Newspaper’s biased ‘ex-gay’ article draws ire

Gaston Gazette publishes PFLAG statement after concerns raised

by Matt Comer  Editor
Published: April 24, 2010 in News

gaston_cleanheartGASTONIA, N.C. — Members of a local chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) are speaking out after their local daily newspaper published a biased news article on an “ex-gay” ministry.

On April 21, The Gaston Gazette‘s Amanda Memrick wrote about the Charlotte-based Clean Heart Ministries, a group affiliated with reparative therapy proponents Exodus International, and the ministry’s planned presentation at a local church whose pastor won The Gazette‘s 2009 “Spirit of Freedom Award.” The article was entitled, “Ministry hopes to turn people away from gay lifestyle.”

Memrick interviewed Clean Heart executive director Jim Katsoudas and associate director Larry Bell. Both men claim they were once attracted to men and have “walked away from homosexuality.”

Memrick’s article, apparently published in print and online, contained no opposing point of view and no facts regarding so-called “ex-gay” and reparative ministries. Several professional medical associations have denounced the use of reparative therapies, including the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association and American Medical Association. Further, the American Counseling Association has permanently excluded reparative therapist Richard Cohen from professional membership.

Amy Sifford, president of PFLAG Gaston, said she had not had any conversations with Memrick or the Gazette‘s editor, Hunter Bretzius. She did, however, email a statement from PFLAG regarding reparative therapy and asked that it be published. On April 22, the online edition of Memrick’s article was updated and the PFLAG statement appended to the bottom. The article has attracted more than 130 comments since its original publication.

Sifford told qnotes she thought the article could be damaging.

“I thought that some people who might be reading this, who are struggling with the coming out process, in particular teenagers, that it would just reinforce that there was a lack of support in the religious community for them,” she said.

Sifford, a licensed professional counselor who holds a PhD and works at a local counseling agency, stopped short of condemning the Gazette for their publication of the article.

“I don’t know whether it was out of not knowing or it was intentional,” she said. “I don’t know if it was the reporter’s lack of awareness or her colluding with this whole message that it’s a ‘lifestyle’ and that it’s something to be ashamed of or something you need to repent for.”

Sifford said the original article was published in the Gazette‘s April 21 print edition, but said no follow-up had been published in print as of Saturday, April 24.

qnotes contacted The Gazette‘s Memrick and asked for comment. She said she’d been instructed not to comment by her editor. Several calls to both editor Bretzius and publisher Jennie Lambert remained unreturned at press time.

The Gaston Gazette is owned by the Irvine, Calif.-based Freedom Communications, Inc., which owns dozens of daily and weekly newspapers and a handful of television stations across the country. In addition to The Gaston Gazette, the company operates daily and weekly newspapers in seven other North Carolina towns.

Read The Gaston Gazette’s article, “Ministry hopes to turn people away from gay lifestyle.”