Activists Protest 'Conversion Therapy' Conference In San Diego
Activists are organizing protests against a conference at a San Diego church this weekend promoting so-called gay conversion therapy, a practice widely condemned by mainstream science and mental health professionals.
A group calling itself San Diego Coalition Against Gay Conversion has been holding events this week to protest the annual Restored Hope Network convention taking place Friday and Saturday at City View Church in Serra Mesa.
Rev. Dan Koeshall, pastor at the San Diego Metropolitan Community Church, which ministers to LGBT Christians, spoke at a press conference Thursday evening and told of his own experience going through gay conversion therapy.
"I came to the realization of how harmful and damaging this practice of not being able to integrate my spirituality and my sexuality was," he said. "I didn't know there were strong and solid communities of faith like me."
Protest organizers said they plan to have a continual presence outside the conference on Friday.
The Restored Hope Network is one of the largest organizations in the United States promoting the belief that gays, lesbians and bisexuals can become straight through prayer and therapy. It began as a splinter group from Exodus International, which disbanded in 2013 after its president apologized to the LGBT community and acknowledged he was still attracted to men.
Anne Paulk, executive director of the Restored Hope Network, said in an email that the group rejects the term conversion therapy as "a term that the gay activist community uses to loop aversion and electroshock to regular old talk counseling." She said the group prefers the term "transformational ministry."
TheAmerican Psychiatric Association states even talk therapy seeking to change a person's sexual orientation places that person at risk of depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior. It also says there is no valid evidence that such practices are effective.
A California law passed in 2012 banned licensed mental health professionals from seeking to change a minor's sexual orientation. Last month the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case seeking to overturn the law.