SAN ANTONIO, Texas (MEDIA GENERAL) – The extended family of a Texas teen is trying to go against the parents’ wishes and remove a 17-year-old girl from a Christian boarding facility where she is undergoing gay conversion therapy.
According to a report from the San Antonio Express-News, Sarah, who has not been identified by her last name because she is a minor, was sent to the facility by her parents for taking her girlfriend to her high school prom.
KENS-TV has reported Sarah’s aunt has hired an attorney known for litigating LGBT cases, and other family members have set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for legal costs to help move for Sarah’s release. To date, more than $57,000 has been donated to the fund.
Sarah’s cousin, Joey Jordan, gave details of her ordeal on the GoFundMe page. The boarding facility, identified in multiple reports as Heartlight Ministries in East Texas, does not allow any electronic communication and reportedly punished Sarah for trying to escape.
Said Jordan: “Instead of being surrounded by friends and extended family who love and support Sarah for who she is, she’ll be isolated in a place where the fact that she is gay is treated as a sin and an illness. Instead of preparing for college and competing in the state debate tournament, she’ll be doing forced labor every day and enduring Bible-based ‘therapy’ for her ‘disease.’”
Texas state law says the parents are allowed to send her to the facility until she turns 18.
Patrick Von Dohlen, of the San Antonio Family Association, told KENS he supports the parents’ decision and the therapy is for Sarah’s “own protection and good.”
“In this case, it’s natural for (Sarah) to like boys. It’s not natural for her to like girls,” Von Dohlen told KENS.
Gay conversion therapy has been in the limelight lately after several states have moved to ban the practice. Five states – California, Oregon, Illinois, New Jersey and Vermont – along with Washington D.C. have banned conversion therapy for minors, while Legislatures in other states are considering bans.
The American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association and American College of Physicians oppose conversion therapy, stating evidence shows the practice is largely ineffective and often causes emotional or physical harm to patients.