People Can Change is a Virginia-based organization that claims to be able to "cure" other men of their same-sex attractions through a series of Journey Into Manhood (JiM) "seminars" styled as weekend retreats.
According to People Can Change, a weekend with JiM can help men feel "more masculine, more confident and powerful" and help them feel less attracted to their fellow man. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center, People Can Change are full of it.
In a new complaint filed to the Federal Trade Commission, the coalition of pro-LGBT rights groups claim that People Can Change are little more than predators capitalizing on homophobia and scientifically-debunked practices.
"Proponents of conversion therapy, including PCC, assert that addressing those underlying issues will heal the disorder and cause the person to no longer be LGBT," their claim reads. "However, there is no competent and reliable scientific evidence supporting claims that PCC’s methods can change an individual’s sexual orientation."
"In contrast, there is substantial competent and reliable scientific evidence that conversion therapy, including the methods employed by PCC, is ineffective and can and often does result in significant health and safety risks to consumers of those services, as well as economic losses – exactly the types of injuries that are at the heart of the FTC’s mission to protect consumers from harm."
The coalition's complaint comes on the heels of a similar suit brought against Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) last year in Ferguson v. JONAH. JONAH marketed its methods, like JiM, as being able to "heal" through a series of questionable, non-scientific therapies like getting naked with other men, punching effigies of one's mother, and acting out traumatic experiences from childhood.
While JONAH might have been able to pass as a theater camp, a New Jersey jury decided that the group "engaged in unconscionable commercial practices,” lied to customers in advertisements, and was ordered to shut down. The Virginian LGBT coalition is arguing that PCC is effectively running the same kind of illegal business and is pressing for the FTC to come out against it.
In a statement provided to The Guardian, PCC founder and current executive director Rich Wyler described the petition as an “act of hate and vicious bullying against our community of adult men."
"For our own religious or other deeply personal reasons," Wyler said. "We choose to not identify as gay or live a gay life. That’s our First Amendment right to free speech and free assembly.”