A counseling center tied to conversion therapy sent a cease and desist letter to our reporter.

In an attempt to hinder our reporting, the family counseling center told LOOKOUT staff to stop contacting them.

A counseling center tied to conversion therapy sent a cease and desist letter to our reporter.
A screenshot of the website for Family Strategies Counseling Center. The center has sent a cease and desist letter to LOOKOUT reporter Josephine Jaye McAuliffe after her work exposing ties between the organization and conversion therapists.

Lawyers representing a family therapy practice LOOKOUT has shown to use and promote conversion therapy have sent a cease and desist letter ordering our reporters to stop contacting the practice—or be faced with lawsuits.  

LOOKOUT identified therapists at Family Strategies Counseling Center who previously advertised themselves either as reparative therapists or as counselors willing to treat “unwanted same-sex attraction.” Reparative therapy is a term for conversion therapy that implies gay people can be fixed or “repaired.” The center’s original website domain was “healinghomosexuality.com.”

After reaching out to the center’s executive team and several of its therapists for comment through phone and email, the organization—through a lawyer—sent LOOKOUT a cease and desist letter on May 7. 

The letter was sent out by law firm Wallin Hester, PLC, and demanded LOOKOUT reporter Josephine Jaye McAuliffe to “cease all communications with [Family Strategies] and its employees.”

It is standard practice for journalists to reach out to subjects of their stories to offer a chance to rebut or defend against reporters’ findings or public accusations. LOOKOUT requires its reporters to make multiple attempts to contact any person or business named in stories before publishing. 

“Failure to balance the story could be viewed as journalistic irresponsibility, with the resulting story possibly being libelous,” said media law expert Joseph Russomanno, a professor at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications. 

According to Russomanno, cease and desist letters carry no legal weight, and are tantamount to a warning. But the threat of a future injunction can be used to intimidate journalists.

“Is the letter meant to silence your reporting? Of course it is. How could this be viewed any other way?” Russomanno said. 

According to the letter, employees at Family Strategies complained about LOOKOUT’s attempts to contact them. “Bullying and harassing behavior, and repetitive interfering contact, is inappropriate,” the letter read. 

In her previous two stories on conversion therapy, McAuliffe contacted John Hinson, a member of Family Strategies’ executive team, as well as Floyd Godfrey, the center’s founder. Both responded to questions about conversion therapy.

In the last month, McAuliffe emailed Kim Buck, a member of Family Strategies’ executive team, as well as counselor John McLean. She also left voicemails for both therapists. Those emails and calls went unanswered until LOOKOUT received the cease and desist letter.

“Simply contacting someone to ask them for comments does not necessarily equate with harassment,” Joseph Russomanno said. 

LOOKOUT reached out to the law firm that sent the cease and desist letter on behalf of Family Strategies. No one at the firm responded before publication. 

“This cease and desist letter is an attempt to silence a reporter doing her job, which is finding and exposing the truth,” said LOOKOUT Editor-in-Chief Joseph Darius Jaafari. “We stand by our reporting practices and our stories on this public health issue.”


An earlier version of this story stated that Joseph Russomanno was a professor at ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications as well as the Sandra Day O'Connor Law School. He is only faculty at the journalism school. We regret the error.

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LOOKOUT Publications is a federally recognized nonprofit news outlet. EIN Number:92-3129757