Monday, June 19, 2017

Restored Hope Network: Purveyors of Deceit and Dismay

Anne Paulk
Anne Paulk
This past weekend, Restored Hope Network, advocates of gay conversion “therapy,” held its annual conference at a San Diego church. The event was titled Hope 2017. This year's gathering even featured a supposed ex-transgender by the name of Linda Seiler.
Linda Seiler once had plans to have sex reassignment surgery, change her name to David, and live happily ever after. But God. Today, she is living the dream, content in a female body and wholly attracted to men. Linda shares candidly from her own struggles coupled with a strong Scriptural foundation and the latest scientific research regarding the origins of homosexuality and gender dysphoria.

I am certain that it is all very “scientific” given that there is no peer-reviewed research published to mainstream academic or scholarly journals that supports conversion therapy. Where there's a need — there's a crackpot who has honed their personality disorder into a revenue stream. Call me a cynic.

The purpose for RHN seems to be to create a market for conversion practitioners and a paycheck for executive director, Anne Paulk. RHN has a network of 40 ministries, 13 pastoral affiliates and six therapists. RHN's revenues are presumably derived from referral fees and conferences.

In my state, for example, we have Keith Vennum operating out of Orlando. On his website, Vennnum claims to be a psychiatrist. That is misleading. Vennum, who graduated medical school in 1971, is actually an anesthesiologist with a 2008 mail-order degree in counseling from Liberty University.

The recurring theme of RHN is quite simple:
  • Gay people are broken.
  • Gay people are struggling.
  • Gay people need to be fixed.
  • Jesus Christ offers heterosexuality for the strugglers.
As they phrase it on their web site:
Jesus Christ deeply loves broken sexual sinners and provides hope for transformation. Jesus coupled a heightened ethical demand with a loving outreach to violators to lead them to repentance …
And:
Restored Hope is a membership governed network dedicated to restoring hope to those broken by sexual and relational sin especially those impacted by homosexuality. We proclaim that Jesus Christ has life changing power for all who submit to Christ as Lord; we also seek to equip the church to impart that transformation.
When pressed, Paulk will spout some gibberish about talk therapy:
[Reparative therapy is] regular old talk counseling that is used for marital counseling, depression and any number of other things that distress individuals.
There is nothing “regular” about reparative therapy. It is obvious that the basis for this nonsense is “pray-away-the-gay.” Every professional medical and counseling peer organization rejects the efficacy of such programs and claims that they are potentially toxic. Reparative therapy exploits the fears and desperation of people — particularly parents — while offering them the magic potion that will make their kid's sexuality conform to their religious beliefs.

The reality is that these programs create dishonest children. Determined to please their parents the kids claim to be cured. The reality, of course is that they remain just as gay as they were before the program. 

Paulk also claims to have been victimized:
[Opponents’] strategic use of the phrase ‘conversion therapy’ to twist together compassionate talk counseling with electro-shock is one of those methods of demeaning others, simply because of their offense that some might not want to embrace gay feelings.
That is for public consumption. Paulk otherwise never uses the phrase “gay feelings” opting instead for the preposterous “same-sex attraction.” The only reason that people “struggle” with their sexual orientation is religion-based opprobrium. Remove the superstition and people are willing to accept what is a natural variant of human sexuality.

RHN was incorporated in Missouri in 2012 by Annette Comiskey wife of ex-gay Andrew Comiskey of Kansas City, MO. The original board members were Andrew Comiskey, Stephen Black (Oklahoma City, OK), David Kyle Foster (Franklin, TN), Frank Worthen (San Raphael, CA), Robert Gagnon (Pittsburgh, PA), Anne Paul (Portland, OR) and Michael Newman ((Houston, TX).

The presence of Gagnon is striking. He is no longer on the board of directors but is now on what they call the board of reference as well as their advisory board. Robert Gagnon is an unhinged bigot. He has been on the faculty of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary for 23 years. In spite of an impressive Ivy League education he has never attained a full professorship. Gagnon insists that gays are pedophiles who recruit children.

That board of reference has other characters as well including Matt Barber and Mat Staver. Also on that board is Joseph Nicolosi which is quite miraculous since Nicolosi is very dead.

Restored Hope Network is not a federally tax-exempt organization (it is a Missouri non-profit). The decision not to be a 501(c)3 is probably by design to avoid having to publish a publicly available tax return.

An amusing side-note to the gathering was a press release by Don Otis (dba Veritas Communications in Idaho). According to Otis, the Human Rights Campaign aided by more than 1,000 protesters were trying to disrupt the conference.
"We are prepared for the protest and intend to be kind," explains Paulk. "We realize they [protesters] are operating out of misunderstanding and misconceptions about who we are and what we do. Tolerance is a two-way street. We expect the respect and freedom to leave homosexuality as much as respecting their right to remain homosexual or transgender."
These people love nothing more than to be victims. Charlatans are not due respect or tolerance and Ms. Paulk knows perfectly well that there is no misunderstanding or misconceptions about who they are or what they do. Ultimately they provide a pretext for discrimination and oppression. They offer what science says does not exist while wasting the resources of participants who face inevitable disappointment. When participants don't become straight it is their fault rather than the program based on ancient texts. RHN contributes to the misery of gay children who, with acceptance, have the potential to be healthy, happy and successful. No Ms. Paulk, you are in the shame business for economic gain. You care very little about the lives that you negatively affect.

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