Unlicensed “doctor” Daniel Serrano served 15 months in prison after he promised a youth-restoring treatment that would be superior to Botox to Hollywood celebrities such as Priscilla Presley — and injected them instead with low-grade industrial silicone.

It’s illegal to practice medicine without a license. Yet it is perfectly legal in the United States for unlicensed and uneducated “therapists” and self-appointed “counselors” to engage in the ex-gay industry’s own version of bait and switch: Promise false cures for sexual attraction, then inflict confirmed and long-lasting harm against counselees and their families — sometimes, even, against the will of youths who are involuntarily “treated.”

In 2005, the Exodus-affiliated, ex-gay, live-in treatment facility Love In Action drew national attention when it became known that the program was admitting teen-agers against their will.


An anonymous teen-ager, Zach, declared on his MySpace page that his family was forcing him to submit to a month or more of unlicensed treatment at LIA’s Refuge program in Memphis, Tenn. Zach’s father subsequently went on “The 700 Club,” outed the family, and boasted of the abuse being done in God’s name — even as critics of the ex-gay movement sought to protect Zach’s safety and anonymity.

In the aftermath of an investigation of LIA by the state of Tennessee — in which LIA claimed to have been exonerated — LIA closed its Refuge program and changed certain aspects of its main program and literature in order to benefit from constitutional protections for religious expression.

Several LIA survivors, including Jacob Wilson, subsequently came forward with their own first-hand accounts of malpractice and emotional and spiritual abuse at LIA. Here’s are two clips of Wilson’s observations:

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Now comes word from Box Turtle Bulletin and LIA spokesman Josh Morgan that LIA executive director John Smid will leave office in July. His future plans, and those of LIA, have not been disclosed.

Smid led LIA for more than a decade with little more than a high school diploma and an ego; despite his claim to be an ordained minister, he has no formal degree in religion or therapy.

We wish that both Smid and LIA would both acknowledge the damage that occurs when unlicensed amateurs pretend to practice psychotherapy on very real human beings — but that seems unlikely. Smid is maintaining, for now, his commitment to appear in Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out” ex-gay roadshow.

Watch more survivors of ex-gay programs speak for themselves, in Truth Wins Out’s video library.