A discussion on religion, homosexuality and therapy that had been scheduled during the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in Washington has been shut down following an attack by a “gay” publication on some of the people planning to participate.
The symposium called “Homosexuality and Therapy: The Religion Dimension,” had been in the plans for months at the APA convention in Washington, and was to feature advocates for homosexuality including New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson of the Episcopal church and was to be moderated by Harvard psychiatrist John Peteet.
Others scheduled to be on the podium included Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton, who has studied related issues intensively, and Rev. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
But the event, scheduled Monday, has been yanked from the schedule, according to the APA, because of the “misinformation and rhetoric” that was circulating about the issue.
Peter LaBarbera, of Americans for Truth, said the reaction to a plan to talk “shows the intellectual shallowness of the gay side.”
“They’re afraid of a debate,” he said, noting it wouldn’t be correct to “paint Warren Throckmorton as the religious right.”
“The gay activists don’t want to admit ex-gays exist, when they clearly do,” he said.
The attack was launched by the Gay City News publication, which on April 24 denigrated Throckmorton as “a psychologist without state board certification and an advocate for ‘sexual identity therapy’,” and quoted opponents calling him a “spin doctor of the ex-gay myth.”
The article quoted those warning of the symposium’s “potential harm.”
The APA statement on the cancellation said the organizer “decided to withdraw because a key participant who would have brought balance to the discussion had withdrawn. In addition, misinformation and rhetoric surrounding this event had risen to a level that would hinder the kind of open dialogue and interaction that was originally anticipated.”
Throckmorton, on his own blog, expressed doubt.
“What a difference a day makes,” he wrote. “The American Psychiatric Association program Homosexuality and Therapy: The Religious Dimension has been pulled by chair David Scasta. My understanding is that he was asked (by whom, I am still not clear) to pull the program because of increasing concerns about it. I am still hearing more about the reasons and hope to know something more clearly soon.
“Dr. Scasta did tell me that the APA’s position is that the program was not pulled because gay activists were unhappy with it. At this moment, I am skeptical,” he said.
Throckmorton had written just a day earlier when Robinson had announced his own sudden withdrawal from the event:
“Bishop Robinson provided the following explanation,” Throckmorton wrote. “‘Conservatives, particularly Focus on the Family, were going to use this event to draw credibility to the so-called reparative therapy movement,’ Robinson told the Blade. ‘It became clear to me in the last couple of weeks that just my showing up and letting this event happen … lends credibility to that so-called therapy.’”
However, Throckmorton said there were problems with that statement.
“This is quite troubling and not at all accurate. Since no one on the panel planned to speak about reparative therapy, it is clear to me that the bishop was misinformed,” Throckmorton said. “The symposium was approved by the APA in October of 2007 and nothing has changed in the descriptions, personnel or intent of the symposium since then. The meeting is not going to endorse reparative approaches, or advocate for any change in APA policy.”
Robinson’s statement to the Blade, however, made it clear that his intent was by refusing now to appear, after having agreed to do so, to shut down the discussion of homosexuality and religion.
The Washington Times is reporting that the attack launched by the Gay City News was followed quickly by the Washington Blade, which said the “panel could legitimize ‘homophobic views.’”
“A furious Mr. Scasta said the bishop never spoke with him before quitting,” the Times said.
“I got one e-mail from him saying he thought I was being used by the other side, such as Focus on the Family,” Scasta told the Washington Times. He called the reaction of homosexuals to the plans for a discussion over-the-top and self-defeating.
Scasta had described the panel as a “balanced discussion about religion and how it influences therapy.” He’s a former APA president and a “gay” psychiatrist.
“We wanted to talk rationally, calmly and respectfully to each other, but the external forces made it into a divisive debate it never intended to be.”
The original attack in the “gay” publication expressed criticism of the APA for including Throckmorton, “an advocate for ‘sexual identity therapy,’ which he says he has successfully applied to help patients ‘alter homosexual feelings or behaviors’ and live their lives ‘heterosexually’…”
Scheduled to moderate was Peteet, who chairs the APA’s committee on psychiatry, religion and spirituality. The original article noted Mohler is “a board member of James Dobson’s stridently anti-gay Focus on the Family.”
The article said, “Robinson’s wisdom in appearing with Mohler – and the broader debate about LGBT advocates engaging those on the other side – are not what make this story intriguing, and indeed troubling. Instead it is the embrace by a scientifically based organization, APA, of an unlicensed practitioner who espouses controversial professional opinions about homosexuality but can point to no peer-reviewed findings that his clinical approach has merit…”
The article said the description of the panel as a “balanced” discussion was “the sort of characterization one might expect from intelligent design proponents demanding a seat on a panel of evolution experts.”
It noted that in 1973, an intense campaign based on research findings including the work of “sexologist Alfred Kinsey” by homosexuals resulted in the APA removing homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
“How did APA arrive at the point where it is sponsoring a symposium Scasta inexplicably terms a ‘balanced’ discussion?” the critique asked.
Peteet had defended Throckmorton from the newspaper’s attack, saying, “My understanding is that Dr. Throckmorton does not describe himself as a reparative therapist, but rather as a clinician trying to help individuals who are struggling with these issues…”
The APA itself, has condemned “prejudice and discrimination against individuals or groups based on their religious or spiritual beliefs…”
On his website, Throckmorton explains his academic work has been published by journals of the American Psychological Association, the American Mental Health Counseling Association and the Christian Association for Psychological Studies. He’s also past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association and is past chair of its ethics committee.
He has served on the national advisory board of Magellan Behavioral Health Care, the largest behavioral health-care company in the world, and in 2004 he wrote and produced the documentary, “I Do Exist” about sexual orientation change.
His writings have appeared in more than 100 newspapers nationwide.