A 17-year-old girl whose parents sent her to an alleged "pray away the gay" Christian boarding school in Texas is the subject of an online fundraiser by relatives attempting to 'save' the girl from the program.
A GoFundMe page called "Save Sarah" was created by the girl's cousin, Jeremy Jordan, who plays Winn Schott on the CBS television show “Supergirl.” Jordan and other relatives are trying to raise money to file legal action so Sarah, who is not otherwise being identified because of her age, can leave the school. Jordan said Sarah’s parents “believe that homosexuality is a sin and is abnormal,” and that Sarah was sent against her will to the school because she wanted to take a girl to her high school prom.
But Sarah's mom told The Austin American-Statesman that Heartlight Ministries does not perform so-called "gay conversion therapy" and she did not send her daughter to the school on May 13 because of "her sexuality."
"My daughter would be heartbroken that she is being misrepresented this way," said Sarah's mother, whose sister is part of the lawsuit.
Court filings viewed by The Statesman said Sarah's parents sent her to the program "to help her with issues of depression, self-harm, drug use, and behavioral issues.” The filing said it was “absolutely repugnant” to assume Heartlight was anti-gay because it was a Christian school. Filings also allege that Sarah contemplated suicide recently and complained in a letter to her girlfriend about how Sarah's parents would view their relationship.
Heartlight's website said its program exists to provide a "safe haven" to create "an arena of change for teens and parents lost in a broken world."
The website does not label Heartland as an anti-gay or "pray away the gay" school, though it does have some references to homosexuality.
In a question-and-answer section, a parent asks what he should do after his college-aged son told him he was gay. The answer? "I always think it important to sit and have discussion with your child about any choices they make," Heartlight Executive Director Mark Gregston writes. "Relationship is important during this time."
In a section on "Addressing The Issue of Homosexuality," Heartlight advises parents "Don't overreact!" "Don't be judgmental!" and "Don't be afraid to reference the Bible."
Jordan, however, said his cousin will be forced to “endure Bible-based ‘therapy’ for her ‘disease’” instead of preparing for college or competing in the state debate tournament.
“I can't believe beautiful, smart, incredible kids like my cousin Sarah are still being told that being gay is wrong,” Jordan wrote in a Facebook post. “But it's worse than that for Sarah ... She's been placed at a remote boarding facility to help ‘pray away the gay’ for a year with no communication to the outside world.”
Jordan alleges the teen is barred from making phone calls or using the computer and is not allowed to have any visitors or leave the property. Sarah allegedly tried to run away from the camp, but was caught.
As of early Thursday, the GoFundMe page has raised more than $50,000.