Reporter unfazed by Summers denial about work to ‘cure’ gay teens

State Rep. Rep. Ken Summers, R-Lakewood, an evangelical Assemblies of God pastor for more than two decades with a masters degree from the Jesuit Regis University in Denver, says the Christian group he heads, Teen Challenge, does not try to “cure” gay teenagers of homosexuality. Summers, who is running for reelection, said the Columbine Courier journalist who reported that fact was mistaken and biased. The reporter, Emile Hallez Williams, told the Colorado Independent he stands by his story as does his employer, the Evergreen Company or Landmark Community Newspapers.

“Sometimes we tape our conversations and sometimes we don’t but we don’t release them to other publications,” Hallez Williams said, explaining that that was the official statement he could put out for now on the matter of the tape– or the nontape. It is worth noting that Hallez Williams seemed a lot more at ease in supporting his version of events than does Summers in the un-spellchecked comment he wrote under the Colorado Pols blogpost on the story.

Sorry to disappoint but Teen Challenge DOES NOT offer “reparative therapy.” I DO NOT believe taking drugs causes homosexuality and I DO NOT believe child abuse condemns one to a homosexual lifestyle. I DO believe that each person should have the freedom live their life as they see fit and seek appropriate help for issues they have when they determine they need it. You mean a reporter may have not accurately communicated the facts in an article and gave a distorted view based on a predisposed bias, what a rare occurance [sic ]. Perhaps some reporters should stop writting [sic ].

Some readers have suggested Summers tipped his hand by suggesting he doesn’t believe “child abuse condemns one to a homosexual lifestyle.”

Who but Summers said anyone was condemned to anything? they asked in the comments section of the blog post.

As Hallez Williams reports, Summers was a member of the Teen Challenge board of directors before signing on as executive director in 2008. At his website, Summers describes Teen Challenge only as a drug and alcohol recovery program and says nothing about homosexuality.

The Courier talked with a staffer at Teen Challenge, though, who suggested the addiction and recovery one-year residency program could work for gays. Confronted with that information, Summers reportedly revised an earlier flat denial that the group considered homosexuality part of the diseases it treated. He reportedly admitted the group would help “cure” homosexuality as a one of the “life-controlling problems” the group works to heal by “focusing on the relationship with Jesus Christ.”

It seems clear by all accounts that the main focus of Teen Challenge is addiction, and mostly addictions to substances. Summers, however, also told the Courier that substance abuse could lead to homosexuality, as could sexual abuse.

Hallez Williams quotes Annie Butler, director of high-risk youth studies at Metropolitan State College of Denver, to warn against any of the Christian so-called gay reparative therapies.

“The American Counseling Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association — none of them support reparative therapy or the efforts that folks used to use in the clinical community and still use in the religious community to convert someone to being straight,” Butler said. “I think it’s been found to be very harmful to consider it a single person’s problem as opposed to the societal issue of discrimination.”

How adults view homosexuality and the environment they establish around the subject matters a great deal in the lives of gay teens. As the Minnesota Independent reported last week, a parent group that opposes sexual-orientation education and that seeks to “promote the Day of Truth” events meant to turn gay people straight through Christian prayer has fostered an anti-gay environment in that state’s largest school district. The suicide rate among gay teens in the district has shocked observers and parents. The anti-gay parent group refused to reveal its funding sources and any ties to other groups.

So far, Representative Summers seems to be backing off what he suggested was biased and perhaps slanderous reporting. At posting time, there’s nothing new about Teen Challenge or the Columbine Courier story at Summers’ website, Twitter feed, Facebook page or blog.

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