"Pray the gay away" convention will take place in San Diego in June.
Gay conversion therapy organization Restored Hope Network (RHN) has announced on their Facebook and webpage that they are holding their annual conference, Hope 2017, on June 16 and June 17, 2017 in San Diego. Although no venue has yet been named.
RHN is a network of Christian officials who believe that Jesus Christ forgives homosexuals for their past behaviors but also, by embracing their interpretations of scripture, can become empowered to live a heterosexual life.
These practices intersect between definitions of gay conversion therapy and ex-gay ministries.
In the past, conversion therapy has included lobotomies, castration, and electroshock therapies. Today, conversion takes the form of psychoanalytic therapy and spiritual interventions.
According to the American Phycological Association, sexual orientation conversion therapy, “refers to counseling and psychotherapy to attempt to eliminate individuals’ sexual desires for members of their own sex.”
While ex-gay ministries they describe as, “religious groups that use religion to attempt to eliminate those desires.”
The RHN say they don’t condone the former, but are heavily involved in the latter, blurring the line between conversion therapy and ex-gay ministries.
Executive director of RHN Anne Paulk said in a recent interview with The Christian Post she doesn't agree with the term conversion therapy. She calls it a misnomer used to, "raise a fear response from those in the general public."
She continues to say that "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. 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."
Jerry Reiter, who has been involved with exposing reparative therapy and an ex-gay groups from the beginning tells San Diego Gay and Lesbian News that RHN is a double threat.
"The particular group that is coming advances both ex-gay ministry and reparative therapy, and they have never met an anti-gay policy they did not like enough to speak out against it, including Uganda's 'kill the gays' bills of just a couple years ago."
Reiter was featured on OWN's Our America with Lisa Ling. In the interview (see below) he explains that after his son died, at the funeral a member of the conversion therapy group known as Exodus International blamed his homosexuality for the death.
He warns people that the group coming to San Diego in June are just as unkindly.
"They are bringing the old scams to San Diego this summer, and people need to know the old failed 'cures' are going to be advanced by the new administration."
Reiter is a survivor of reparative therapy himself. He tells SDGLN that he was in reparative therapy beginning at the age of 16-years old, “it was a scam that sucked $41,000 from me, but did not work."
Since then he has been an advocate against these groups, appearing on television and speaking with ex-gay leaders, eventually helping to shut down the ex-gay network Exodus International.
"I fought for making gay conversion therapy illegal for minors in my state of California," he said.
He says he also exposed the Restored Hope Network's executive director's ex-husband to come out.
"For this RHN group, I caused the husband of the current leader to be re-outed as a gay man," he explains, "I knew that John Paulk was divorcing Anne. She is the bisexual executive director of Restored Hope Network."
Reiter also says he was key in swaying the leader of ex-gay ministry Love in Action (now Restoration Path), John Smid, to admit reparation therapies don't work.
"I encouraged him for a long time before he publicly announced that nobody changed from homosexual to heterosexual, including himself," Reiter told SDGLN. "I spoke in long conversations on the phone with him to reassure him that he was doing the right thing in leaving his wife."
Given the outcome of the presidential election, Reiter is worried about the incoming administration and what impact Trump's anti-LGBT cabinet will have on the future of gay men and women.
"We find it unthinkable for our nation to go back to the days when gays were arrested in their own homes for having sex and forced into conversion therapy," he said. "Restored Hope Network has that as its wet dream."
Hope 2017 has chosen their keynote speaker as Pastor Ron Citlau, senior pastor at Calvary Church, Orland Park, IL.
In the past, RHN conference topics have included, "Homosexuality: A Case of Mistaken Responses,” “How Transformation Happens," "Why Gender Matters: Thoughts from a Transformed Transgender Person," and "Making Your Church A Welcoming Place for God to Transform Lives."
Restored Hope Network's Hope 2017 will be held in San Diego on June 16 and 17. There is no word on the location of the conference.
SDGLN reached out to RHN, but as of yet has not received a response.
San Diego Gay and Lesbian News will keep you updated as more information becomes available.