Christian group braces for protests ahead of weekend conference
By Kevin Payne
A Christian group holding a national conference in San Diego, CA., this weekend is bracing for protests over its advocacy of counseling gays and transgenders to go straight.
Restored Hope Network, an Oregon-based Christian counseling organization is expecting over 400 to attend the meetings on Friday and Saturday at City View Church in Birdland, north of Mission Valley. Social media posts from several regional gay advocacy groups say that 800 protestors will be going as well.
The event, entitled “Hope 2017,” is the latest effort in the long-running debate over whether being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is a matter of lifestyle choice or innate biology.
“Join us for a special conference filled with powerful biblical teaching, dozens of workshops, worship, and inspiring life stories of those who have dealt with same sex attraction or transgenderism and been transformed by the living God,” says the conference event site.
Restored Hope Network advocates the use of conversion therapy. Such techniques can include wardrobe advice and visualization exercises, they believe this can help shape a person’s sexuality.
Critics of the practice call the methods used by RHN “abusive, dangerous, and despicable.”
In an interview with local San Diego press, Rev. Dan Koeshall, Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of San Diego said that when he was growing up, he was subjected to conversion therapy.
“Instead of taking it away, it taught me to stuff and submerge my feelings, which was very unhealthy,” said Koeshall.
The conference comes just six weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a legal challenge against a 2012 California law that prohibits a wide span of mental health professionals from using such methods to influence the sexual orientation of minors. The challenge was brought by Donald Welch, a licensed family therapist and minister at Skyline Church in La Mesa.
The state of California banned conversion therapy in 2014, but the Restored Hope Network firmly believes in its effectiveness.