Electroshock Therapy for Gays in Church Basements? Pastoral Counselors and Christian Psychologists React to 'Conversion Therapy' Claims

"We talk about what's leading to these feelings that they have, where do they go from here. It's talk therapy ... A client comes in and says 'I'm distressed about this particular problem, can you help me?' and the therapist and client talk. That's what they do, they talk."

Moreover, she added, licensed therapists must abide by codes of ethics and the state laws and rules under which they are licensed. And they only ever work with voluntary clients.

"If there was something unethical or illegal going on, there are already mechanisms in place to take care of that. We don't have to create laws that exclude particular groups of people from getting help," Hamilton said.

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"These legislators are reaching into the therapy room, telling therapists and clients what they are allowed to talk about and what they are not."

CP also reached out to two pastoral counselors who once lived and identified as homosexuals to inquire if they had ever heard of the practices alleged in a Nov. 17 Huffington Post report. In that article, an unidentified 19-year-old recounted that four years ago his parents sent him to an conversion therapy program during after-school hours that was held in a church basement where he and others underwent "aversion therapy, shock therapy, harassment, and occasional physical abuse."

The goal of these conversion therapy practitioners, he alleged, was to deconstruct them as human beings as they worked to strip away "everything that made us a unique person, and instead made us a walking, talking, robot for Jesus."

"The techniques, if they truly were used, were completely unacceptable, and those things should be prosecuted," said Anne Paulk, executive director of the Restored Hope Network in a phone interview with The Christian Post, adding that she has never heard of this kind of thing actually happening. "That does not mean [the government] should prohibit every single person's personal goal of leaving homosexuality. Not everybody's experience is the same."

Joe Dallas, an Assembly of God-ordained pastoral counselor with Newport Mesa Church in Costa Mesa, California told CP in an interview that the claims of electroshock therapy and other highly unethical means being used "are very much like those blurry photographs of Bigfoot that keep floating around ... it's a photograph of something but that sucker never can be confirmed."

But perchance the charges were true, "I hope that individual who gave this interview with the Huffington Post will have the integrity to name the person or organization who did that," he said.

Joe Dallas, pastoral counselor with Newport Mesa Church in Costa Mesa, California.
Joe Dallas, pastoral counselor with Newport Mesa Church in Costa Mesa, California. | (Photo: Courtesy of Joe Dallas)

Dallas, who lived as an openly gay man from 1978-1984, came to a point in his life where he yielded to his Christian convictions that homosexuality was no longer a valid option for him.

"I had every right to seek assistance in resisting what I no longer felt was right," Dallas said. "I also had every right to explore my potential for other feelings and responses. Of course, the practitioner I sought help from had the ethical mandate to give me a realistic view of what I was pursuing, as any therapist should."

"But today, it seems we're telling the public at large that only one viewpoint of homosexuality is acceptable, and that if an individual who is same-sex attracted does not share that view, then the individual's worldview needs treatment, not his sexual behavior or identity."

Dallas, who has been married to wife Renee since 1987 and often counsels Christian men who struggle with pornography addiction and unwanted homosexual desires, further added that "all of us have the right to determine what approach we will take to our own sexual feelings as free-willed humans, provided that we are not verifiably harming another person."

"We have the right to decide for ourselves whether our sexual feelings are feelings that we want to yield to or resist. The government never has the right to interfere with that."

"Therefore, the government has no right to tell a gay man 'you must abstain from homosexuality.' And, the government has no right to tell a person with homosexual desires that she or he must yield to those homosexual desires," Dallas said.

Dallas also believes that Christians in particular need to examine what is really behind the shutting down of any expression of an orthodox Christian perspective on sexuality issues in a diverse, pluralistic society where all viewpoints should be allowed.

If people are truly comfortable with their sexuality, Dallas asserted, "why do [they] need to intrude into the lives of people who do not feel parts of their sexual makeup are parts of themselves they want to give into? This, to me, calls into question whether or not those who proclaim they are at peace with their sexuality really are."

"And as a very imperfect, sinful man, I am reasonably at peace with where I am sexually and the decisions I have made. I have no desire whatsoever to go out and force others to share my viewpoint. Why, then, do they feel the need to force their viewpoint on me and others like me? I think that's a significant question in this discussion."

Paulk noted that she also finds the phrase "conversion therapy" a total misnomer, that it represents "an attempt to minimize, diminish, make fun of and at the same time raise a fear response from those in the general public."

But most importantly, she emphasized, "a person cannot leave homosexuality unless they wish to leave homosexuality, whether they are a teen or an adult."

"But Jesus Christ still transforms lives," Paulk said. "And for any who surrender to him there is a pathway out of homosexuality and it is something called discipleship and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit."

"That has not changed all the generations of men. Paul knew people who had left homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, he declared it, verse 11 was profound in stating that: 'Such were some of you,'" she concluded.

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