Wednesday, June 15, 2005


While I've had my disagreements with the Catholic Church, I've tried to have respect for people's religious views. On the whole, I think most people are just trying to make sense of the world the best way they know how. Every once in a while, however, things come along and challenge my tolerance.

First on the list is the story of Zach, a 16 year old gay teen in Tennessee. After coming out to his parents, Zach has been imprisoned in a Fundamentalist Christian bootcamp that attempts to "convert" gays. Zach managed to find a copy of the camp's rules and posted them on his blog -- they include things like, "No hugging or physical touch between clients," "Refuge clients may only read materials approved by staff," "Refuge clients are allowed a one-time 15-minute maximum closed bathroom door time for shower/grooming purposes. The only other closed-door alone time allowed is for using the restroom." My favorite is, "Your client is not allowed to talk to anyone outside of your home including friends or family. Do not tell client who has called for them or who is asking about them. Keep the thoughts of the client focused on his/her treatment." The punchline is that the parents are specifically instructed not to let their kids have access to the rules.

Understandably, Zach was pretty distraught about being forced into this mindwashing camp. I can't help but wonder what kind of psychological damage will be done by the time he gets out.

Example number two is a report of hundreds of boys being forced from their homes on the Arizona-Utah border. Their families, part of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) - a breakaway sect of the Mormon Church - have cast them out for crimes such as kissing a girl, wearing tank tops, or listening to popular music. Authorities speculate that this occurs as part of the group's practice of polygamy -- the boys have to go if the men are to be able to marry scores of underage girls.

This makes me profoundly sad. How can people treat their children this way under the guise of "God's Will?" I don't mean to suggest that all religious people are this way or that all religion promotes this. I don't believe that's the case at all. It is a startling reminder of how group thought can create such incredible tragedies.


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