper gave Prodigal Ministries more favorable
treatment than it would if the ministry had claimed that women, Jews or
African-Americans are inferior.

In an undated page affiliated with NARTH, reparative therapy guru Joseph Nicolosi interviews
Armelli. The Plain Dealer article quotes Nicolosi stressing the
importance of "tolerance, diversity and inclusion," overlooking
Nicolosi’s support for discriminatory laws.

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