Virginia: ex-gay group can promote ‘conversion’ materials in public schools

Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) believes that it canhelp people with unwanted same-sex attractions (SSA) realize their personal goals for change — whether by developing their innate heterosexual potential or by embracing a lifestyle as a single, non-sexually active man or woman.”

It wanted to take its message to the public schools as a counter to Gay-Straight Alliances, which allow students to openly discuss issues about their orientation without fear of reprisal. When the school board in Arlington County refused to allow PFOX access to distribute flyers, the ex-gay org filed a lawsuit. There has been a settlement. (365gay):

The agreement reached between the two sides to end the legal action gives PFOX the same access given to other groups and says the group can submit fliers for distribution to middle and elementary school students if it wishes.

A PFOX spokesperson said it is not planning on targeting younger students at this time. The school system said that it is not making a judgment on the message contained in the PFOX material.

The American Psychological Association last year issued a stinging rebuke of the so-called ex-gay movement. “There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed,” it said in a statement.

An attorney in Norfolk, Virginia, Michael Hamar, was appalled by the decision and fired off a letter to the Arlington County School Board. He sent it to me with permission to post it.

From: Mike Hamar
Sent: Tuesday, August 07, 2007 10:41 AM
To: ‘[email protected]
Subject: School System Allows Group To Promote ‘Gay Conversion’ To Students

Ladies and Gentlemen:

It was with great distress that I noted your decision described in the linked article [“School System Allows Group To Promote ‘Gay Conversion’ To Students“].  As one who has studied the fraudulent nature of these “conversion” programs in depth and helped expose “ex-gays for pay,” I believe that you have opened a Pandora’s Box of potential liability on the part of the school division in respect to youth who may be harmed by these programs and/or pushed to suicide.

In 2006, the American Psychological Association issued a stinging rebuke of the so-called ex-gay movement following a demonstration by members of several organizations that claim homosexuality is a choice that can be cured.  In fact, the APA is now considering a total ban on conversion therapy under the APA’s ethical and clinical guidelines.  In short, if the school division gets sued, the legitimate mental health experts will testify against these programs.  I hope you have discussed this issue with the school division’s liability insurance carrier.  I suspect your carrier will not be pleased.  Whether or not you endorse these programs, the fact that the school division allows the materials to be distributed will give them an appearance of legitimacy that they do not deserve.  Unsuspecting youths and/or parents may be misled accordingly to their detriment.

I know I would happily represent a youth in your school division or his/her family who is harmed as a result of these fraudulent programs.  Perhaps Arlington County will have the opportunity to provide the “test case” that will put these bogus “ministries” out of business once and for all.

I truly hope you will rethink this extremely foolish decision.

Michael B. Hamar
Attorney at Law

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