What Did Don Schmierer Know?
December 9th, 2009
Don Schmierer, a member of Exodus International’s Board of Directors was one of three Americans who traveled to Uganda to participate in an anti-gay conference last spring. That conference was the springboard from which anti-gay Ugandans propelled a pogrom against gay people which has resulted in proposed legislation to imprison gay Ugandans, to execute “repeat offenders” and HIV positive gays, to ban pro-gay advocacy, and to require friends, family, and acquaintances of gay people to turn them in to the government.
See our full coverage here.
Nine months after we here at Box Turtle Bulletin began our campaign to inform the world of this attack on human rights – after his participation was exposed by Rachel Maddow – Don Schmierer released a statement on the Exodus blog. In order to ensure that this statement is retained in its original form, it is included in its entirety at the bottom of this commentary.
The theme of Schmierer’s statement is that he was ignorant of any anti-gay political activism at the conference, that his message was redemptive and compassionate, and that he has no responsibility for the current state of affairs in Uganda.
But this is just the latest in the efforts of those at Exodus to position Schmierer in a such a way as to deflect criticism. We will inspect Schmierer’s statement, along with those of Exodus, and determine whether Don Schmierer was duped by anti-gay political activists or whether Don Schmierer is untruthfully seeking to cover up his part in an attack on human rights.
Let’s start at the beginning.
February 24, 2009 – Box Turtle Bulletin became aware of Don Schmierer’s scheduled attendance at the Uganda conference. We wrote a commentary condemning this decision and warning of possible consequences.
This conference will be taking place on very dangerous ground for LGBT citizens and residents of Uganda. Martin Ssempa, the influential evangelical pastor at Makerere Community Church, has called for open season on LGBT people – This is no idle threat.
Although we know that Exodus is aware of content at BTB, we left nothing to chance. I emailed Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, and made certain that he was aware that a Board Member of his organization would be participating in the conference. Further, I made certain that Alan was aware of Lively’s anti-gay advocacy and give the following warning:
Considering Lively’s history, there is little doubt that the crux of his presentation will be to make claims about the nature and intent of gay persons in Uganda and to encourage reprisals, state action, and public abuse of gay persons in that country. His political and religious efforts in Balkan states has contributed greatly to physical harassment of gay persons in that area (including pelting gay Christians with excrement and rotten food), a result that he did not discourage.
March 1, 2009 – Alan replied off the record and I will respect that request by not making his communication public.
My response included the following:
Please let me know if you and the Exodus leadership develop a position on Don Schmierer’s activities in Uganda. We will, of course, be interested in seeing whether the statements of Scott Lively or event organizer Stephen Langa will be similar to the light-the-torches-grab-the-pitchforks language they have both used in the past and will be looking to see whether Schmierer denounces or implicitly endorses their rhetoric.
NOTE: By March 1, we had already warned Exodus/Chambers/Schmierer that the conference would be political in nature, would likely result in physical harm to gay Ugandans, and that Schmierer would need to denounce the rhetoric or that his participation would be perceived as an implicit endorsement.
March 5, 2009 – the Uganda anti-gay conference started. Steven Langa introduced the purpose of the conference and its American guests. Our reporting from that day:
Langa began his talk by saying that Uganda law, which provides a life sentence for those convicted of homosexual acts, isn\’t strong enough.
He then announced that foreign gays were bribing Ugandan children to spread homosexuality. And then the rest of the day was provided for Don Schmierer to tell attendees that “one of the biggest causes of homosexuality is the lack of “good upbringing” in families—children should be brought up in proper Christian ways.”
We have received private communication from some in attendance that Don Schmierer did present himself as a Board Member of Exodus International and left listeners with the impression that he was representing that organization at the conference.
NOTE: On the day that Schmierer spoke but before his presentation, Langa spoke about increasing civil penalties for homosexuality above their current life-sentence punishment. We have no report that Schmierer objected.
March 6, 2009 – A government official announced to the conference that Uganda would soon be considering a bill to crack down on homosexuality. Our reporting from that day:
The Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Dr. James Nsaba Buturo has today told a conference organized to discuss the ways to fight Homosexuality that he will soon submit a bill on pornography and homosexuality for discussion in Parliament.
Scott Lively encouraged the government to force gay people into ex-gay therapy.
That day Schmierer continued his discussions on family life. He made no assertions about the nature of homosexuality or gay people, but he gave his implicit endorsement of the assertions that would be presented by Lively.
After someone claimed that homosexuality is unnatural, Kasha asked, “Who decides what is natural?” Schmierer responded directly to the second question saying that his role at the workshop involves teaching about family values; other facilitators would answer questions about homosexuality being unnatural later in the conference.
A relatively unknown ex-gay named Caleb Lee Brundidge, an associate of Richard Cohen, shared his testimony that afternoon. However, first Steven Langa continued his attacks on gay people from a political perspective.
Langa was the first to take the floor. A harangue. Uganda is going into total moral collapse. It is worse and more serious than economic collapse. Soon, the world will turn inside out and upside down, and homosexuals will be presidents….!
Concerned by the reports out of Uganda, Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a supporter of traditional perspectives on sexuality with a history and contacts in the ex-gay world, recognized the situation in that nation to be volatile and dangerous and called on Alan Chambers to have Schmierer disavow the political agenda of the convention.
March 7, 2009 – The conference continued. Scott Lively spoke. Having been told that homosexuality is preventable by Don Schmierer and that it is changeable by Caleb Lee Brundidge, Lively was there to depict gay people as evil and the source of most of the world’s greatest inhumanities.
On Saturday, Lively repeated his discredited historical revisionist theory in which he claims that the cornerstone of Germany\’s Nazi lies firmly in the gay movement, and that the gay movement today, if left unchecked, will result in a similarly murderous fascism wherever it goes. In Kampala, he went further by expanding his examples of what he calls homosexuals\’ murderous impulse by blaming the 1994 Rwanda genocide on gay men.
Lively also played one of his favorite themes, equating homosexuality with pedophilia. As this is also one of Langa’s themes, their bold declarations that gay foreigners were preying on Uganda’s children was readily accepted.
To the best of our knowledge, Don Schmierer said absolutely nothing to contradict Lively’s absurdities, to dampen the fires of hatred and bigotry, to oppose oppressive political schemes, or to call for compassion or redemption.
March 8, 2009 – We note that Exodus International links to Scott Lively’s Nazi-revisionist claims with the title Homosexuality and the Nazi Party
March 9, 2009 – Exodus removes the link to Scott Lively without comment.
March 11, 2009 – We published an open letter to the Executive Board of Exodus calling on them to oppose the Ugandan political action and remove those responsible.
But truly concerned about the situation in Uganda and the shocking refusal of Exodus or Schmierer to respond, I took the additional step of contacting the executive director of an Exodus member ministry. Although we disagree about theology and the effectiveness of reorientation therapy, I respect his integrity.
We established a communication through which I was able to again reach out to Alan to plea for action to counteract the damage done at the conference.
March 13, 2009 – the Christian Post quotes Alan Chambers on the Uganda conference.
In response, Exodus International said it applauds its board member Don Schmierer, who attended the Uganda conference, for his effort to convey an “alternative message that encompasses a compassionate, biblical view of homosexuality,” according to a statement by Exodus International president Alan Chambers to The Christian Post on Wednesday.
The full statement:
“Unfortunately, Uganda as a country has demonstrated severe hostility towards homosexuals supporting criminalization of homosexual behavior and proposing compulsory therapy – positions that Exodus International unequivocally denounces. It is our sincere desire to offer an alternative message that encompasses a compassionate, biblical view of homosexuality not just here in America, but around the world. We applaud our board member\’s attempt to convey these truths to a country in need.”
There was nothing from Schmierer, not even acknowledgment of the applause.
March 14, 2009 – Someone commenting on a site for Australian skiers said the following:
Last week I sat next to this guy (Don Schmierer) on a flight from USA to Europe. He was on his way to Uganda to speak at a conference there on how to convert people from homosexuality.
We started talking and he was interesting. He was a nice guy, moderate in tone and personality, and concerned not to offend me in case I had different views.
Of course, he has batsh!t crazy ideas that The Gay is caused by a domineering parent, or neglected kids or broken homes. Or something. Whatever, it’s a 100% acquired condition. Also the Nazis were all gay.
He works for Exodus International, which apparently is the leading Christian ministry focusing on the ex-gay (conversion) thing. They are not short of cash as it’s funded by billionaire Howard Ahmanson. Africa is a big focus for them – it’s religious and predominantly anti-gay, and Exodus wants to keep it that way.
Anyway, if anyone wants “Preventing the Homosexual Condition in Today’s Youth” I now have a copy.
I was unaware of this comment until a few days ago when a reader linked to it. I am attempting to follow up with the commenter. Until then, I cannot vouch for its veracity.
NOTE: If this statement is accurate, it suggests that Schmierer was not only aware or Lively’s Nazi-revisionism, but was in agreement. Further, it appears that Schmierer was aware of the political implications of his trip.
March 28, 2009 – I asked the executive director of the ex-gay ministry with whom I was communicating for one final favor:
I know that Don Schmierer has contact info for Steven Langa. It was Langa that organized the conference he spoke at which was the initiation point for this political effort. Can you please contact Don and ask him if he will speak to Langa and do what he can to prevent violence.
My contact, distressed by the situation, said he would be happy to do so.
Summer 2009 – Caleb Bundidge writes of his trip to Uganda in Richard Cohen’s newsletter. (PDF: 7MB/12 pages)
The forty seminar participants were professional ministers, clergy, teachers, counselors, and SSA strugglers. All were greatly enlightened by the content of the presentations. Lives were changed forever thanks to those who contributed to my trip to Uganda! One Bishop in attendance was more affirming of the gay agenda. Through the course of the conference, he became more informed and had a change of mind and heart.
NOTE: Bundidge makes no mention whatsoever of a gay bishop in attendance. Nor has anyone else reporting about the conference from any perspective.
November 16, 2009 – Exodus prepares a letter which objected to specific provisions of the “Kill Gays” bill. They limited their criticism to only those portions that would impact the ability of ex-gay ministries to counsel same-sex attracted persons.
In the comments on our thread, Alan Chambers strengthened his objections to the bill and pledged to help work against it. He described Don Schmierer’s involvement as follows:
I remain absolutely sure that Don Schmierer had no idea what all of this was about until on the ground there and that his desire in speaking was to teach what he always teaches about giving grace to those in need.
December 2, 2009 – Rachel Maddow breaks the story naming Schmierer and his involvement in the conference.
December 3, 2009 – Don Schmierer broke his silence. He issued the statement we’ve included below and signs on, after the fact, to the Exodus letter which has previously been sent.
In reviewing the chain of events as I personally know them to be, and comparing them to the statement issued by Schmierer, I see some significant discrepancies. Frankly, I have difficulty in seeing Schmierer’s statement as being truthful.
If Don Schmierer would like to make another statement, one that is reflective of the facts, I invite him to do so. I would also remind him that true repentance includes attempting to remedy his wrong.
If Don Schmierer wants the gay community – or God – to forgive him for the evil that has resulted from his actions, he is morally obligated to do whatever he can – and my expectations are very high – to repudiate this bill and all that it represents, to denounce the political efforts of Steve Langa and Scott Lively, and to expend time, effort, finances, and political capital in seeing that gay Ugandans do not suffer as a result of his own personal contribution to the situation.
To do otherwise will tell us in no uncertain terms that while Don Schmierer speaks of love and compassion, these words are but sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.
Rachel Maddow, Uganda & Me – By: Don Schmierer
Never in a million years did I expect to see my face on MSNBC. But there I was, plain as day – white hair, tanned wrinkles, looking every bit the grandfather I am- in a photo posted on Rachel Maddow\’s show last night. Unbeknownst to me, she had decided to discuss a conference I spoke at in Uganda several months ago.
As Ms. Maddow accurately recounted, I did go to Uganda last spring to speak at a conference about my book, An Ounce of Prevention: Preventing the Homosexual Condition in Today\’s Youth. In fact, I\’ve been to Uganda many times and have addressed countless audiences in several countries over the years – including the World Congress of Families in Geneva, Warsaw and in Amsterdam. As a counselor with more than 50 years of experience assisting those with many life-dominating issues, I speak not just about preventing the development of same-sex attractions, but also about promoting and demonstrating Christ\’s love and compassion to the gay community.
This international experience, however, turned out to be a bit different. For starters, I didn\’t know much about the conference when I agreed to speak there. At first I thought I was the only speaker and was surprised to hear that Caleb Lee Brundidge of the International Healing Foundation and Dr. Scott Lively of Defend the Family International would be speaking as well. I disagree with several of their respective organization\’s beliefs about this issue and have found several comments to be inflammatory. In retrospect, my decision to speak there might have been different, but one thing I did know was that Ugandans needed to hear a redemptive, compassionate view of this issue. So I set off to do my best in providing it. When my portion of the conference was over, a Ugandan gay bishop complimented me and remarked with gratitude that I “really understood” the gay community as well as the true nature of this issue.
Months later, as I scanned news reports I became aware of Uganda\’s horrible Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 – legislation that would punish homosexual behavior by death and would force all those who suspect such behavior to report them. The bill warrants outrage and shock from all groups and individuals to be sure, but I was surprised to hear Ms. Maddow assert that my message somehow contributed to “inspiring” this legislation – a claim that could not be further from the truth.
What is true, however, and worth all the news media coverage possible, is the tragic nature of and heartbreaking potential this bill holds. I remember the gay bishop I spoke with and am deeply concerned that if this legislation were to go into effect, he would be in danger. I am grieved that the church and social workers I met may now be faced with the gut-wrenching decision of whether or not to turn in a gay friend or loved one. It should not be so. That is why I have signed on to the letter below in speaking out against this legislation. Please join me, and Rachel Maddow by extension, in voicing your concern over this bill.