Gay teen incarcerated in “restorative” boot camp

MEMPHIS – A Memphis gay teen is reaching out for help. Zach, a 16-year-old gay teen from Bartlett, Tenn., blogs from his bedside in the “Rufuge” program where his parents placed him in hopes of “curing” his sexual orientation. His last entry is dated Monday, May 30, 2005. That was the day he entered the program designed to strip him of his identity and force him into a heterosexual straitjacket.

The facility is associated with Love in Action, a group whose mission states in part - “We acknowledge the sinfulness of any sexual act outside of the scriptural context of Holy Matrimony between a man and a woman.”

Local community members from Memphis have formed an action group around the issue of educating society about the existence of "ex-gay" ministries. Calling themselves the Queer ActionCoalition (QAC,) they hope to reach out to people of all ages and sexual orientations to foster cooperation in hopes of advancing the view that queer rights are civil rights.

Their presence outside the “Love in Action” facility beginning on Monday, June 6, and continuing through Friday, June 16, gives voice to their protest against the program they see as oppressive and possibly abusive.

“We plan to actively work alongside religious, governmental and educational institutions in order to meet our ,” states QAC organizer, Alex Polotsky.

In addition to strict adherence to a literal fundamentalist interpretation of scriptures, the “restorative therapy” program’s rules include prohibitions against human touch, sexual dreams, and other minutiae and details such as hair color and length. Additional prohibitions warn against wearing “ Abercrombie and Fitch or Calvin Klein brand clothing, undergarments, or accessories.”

The detailed rules also purport to negate an “inappropriate past” by labeling certain behaviors “hindrances.”

“These hindrances are called False Images (FI¹s). FI behavior may include hyper-masculinity, seductive clothing, mannish/boyish attire (on women), excessive jewelry (on men), mascoting(sic), and "campy" or gay/lesbian behavior and talk.”

All communication, including writing, is prohibited for the first two or three days after entering the program. Total silence is also required after 9 pm Monday through Thursday.

“Refuge” clients are shuttled to the “Love in Action” campus daily for instruction and indoctrination.

Clients as well as their families are required to attend Germantown Baptist Church located in Germantown , Tenn. , southeast of Memphis , for the entire time the clients are participating the program.

A list of churches that contribute to the program are listed below.

Church of the Open Door - San Rafael, California
Bellevue Baptist Church - Cordova, Tennessee
Germantown Baptist Church - Germantown, Tennessee
Grace Evangelical Church - Memphis, Tennessee
Second Presbyterian Church - Memphis, Tennessee
Central Church - Collierville, Tennessee
Christ United Methodist Church - Memphis, Tennessee
Hope Presbyterian Church - Memphis, Tennessee
First Evangelical Church - Memphis, Tennessee
Kirby Woods Baptist Church - Memphis, Tennessee
Palos Park Pres. Comm. Ch. - Palos Park, Illinois
Evangelical Covenant Church - International Falls, Minnesota
Brit Hadasha Congregation - Memphis, Tennessee
First Assembly of God - Andrews, Texas

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