NARTH President Julie Hamilton has responded to this week’s report that NARTH Executive Secretary and JONAH co-founder and co-director Arthur Abba Goldberg is a convicted felon.

On the NARTH website, Hamilton makes a number of assumptions and seems blind to the actual issues raised. She says that activists, “unable to silence NARTH’s message, resort to attacking NARTH’s members.”

I can only speak for Ex-Gay Watch, but when the story broke, it never occurred to me that Goldberg’s exposure was ipso facto a way to discredit NARTH as a whole. It discredited Goldberg, certainly, and by extension JONAH. It is primarily NARTH’s own response that will reflect on the organization – though admittedly, the omens in Hamilton’s article are not good.

Goldberg exposé part of coordinated strategy against NARTH?

Hamilton ties in the Goldberg story with a protest staged against NARTH in Florida last November:

[A] journalism student leading the November protest shouted into a megaphone that they had been unsuccessful in stopping the work of NARTH through counter conventions, so they would instead begin to target the individual members of NARTH. Following these threats, there have indeed been attempts to discredit both NARTH members as well as non-members who do similar work.

Again, I speak only for XGW in saying that we know nothing of the group shown in the video, or the identity of the media student speaking through the megaphone. TWO organized speaking and protesting events at the same conference, but XGW is not aware of a connection to the group in the video.

NARTH members being targeted?

Hamilton continues:

In one recent report from England, a journalist posed as a client seeking help for unwanted homosexual attractions. He set up two unsuspecting therapists, claiming to want help from them, secretly recorded their conversations, and then contacted their professional organizations to seek action against them. That same journalist is reportedly assisting others to disrupt and discredit an event in Ireland this week.

She is referring to Patrick Strudwick’s report in The Independent earlier this month. During his investigation, Strudwick encountered prominent reparative therapist and NARTH representative (as well as disciple of Richard Cohen) Paul Miller, who encouraged sexual arousal as part of therapy sessions, and made inappropriate self-disclosures about his own sexual habits and homosexual attractions. The NARTH President’s response is to blame Strudwick for his tactics, while saying nothing of the behavior of its own members.

Hamilton then turns to the Goldberg story:

In another report, activist groups investigated the background of a NARTH board member in order to publicize his past wrongdoing in an attempt to discredit the organization.

XGW repeats: The report discredits Arthur Abba Goldberg in the first instance, not NARTH. It is this weak, defensive and myopic response that reflects badly on NARTH itself.

“It doesn’t discredit the science”: NARTH misses the point

NARTH does not rise or fall based on the actions of individuals. NARTH is a scientific organization upholding the research behind the issue of homosexuality and defending the rights of clients to seek therapy for unwanted homosexual attractions. NARTH is not responsible for the actions of its members, nor do the actions of NARTH members change the scientific data. The research stands regardless of the attacks launched by activists who are avoiding the data by focusing on individuals. Emotionally based campaigns and character assassinations do not change the research, nor do they diminish the right of clients to pursue their personal goals. NARTH will continue its mission as a scientific organization despite the propaganda, and the research will continue to speak for itself.

Who said this was about the scientific research? XGW and others have worked tirelessly to present plenty of evidence against the supposedly scientific claims of NARTH and reparative therapy over the years. This is about the trustworthiness and character of an important leader in the ex-gay movement. It is about the integrity of a man whom struggling gays and lesbians have trusted with deepest aspects of their lives and sexuality. Call it a “character assassination,” a “personal attack,” or what you will, but does NARTH really believe that character, integrity and trustworthiness is not vital to leaders who set themselves up as moral, religious and scientific authorities?

It should be noted that Hamilton cleverly hedges her bets.  In the first paragraph, she dismisses the claims against Goldberg, implicitly defending him. In the second she ensures that NARTH’s back is covered if it all blows up for Goldberg: Nothing to do with us. We’re not responsible for him, and we don’t stand or fall on the behavior of a handful of our members.

Well, no one to my knowledge claimed NARTH stood or fell on Goldberg alone. This response does say a lot about the organization.

She ends (not in the web version, but in a separate email version) by giving some PR ideas to NARTH members. She tells them:

Try using case studies, success stories, testimonials or examples of how others used your product or service successfully. Solicit material from clients and vendors, or ask your readers to write. It’s a win-win! You get relevant content, and they get exposure.

Insert a “read on” link at the bottom of your article to drive traffic to your website. Links are tracked, allowing you to see which articles create the most interest for your readers.

This slick advice for damage-limitation is a rather cynical addition to the published version of the article.

So, what would the proper response be from NARTH? There are questions to be answered:

  • Prior to this week, was NARTH aware of Arthur Abba Goldberg’s status as a convicted felon and a disbarred attorney?
  • If so, what bearing did Goldberg’s conviction for fraud and disbarment (on grounds of character) have on his position as Executive Secretary of NARTH?
  • If not, does NARTH’s policy not require such disclosures from its senior officers?
  • If Goldberg did not disclose his criminal past, what action is it taking now, in light of the reports?
  • Since Patrick Strudwick’s investigative report involving a NARTH representative in the UK was also mentioned, is NARTH taking any action to address the allegations made? Does it believe Paul Miller’s alleged behavior is ethical?

Instead of blaming the LGBT community, as Goldberg has tried to do, the appropriate response is for NARTH to ask some serious questions of Arthur Abba Goldberg – and itself.

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