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Documentary on religious rehab program for gay teens out on DVD

Wednesday - 5/9/2012, 4:06am  ET

Anna-Lysa Gayle, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON - An award-winning documentary now out on DVD is stirring up controversy in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

"This is what Love in Action Looks Like," which received a Special Jury Award, an Audience Award and a Best Festival Award at the Indianapolis LGBT Film Festival, spotlights 16-year-old Zach Stark. Stark was coerced by his parents into enrolling into a "Refuge Program" that they hoped would change him into an "ex-gay."

The documentary gets its name from the group that started the program. The group, Love in Action, describes itself as a "Christian Discipleship Ministry that exists to restore those trapped in sexual and relational sin through the power of Jesus Christ."

Stark first discussed the program in 2005, when he started forums on Myspace showing people the rules by which he was forced to abide, such as "no hugging or physical touch between clients."

Stark's story received attention and sparked protests around the nation and became the focal point of the documentary.

"I thought I was going into something that was going to make my life worse for like ever," Starks says in the film.

Since the movie's filming, Love in Action's "Refuge Program" was discontinued and on March 15, 2012 it announced a name change. The organization is now called "Restoration Path."

The former director of the program, John Smid, resigned from the program in 2008. In an interview on CNN's Starting Point, Smid admits that the program set participants up "for a facade -- a false image of what we tried to help them think life would be like."

Smid himself admitted in 2011 he could not reverse his own homosexuality.

Watch the trailer:

The documentary is now available on DVD in the U.S. It will be available in the United Kingdom, beginning May 28, 2012.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)