NZ Denies ’Ex Gay’ Group Charity Status
The New Zealand arm of "ex gay" group Exodus has lost a bid to gain charity status, because the government there says that being gay is okay--and not a disease requiring charitable support, reported GayNZ.com in an Aug. 30 article.
The group says that they offer services that are valuable to gays who are going through "very difficult times," much as a charity for GLBT youth, Rainbow Youth, does.
But the agency that made the decision, the Charities Commission, was not convinced by this argument. In is decision against Exodus, the Commission noted that Exodus laid out its mission as follows: "To promote the teaching that... God gives to human kind the gift of sex for procreation and the expression of love and pleasure in the context of a heterosexual and monogamous marriage and that deviations from this including homosexuality are morally wrong."
The group also claims that it exists in order to "counsel and assist homosexuals and others with sexual problems in order that they may find healing and release into wholeness as desired by God and revealed in the Bible," as well as to "make information available to homosexuals... that they can be released from homosexuality and to teach and present the view that a homosexual can change and that he or she is not born homosexual."
In answer to a 2009 letter from the Charitable Commission, Exodus, through a lawyer, said that it was "a Christian organization that offer non-judgmental support and advice to anyone wishing to leave the homosexual lifestyle, or trying to decide whether to do so." The letter from the group’s lawyer also said that, "We believe the activities (and purposes) of Exodus are exclusively charitable, as we understand that no one receives and pecuniary benefit of any kind from its activities which are religious, educational and beneficial to the community."
The Commission declined the group’s request on March 17, the finding noted, given that "the Applicant’s purposes were not exclusively charitable and the Commission was unable to determine whether the Applicant provided a public benefit."
The Commission further noted that Exodus was not proposing to offer relief to the poor, nor to help care for the sick. Relevant to the latter point was the Commission’s recollection that in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association deleted homosexuality from its listing of mental disorders. Further, the Commission noted, the AMA has stated that, "Psychotherapeutic modalities to convert or ’repair’ homosexuality are based on developmental; theories whose scientific validity is questionable."
"The commission also questioned whether the group truly did pursue "advancement of education," and whether it truly offered any "public benefit."
The decision stated that the group did not meet the criteria for a charitable group based on its own descriptions if itself and its work--namely, "the Applicant [Exodus] has a main purpose of promoting a particular point of view," including the claims that "homosexuality is morally wrong, that p[people can change from homosexuality to heterosexuality, and that people are not born homosexual."
Exodus has been plagued with financial concerns, according to an Aug. 23 article at Ex-Gay Watch. The article quotes from a posting at the Exodus Facebook page that says, "We have experienced an unexpectedly low giving season this summer coupled with much higher expenses (insurance, utilities, etc). Sadly, we have had to let several staff go."
"Exodus left a modest set of leased offices in the Spring of 2008 in favor of their own building, complete with million dollar mortgage," the Ex-Gay Watch article reported. "Servicing that debt can’t be helping now that funds are scarce and the demand for ex-gay referrals appears in decline."
Ex-gay groups have been cited as one in a plethora of possible causes for the increase of HIV transmission rates. A POZ article from September, 2010, noted that despite the prevalence of AIDS in Africa as a disease predominantly affecting heterosexuals, Americans persist in believing that it is a "gay disease." Accordingly, Americans are more likely to believe that "converting" gays to straights will combat the spread of the virus because straights, according to this line of reasoning, don’t get AIDS.
Proponents of so-called "reparative therapy," for their part, also harbor beliefs that are not substantiated by science or research. Some claim that homosexuality is not an innate characteristic that individuals are born with, perhaps through some combination of genetics and physiological factors, but rather the result of early-life sexual abuse. Others promote the idea that a person’s sexuality is simply a matter of choice; some blame possession by evil spirits and prescribe exorcisms, the article said.
But underlying the various theories as to the nature and causes of homosexuality is the message that to be gay is to court AIDS--whereas to be straight offers some form of immunity against the virus. "They all use HIV as a scare tactic, the ’destructive, dangerous homosexual lifestyle’ as a recruitment tool," the article quoted anti-"ex-gay" activist Wayne Besen as saying. "If there were a cure tomorrow for HIV, then I think these ministries would have significant trouble surviving, [because] they’d lose their largest fear-based message."
"It’s ironic then, that the ex-gay movement puts everyone-regardless of sexual orientation-at a higher risk of HIV," the POZ article said. "On the surface, the movement teaches that homosexuality is a choice. But it really pathologizes gay people as threatening the family structure, harboring mental illness, spreading disease and molesting children. And it actively promotes discriminatory laws."
A basic tenet of combating HIV is the need to de-stigmatize not only the virus itself, but also homosexuality--or, in a broader sense, the activities of MSMs (men who have sex with men, many of whom identify as straight even though they seek sexual encounters with other males). Health authorities fight discriminatory laws in part because, they say, such laws would drive MSMs underground and prevent them from using condoms, getting tested for HIV, or seeking treatment if they know they are HIV-positive.