Grant funds will not be withheld at Medford church after investigation results

The city of Medford announced Friday that it would not withhold an $11,550 grant to Set Free Ministry, a local church accused in June of promoting conversion therapy to homeless people.

The city described its findings in a 25-page report. He investigated accusations by Southern Oregon activist groups Siskiyou Rising Tide and Siskiyou Abolition Project that conversion therapy was taking place at the church, which is the site of a shower trailer and of a pantry used by homeless service provider Rogue Retreat.

The report, titled “Praying Away the Gay in Southwestern Oregon,” documented conversion therapy pamphlets that were available at Set Free Ministry as recently as 2018.

According to Medford city attorney Eric Mitton, there are three reasons the city would have withdrawn grants from Set Free Ministry: if the church had engaged in illegal activities; used public funds to support religious services rather than social services; or discriminated against in the way these social services were provided.

“We found no evidence for these three criteria,” Mitton said.

Mitton acknowledged that if the discredited practice of conversion therapy was used, it would also have to be administered by a licensed therapist to a minor to be effectively illegal under Oregon law.

He also noted that the church and their homeless services programs are legally separate entities – Set Free Christian Fellowship and Set Free Services respectively. He said that under the First Amendment, the city would not be allowed to restrict funding for the social services organization based on the church organization’s religious practices.

The report recommended adding signage to the church to reassure homeless patrons that they are welcome, regardless of their religious affiliation or LGBTQ status.

“We felt there was enough potential for confusion or concern in the community to make sure we went above and beyond to reassure people that they could receive services without having to engage in religious services and without discrimination,” Mitton said. .

A separate investigation is underway at local homeless service provider Rogue Retreat into allegations of discrimination. Rogue Retreat was co-founded and is led by Set Free Ministry pastor Chad McComas.

Jerry B. Hatch