PHOENIX -- No, there won't be any mandatory classes in Arizona this fall to help convert gay students to the straight and narrow life.
That story that broke Thursday on the website National Report about mandatory conversion therapy in the state's more than 2,000 public schools is nothing more than pure fantasy spun out of thin air. There is no such law or regulation.
But there were enough references to real people and news organizations in the fake story to provoke calls to the state Department of Education and even to the governor's office expressing concern, forcing staffers to assure those inquiring that the whole thing was not real.
It may have been difficult to deduce that from reading the piece. In fact, the organization that the posting said was supposed to be running the program, People Can Change, actually does exist. And the phone number listed for it is real.
That forced the group to post a prominent disclaimer on its own web site.
"The spokesperson is fake, the interview is fake, the photo with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is fake, the press conference is fake,' reads the People Can Change web site. "And the quotes are fake, rude, and demeaning of gays.'
And while the organization says it does provide peer support for men "who have personally experienced significant change from unwanted same-sex attractions,' it does not provide programs or services for minors.
The original posting contains no disclaimer that the story is fake. It even includes what is said to be a quote by Brewer to CNN calling the program "an amazing opportunity for gay children to finally learn who they truly are for once in their lives' and saying that the program will result in these formerly gay children "wondering why god (cq lower case) made them defective.'
"It's a completely phony and vile report intended to deceive readers,' said gubernatorial press aide Andrew Wilder. "Its authors should be ashamed.'
While there is no such program, there is a small grain of truth in the whole flap: The official education policy in Arizona is that homosexuality is not acceptable.
State law allows, but does not require, schools to teach about AIDS. But state lawmakers, in imposing minimum requirements, specifically makes it illegal to have a program which "promotes a homosexual life-style' or "portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style.'
And the law says schools may never suggest that "some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.'