You can’t be cured when you’re not ill

You can’t “cure” someone of having a sexual orientation.

Individuals and groups who claim they can cure a person of being gay are either bigots or frauds or, quite possibly, both.

The Catholic hierarchy has dealt with the priests who molest children in several ways. For decades at least, they ignored the crimes and covered up after the criminals. (There is written evidence of reports made to the Vatican in 1962 and to Pope Paul VI a year later, about child-molesting priests being returned to parish work where they would again have access to children.) They also attempted to pin the blame on gay men being admitted to the priesthood: but painstaking evidence was gathered to show this was factually wrong. And in some horrible instances, the Church seems to have done both: when a Dutch boy in the 1950s reported Catholic priests to the police for sexual abuse, the police turned him over to a psychiatric hospital run by the Catholic Church, where at the age of 20, in 1956, he was castrated to “cure” him of homosexuality and to punish him for complaining about the priests who had abused him. At least ten other boys were also castrated for the same purposes.

Captain Jack and the Doctor kiss
This? Does not need to be cured.

The British charity CARE funded a “gay cure” weekend in 2009. Fortunately, the most brutal “treatments” which have been applied in quest of a gay cure, are no longer among the tools with which the Christian Right can legally offer to “cure” people of having the wrong sexual orientation – or, for very young children, if they have behaviours which their parents think might mean they would “grow up gay”. Pseudo-scientific organisations like NARTH offer a fake-medical approach: the Christian Right go for a pray-away-the-gay line: but whatever their religious persuasion, or motivation, they claim to believe a lie: that a person’s sexual orientation is an illness to be cured.

CARE also think homophobic bullying is a Christian value, and marriage is a privilege that should be restricted to heterosexuals only.

Since 1992 CARE has been training graduates in its “Leadership Programme“. They are placed with “MPs, MSPs or in Christian NGOs” as interns, Monday to Thursday, and they spend Friday at CARE’s London headquarters. The objective behind this programme is to equip future “leaders” with resources for effective engagement “as Christians within a secular culture”.

By this CARE does not mean promoting Christian values of love, humility, forgiveness, poverty – especially not the latter! – they mean sex and marriage and teaching children the right kind of thing. The right kind of sex-education materials (stories about wolves being killed horridly: no teaching teenagers that contraception is useful); the right kind of faith-inspired bullying; and above all don’t tell them gay marriage is legal or they might want one of their own when they’re old enough.

Couples who got married the first day the ban was lifted in New York
This? Does not need to be cured either.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists believes strongly in evidence-based treatment. There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish.

There is now a large body of research evidence that indicates that being gay, lesbian or bisexual is compatible with normal mental health and social adjustment. However, the experiences of discrimination in society and possible rejection by friends, families and others, such as employers, means that some lesbian, gay and bisexual people experience a greater than expected prevalence of mental health and substance misuse problems.

The MPs listed below have received an intern from CARE as part of the anti-gay charity’s “Leadership programme” in the past three years. Philip Dawson, who found his MP David Burrowes was among those who had accepted an intern from CARE, has set up a petition using Change.org:

We call on the 16 MPs listed below to sever links with the charity CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) which co-sponsored a ‘gay cure’ conference in April 2009. Since the ‘gay cure’ conference took place, 16 MPs listed below have received an intern paid for by CARE as part of its Educational Leadership Programme.

  1. Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith MP, Berwick-Upon-Tweed (LibDem)
  2. David Burrowes MP, Enfield Southgate (Con)
  3. Paul Burstow MP, Sutton and Cheam (LibDem)
  4. Alistair Burt MP, North East Bedfordshire (Con)
  5. Stephen Crabb MP, Preseli Pembrokeshire (Con)
  6. Tim Farron MP, Westmorland and Lonsdale (LibDem)
  7. John Glen MP, Salisbury (Con)
  8. Sharon Hodgson MP, Washington and Sunderland West (Lab)
  9. Catherine McKinnell MP, Newcastle Upon Tyne North (Lab)
  10. Stephen O’Brien MP, Eddisbury (Con)
  11. James Paice MP, South East Cambridgeshire (Con)
  12. Andrew Selous MP, South West Bedfordshire (Con)
  13. Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, Meriden (Con)
  14. Gary Streeter MP, South West Devon (Con)
  15. Desmond Swayne MP, New Forest West (Con)
  16. Steve Webb MP, Northavon (LibDem)

(Contact details at links.)

Philip Dawson writes:

We are concerned that by accepting material support from CARE and actively participating in its Educational Leadership Programme, which seeks to place interns with Christian values in public life, the MPs listed below could be seen to be implicitly supporting the views of the charity and, in turn, their co-sponsorship of conferences discussing “Therapeutic approaches to Same-Sex Attraction” and “Mentoring the sexually broken”.

Furthermore we call on the MPs listed below to join us in calling on the Charity Commission to investigate whether, by co-sponsoring such a conference despite the authoritative and accepted medical view that homosexuality is not a disease; CARE, a registered charity, has acted inappropriately and could be seen to have brought itself, and other faith charities, into disrepute.

David Burrowes, parliamentary aide to the Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin, is one of the Conservative MPs who has accepted an intern from CARE and is organising a campaign to keep marriage a heterosexual privilege. He claims to believe that if same-sex couples were able to marry, this would “fracture” the institution of marriage:

“Many colleagues are worried that it would fundamentally affect how marriage between a man and woman has historically been viewed in this country. There are strong doubts that we need to go down this path. It would open up a can of worms and a legal minefield about freedom, religion and equalities legislation.

“Gay marriage is a debate we don’t need to have at this stage. It is not an issue people are hammering us on the doorstep to do something about. It is important that there is a reasoned debate around how we view marriage rather than about homosexual rights. It may open up old wounds and put people into the trenches; no one wants that.”

He denied that dropping the plan would jeopardise Mr Cameron’s modernising credentials. “There are many other ways that the Conservatives can show we are a modern party – not least our social justice agenda. This is too important an issue to decide in terms of where it positions our party.”

Labour MP David Lammy was the first to cut ties with CARE over their links with the “gay cure”:

“My record on gay rights stands for itself and I’ll be voting in favour of the gay marriage bill.

“I’ve worked with CARE in the past on betting shops – which is an issue that still blights Tottenham – and I accepted an intern to help in my office which is the busiest in the country.

“But I had no idea that they held these views and my position now is that I won’t be taking another intern because I can’t agree with their extreme views.”

CARE interns get paid £100 a week by the charity (less than minimum wage, incidentally) to get a head-start on a career in politics – that ambition is why graduates who can afford it are willing to work for MPs for free. CARE’s objective in supplying these interns is quite above-board: as with so many other Christian Right schemes, this was copied from the US, where Christian charities similar to CARE have been sponsoring their protégés into “leadership programs” for decades. Their concern is not to bring economic justice into politics. Their concern is to foreground homophobia and misogyny as Christian political principles.

And no matter how much MPs tell themselves they deserve the free labour – they should sever ties with an organisation like CARE.

Tim Farron, president of the Liberal Democrats, claims he accepted a CARE intern because he doesn’t believe Parliamentary interns should be working for free:

“I chose to participate in the Care internship scheme because I believe that interns should not be unpaid for the work that they do on MPs’ behalf. As a working class lad, I am aware that most people do not get the chance to work in parliament unless they have connections or financial backing. This is something I have always been very concerned about.

“Currently most MPs do not pay their interns and this is something that should change – otherwise only those from wealthy backgrounds can afford to benefit from internships. This is wrong – but the Care scheme allows young people to enjoy the benefits of an internship while also receiving a decent grant.”

To be eligible for CARE’s leadership programme, all interns must sign up (and live by) the CARE Statement of Faith. In effect, Tim Farron, who admits to identifying as a Christian, has substituted a religious barrier for a class barrier.

1 Comment

Filed under Charities, LGBT Equality, Politics

One response to “You can’t be cured when you’re not ill

  1. Thank you for all your support. I am delighted that on BBC Radio Newcastle yesterday, Sharon Hodgson MP and Catherine McKinnell MP both confirmed that they will no longer participate in CARE’s intern programme.

    The only two MPs who currently participate in the programme who have not made a similar public statement are Tim Farron, President of the Liberal Democrats and John Glen (Con,Salisbury).

    There are 14 MPs who have previously received an intern from CARE since they sponsored a ‘gay cure’ event in 2009 who have not yet publicly made a statement distancing themselves from the charity.

    I am not a campaigner – I work for a firm of architects – so am finding out more and more things about CARE gradually. I was shocked to see they sponsored the “Is Gay Real” event in 2007 – and also worried that one of their Directors and Trustees was actively involved in the “Lepers Among Us” conference in January 2012.

    I have nothing against the interns themselves, but given the reports you mention above about CARE’s successful lobbying to remove a homophobic bullying resource pack from Scottish Schools I was worried to see that one of Sharon Hodgson’s former CARE interns went on to write speeches for the previous Shadow Education Secretary and his ministers.

    As I say, I have nothing against the individual interns, but CARE’s application form for the programme makes clear that candidates must subscribe to and support the organisation’s Statement of Faith which “is the driving force behind all we do”. http://www.scribd.com/doc/85758824/CARE-Leadership-Programme-Brochure-2012-13

    Thank you very much for your excellent blog post. I hope it encourages more people to sign the petition. http://www.change.org/petitions/mps-should-sever-links-with-the-christian-charity-care-which-co-sponsored-gay-cure-event

    Kind regards

    Phillip Dawson

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