Hundreds of anti-gay Christian camps popping up across the US where teens are sent for ‘conversion'
Anti-gay conversion camp (screenshot Good Morning America/ Twitter)

A new ABC News report reveals the hundreds of anti-gay conversion that are popping up across the country. The camps, run by Christian pastors and preachers, use "the Bible and sometimes the belt" in an attempt to change children's sexuality. But such programs, which have long been discredited, have detrimental effects on mental and physical health.

ABC News' Brian Ross previewed the investigation on Friday's Good Morning America. The clip shows the ABC team approaching the Blessed Hope Christian Academy in Alabama, one of many so-called conversion camps "where gay teens are sent by parents who want their children to change their sexuality." The camp charges a yearly $21,000 fee.

Susan Cottrell, the director of FreedHearts, a LGBTQ organization that challenges Christians to be inclusive of all sexualities, said that "for every camp like this there are a hundred more that nobody knows about."

But others disagree. "They certainly should not be outlawed. They certainly should not be prohibited by law," said Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, a conservative lobbying group that advocates for "sexual reorientation efforts." He said, "As a Christian, I believe that the Bible teaches that to choose to engage in homosexual conduct is a sin."

Ross's report sheds light on the abuses that occur at these camps. He visits another camp, in addition to the Blessed Hope Christian Academy, that is "unlicensed, and surrounded by barbed wire," where the pastor, Ross explains, "has a track record of physical abuse and cruelty."

"If someone is experiencing something mentally, like same-sex attractions, that is causing distress, then that’s a mental health issue," Sprigg said, favoring the camps. He did note, however, that physical abuse is not a valid option for therapy.

The investigative report will air on Friday night on 20/20.

Watch the preview clip below: