gaston_cleanheartGASTONIA, N.C. — Members of a local chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) are speaking out after their local daily newspaper published a biased news article on an “ex-gay” ministry.

On April 21, The Gaston Gazette‘s Amanda Memrick wrote about the Charlotte-based Clean Heart Ministries, a group affiliated with reparative therapy proponents Exodus International, and the ministry’s planned presentation at a local church whose pastor won The Gazette‘s 2009 “Spirit of Freedom Award.” The article was entitled, “Ministry hopes to turn people away from gay lifestyle.”

Memrick interviewed Clean Heart executive director Jim Katsoudas and associate director Larry Bell. Both men claim they were once attracted to men and have “walked away from homosexuality.”

Memrick’s article, apparently published in print and online, contained no opposing point of view and no facts regarding so-called “ex-gay” and reparative ministries. Several professional medical associations have denounced the use of reparative therapies, including the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association and American Medical Association. Further, the American Counseling Association has permanently excluded reparative therapist Richard Cohen from professional membership.

Amy Sifford, president of PFLAG Gaston, said she had not had any conversations with Memrick or the Gazette‘s editor, Hunter Bretzius. She did, however, email a statement from PFLAG regarding reparative therapy and asked that it be published. On April 22, the online edition of Memrick’s article was updated and the PFLAG statement appended to the bottom. The article has attracted more than 130 comments since its original publication.

Sifford told qnotes she thought the article could be damaging.

“I thought that some people who might be reading this, who are struggling with the coming out process, in particular teenagers, that it would just reinforce that there was a lack of support in the religious community for them,” she said.

Sifford, a licensed professional counselor who holds a PhD and works at a local counseling agency, stopped short of condemning the Gazette for their publication of the article.

“I don’t know whether it was out of not knowing or it was intentional,” she said. “I don’t know if it was the reporter’s lack of awareness or her colluding with this whole message that it’s a ‘lifestyle’ and that it’s something to be ashamed of or something you need to repent for.”

Sifford said the original article was published in the Gazette‘s April 21 print edition, but said no follow-up had been published in print as of Saturday, April 24.

qnotes contacted The Gazette‘s Memrick and asked for comment. She said she’d been instructed not to comment by her editor. Several calls to both editor Bretzius and publisher Jennie Lambert remained unreturned at press time.

The Gaston Gazette is owned by the Irvine, Calif.-based Freedom Communications, Inc., which owns dozens of daily and weekly newspapers and a handful of television stations across the country. In addition to The Gaston Gazette, the company operates daily and weekly newspapers in seven other North Carolina towns.

Read The Gaston Gazette’s article, “Ministry hopes to turn people away from gay lifestyle.”

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.

2 replies on “Newspaper’s biased ‘ex-gay’ article draws ire”

  1. why is that when a report write about the so-call ex gays, if they don’t do a counter viewpoint we get all pissy and start complaining. We know it not that easy to change, we know they are full of it, so why do we do this to ourselves. Why must there always a counterpoint of view to every report about them.

    Remember we do more to harm ourselves then anyone else does.

    Recently gay baseball loses 2nd place title because they have to bi-sexuals, MMM lgBt, I thought we count them as member of our community.. Now we have gay business discriminating against str8 while we are demanding EDNA to be Pass.. We have come full circle, that they did to us, we are now doing to them.. I guess we are all like…

  2. As the cofounder and Vice President of PFLAG Gaston I will tell you why we get upset at reports with no counter view on exgay ministries.

    We have an obligation to speak out against homophobia, discrimination and certainly against potentially damaging therapies. Reparative therapies have led to many suicides and have a less than 2% cure rate( If there is such a thing ).

    When there are hundreds of teens and young adults in our County who are eager to bite at the opportunity to change so they can be like everyone else and if they jump in without the facts or proper counseling it could be tragic. often these individuals leave more discouraged, depressed, devalued and sometimes suicidal.

    I dont know about you, but we have an obligation to sound the alarm and warn people of the dangers of these groups. We also have an obligation to the heterosexual community and the faith communities to educate them on the psychological damage these groups cause. they are snake oil salesmen and we must make our voices heard.

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