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“Highway to Holiness” Becomes Highway To Hell

Jim Burroway

December 14th, 2007

Remember the street evangelists who sought to make I-35 a Highway to Holiness? Pat Roberson enthusiastically reported on this revival effort on his television show a while back. That report prominently featured James Stabile, a young man who was supposedly cured of his homosexuality at a “purity siege” held in Dallas’ Oak Lawn gayborhood.

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John Wright of the Dallas Voice has followed up on the story. He contacted Joe Oden of Heartland World Ministries Church, who was also featured in Robertson’s report, to discover what happened after Stabile was “cured”:

Oden told me Stabile had been shipped off to Pure Life Ministries, which operates a residential treatment program in Northern Kentucky.

“It’s a program for people who’ve lived alternative lifestyles just to get totally clean,” Oden told me.

Upon further investigation, I discovered Pure Life Ministries is also the place where Mike Johnston — remember him?! — is director of donor and media relations.

Johnston was the HIV-positive “ex-gay” who was featured in the anti-gay video “It’s Not Gay” before he was busted in 2003 for hosting orgies and having unsafe sex with other men on the side. (Despite all that, the American Family Association is still selling his video as if nothing every happened.)

Wright also contacted Stabile’s father, the Rev. Joseph Stabile, who is the pastor at Dallas’ oldest church, the Cochran Chapel United Methodist Church. Rev. Stabile said he’s fully accepting of his son’s sexual orientation and believes that being gay is neither a choice nor a sin. When asked what happened, he said that his son simply left home that Friday evening and never returned:

James called a few days later and told his parents he was moving out, and that he’d be back to get his stuff. James apparently had moved in with some folks from Heartland.

After that, it would be some time before James’ parents heard from him, as his church friends reportedly advised him not to contact them.

Joseph Stabile said the Heartland folks also may have advised James to throw away his medication, telling him that God would cure his bipolar disorder, too.

Joseph’s parents said James has a tendency to be less than truthful, especially when he’s off his medication, and that he loves attention. They said they don’t believe he’s ever questioned his sexuality, but that the folks from Heartland manipulated and exploited him for publicity.

Not surprisingly, James Stabile didn’t stay in the program for very long.

When James was kicked out of Pure Life, his father asked if they could provide him with a bus ticket home. After all, James had paid $2,100 up front plus $150 a week to be part of the program. Pure Life refused.

Now nearly four months after that fateful “purity seige,” Jame has returned home where he’s seeing his therapist once again and is hopefully back on his meds.

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Emily K
December 14th, 2007 | LINK

GREAT report, Jim. Thank you so much for this follow up info.

Ben In Oakland
December 14th, 2007 | LINK

I almost posted when i saw the original video clip of this. Really I did!!! I took one look at the boy, and said to my husband…”that boy’san RBQ*, and there is no way he’s off to be an ex-gay. He’s going to come out a few weeks later about the big joke he played”.

Ben In Oakland
December 14th, 2007 | LINK

*RBQ=Really Big Queer. i know because I am.

:)

Ken R
December 14th, 2007 | LINK

I feel for the Stabile family. It saddens and angers me to think that organizations like Pure Life wouldn’t help James get back home with a bus ticket. It’s the money these organizations want and the more “love” I see from these fundamentalist/evangelical organizations makes me want to just throw up. There is no doubt in my mind they are cults. Every one of them. Give us your money and we will fill your head with self-hating bulls**t. I better stop because I’m about to go on a rant.

Thank God James parents are accepting of him as he is. My prayers are with you James and your family.

Jarred
December 14th, 2007 | LINK

After that, it would be some time before James’ parents heard from him, as his church friends reportedly advised him not to contact them.

Am I the only one disturbed by the idea of groups or individuals actively encouraging someone to cut off ties with his family? Especially in the face of all the rhetoric we hear about “family values” and the importance of “the family unit.”

Timothy Kincaid
December 14th, 2007 | LINK

Ken,

I really doubt that anyone (with the possible exception of Stephen Bennett) ever got into the ex-gay ministry for the money. $150 per week would barely pay for food expenses, utilities, and building upkeep so I don’t think Pure Life is getting rich off folks like Stabile.

But what I think the refusal to buy a bus ticket shows is something more insidious than greed. It show callousness. And I believe that callousness is endemic throughout the ex-gay movement.

Once you are no longer a candidate for reorientation, they’re done with you. You’ve obviously decided to “embrace the homosexual lifestyle” and to turn to sinfulness and they really could care less about you now.

This explains the lack of interest in the harm that has been documented as resulting from such efforts. It explains the unwillingness of Exodus leaders to meet with or listen to Beyond Ex-Gay. It explains the snide comments made about those who no longer toe the ex-gay line (I’m thinking about those made about Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, in particular).

And it explains how they could kick someone out of their ministry who clearly has some medical issues and not give the slightest care about how he would get home.

Steve - Geneva, IL
December 14th, 2007 | LINK

So the “purity seige” happened 4 months ago and James is now settled back at home. The 700 club ran this I-35 feature less than 2 weeks ago. Does this mean that they touted this “miracle” even after it was clear that no such thing had happened? Could it be that they were being less than honest? Tell me it isn’t so!!! I’m sure its just that James was so sinful that he allowed the devil to take back control of his life.

PS – I drove on I-35 this summer. I’m still gay.

grantdale
December 14th, 2007 | LINK

Well Timothy, consider the lily. We’re not being callous, because the good Lord will provide. Somehow. Not Our Problem, you sinner.

A comment from the parents did seem very apt:

“Has a tendency to be less than truthful,… and that he loves attention.”

A background theme that appears time and time again with those exgays eagerly grasping at the limelight. IMO.

Don’t ask me to name names… you know who they are… :)

Emily K
December 14th, 2007 | LINK

Um, like, ALL of them?

Ben In Oakland
December 15th, 2007 | LINK

As I have often stated, I sure wish these kkkristians would show the same respect to me as a gay man that they show to all of the other people they believe are going to burn in hell forever, sent there by their just and loving god because he loves us all just SO DAMNED MUCH.

But then, as I also have often stated, I don’t really believe that it is about sincere religious belief, but about power, money, hate, and the belief that god is the same kind of total, callous asshole that so many of these people seem to be.

God created man in his own image, and man, being polite, decided to return the compliment.

What happened to this poor, confused boy is just another example of it.

Bill Ware
December 15th, 2007 | LINK

This is farce macabre.

These people are unbelievable. (But we knew that, didn’t we?)

PW
December 16th, 2007 | LINK

This kid learned a lesson about the ex-gay movement (and for that matter, extreme religious movements in general): they only care about you when it fits their agendas. If you suddenly wake up and decide you don’t want to play the game, suddenly they aren’t the hospitable, loving, accepting people you thought they were. They say they love unconditionally, but don’t fool yourselves folks, they don’t, and this is yet another example of that reality.

Liz Ditz
December 16th, 2007 | LINK

I actually researched the cost of Greyhound from the facility to Dallas: under $150.00, assuming they took him up to the closest hub (about a 30 minute drive).

I am actually more disturbed about the account that the ministries might have encouraged the young man to discontinue his medication.

Kids with bi-polar disorder often have impaired executive function (decision-making capability), whether or not they are on medication.

I am glad that Mr. Stabile survived the experience, and is reunited with his family, and I hope he makes a full and complete recovery from the experience.

grantdale
December 16th, 2007 | LINK

As it is the time of year for our updating of the Form 990′s…

Pure Life Ministries turned over $1.6 million (2006), with a handy profit of $387K for their enterprise: a rather attractive margin.

If the remuneration the founders, Pres and Vice-Pres team of Steve and Kathy Gallagher gave themselves seems a comparatively modest $79K (roughly) last year … please don’t neglect to observe that PLM has salted away a comfortable $673K retained profits in the past 3 years alone.

Just from doing the Good Lord’s Work, mind you.
Praise Jesus.

(and sorry Lisa, but plainly that $150 bus fare was desperately needed to continue said Good Lord’s Work.)

We did go looking (again) for mention in the Donor’s Bill of Rights etc, or the employee bios… but, sadly it’s still missing….

Potential donors are not told that they will be dealing with a department headed by ex-homosexual fraud, notorious liar and sexual menace … Michael “Mike” Johnston, Director of Donor and Media Relations. (But he’s changed man now, really. Of course).

Q for anyone expert in interpreting word associations…

Why is it that when we hear the religious refer to “our flock”, we cannot but also think of the word “fleeced”???

Only “three bags full”… that farmer was simply in the wrong commercial sector of the economy. Ba-aah!

Shane
December 17th, 2007 | LINK

Thank you, Jim for this report. I saw this video previouslu and was saddened by it, surely. I wondered about the young man who was supposedly “saved” and it’s good to know he’s back home with folks who apparently love and accept him a great deal.

Jason
December 17th, 2007 | LINK

**but plainly that $150 bus fare was desperately needed to continue said Good Lord’s Work.)**

Which has nothing to do with, you know, helping the needy, you know, someone stranded cross country who needs, not drugs, not alcohol, not condoms, but merely a bus (not a plane!) ride home.

What nerve, next we’ll be expecting them to give food to the hungry or shelter to the homeless!

What a ridiculous request, to expect a Christian to help a stranded youngster. What would God say if they’d actually bought him a ticket?????

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