Exodus President Expresses Regret For Uganda Debacle

This commentary reflects those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Jim Burroway

June 8th, 2010

In March 2009, a member of the Board of Directors for Exodus International, Don Schmierer, travelled to Uganda with holocaust revisionist Scott Lively to conduct what has since become a notorious anti-gay conference whose repercussions — including the drafting of a proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill to add the death penalty for gay people under certain circumstances — continue to reverberate in that country today. Today, more than fifteen months later, Exodus International President Alan Chambers released an unusually frank statement acknowledging his failure to advice Schmierer to cancel his appearance at the conference.

The statement, posted on Exodus International’s blog, in my view constitutes a fairly comprehensive acknowledgment of Chambers personal failings over his handling of the Uganda debacle. While the statement does not use the word “apology” specifically, he provides a detailed self-examination of his mistakes along some of the motives for making them and expresses regret for them. If there’s one thing I gained from my Catholic education, it’s that I think I can recognize a genuine act of contrition when I see one. This statement goes far beyond anything I had ever expected to see.

In the statement, Chambers acknowledges receiving prior warnings from BTB’s Timothy Kincaid, as well as Ex-Gay Watch’s David Roberts and Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton, but says that he didn’t give the warnings the attention they deserved. What’s more, he acknowledges that the reason he didn’t heed them was “due to who was issuing them.”

My initial belief was that their major concern was over Caleb Lee Brundidges association with Richard Cohen. Again, no excuses, I was negligent in digging deeper and heeding their warnings. While I did share my concerns with Don Schmierer prior to the event, he was on the ground in Uganda and I saw this as an issue that didn’t warrant him canceling his appearance there—after all, in my mind, Don was simply sharing his normal talk on parenting. I do realize that his mere presence there, even as a private citizen, did give the appearance that Exodus was endorsing the conference and eventually the horrific political position that was fueled by that event.

As I have stated in less trafficked public settings, I am disappointed that some of my reasons for not heeding warnings was due to who was issuing them. I believe that probably works both ways, but in this case my error was grave. I cannot undo my initial lack of, then delayed, response or the harm that it caused, but I have learned from that terrible mistake and tried to make amends by condemning the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009 and by standing with a cross-spectrum group of people to see that the measure is, itself, killed. Exodus and I will continue to do that with regard to the Uganda measure or any other similar law or proposed law in other nations. We will also seek to condemn that which is condemnable more swiftly; not to do so finds us breech in our responsibility as an organization people look to for biblical wisdom.

I have no doubt that I will be pilloried by fellow LGBT advocates for saying this, but while I find the statement’s tardiness indefensible (as Chambers acknowledges near the beginning of his statement), I also find it to be a complete and heartfelt acknowledgement of virtually all of our criticisms concerning Exodus’ connections with the events in Uganda. Sure, our larger differences over the political goals and therapeutically-questionable methods of the ex-gay movement remain intractable. And Exodus’ ongoing efforts to export the culture war to foreign lands where they may not necessarily appreciate the cultural nuances of the host country remain a source of deep concern. But with regard to Exodus’ connection with this particular debacle in Uganda, this is much, much closer to the kind of statement that I wish they had released earlier.

I do, however, believe that Schmierer owes the world a similar act of self-examination. Aside from a few defensive and self-serving comments, his continued silence remains perhaps the most critical missing voice in all of this.

As Timothy Kincaid has already reported, this statement addresses another critical shortcoming that I and others have called on them to address from the beginning. At the conclusion of this statement, Chambers announced that Exodus has drafted a new policy statement against criminalization of homosexuality. While this isn’t the first time Exodus or Chambers have spoken against criminalization, it is the first time Exodus has placed such a statement directly on their main web site in a permanent location where it will be easy for everyone to find.

This statement is ridiculously overdue, but I heartily welcome it nonetheless. And I hope that it will serve as an example for other Evangelical groups with ties to Uganda and elsewhere around the world.

Addendum: A genuine act of contrition calls on the penitent to make amends. Chambers says that they “will continue to [condemn] the Uganda measure or any other similar law or proposed law in other nations.” For this to be effective, it must be pro-active, not reactive. Responding because their opponents are calling them to account comes across as weak and, as Scott Lively put it, “effeminate”. Time will tell whether that particular message has sunk in.

Michael Bussee

June 8th, 2010

Months ago, Don Schmierer of Exodus posted: “What is true, however, and worth all the news media coverage possible, is the tragic nature of and heartbreaking potential this bill holds.”

He then declined an invitation by ABC News to do just that. Maybe he’ll do it now?


John in the Bay Area

June 8th, 2010

I guess the question in my mind is: Why now? After all this time, after everything that has happened, why issue this apology now?

Lindoro Almaviva

June 8th, 2010

I do not believe his contrition and believe it is just another opportunistic move to seem like the victim. His hands are full of blood and now he is trying to seem like he was taken by surprise.

Nothing this gentleman does seems Godly to me, he is a wolf in sheep’s skin.

Michael Bussee

June 8th, 2010

John: The cycnic in me says thet are doing it now beczuse they are returning to Orange County for their “35th Birthday Party” in two weeks — and they wanted to clean up a bit for the Press. The timing seems more than coincidental.

Lynn David

June 8th, 2010

It’s just a little too bad that Uganda and her gay citizens had to be the proving ground for this statement by Exodus. It seems that Lawrence v. Texas would have been the trigger for such a statement. But it was then that Randy Thomas wrote in Exodus news:

After much reflection and more research it does appear that if the Supreme court overturns this case it could be a watershed event in redefining the family. Therefore, in the realm of public dialog, the possibility of overturning the laws deserves opposition from those of us who want to defend our beliefs as they pertain to Biblical models of relationships. Of course it is up to the reader on how to make their views known.

And in support of that position Thomas provided a link to an FRC article about their brief supporting criminalization. The FRC claimed:

The law has historically respected and protected the marital union and has distinguished it from acts outside that union, such as fornication, adultery and sodomy. To extend homosexual sodomy the same protections given to the marital union would undermine the definition of marriage and could lead to homosexual marriage.
In order to recognize a non-textual Constitutional right to sodomy, the Court must find sodomy to be deeply rooted in the nation’s history and tradition. In fact, laws banning sodomy are deeply rooted in our nation’s history and tradition.
Protecting marriage, upholding morality, and seeking to ensure public health is more than enough for Texas to prove it has a “rational basis” behind its law. Homosexual sodomy is the number one vehicle for the transmission in America of the HIV virus, and given all the ramifications HIV/AIDS has on public health, Texas is surely justified is seeking to curtail its continued progression.

What has changed in the intervening seven years? Certainly not the Christian religion.


June 8th, 2010

“What has changed in the intervening seven years? Certainly not the Christian religion.”

Exodus does not represent Christianity.

When Exodus was advocating criminalizing homosexuality, there were Christian churches, like MCC and the UUC, that were advocating for civil equality for GLBTQ people, teaching people of faith how to repudiate and disprove anti-gay theology, and supporting non-religious GLBTQ organizations.

Your blanket condemnation of Christianity is identical in purpose and motive to Don Schmierer’s blanket condemnation of homosexuals.

Lynn David

June 8th, 2010

Ok, then…. “their Christian religion.”


June 9th, 2010

David, it serves no one to pretend that the overwhelming majority of Christians aren’t anti-gay. Your limited exceptions prove the rule.


June 9th, 2010

I do not believe his contrition and believe it is just another opportunistic move to seem like the victim. His hands are full of blood and now he is trying to seem like he was taken by surprise.

This. It’s just another PR move. People who actually feel sorry don’t need to be hounded for months by the media to apologize.

Timothy (TRiG)

June 9th, 2010

The Christian religion has changed and will continue to change. Religion is, as ever, a retarding pressure on moral progress, but they eventually catch up with the moving Zeitgeist. It’s a rare Christian these days who’ll defend slavery.


Richard Rush

June 9th, 2010

General social attitudes toward homosexuality need to be in a middle ground in order for Exodus to remain in existence: If a society completely accepts homosexuals as equals, then Exodus would cease to exist. If a society viciously persecutes homosexuals, then it is likely that people would be so fearful of revealing themselves that few would risk contacting Exodus, and thus Exodus may cease to exist.

Exodus’ founding in 1976 was at a time when some limited acceptance of homosexuality was just beginning to emerge. Prior to that time large numbers of homosexuals suffered alone while they pretended to be straight, and then Exodus came along to hold their hands while they pretended to be straight.

So, it seems to me that Exodus’ prospects for future activity in Uganda would be diminished if the draconian bill becomes law.


June 9th, 2010

“If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.” – Voltaire


June 9th, 2010

“I am disappointed that some of my reasons for not heeding warnings was due to who was issuing them. I believe that probably works both ways …”

Gotta love the reasoning: why believe the victims when you’d prefer to believe the assailant? And then, pretend that they’re still to blame by implying they’ve hurt Exodus.


June 9th, 2010

All of this stuff is just so much extraneous noise. The only way anybody persecuted and victimized by religionists can redress their oppression is to address the root matter. Biblical condemnation of gays is based on mistranlations of original scripture substituting fertility rite temple prosititues with gays and the judgement of the resulting social faux pas turned into an eggregious abomination. This was one of the hundreds of political adjustments made to the English language translations with the compilation of the King James Version of the Bible. Prior to that, homosexuality, among a host of other moral imperatives, were never even mentioned in scripture. It’s a fabrication, not but another made up rule designed to divide and conquor the population for the good of people in power, be they Popes, Bishops, priests, kings, bankers, businesses and corporations. Keep ’em dumb and stupid and fighting each other to keep it easier to ensure the masses remain poor, dependant and enslaved. And, it’s still working. The Republican party was the Liberal side of American Politics under Abraham Lincoln. But, look what it’s become especially since it’s cooption by religionists since Reagan and its role in perpetuating wedge issues while shifting wealth to the corporations and perpetuation of impoverishing/eliminating the middle class.

Scripture is all a bunch of mystical BS which can only be addressed effectively by cutting out the smoke and mirrors msyticism and addressing the core issue. Only calling it out, with verifiable proof, and exposing it for what it is as tirelessly as religionists hammar home their indoctrination — relentlessly, loudly and repeatedly — will end the nightmare of unreasonable oppression on the weak, the vulnerable, and the gullible.

Timothy Kincaid

June 9th, 2010

Let’s try and stick to the topic of this thread.

Richard Rush

June 9th, 2010

Chambers acknowledges receiving prior warnings from BTB’s Timothy Kincaid, as well as Ex-Gay Watch’s David Roberts and Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton, but says that he didn’t give the warnings the attention they deserved. What’s more, he acknowledges that the reason he didn’t heed them was “due to who was issuing them.”

I’m assuming this is a fundamentalist Christian principle: “Thou shalt not consider the thoughts or opinions of people affected by our policies or actions.”

When was the last time an anti-gay Christian crusader asked a gay person about his/her thoughts, opinions, or feelings?

Michael Bussee

June 10th, 2010

Alan admits the statement was “way ovedue” and yet says that God told him to do it now. I’m confused. If God told him to wait 15 months, would this be “right on schedule”?

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