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Candi Cushman's 'loving and respectful' dialogue: Perhaps, unless you love and respect the fair presentation of credible science

by Jeremy Hooper

Candi-CushmanHere's Focus on the Family's education analyst, Candi Cushman, talking about the newly re-branded "Day of Truth", and how this pro-"ex-gay" school program (now called the "Day of Dialogue") will change under the auspices of the Colorado Springs "pro-family" behemoth:

Candi Cushman, education analyst for Focus on the Family and head of TrueTolerance.org – an online tool for parents who want to help ensure a balanced treatment of the issue of homosexuality in public schools – said the ministry is excited about shepherding the next phase for this student-led event.

“Focus has a long tradition of supporting those who want to express their faith-based viewpoints about homosexuality in a loving and respectful way,” said Cushman, “The Day of Dialogue gives students a great way to do just that.”

Focus Rolls Out ‘Day of Dialogue’ [Focus on the Family]

Okay, so more nice-sounding PR spin from FoTF. It's what we talked about yesterday: Their desire to sound "loving and respectful" in spite of their own discriminatory pushes.

But why can we never, ever accept their version of "dialogue"? Well here, check this out. In an article wherein she encourages "former homosexuals" be allowed to share their faith-based testimony in public schools, this is how Ms. Cushman responds to those who say that "ex-gay" therapy is scientifically rejected:

Talking Point #5: But don’t national medical associations oppose what ex-gays are promoting?

Argument: It’s downright irresponsible—and even harmful to students— to allow speakers to promote therapy to change gays that’s opposed by every national medical association.

Actually, none of the professional medical or mental health associations have banned—or declared unethical—therapies aimed at helping clients who desire to change their sexual orientation. But you’re probably referring to the fact that the American Psychiatric Association [APA] removed homosexuality from its list of disorders in 1973. Still, that’s a far cry from completely banning therapy from those who desire it. And it by no means represents the opinion of all the nation’s medical and counseling professionals.
Five Talking Points: For Opposing Discrimination Against Ex-Gay Speakers in Public Schools[Focus on the Family]

Candi makes it sounds that the medical groups are largely neutral on "ex-gay" programs. She puts out a misleading reference to the APA's 1973 action, as if it's the only thing the leading medical and counseling professionals have said. And if you go look at the full link, you will see that she follows up the above text with biased pro-"ex-gay" voices like the late Charles Socarides (as well as a quote that misrepresents Dr. Robert Spitzer in a way that goes against his own wishes).

Only problem for Candi? Her oversights constitute fallacious, negligent, deeply dangerous false witness-bearing. Because here's what credible medical and counseling associations say. Currently, not just in 1973:

American Medical Association: "opposes, the use of "reparative" or "conversion" therapy that is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that the patient should change his/her homosexual orientation"
AMA Policy Regarding Sexual Orientation [AMA]


American Counseling Association Ethics Committee: Clients may ask for a specific treatment from a counseling professional because they have heard about it from either their religious community or from popular culture. A counselor, however, only provides treatment that is scientifically indicated to be effective or has a theoretical framework supported by the profession. Otherwise, counselors inform clients that the treatment is "unproven" or "developing" and provide an explanation of the "potential risks and ethical considerations of using such techniques/procedures and take steps to protect clients from possible harm" (Standard C.6.e., "Scientific Bases for Treatment Modalities").

Considering all the above deliberation, the ACA Ethics Committee strongly suggests that ethical professional counselors do not refer clients to someone who engages in conversion therapy or, if they do, to proceed cautiously only when they are certain that the referral counselor fully informs clients of the unproven nature of the treatment and the potential risks and takes steps to minimize harm to clients (also see Standard A.2.b., "Types of Information Needed"). This information also must be included in written informed consent material by those counselors who offer conversion therapy despite ACA's position and the Ethics Committee's statement in opposition to the treatment. To do otherwise violates the spirit and specifics of the ACA Code of Ethics.

Exploring ethical issues related to conversion or reparative therapy [ACA]


American Academy of Pediatrics: The terms reparative therapy and sexual orientation conversion therapy refer to counseling and psychotherapy aimed at eliminating or suppressing homosexuality. The most important fact about these “therapies” is that they are based on a view of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major mental health professions. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,6 published by the American Psychiatric Association, which defines the standards of the field, does not include homosexuality. All other major health professional organizations have supported the American Psychiatric Association in its declassification of homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1973. Thus, the idea that homosexuality is a mental disorder or that the emergence of same-sex attraction and orientation
among some adolescents is in any way abnormal or mentally unhealthy has no support among any mainstream health and mental health professional organizations.

The idea that homosexuality is a mental disorder or that the emergence of same-sex attraction and orientation among some adolescents is in any way abnormal or mentally unhealthy has no support among any mainstream health and mental health professional organizations.

Despite the general consensus of major medical, health, and mental health professions that both heterosexuality and homosexuality are normal expressions of human sexuality, efforts to change sexual orientation through therapy have been adopted by some political and religious organizations and aggressively promoted to the public. However, such efforts have serious potential to harm young people because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure.

Because of the aggressive promotion of efforts to change sexual orientation through therapy, a number of medical, health, and mental health professional organizations have issued public statements about the dangers of this approach. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises youth that counseling may be helpful for you if you feel confused about your sexual identity. Avoid any treatments that claim to be able to change a person’s sexual orientation, or treatment ideas that see homosexuality as a sickness.
Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth [APP]


The American Psychological Association: The American Psychological Association adopted a resolution Wednesday stating that mental health professionals should avoid telling clients that they can change their sexual orientation through therapy or other treatments.

The "Resolution on Appropriate Affirmative Responses to Sexual Orientation Distress and Change Efforts" also advises that parents, guardians, young people and their families avoid sexual orientation treatments that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and instead seek psychotherapy, social support and educational services "that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth."
The approval, by APA's governing Council of Representatives, came at APA's annual convention, during which a task force presented a report that in part examined the efficacy of so-called "reparative therapy," or sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE).

"Contrary to claims of sexual orientation change advocates and practitioners, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of psychological interventions to change sexual orientation," said Judith M. Glassgold, PsyD, chair of the task force. "Scientifically rigorous older studies in this area found that sexual orientation was unlikely to change due to efforts designed for this purpose. Contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates, recent research studies do not provide evidence of sexual orientation change as the research methods are inadequate to determine the effectiveness of these interventions." Glassgold added: "At most, certain studies suggested that some individuals learned how to ignore or not act on their homosexual attractions. Yet, these studies did not indicate for whom this was possible, how long it lasted or its long-term mental health effects. Also, this result was much less likely to be true for people who started out only attracted to people of the same sex."

Based on this review, the task force recommended that mental health professionals avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts when providing assistance to people distressed about their own or others' sexual orientation.
Insufficient Evidence that Sexual Orientation Change Efforts Work, Says [American Psychological Association]


The British Medical Association: Meeting at its annual conference in Brighton, has passed a motion saying that the National Health Service should not fund sexual orientation change therapy and called on the British Department of Health to investigate cases where conversion therapy has been funded with NHS money, and to prevent it happening in future.
British Medical Association: Ex-Gay Therapy Should Not Be Funded By NHS [Box Turtle Bulletin]

That Candi fails to mention this stuff is not a point on which we can just "agree to disagree." And not only on the basis of being gay people, either, but rather as critical thinking Americans who think that our public schools are designed to, oh, I don't know -- INFORM!!!!!!

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