REFUGE, the new name for Love In Action, Memphis Tennessee, is a daughter ministry of Love In Action International, the largest member ministry of Exodus International. You will remember it from Zach’s story last year.
One of the questions floating around during that time was the legality (if not the morality) of forcing one’s child to attend such a place against their will. REFUGE addresses this in two different questions on their new FAQ.
Do parents have the right to force their child to come to our program?
There are currently no laws prohibiting Christian parents from rearing their children according to their faith. Because Refuge International, Inc., is a Christian discipleship ministry, no belief is forced on anyone; in Scripture, Jesus Christ never forced anyone to believe in Him.
This first one appears to side step the issue. First they claim that there is no law against parents rearing their children in the faith they choose, which I would assume is correct. They go on to say they don’t force beliefs on anyone. OK, but how does this address the issue of forcing a child to attend REFUGE?
Neither response seems to really answer the question. Even if they don’t “force” any beliefs on participants, how much choice does a captive minor have to avoid whatever they may be teaching? Does this “no force” rule apply to other areas, e.g., in another section they discuss a question about success rates in dealing with homosexuality; is this belief or therapy?
What will happen if I make my child come against his/her will?
Again, as we trust in the inerrancy of God’s Word, we adhere to the commandments for relationships between parents and children. We believe God is faithful to bless those who strive for obedience to His commands.
This second one is even less responsive. One can imagine this issue is important if they devote two sections of the FAQ to it. Yet here basically the parent is told that since a child is commanded to respect his or her parents, and the parents are responsible for their child, God will work it all out. I would say that it’s one thing to express this kind of faith in one’s personal life but quite another to use it to quell the fears of a parent while they consider forcing little Johnny into a program because he is gay.
Reading over their material, one gets the impression that REFUGE wants very much to be considered a ministry and only a ministry. I can think of a few reasons this may be so. In this case, they apparently want to equate forcing a child to attend REFUGE with forcing a child to attend church (not a good idea but also not illegal that I know of). I’ve never been through an LIA program, but I suspect there is a difference.