July 16, 2011 — -- Undercover videos taken by a gay rights group inside Michele Bachmann's family-owned Christian counseling clinic have sparked a fierce debate over a controversial therapy to turn gay men and women straight. This week's "Brian Ross Investigates" examines the practice, which is widely repudiated by mental health professionals but embraced by many in the evangelical community.
In an interview with ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross, a leading figure in an "ex-gay" movement claims many evangelical Christians have been able to change their sexual orientation through faith, prayer, and therapy.
"Does counseling help people who are struggling to live through the filter of the faith over their sexuality? It definitely, absolutely does," said Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International. Chambers says that the group's efforts to promote therapy to turn gays away from homosexuality have been unfairly criticized.
"We can look at other organizations who help people dealing with other life struggles. For instance, Weight Watchers, which has tremendously benefited my life. Should we go after Weight Watchers and tell them 'Don't say that there's anything beyond obesity' for people who are struggling with obesity and want an alternative to that?"
Mental health professionals came forward to strongly condemn gay conversion therapy after the undercover videos were first broadcast on ABC News on Monday night. Dr. Jack Drescher says the practice is not only ineffective but could seriously harm patients.
"This so far outside the mainstream it's practically on Mars," said Dr. Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist who has studied the practice of gay conversions. "We don't know what causes homosexuality, we don't know what causes heterosexuality, and since we don't what causes it, we don't know how to change it. There is no science that effectively states [that] this can work, this can change."
S.P.O.T a Terrorist
This week's show also revisits a $1 billion aviation security program aimed at training officers to use tiny behavioral clues to spot terrorists at the airport. A new Government Accountability Office report release this week found that hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have already been spent on the program with not one confirmed terrorist caught.
The Transportation Security Administration's Screening of Passengers by Technique (SPOT) program trains airport security officers to look out for "micro-expressions" of travelers that may betray hidden emotions and terrorist intent.
"If you have one of those emotions, you're gonna -- it's going to appear in your face and if you're trying to it may well leak out in a micro expression," said Dr. Paul Ekman, a micro-expressions consultant for the Transportation Security Administration.
Critics say the science behind the program remains unproven.
"There is no scientific support for this system as of now," said Maria Hartwig, a psychologist and assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
"Brian Ross Investigates," a weekly investigative news show, airs every Friday on ABC News Now, the 24-hour news channel available throughout the U.S. and Europe. Each show is also available on Hulu.com and on mobile devices. Viewers can submit videos and personal thoughts on controversial issues and current topics through Facebook and Twitter, including the "Skype Gripe" segment, in which viewers can discuss recent investigations with Ross. To join in on the discussion and be part of the show, follow Brian Ross on Twitter at @BrianRoss, the Investigative Team at @ABCNewsBlotter, and find us on Facebook at blotterabc. All shows are archived on Hulu.com for viewing.