By Anita Moyt, managing editor
Family & Friends magazine, July 2005
Reprinted with permission
On May 29, 2005, a set of words appeared on a blogsite that began, “The World Coming To An Abrupt – Stop. Current Mood: depressed.” What followed were the cries of a 16-year-old young man, from Bartlett, who identified himself as “Zach.”
“Somewhat recently, as many of you know, I told my parents I was gay,” Zach wrote. “This didn’t go over very well, and it ended with my dad crying, my mom tearing and me not knowing what I’d done – or what to do.
It kind of .. (sic) went away for about a week or two I think. … 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. …”
Zach’s blog was read by Morgan Fox, 25, a filmmaker from Memphis. Fox’s response was to protest the place where the young man was to spend Monday to Friday, for the next two weeks: Love in Action, 4780 Yale Road.
So, Fox and a group of about eight friends met that first Monday, June 6, and came with their signs and their flags to show Zach that they supported him and, more than that, to let the city know that such a placed existed, a place where parents could send their queer kids to “get straight.” They met from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. and later from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. to correspond to the beginning and ending times of the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule Zach was on.
The protest grew to about 50 or so men and women, of all sexual orientations. The police parked nearby the protesters to be sure there were no problems. And there weren’t. The newly-formed Queer Action Coalition even handed out flyers giving people suggestions for a peaceful demonstration so there would be no questions.
The TV crews came and reported – often.
Radio talk shows, both pro and con, continue to discuss the issue. Newspapers wrote stories and editorialists, especially Wendy Thomas, of Memphis’s daily newspaper, The Commercial Appeal, even picked up on the story of one young man, Brandon Tidwell, who, after attending Love in Action’s adult program to deal with being gay in a Christian world, finally found peace when he admitted he was gay, came out and realized who he really was … gay and Christian.
A few days later, Love in Action held a news conference to give their side of the story. (Editor’s Note: In a follow-up to the press conference, Family & Friends spent an hour interviewing Love In Action’s Executive Director, Rev. John J. Smid, who opened and closed the press conference, see accompanying story.)
After a mountain of complaints against Love in Action, the Child Services at the Tennessee Department of Health began an investigation into child abuse allegations against Love in Action. However, on June 27, the department concluded that there was no evidence of child abuse. (For late-breaking news on the investigation into Love In Action, see addition at end of this story.)
In a June 23 story in Southern Voice, Pamela Dickey, director of the advocacy center for Childhelp USA in Knoxville said, “Emotional abuse is difficult to prove in the state of Tennessee. You have to document that the child is undergoing depression or suicidal ideation, that he can’t sleep or can’t eat.”
Zach hasn’t been on the web lately, and hasn’t posted to his blog in several weeks. No one really knows what happened. Did he get through the two-week program or quit? What were the results of his “therapy?” One of his last messages, which included his posting of all “The Rules” of the Refuge program (the adolescent Love in Action program) on his blog site, something he cut and pasted from his parent’s email from Love in Action, drew a lot of attention, to say the least, especially since the rules were only meant for the parents of adolescent clients of LIA. Some worry about how much trouble he got into over that little trick.
In his interview with Family & Friends magazine, John Smid, executive director of Love in Action, made reference to the list of rules Zach posted that made its way across the Internet. Smid also made reference to the many emails he had received from concerned individuals and protesters.
The protest is not over yet, and is spinning off into other events, meetings, groups, etc. The main goal of the organizers was and is being met – to let the city of Memphis know that such “ex-gay” organizations as Love in Action do, in fact, exist. For sure they have met that goal far above and beyond anything they could think. Not just Memphis, but our whole nation has heard their cries.
LATE BREAKING NEWS RE: INVESTIGATION
Probe reportedly continues into Love In Action
In late breaking news regarding the state’s investigation of Love In Action, it appears there could be trouble for the facility.
According to a July 1 story by Eartha Melzer posted on Southern Voice’s website (www.sovo.com) the Tennessee Department of Health has begun investigations of Love in Action to determine if it is properly licensed as a drug and alcohol treatment facility.
According to the story, Tennessee Department of Health Communications Director Andrea Turner said “that if the program is strictly faith-based it would not require licensing by the state, but that according to the group’s website, Love In Action has licensed counselors and provides services related to alcohol and drug addiction on site.”
The story further noted that Turner added, “If employees there are providing counseling on homosexuality, it is possible they are operating outside their area of expertise.”
Legislation giving the health department the authority to issue cease-and-desist orders to unlicensed alcohol and drug treatment facilities went into effect July 1. To our knowledge, as of presstime, Love In Action had not been issued such an order.
In addition, according to the story, the Tennessee Department of Health & Developmental Disabilities has begun steps to determine if Love in Action is using unlicensed individuals to provide mental health care.
Family & Friends Magazine
P.O. Box 771948
Memphis TN 38177-1948
Tel: (901) 685-2234
Fax: (901) 685-2234
- Love In Action’s Rev. John J. Smid Talks Openly
- Three Individuals Offer Advice to Love In Action Protesters, Teen, Parents
- The Memphis Protest Heard ‘Round the World