Tennessee state officials have begun a second investigation into an "ex-gay" group accused of abuse and brainwashing at a camp near Memphis.
The new probe comes just weeks after the Department of Child Services said it had found no signs of child abuse in the wake of a widely publicized blog by a teen named "Zach" who wrote that he was gay and that his parents had forced him to go to the "Love In Action" camp near Memphis to "cure him of his homosexuality."
Love In Action International says it "believes that instilling strong Christian beliefs can keep gays from acting on their homosexual desires."
The group, which also works with adults, has a program called Refuge for teens 15 to 18 years old.
The teen on the blog identified himself as a 16-year-old from Bartlett, Tenn., and said his parents "tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me. ... I'm a big screwup to them, who isn't on the path God wants me to be on. So I'm sitting here in tears ... and I can't help it."
Child Services did not say whether it found "Zach" or if it determined he ever existed.
Now, the state Mental Health & Developmental Disabilities Department has opened its own investigation because Love in Action is also offering counseling in drug and alcohol addiction. State officials say it can't do that without a license.
In an effort to head off the new examination of the camp, Love in Action executive director John Smid said the organization would change its Web site wording and direct clients to established, off-site drug and alcohol counseling services.
Love In Action is one of several so-called ex-gay organizations throughout the country.
The American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association both have said such therapy can be emotionally harmful, leading to depression and self-destructive behavior.
Smid described Refuge as a two-week program, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, in which teenagers meet with counselors and in group sessions to talk about their sexual desires.
"The parents bring them and take them home," he said. "We work with the parents also."
Edited: TAS - published