TWO Condemns European Conversion Therapy Conference as a Dangerous Fraud

Failed U.S. ‘ex-gay’ Programs Exported to Eastern Europe, Same Dismal Results Expected

PHILADELPHIA – Truth Wins Out (TWO) accused a failed United States “ex-gay” conversion therapy organization today of exploiting the dangerous anti-LGBTQ political climate in Eastern Europe to export its fraudulent and medically discredited efforts abroad. The opportunistic move by The International Federation for Therapeutic and Counseling Choice (IFTCC), conveniently omits the group’s remarkable failures in the United States, while peddling fake anti-LGBTQ snake oil overseas, in an ignoble effort to spread extremist ideology and bilk unsuspecting clients.

“This is nothing more than a cynical rebranding effort overseas, for an American conversion therapy outfit that failed miserably at home,” said Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen. “The IFTCC’s parent organization, NARTH, collapsed in the United States after failing to use bizarre ‘therapy’ methods to convert clients from gay-to-straight. Many of their leading conversion therapists had molested clients or been exposed as secretly gay. Now, they are targeting unsuspecting clients who may be unaware of their past disasters. It proves that these are charlatans who are exploiting homophobia in Eastern Europe to cash-in. The truth is, IFTCC’s phony ‘cures’ are rejected by every reputable medical and mental health organization in the world. This conference is science fiction masquerading as actual science.”

This year’s conference (Nov. 27-28), though based in Slovakia, is primarily online due to coronavirus. It is focused on Eastern Europe, shamefully exploiting and exacerbating a worsening homophobic political climate in authoritarian countries such as Poland and Hungary. Indeed, the conference is offered in Hungarian, Polish and Slovakian. In 2011, the group running the conference (NARTH at the time) had a speaking invitation at a Polish medical school rescinded, after enduring heavy criticism for its debunked practices. Truth Wins Out has started translating videos in Polish to help counter the growing threat.

Topics at this year’s quack conference include: Rethinking Transgenderism, Therapeutic Approaches for Men with Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction (SSA), Pastoral Care for Women Struggling with Unwanted SSA, and Ways Out of Pornography. Although it is camouflaged as a scientific gathering, it is principally a forum composed of conservative religious fundamentalists. One glaring example is presenter is Elizabeth Woning (USA), who says that she, “lived as an openly lesbian woman until an encounter with God radically shifted her perspective.”

The group behind this conference is the U.S. organization, The Alliance for Therapeutic Choice and Scientific Integrity. The group changed its name from The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), after a series of embarrassing scandals. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups had called NARTH, the “main source for anti-gay junk science.” In 2013, NARTH lost its tax-exempt status.

“It’s critically important to remember that the IFTCC conference is NARTH by another name,” said TWO’s Wayne Besen. “They had too much baggage to continue operating without a complete rebranding effort. But these are the same quacks, peddling the same anachronistic ideas, with the same awful outcomes. No one should be fooled by their insincere extremist makeover.”

Some of NARTH’s lowlights include:

  • Its most renowned member, Dr. George Rekers, had to resign after vacationing with a “rent boy”.
  • A former board member, Arthur Abba Goldberg, resigned after we exposed that he was concealing his record as an ex-felon specializing in ripping people off while he worked on Wall Street. The organization that he co-founded, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Homosexuality (JONAH), was shut down after it was found guilty of committing consumer fraud against its clients.
  • In 2016, NARTH co-founder Ben Kaufman lost his license after confining a client, who was forced into conversion therapy, with “a large dog under compelled coercion”
  • Former NARTH leader, David Matheson, came out of the closet in 2019. Matheson was also part of the bizarre conversion camping group, Journey into Manhood, which has a “cuddle room” for clients
  • In 2019, NARTH leader Norman Goldwasser was outed for soliciting men for sex online
  • A series of major “ex-gay” leaders that worked closely with NARTH came out of the closet and now call for a ban on conversion therapy.
  • NARTH had been criticized for the openly racist rantings of a board member, as well as a call by another board member to bully transgender students.
  • Angry NARTH trainer, Richard Cohen, was permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association in 2002 for multiple ethics violations, which included peddling his products to clients.
  • Sexism is rampant at NARTH, with therapist James Phelan writing, “dominant women only demasculinize men.”
  • The late NARTH co-founder, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, treated teenagers and even children as young as three years old, calling them “prehomosexual boys.” Nicolosi had said that Bozo the clown could make a child gay, encouraged gay pornography as treatment, advocated that fathers should shower with sons to see what a grown male penis looks like, and as part of “curing” homosexuality he encouraged clients to drink sports drinks and call friends “dude”
  • NARTH had been accused of being unethical, distorting research by legitimate scientists on several occasions. The group was accused by a former member of having few actual mental health experts, with the group composed primarily of religious ideologues who don’t publish peer review work.

This latest reboot is part of a global effort by anti-LGBTQ activists to relaunch the “ex-gay” industry, after it ignominiously disintegrated in the U.S. between 2010-2013. A couple of weeks ago, the American Family Association released a new heavily promoted video, In His Image: Delighting in God’s Plan for Gender and Sexuality. The effort obscures the American Family Association’s past embarrassing forays into promoting conversion programs, with their many “ex-gay” spokespeople almost uniformly reverting back to homosexuality.

Tragically, AFA’s last “ex-gay” documentary, “It’s Not Gay” featured Michael Johnston. In 2003, a Truth Wins Out investigation, with the assistance of Virginia attorney Michael Hamar, revealed that Johnston was meeting men online in various Virginia motel rooms, even has he worked for Rev. Jerry Falwell and claimed that Jesus had healed him from his homosexuality. Johnston resigned his position in infamy and disgrace, yet AFA continues to support the “ex-gay” lie, undeterred by reality. TWO is countering this documentary with a historic, in-depth interview series with former “ex-gay” leaders who now renounce their past “pray away the gay” work.

Founded in 2006, Truth Wins Out is the oldest nonprofit advocacy organization and educational resource dedicated to monitoring and ending “ex-gay” conversion programs, while working to eliminate anti-LGBTQ prejudice and discrimination. Truth Wins Out also fights against right wing extremism, which is the underlying source of power, money and influence behind “pray away the gay” political campaigns.