City of Raleigh gets backlash for giving funds to center with ties to groups opposing abortion

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The City of Raleigh is receiving backlash over a decision to give $30,000 to a faith-based health clinic with ties to groups that oppose abortion and support LGBTQ conversion therapy.

The Raleigh City Council approved $30,000 for the Neighborhealth Center on Lake Boone Trail during its May 7 meeting.

Council Member Kay Crowder advocated for the faith-based center during the meeting, which provides care for underserved communities.

"I would like to provide $30,000 to this group," she said.

But in a Facebook post, she said she now regrets that decision because one of the center's supporters promoted LGBT conversion therapy.

In the post, Crowder said she "will join fellow city council members in rescinding the grant ..."

"NeighborHealth Center deeply respects all council members and their role in fostering a community of care within our great city," said NeighborHealth Center CEO Sue Ellen Thompson in a statement. "However, our respect for the council doesn't preclude us from disappointment, and it is unfortunate that the council's desire to retract funds is influenced by misinformation."

Thompson said they're withdrawing their financial request to the Raleigh City Council.

"It makes us very sad to see the City of Raleigh consider rescinding financial support of NeighborHealth," said Patrick Dominguez, Senior Pastor of Church of the Apostles, the center's partner organization, whose website has a link to Beyond Imagination, which appears to be an LGBT conversion therapy support group. "We hope they will seek to fully verify their concerns before taking such action. NeighborHealth is doing wonderful work to provide quality health care for the underserved population of our city."

"'Conversion therapy' is a loaded term that has been linked with coercive, abusive and manipulative techniques, often in a clinical setting," Dominguez said in a statement. "We recognize that part of the ongoing human condition is the inner struggle that we all face with unwanted temptations and desires. We support a truly loving and compassionate approach that allows individuals to seek assistance to address these struggles and temptations in a way that offers healing, affirms human dignity and respect, and connects people to the love of God through Jesus Christ."

"Conversion therapy isn't good for anybody," said Kori Hennessey of the LGBT Center of Raleigh. "I think most people understand it's pretty bad especially with the younger generation."

Hennessey added, "That money can probably help other organizations that are really there for the community and really there for helping people who need it."

Crowder said the fund request didn't go through the normal grant process because the center didn't meet the deadline. In turn, she said that resulted in confusion.

Another Neighborhealth Center partner, Gateway Women's Care, is a member of the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, known to be opposed to abortion.

Tara Romano, Executive Director, of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, sent this statement:

"We have concerns that the City of Raleigh appeared to be ready to grant funds to an organization that aligns itself with groups promoting inaccurate medical information and harmful practices that have no basis in scientific evidence. One of NeighborHealth's partners includes misleading information on its website regarding abortion and emergency contraception, and another partner promotes harmful anti-LGBTQ "conversion therapy," which leading health organizations, such as the American Psychiatric Association and the National Association of Social Workers, strongly oppose.

Everyone in Raleigh deserves access to affordable, medically accurate, non-judgmental and comprehensive healthcare, free from any political ideology. Grants from the City of Raleigh should be awarded to organizations that provide affordable, quality healthcare who also support LGBTQ residents and treat them with dignity and respect, and who also provide accurate information about the full range of reproductive health care options, including access to abortion and contraception."

"During its short time in operation, NeighborHealth Center has seen more than 1,700 patients from more than 40 countries," Thompson said. "Approximately 70 percent of patients are uninsured, which represents a coverage gap for low-income people in the community that do not qualify for Medicaid.

"Although precedence exists for public funding of faith-based, nonprofit organizations, we are in the process of withdrawing our financial request to the Raleigh City Council. In the future, we will apply for City funding through regular grant processes to help meet the healthcare needs of the community. As a faith-based, non-profit health center serving marginalized populations, we will continue to move forward in our mission with an unparalleled commitment to serving patients with high-quality health care, without discrimination."

A city spokeswoman said that in order for the money to be rescinded, the city council needs to formally approve it.

The next meeting is on May 2. The agenda hasn't come out yet.

ABC11 reached out to Gateway Women's Care and Beyond Imagination for comment.

"Gateway Women's Care refers to both NeighborHealth Center and Wake County Human Services for clients requesting prenatal health services. NeighborHealth is a welcome additional resource for women in Wake County seeking affordable, low-cost medical care for their pregnancies," Gateway Women's Care said in a statement.

Beyond Imagination said that does not practice "conversion therapy," and it is a separate 501c3 that is a ministry partner of Church of the Apostles.

"It is sad that the Raleigh City Council bends to something that is absolutely unfounded. Neighbor Health is not associated nor affiliated in any way to the ministry of Beyond Imagination."
Copyright © 2020 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.