Gay teen to be released soon from Tennessee ex-gay camp

According to an article in the Washington Blade Online (article), Zach Stark (pictured left), a gay 16 ye

ar old from Bartlett, Tennessee, will be released soon from Refuge, an ex-gay camp for adolescents run by Love in Action, a group affiliated with Exodus International. He has been in the camp since early June.

A firestorm of media coverage, LGBT rights activism, Tennessee state investigations of the camp and ex-gay activism began after Zach posted entries about coming out to his parents and being sent to the ex-gay camp on his blog.

Joe Stark, Zach’s father, confirmed the identity of his son and his placement into the ex-gay camp on the Christian Boradcasting Network, where he also defended his actions.

“We felt good about Zach coming here … to let him see for himself the destructive lifestyle, what he has to face in the future, and to give him some options that society doesn’t give him today,” Stark said, “Until he turns 18 and he’s an adult in the state of Tennessee, I’m responsible for him, and I’m going to see to it that he has all options available to him.”

It is not known what type of effect the ex-gay camp has had on Zach. Before going into the camp Zach wrote about having suicidal feelings in his blog.

The gay media, blogs on the web, the Memphs area media and mainstream national media sources including the New York Times, have covered Zach’s story. With all of

the media attention, the debate over the legality and ethics of treating homosexuality has sprung back up.


It is so good to know that out of the horror and tragedy which Zach has expereinced and is still experiencing, something good is coming out. Zach’s struggles have sparked a debate which was well overdue in American society.

In 1973, the American Psychological Association took homosexuality off its list of mental and psychological diseases. So this is the question I propose… Why isn’t illegal to force people into treatment to “cure” homosexuality, especially teenagers who are at the mercy of their parents and their decisions?

Hopefully, when Zach is released, he can get away from his parents. They are supposed to love him and protect him, instead they have done nothing but hurt him. belarus He will need to get away rom them and find a family that is supportive and loving. I just pray that Zach has not given into the bigoted and hatefilled ideology of the Ex-Gay Movement.

9 Responses to “Gay teen to be released soon from Tennessee ex-gay camp”
  1. Pam says:

    Hello 🙂 I do not understand why you hope Zach can get away from his parents? Also, why you assume they are not loving and protecting him? From what you wrote I see it differently…not because he claims to be gay, but because to me, it seems his parents are obeying the Lord and acting as responsible parents..doesn’t matter if the topic is ‘ drugs,drinking, or gay’ and not many parents get involved , but turn a blind eye.

    Working with teens I see so many parents throw up thier hands saying ‘ what can I do at this age?’ makes me mad as all get out that they simple give up or were never involved to begin with. I am not talking about the topic of ‘ being gay ‘ but just in general in all issues of a teens lifestyle.

    I do not know what kind of parents they were before all this went down and I am not about judge anyone in this situation for that TOO would be wrong of me.

    God says we are to obey the ‘ law ‘ and if the law isn’t going against ‘ God’s law ‘ then to me, its the parents responsiblity according to the Lord to continue to have influence in their childrens lives period, since the law says a parent is accountable for their children until the age of 18.

    Have you read somewhere where they have hurt him? I ask because from ‘ this post ‘ I don’t see that and would like to educate myself on just how you are viewing the facts.

    Please forgive me for I have not read other post in your blog , but this one stuck out son I read it and if you have talked about or shared details in another post it could be the reason I don’t understand some of the things you have said in this post.

    In your post here it says its not known the effect the camp has had on Zach yet.

    What if Zach comes out of the camp and feels the gay life style is a sin and one is not born into it OR simple just walks away from that lifestyle? How would you feel about that? Could you share in his joy that he is obeying the Lord and giving up something that is against God’s word? Or would you sit and judge his parents for the action they took in doing what they feel is the right thing to do as Parents for whatever reason they are doing it?

    Also, may I ask if this teen was put away in a camp for drinking or drugs how would you feel about that and also would you be judging the Parents just as much?

    Sometimes, I get so upset when others judge and lately the Lord has showed me, that I, myself have judged ‘ those ‘ people just as, they too, are judging others.

    Anyway, your post got my attention because I have a heart for teenagers that are hurting and in your post it says before Zach went to this camp he wrote about wanting to end his life or something of the such I can’t see the post from here now.

    Sorry for such a long comment 🙂

    • Hannah says:

      I see many things wrong with your statement. The first being the fact that you think that being Gay or Lesbian of any other sexuality is a ‘Lifestyle Choice’. It’s this kind of thinking that absolutely disgusts me, and it’s people like you who are propagating it.

      What Zach’s parents have done to him is a crime, whether the US thinks it is or not, it remains a fundamental breech of his human rights. The fact that they will not bring themselves to love and accept their child as he is just goes to show that they are unfit parents. A parents’ most important responsibility is to love and accept their child and protect them from people who would hurt them in any way. What these sorry excuses for human beings have done is not love in any way, shape or form. It is abuse.

      These camps are trying to mold these poor young people into unrealistic versions of what they ‘believe’ a heterosexual person should be like. And the manner in which they go about it is horrifying. Isolating these children from any outside contact, giving them no privacy and turning them against one another, are only some of the ways in which these monsters (because there is no other term for them but Monsters) are damaging these kids in their ‘Lord’s Name’.

      Do not think for a second that I am objecting to your religion, and try to disregard my opinions that way. It is my personal belief that everyone deserves the freedom to believe whatever they choose, if it does not infringe upon the freedoms and rights of others. And that, my dear, is where we seem to differ.

      I hope against hope that Zach has managed to hold strong in that Hellhole and is able to get away from his parents as quickly as possible. You say that you “have a heart for teenagers” and I sincerely hope that you do, but please, think before you try to foist religious views upon children. They have as much a right as anyone else to choose who they want to be and what they want to believe, and no one, not their parents, not their teachers, not their pastors, not their friends, has any right to try and make them be otherwise.

  2. Anonymous says:

    hello im 15 yeras old and im turning 16 realy soon.
    according to zachs situation id like to mention that as we grow up and im sure u know, our hormones start to grow, pubitty starts to take place and then we start to think about other genders and this happends to girls aswell. we start to think about sexual things and then one day you end up making a acident happen like kissing the same agender as you or other sexual situations. i know this because this is happening to me but i know better. wat im trying to say is that give ur son a chance and he will understand that its wrong to be gay. every one goes through this growing stage of their bodies.

    thanks for ur thime

  3. Randie says:

    I think ,if he is gay, that his Parents should not be Ashamed…and nor should he. His parents are wrong to try to turn him straight. Just because he is someone they don’t like oh well I mean if they cant love him for who he is then that is against god as well.
    And if God did not want people to be that way he should not have put us on this earth God knows what we are going to do our entire life so it dose not matter because that’s the way God put us on this earth… so I say he should do what his heart say’s instead of what other people lead him to believe.

    Love Randie

  4. K.T.K. says:

    For those who believe that being gay is a ‘bad’ thing, I don’t understand you at all. Being gay isn’t a choice. It’s proven to be genetic. can someone who has brown hair stop growing brown hair? Can someone with brown eyes permanantly change it so they have blue eyes? This is like saying black people are bad. I am straight, but I’m extremely anti-anti-gay.

    It’s ignorant to put homosexuality in the same group as drinking and doing drugs. God created black people, all things genetic I believe God created. Why would he create homosexuality if it’s such a sin?

    There is a difference from kissing someone of the same gender once, as an expirement and being gay. Joe Stark and his wife should be ashamed. Not because Zach is gay, but because they’re ignorant and are trying to brainwash their poor son into being straight.

    What right do we have to choose how other people act? It will only affect you if you choose for it to affect you. You can ignore it and tell them ‘hey, just know I don’t lean that way’ if you’re their friend, or you can hate them because they told you the truth of who they are.

    It’s up to you.

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Many of you may remember the controversy during the past summer surrounding Zach Stark (pictured right)Â and Refuge, the teen-oriented version of the ex-gay program headed up by Love in Action. […]

  2. […] Zach Starke’s story first broke into the blogosphere (and later into the mainstream media) through two posts he made on his blog during the summer. In those two posts, Zach (pictured right) related his confused emotions, feelings and thoughts on how his parents found out about him being gay and later told him that he would be attending an ex-gay camp, known as “Refuge”. The camp is run by the ex-gay group Love in Action and is an affiliate of Exodus, International. The first time I covered his story on this blog was near his release from the camp (see post). I had begun to cover his story, however, on my original blog. […]

  3. […] This year’s “Freedom Conference” was attended by more than 1000 and took on a higher profile after the controversy surrounding Love in Action and the experiences of Zach Stark (pictured right), a gay 16 year old Bartlett, Tennessee, boy who blogged about his parents forcing him to be sent to the camp and “turn” straight (see earlier post Gay teen to be released soon from Tennessee ex-gay camp). […]

  4. […] This year’s “Freedom Conference” was attended by more than 1000 and took on a higher profile after the controversy surrounding Love in Action and the experiences of Zach Stark (pictured right), a gay 16 year old Bartlett, Tennessee, boy who blogged about his parents forcing him to be sent to the camp and “turn” straight (see earlier post Gay teen to be released soon from Tennessee ex-gay camp). […]

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