Southern Poverty Law Center: ’Ex-Gay’ Therapy Group Source for ’Junk Science’

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Wednesday March 14, 2012

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a civil rights group based in Montgomery, Ala., recently reported that the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), is the "preeminent source of what many regard as 'junk science' for the religious right." NARTH is an organization that offers "conversation" therapy -- a controversial type of the therapy that claims homosexuality can be "cured."

Last fall the anti-gay activist Michael Brown spoke at a NARTH convention to about 40 therapists who support "conversion" therapy. He said that the "homosexual agenda" is on the rise and shows no signs of stopping. He also said that gay rights activists are "aggressively working to undermine Christian values and the traditional family."

NARTH touts the idea that no one is born gay and that sexual orientation can be changed through "conversion" therapy, also known as "reparative" and "ex-gay" therapy. The organization argues that being gay is an "unnatural deviation from normal sexual development, a form of mental disorder," SPLC points out. The organization also says that NARTH has become a major source of "junk science" for the religious right, or "psychology that underpins the anti-gay movement's fervent opposition to equal rights and stigmatizes LGBT people as mentally sick."

SPLC also reports that other than NARTH's research there isn't much "evidence" that the religious right can use to support their claim that homosexuality is a sickness.

"There's no other play in the playbook except going back to the fire and brimstone," argues Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, one of several watchdog groups monitoring the conversion therapy industry.

Even though political national organizations, such as the Family Research Council, have supported NATH's views that homosexuality can be "cured," "every major American medical authority has concluded that there is no scientific support for NARTH's view" and many of the organizations say that "ex-gay" therapy can even cause harm.

"There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed," the American Psychological Association (APA) said in 2006. "Our further concern is that the positions espoused by NARTH and Focus on the Family create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish."

Ironically, Charles Socarides, one of the organization's founders, has a son who is openly gay, Richard Socarides, who was even Bill Clinton's principle advisor when it came to LGBT issues. In Charles' book, "Homosexuality: A Freedom Too Far," he says homosexuality is a "neurotic adaptation" that was linked to "smothering mothers and abdicating fathers."

The Christian website,, reported that Matt Barber, a director of cultural affairs at Liberty Counsel (a conservative legal organization), said that SPLC is in itself a hate group.

"Only in the eyes of a liberal, extremist group can those who embrace patriotism be considered dangerous, radical hate groups," Barber said. "This is a group of leftists who are demonstratively hateful," he contends. "Yet the Southern Poverty Law Center is like-minded with the Occupy movement, so of course they're not going to attack their buddies. That would be friendly fire."

He added that SPLC is a hate group based on its won criteria and "it should come as no surprise that the Southern Poverty Law Center and its credibility are spiraling down the abyss of irrelevance."

SPLC recently expanded its large list of anti-gay hate groups, or its "Hate Map," which allows readers to see the specific locations of various hate groups in the U.S. The report, which examined state hate groups across the country, found an increase of nearly 60 percent in the number of active anti-gay hate groups between 2010 and 2011, Truth Wins Out reported. The organization added Mission America, Public Advocate of the United States and You Can Run, But You Cannot Hide to its list.

In 2010, SPLC named the anti-gay blog Americans for Truth About Homosexuality to its list as well as a number other organizations, including Illinois Family Institute.