Austin, TX (PRWEB) November 15, 2006
The social justice organization Soulforce has launched a campaign urging LGBT people and straight allies to write letters of concern and compassion to Rev. Ted Haggard, the deposed Pastor of New Life Church and former President of the National Association of Evangelicals.
"This is obviously a moment of personal, familial, and professional crisis for Rev. Haggard," said Paige Schilt, Soulforce Media Director. "We want to make sure that the voices of intolerance and homophobia are not the only voices that he hears during this difficult time. Through the Soulforce web site, members of our community can share their own experiences and affirm that LGBT people can and do live lives filled with faith, love, and happiness."
Haggard was dismissed as Senior Pastor of New Life Church on November 4, amid allegations of homosexual conduct. In a letter to his congregation, Haggard confessed to "sexual immorality" and indicated that the church's board of overseers had directed him to James Dobson, Jack Hayford, and Tommy Barnett for "healing and restoration." Dobson has since bowed out of the treatment team, but a spokesperson for Focus on the Family has continued to affirm the efficacy of counseling and prayer to change sexual orientation.
In fact, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association have all issued statements warning of the mental health dangers of treatments designed to change sexual orientation.
According to Dr. Jack Drescher, Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, "The American Psychiatric Association does not consider homosexuality to be an illness, nor should people be pressured to change their sexual orientation."
"Furthermore," Drescher continues, "even in the most optimistic studies, the majority of people who try to change their sexual orientation are unsuccessful. In cases where this 'therapy' does not work, many patients have ended up feeling worse than when they started. This is one reason why the American Psychiatric Association, in opposing sexual conversion therapies, reminds therapists of their most important duty to patients: 'First, do no harm.'"
Soulforce acknowledges that many in the gay community feel legitimate anger toward Haggard for his history of religion-based oppression. However, says Schilt, "Haggard has now been referred to the same treatment that has threatened the mental and spiritual health of countless gay men and lesbians. We hope that many will see this as an opportunity to reach out in empathy."
For more information about the letter-writing campaign, please visit http://www.soulforce.org/letters/1