Russell Willingham
Conversion “therapist” Russell Willingham

via New Creation Ministries

Last June the California Assembly passed Concurrent Resolution 99. By definition a concurrent resolution does not have the force of law. It is not public policy. According to Michael F. Haverluck, one of American Family Association’s geniuses:

On Tuesday, California legislators conducted a hearing on a resolution passed in June that condemns those not affirming the LGBTQ lifestyle and requires all Californians to embrace the unbiblical behavior as hereditary. But before the hearing, a group of pastors penned a response arguing the directive threatens the constitutional rights of Christians seeking to counsel those in the LGBTQ community.

The description in the bill itself seems a bit more accurate:

This measure would call upon all Californians to embrace the individual and social benefits of family and community acceptance, upon religious leaders to counsel on LGBTQ matters from a place of love, compassion, and knowledge of the psychological and other harms of conversion therapy, and upon the people of California and the institutions of California with great moral influence to model equitable treatment of all people of the state.

What? You disagree? So be it. I do not know about this bullshit over what Mr. Haverluck calls “affirming the LGBTQ lifestyle.” What I do know — to a reasonable certainty — is that most grownups understand that one’s sexuality is a) involuntary and; b) not a “lifestyle” and; c) not responsive to conversion therapy and; d) has absolutely nothing to do with one’s ethics or morality.

When it comes to immorality we can look to fundamentalist Christians who promote hate and ignorance for reasons that are impossible to reconcile with reality.

We are not just initials collectively labeled as “radical activists.” LGBTQ people are just that; people

LGBTQ people have hopes and dreams; successes and challenges. Some are religious some are not. We are in every occupation imaginable. A gay man even runs the world’s largest corporation (Tim Cook, CEO of Apple).

But some whacked-out fundamentalist decided that a non-binding resolution required a response. That would be Russell Willingham who runs New Creation Ministries. The legal name, it turns out, is Fresno New Creation Ministries. According to their website:

Caring for individuals and marriages impacted by relational brokenness

Providing counseling, relational skills training, and healing for relational issues, trauma and sexual brokenness.

Except they are listed by Restored Hope Network as a conversion therapy operation. Thus Mr. Willingham has an agenda. According to AFA:

New Creation Ministries executive director Russell Willingham penned an opposition letter signed by 1,500 Christians – including pastors, medical doctors, psychologists, constitutional attorneys, counselors and public policy organization leaders – and posted it Sunday in response to the controversial resolution.

It does not seem to be “posted” on their website. But I did find it here. A total of four MDs signed this thing. Two are well known to readers of this blog: They are Michael K. Laidlaw and Andre Van Mol. Both are rabid anti-LGBT cranks.

The other two are John I. Lane of the Catholic Medical Association and Todd Guthrie, an orthopedist in Mount Shasta, CA. I am sure that the patients of Drs. Laidlaw, Van Mol and Guthrie would be pleased to know that their physician places faith-based religious dogma over evidence-based medical science. Very professional.

Many of the remaining signatures are those of well known crackpots, from “Porno Pete” Peter LaBarbera to Walt Heyer. I estimate (quick scan) that about 98% of the signatures have no professional affiliation at all.

In an interview, Willingham argued that the pro-LGBTQ resolution does not allow Californians the free exercise of religion guaranteed to all citizens by the U.S. Constitution.

Then Willingham is an imbecile because a concurrent resolution does not have the force of law. And even if it did it does not affect Free Exercise in any way whatsoever.

ACR 99 discriminates against perfectly rational adults who seek an alternate viewpoint to the gay-affirming counseling many of them have already tried and found wanting.

Not to nitpick but the correct word is “alternative.” Who is engaging in gay-affirming counseling? “Perfectly rational adults” do not subscribe to a form of therapy that is ineffective and harmful (according to every mainstream medical association) in order to conform to religious dogma.

A few years ago, Christian psychologist Warren Throckmorton said something to the effect that if the choice is conversion therapy or finding a new church; find a new church that is accepting.

Beyond all of that, a resolution that restates the applicable science doesn’t discriminate against anyone. That requires (usually a conservative Christian) refusing employment, housing or service as in “no cake for you.” It is a concept that LGBTQ folks are quite familiar with.

“I believe ACR 99 sets the stage for future laws that will criminalize pastor caregivers like me who provide such a resource – resources that offer an option for those who don’t want what the state is telling them they must accept.”

Willingham is free to believe anything he wants irrespective of how moronic that belief might be. When such a law is proposed then he is free to bitch about it. Meanwhile this is just noise over nothing substantive. By the way, according to the biography of that “caregiver” he has no counseling credentials.

The counselor on their staff, Sheryl Busby has an MA in Christian Ministry from Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary which certainly qualifies her to mess with people’s heads.

Another counselor, John Palms, claims to have an MSW but doesn’t say from where. Call be a cynic by California is the national capital of diploma mills. My skepticism is based on the absence of disclosure. The director of operations, Mike Manzie, is an ex-cop so no help there either.

The organization is not a licensed behavioral health provider. John C. Palms was individually licensed but that was cancelled in 2010 and is non-renewable. Sheryl Busby and Russell Willingham are not licensed. Obviously they carry no malpractice insurance.

Willingham uttered something about “perfectly rational adults.” Do perfectly rational adults seek counseling at odds with medical science from people who are not even licensed as counselors?

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.