PHOENIX — No, there won’t be mandatory classes in Arizona this fall to help convert gay students to the straight and narrow life.
A story that appeared Thursday on the National Report website about mandatory conversion therapy in the state’s more than 2,000 public schools, touching off a huge nationwide response, is pure fantasy. There is no such law or regulation.
But there were enough references to real people and news organizations in the fake story to provoke calls to both the state Department of Education and the Governor’s Office expressing concern, forcing staffers to assure callers the whole thing was not real.
It may have been difficult to deduce that from reading the piece, inasmuch as the organization that did the posting was supposed to be running the program, People Can Change, actually does exist. And the phone number listed for it is real.
That forced People Can Change to post a prominent disclaimer on its own website.
“The spokesperson is fake, the interview is fake, the photo with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is fake, the press conference is fake,” reads the People Can Change website.
“And the quotes are fake, rude, and demeaning of gays.”
While the organization says it does provide peer support for men “who have personally experienced significant change from unwanted same-sex attractions,” it does not provide programs or services for minors.
The original posting gave no hint the story is fake, even including what is said to be a quote by Brewer to CNN calling the program “an amazing opportunity for gay children to finally learn who they truly are for once in their lives” and saying that the program will result in these formerly gay children “wondering why god made them defective.”
“It’s a completely phony and vile report intended to deceive readers,”
said gubernatorial press aide Andrew Wilder. “Its authors should be ashamed.’’
While there is no such program, Arizona does have an official policy when it comes to teaching about homosexuality: Homosexuality is not acceptable.
State law allows, but does not require, schools to teach about AIDS. But state lawmakers, in imposing minimum requirements, make it illegal to have a program that “promotes a homosexual lifestyle” or “portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative lifestyle.”
And the law says schools may never suggest that “some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.”