On May 5, at APA’s 2008 convention in Washington, the group will host a symposium, at which one of the two mental health practitioner-panelists is Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a psychologist without state board certification and an advocate for “Sexual Identity Therapy,” which he says he has successfully applied to help patients “alter homosexual feelings or behaviors” and live their lives “heterosexually” with “only very few weak instances of homosexual attraction.”
The symposium, moderated by Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John Peteet, who chairs APA’s Corresponding Committee on Psychiatry, Religion and Spirituality, is titled “Homosexuality and Therapy: The Religious Dimension.” Indeed, the panel includes two prominent religious figures from radically different perspectives – New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson and the Reverend Dr. Albert Mohler. Robinson came to nationwide attention in 2003 when he became the first non-celibate, out gay person elected an American Episcopal Church bishop, for the Diocese of New Hampshire.
Mohler is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, a nationally syndicated radio host, and a board member of James Dobson’s stridently anti-gay Focus on the Family. The symposium’s primary booster has noted that Mohler has distinguished himself among Christian right evangelicals in acknowledging that homosexuality may not be a choice. Left unmentioned, however, was Mohler’s statement that “if a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use.”
Robinson’s wisdom in appearing with Mohler – and the broader debate about LGBT advocates engaging those on the other side – are not what make this story intriguing, and indeed troubling. Instead it is the embrace by a scientifically-based organization, APA, of an unlicensed practitioner who espouses controversial professional opinions about homosexuality but can point to no peer-reviewed findings that his clinical approach has merit.
Perhaps most unsettling is the fact that the same defender of the symposium who credited Mohler with some degree of enlightenment on gay issues, Dr. David Scasta – a former president and newsletter editor of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists (AGLP) – has circulated a press release for the event dubbing it “a ‘balanced’ discussion,” the sort of characterization one might expect from intelligent design proponents demanding a seat on a panel of evolution experts.