Exodus Board Member Suing to Hold Church Services in Public Library
March 9th, 2008
Phil Burress is the president of Citizens for Community Values, an anti-gay advocacy group that is credited with spearheading the 2004 amendment that bans gay marriages in Ohio. He is also an officer on the Board of Directors of Exodus International.
Burress makes no pretenses that he is not an enemy of the lives, liberties and freedoms of gay people. In fact, his organization ranks as one of the most overtly homophobic groups of which I am aware. On his website’s position paper on homosexuality, he concludes:
At the outset of this paper we stated that the militant agenda of homosexual activists represents the single greatest threat to our Judeo-Christian family values, and to societal stability as a whole, of this generation. We hope that you understand our rationale for that statement and will join us in resisting, on every front, the organized effort to normalize homosexual behavior in our society.
Burress has long been viewed as a pain in the side of Cincinnati. After CCV was successful in getting the citizens of the city in 1993 to overturn anti-discrimination codes, the business community became annoyed. The city gained a reputation of being intolerant and homophobic, which reduced the pool of talented potential employees.
Indeed it was a coalition of business groups in that city that led to the successful vote in 2004 to overturn Burress’ meddling.
Now, according to Ohio.com, Burress continues his attack on the city and its residents**. CCV is suing a local public library because they do not allow religious services in their meeting rooms.
The canceled library meeting was part of a “Politics and the Pulpit” discussion planned by Citizens for Community Values. It was to include a discussion of politics and religion, as well as a “prayer petitioning God for guidance in the church’s proper role in the political process” and “singing praise and giving thanks to God,” according to the lawsuit.
Library officials said praying and singing are elements of a religious service, which is not allowed under library policy.
Naturally, CCV is being represented by Alliance Defense Fund, a ministry dedicated to using legal means to advantage conservative Christian groups over their secular neighbors. ADF is a ardent opponent to the separation of Church and State.
“Christian groups shouldn’t be discriminated against for their beliefs,” said Tim Chandler, an attorney with Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian legal group that joined the lawsuit.
“The government cannot treat people with nonreligious viewpoints more favorably than people with religious viewpoints,” Chandler said. “Christians have the same First Amendment rights as anyone else in America.”
Perhaps I’m old fashioned. But my father and both of my brothers are ministers and at no point have they insisted that the residents provide free meeting places for their religious services. It takes a huge sense of entitlement to demand that government – be local or national – subsidize your religious endeavors.
Burress has no lack of sense of entitlement. Nor does he ever hesitate in his efforts to force his articles of faith on others, especially gay people.
Recently Exodus has declared that they have changed their efforts and will no longer focus on anti-gay public policy but will instead return to their original mission of ministering to those same-sex attracted persons who believe that homosexuality is contrary to a Biblical code of sexual ethics.
In August, 2007 after a lot of prayer, deliberation and listening to friends and critics alike — but mostly the Lord — we decided to back out of policy issues and our Director of Government Affairs took a position with another organization.
I believe strongly in all of the initiatives that we were involved in, but believe we must focus on our two greatest contributions: 1) helping the Church balance grace and truth where homosexuality is concerned and 2) connecting people who seek our help with a community of believers that can love them as they journey towards Christ.
While I disagree with Exodus’ version of “grace and truth where homosexuality is concerned”, I find that statement commendable.
But Exodus needs to back up its claim with action. It needs to sever from its midst those elements who do nothing but advocate discrimination against gay people and who serve no function but as political activists.
I contend that as long as Burress is on the Board of Directors of Exodus, they will continue to be viewed as an anti-gay political advocacy organization – and rightly so.
** UPDATE – Reader Stefano has corrected my faulty Ohio geography. The library is in a neighborhood in Columbus.