ABC News' 20/20 will focus on what it calls "the secretive world of Christian camps" that are connected to anti-gay rhetoric and practices.
ABC News’ newest episode of 20/20 will focus on what it calls “the secretive world of Christian camps” that are connected to anti-gay rhetoric and practices.
In an exclusive clip from the hour, which airs Friday night, the network’s Brian Ross sits down with Supergirl actor Jeremy Jordan about his very personal connection to such groups.
Last year Jordan, 32, and other relatives went public with a family conflict: He claimed that his “sweet gay cousin” Sarah was being forced to attend an anti-gay boarding school in Texas, Heartlight Ministries, and that she had previously tried to escape.
Jordan’s brother launched a GoFundMe to raise money for legal fees in support of their accusations. The fundraising page alleged the school was a place for teens to “pray away the gay,” saying 17-year-old Sarah had been sent there after attending prom with a girl.
“They [Sarah’s family] were taking drastic measures and putting her away,” Jordan tells Ross in the exclusive 20/20 clip, “and she was terrified.”
In a statement at the time, the school said, “the assertion that this teen was held at Heartlight Ministries against her will, or that Heartlight provides any ‘treatment’ services for sexual identity, are categorically untrue.”
“While this young woman is no longer at Heartlight, should she ever personally choose to return, we could welcome her with open arms,” the statement continued.
Heartlight, based in Longview, Texas, is a co-ed Christian boarding school that provides residence to 56 “struggling teens,” according to its website.
Its founder has written about sexuality on his Heartlight parenting blog before, once advising parents of teen girls who are dating girls, “don’t blow up and label your child a ‘homosexual,’ or that label could stick!”
He suggested understanding, but noted that some teenagers are in same-sex relationships because they “just want to be different” or because they’re “currently a fad.”
Sarah has not spoken publicly. But her mother said last year that the teen attended Heartlight to “help her with issues of depression, self-harm, drug use and behavioral issues.”
Jordan tells a different story.
The actor posted extensively about the issue on social media at the time, but he declined further comment due to legal issues. Now he says he felt like “we [had] to say something out loud about this.”
“We started a GoFundMe page and it basically told Sarah’s story, which is the story of so many young gay teens, especially in the South and these states that are very intolerant toward homosexuality,” Jordan says in the 20/20 clip.
Friday’s 20/20 will also feature the stories of other gay teens, according to ABC, and will see its investigators go undercover at one Christian facility.
In a second clip from the episode, 16-year-old Lucas Greenfield describes his family’s backlash to his sexuality.
He recalls to Ross, “[My mom] said, ‘Look, as Christian parents, as people of God, we cannot have you being who you are, your lifestyle of homosexuality, we cannot have that inside of our Christian house.’ “
In a clip from the 20/20 episode that aired on Good Morning America Friday, Ross shows how his team investigated one facility in Mobile, Alabama, that was led, in part, by William Knott.
Knott is one of three people reportedly convicted of aggravated child abuse earlier this year in connection with the camp. One former counselor told Ross, in the clip on GMA, how Knott was a “sadist” with names for his belts.
Knott declined to comment to Ross, when approached in public, in a fiery confrontation that was also aired on GMA.
ABC News said it has also spoken to administrators connected with some of the groups featured in the 20/20 episode, who either rejected the practice of “gay conversion therapy” or said it should only be undertaken by consenting participants, not by force.
20/20 airs Fridays (10 p.m. ET) on ABC.
• With LINDSAY KIMBLE