Donald Trump Announces His “Evangelical Executive Advisory Board.” It’s Worse Than You Thought.

Jim Burroway

June 21st, 2016

Remember just last week when Donald Trump was asking, “Who is better for the gay community than Donald Trump?” Well, we have an answer. It turns out that just about anyone would be better for the gay community than Donald Trump, judging by his newly-announced Evangelical Executive Advisory Board.

His press release says that the new board will provide “advisory support… on those issues important to Evangelicals and other people of faith in America. The executive board will also lead a much larger Faith and Cultural Advisory Committee to be announced later this month.”

The statement said that the board will fulfill Trump’s “esire to have access to the wise counsel of such leaders as needed,” and it represents Trump’s endorsement of “those diverse issues important to Evangelicals and other Christians.” The announcement contained one unusual caveat: “The leaders on the executive board were not asked to endorse Mr. Trump as a prerequisite for participating on the board.”

It’s hard to imaging a more extreme group of people to have Trump’s ear. Here’s the list:

Executive board members include:

  • Michele Bachmann – Former Congresswoman
  • A.R. Bernard – Senior Pastor and CEO, Christian Cultural Center
  • Mark Burns – Pastor, Harvest Praise and Worship Center
  • Tim Clinton – President, American Association of Christian Counselors
  • Kenneth and Gloria Copeland – Founders, Kenneth Copeland Ministries
  • James Dobson – Author, Psychologist and Host, My Family Talk
  • Jerry Falwell, Jr. – President, Liberty University
  • Ronnie Floyd – Senior Pastor, Cross Church
  • Jentezen Franklin – Senior Pastor, Free Chapel
  • Jack Graham – Senior Pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church
  • Harry Jackson – Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church
  • Robert Jeffress – Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Dallas
  • David Jeremiah – Senior Pastor, Shadow Mountain Community Church
  • Richard Land – President, Southern Evangelical Seminary
  • James MacDonald – Founder and Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel
  • Johnnie Moore – Author, President of The KAIROS Company
  • Robert Morris – Senior Pastor, Gateway Church
    Tom Mullins – Senior Pastor, Christ Fellowship¬
  • Ralph Reed – Founder, Faith and Freedom Coalition
    James Robison – Founder, Life OUTREACH International
  • Tony Suarez – Executive Vice President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
  • Jay Strack – President, Student Leadership University
  • Paula White – Senior Pastor, New Destiny Christian Center
  • Tom Winters – Attorney, Winters and King, Inc.
    Sealy Yates – Attorney, Yates and Yates

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal provided seven names that were expected to be included on Trump’s advisory board. We have a run-down on those seven people here.

The announcement comes after Trump met with about 900 Evangelical leaders in Trump Tower this morning. It was supposed to be a closed-door meeting, but E.W. Jackson tweeted out a series of videos capturing some of Trump’s remarks to the group, which included an admonition that the group should not be “politically correct” and pray for “all of our leaders”:

…Some of the people were saying, “Let’s pray for our leaders.” And I said, well, you can pray for your leaders, and I agree with that, pray for everyone, but what you really have to do is you have to pray to get everybody out to vote for one specific person. And we can’t be, again, politically correct and say we pray for all of our leaders because all of your leaders are selling Christianity down the tubes, selling the evangelicals down the tubes, and it’s a very, very bad thing that’s happening.

He also told the group, “I’m so on your side. I’m a tremendous believer. And we’re going to straighten it out.”

Trump To Evangelical Conservatives: “Your Leaders Are Selling Christianity Down the Tubes” But “I’m So On Your Side”

Jim Burroway

June 21st, 2016

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump met with a group of about 900 Evangelical leaders in Trump Tower this morning for what was supposed to be an off-the-record meeting. But anti-gay activist and self-styled Bishop E.W. Jackson tweeted video of part of Trump’s sell to the group:

I don’t think about Hillary in terms of religion. She’s been in the public eye for years and years, and yet there’s no… nothing out there. There’s, like, nothing out there. It’s going to be an extension of Obama but it’s going to be worse. Because with Obama, you had your guard up. With Hillary you don’t. And it’s going to be worse. So, I think people were saying, some of the people were saying, “Let’s pray for our leaders.” And I said, well, you can pray for your leaders, and I agree with that, pray for everyone, but what you really have to do is you have to pray to get everybody out to vote for one specific person. And we can’t be, again, politically correct and say we pray for all of our leaders because all of your leaders are selling Christianity down the tubes, selling the evangelicals down the tubes, and it’s a very, very bad thing that’s happening.

I’m so on your side. I’m a tremendous believer. And we’re going to straighten it out. I, oftentimes in some of my rallies I’ll have 30,000 people or more, and I say, in a joking fashion, but boy do I mean it. We’re going to be saying Merry Christmas again. … You’re going to see… When you go to Macy’s, when you go to Macy’s and department stores today, you don’t see any Christmas signs…

Senate Gives the Green Light to More Massacres

Jim Burroway

June 21st, 2016

An alternate headline could be “Senate Approves Assault Weapon Sales To Terrorists.” The effect, more or less, is the same.

A CBS News Poll talken last week in the aftermath of the Pulse gay night club massacre found that by overwhelming margins, Americans support a nationwide ban on assault weapons (57% to 38%) and closing the gaping loopholes on gun background checks on all buyers (89% to 8%). That last point has extraordinarily broad agreement regardless of whether respondents were Republicans (92% to 6%), Democrats (92% to 2%) or Independents (82% to 14%). Meanwhile a Gallup report released June 13 based on data taken after the San Bernardino mass shooting found that 71% of Americans said that banning gun sales to people on the federal no-fly watch lists would be “very effective” or “somewhat effective.”

But the U.S. Senate, as expected, rejected legislation to address any of that. In fact, a nationwide ban on assault weapons wasn’t even on the table. Which doesn’t really surprise me one bit. If the deaths of 28 first and second graders in an elementary school wouldn’t compel Congress to act, why would anyone think that a bunch of faggots in Orlando would fare any better among those who can’t even say our name?

Trump To Meet With 900 Evangelical Leaders Tomorrow, Announce Religious Advisory Board This Week

Jim Burroway

June 21st, 2016

More than 900 conservative Evangelical leaders are making their pilgrimage to Trump Tower for a meeting with The Donald, who has been making a cynical play for the gay vote following the Pulse night club massacre in Orlando. When the meeting was organized last month by Ben Carson, about 400 social conservatives were announced as attending. Back then, the the roster included a veritable Who’s Who of anti-gay politics, and it has, obviously, only grown since then. The Wall Street Journal says that one outcome of tomorrow’s meeting will be a new religious advisory board, with an announcement coming out sometime “this week”:

Among the people likely to be named to Mr. Trump’s religious advisory board: Jerry Falwell Jr., the son of the late televangelist and president of Liberty University; Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition; Paula White, senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Fla.; Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention; Robert Jeffress, host of a national radio and television ministry and the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas; Jay Strack, president of Student Leadership University in Orlando, Fla.; and Jack Graham, pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.

Here’s a rundown of the names that are being floated:

Jerry Falwell, Jr.: What can I say? Like father, like son, more or less, although the son has taken a much lower profile in anti-gay politics than his father. Instead, he seems to prefer that others to the dirty work for him. He employs the rabidly anti-gay extremist Matt Barber as the associate dean of the university’s law school. Falwell has been an avid supporter of Donald Trump since last January.

Ralph Reed: As head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Reed’s anti-gay political activities go all the way bach to the 1989 when he was named the Executive Director of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition. He started the Faith and Freedom Coalition in 2009. In 2013, he has called the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act “a dagger aimed at the heart of religious freedom for millions of Americans.” In 2014, Reed compared Federal District Court decision striking down bans on same-sex marriage to the infamous Dred Scott decision of 1856 which held that African-Americans who were imported as slaves, and their descendants, could not be U.S. citizens. He also compared the fight against same-sex marriage to the flight against slavery.

Paula White: The televangelist and head of New Destiny Christian Center outside of Orlando, Paula White treads the same ground was a lot of her fellow prosperity gospel preachers in the model of Joel Osteen: don’t say anything controversial that could possibly interrupt the flow of checks. She doesn’t seem to have any particular anti-gay agenda. In fact, she doesn’t seem to have any agenda at all, except money. Which makes her such a good match for Trump. Last October, White said that “any tongue that rises against him (Trump) will be condemned according to the word of God.” In March, she said she presented Trump a Bible and a letter, purportedly written by Billy Graham, containing a “prophetic word.”

Ronnie Floyd: He is the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He his anti-gay history goes back decades. He once said in a sermon, “Satan has taken his tool of homosexuality, a gross and evil sin, and done a con job on the American culture, making it seem like all is okay when you are gay. …This is not a skirmish or a conflict or a disagreement, but it is a war. The war they have declared against our culture has an agenda and we need to be aware of it.” That was in 2003. There’s no reason to believe his views have changed much since then. Just last year, before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision overturning bans on same-sex marriage, Floyd told the SBC’s annual meeting in Columbus, “We are in spiritual warfare. This is not a time for Southern Baptists to stand back…. It (the Supreme Court’s decision) would add fuel, more fuel, to the already sweeping wildfire of sexual revolution and move it beyond all control.”

Robert Jeffries: He is the pastor of Dallas’s influential First Baptist Church, which runs a school, a college and radio stations. Last Thursday, on the very day that Trump was in Dallas asking “Who is better for the gay community than Donald Trump?”, Trump re-tweeted a photo of himself standing beside Robert Jefferies. Just last February, said that because of same-sex marriage, “I believe that we are getting desensitize… which will pave the way for that future world dictator, the Antichrist, to persecute and martyr Christians without any repercussions what-so-ever.”

Jay Strack: He is the head of Orlando’s Student Leadership University, and the lead author, with Dr. Richard Land, of Mercury Rising: 8 Issues That Are Too Hot To Handle. One of those issues — yeah, you sorta guessed it — was teen homosexuality. His book touted ex-gay ministries as a way to deal with teen homosexuality, and directed teens to look up the Exodus International web site. That book came out in 2003. In 2013, Exodus shut down after its president, Alan Chambers acknowledged more than a year earlier that ” 99.9% of them … have not experienced a change in their orientation.” Chambers also issued a formal apology to the LGBT community.

Jack Graham: He is the previous head of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, a 40,000 member megachurch in Dallas’s far-north suburbs near Plano. In anticipation of the Obergefell decision, Graham said that “there’s coming a day, I believe, that many Christians personally and churches corporately will need to practice civil disobedience on this issue. …There are many Christians today who are preparing if necessary to go to jail.”

The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, June 21

We Are Orlando

Cory Connell

Cory James Connell, 21 years old

Cory, a graduate of Edgewater High School, was studying sports journalism and broadcasting at Valencia College in Orlando and working at a Publix supermarket. He wound up being one of seven Valencia students to die that night. He was at Pulse with his girlfriend and another friend, Jerald Arthur Wright. All three were shot that night. Jerald also died, and Cory’s girlfriend was seriously wounded.

636017760346060320-ConnellCory’s brother explained that his girlfriend convinced him to go to Pulse so she could teach him how to dance. Cory was more of a “gym junkie” than a dancer, his brother said. Cory went to Pulse because it was Latin Night and his girlfriend is Columbian.

Cory was a favorite of his teachers:

Shelley Klein, a science teacher at Lee Middle School, said she remembered Connell clearly, even years after he’d finished there. “I’ve taught almost 1,700 kids at Lee. He was so special,” Klein wrote. “All of his teachers at Lee adored him. We describe him as our all-time favorite.”

Nancy Robbinson, a member of the Orange County School Board, said she would often see Connell at Publix and, before then, at a local CVS where he used to work. “Every time I saw him, he greeted me with a warm, inviting smile and a cheery, ‘Hey, Mrs. Robbinson,’ and sometimes I was even blessed to get a hug,” she wrote. “I just saw him at Publix a week ago and got one of those great hugs.


Jerald Arthur Wright

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old

Jerry worked at Walt Disney World who, as a Spanish-speaker whose family was from Colombia, was particularly adept at welcoming visitors from Latin America. Disney became a second family for him:

“It’s hard to understand, but the people with you work with at Disney, they are an amazing family,” said Scott Dickison, who left Disney last July to take a job with ION Network in Clearwater. “Jerry was a great guy to work with. He was quiet but really wonderful with all the guests. He always had a smile on his face.”

636016120113184853-Jerald-Arthur-WrightJerry went to Pulse for Latin Night with Cory James Connell and Cory’s girlfriend to help celebrate Cory’s birthday. Although Jerry was straight, he enjoyed Pulse’s casual vibe:

“It’s a great atmosphere,” said Jessica Weyl, 23, a friend who is straight and goes to Pulse occasionally. “People aren’t judgmental. People aren’t feeling the need necessarily to impress each other.”

“At Pulse it’s just calm, cool and collected,” Ms. Weyl added. “No one felt pressure to be anyone they weren’t. I’m straight and I love going there. My brother is gay and he loves going there.”

…Ms. Weyl had just finished training for a job in Tomorrowland when she met Mr. Wright.

“He took me under his wing and kind of showed me everything,” she said. She turned to him for questions about Disney policies, and especially when she encountered a guest who spoke Spanish.

Jerry attended Westminster Christian School and Florida International University in Miami.

Her first big break on television was in 1972, when she stared as Bridget in the short-lived CBS sitcom Bridget Loves Bernie. After the series was cancelled, she married her co-star, David Birney, which made her Meridith Baxter-Birney. A few years later, she landed a part in the painfully earnest drama Family (the show is credited for inventing what has become the bane of too-self-important television, the “very special episode”) before lightening things up again as Alex P. Keaton’s mom on Family Ties. In between and afterwards, she starred in a number of made-for-TV movies and various television episodes.

Baxter divorced Birney in 1989, and she went back to using Meredith Baxter professionally. She married again in 1995, but divorced five years later. The National Enquirer reported in 2009 that Baxter was spotted on a lesbian cruise with a female friend. The ensuing speculation finally led to her coming out as a lesbian during an interview with Matt Lauer on Today. “I got involved with someone I never expected to get involved with, and it was that kind of awakening,” she said. “I never fought it because it was like, oh, I understand why I had the issues I had early in life. I had a great deal of difficulty connecting with men in relationships.” Her memoir, Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering, came out in 2011. She married her partner, Nancy Locke, in December 2013.

In 2014, Baxter appeared as Maureen Russell in the daytime soap, The Young and the Restless. Her role lasted only three short months, which was just enough time to reveal that she killed her husband, pinned the murder on her son, Dr. Ben “Stitch” Rayburn, locked Stitch’s pregnant girlfriend in a closet when Stitch threatened to reveal who really killed his father, (the girlfriend may or may not have been carrying Stitch’s child), knocked an alcoholic woman off of the wagon by plying her with drinks, had a heart attack (and thus giving Stitch the opportunity to rescue his girlfriend just as she was about to give birth), survived, and was paid off to leave town.

Updated: FBI Releases Partial Transcript Of Orlando Shooter’s 911 Call

Jim Burroway

June 20th, 2016

Update: The FBI released an unredacted version of Omar Mateen’s first 911 call. See below.

Pulse gay night clubPolitico explains the redacting:

The partial transcript is redacted to remove portions of Mateen’s pledges of allegiance to the Islamic State, a move intended to minimize the value of the calls as propaganda for the militant group. The FBI also did not release audio of the calls, which U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley said was meant to avoid “revictimizing” those who were inside the nightclub.

…“Part of the redacting is meant to not give credence to individuals who have done terrorist acts in the past,” FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Ron Hopper said at a news conference. “We’re not going to propagate their rhetoric, their violent rhetoric, and we see no value in putting those individuals’ names back out there. We’re trying to prevent future acts from happening again and for cowards like this one, people like that influence them.” Hopper confirmed that there is no indication that Mateen received direction for his attack from the Islamic State or any other terrorist group.

Several Republicans and Fox News are predictably furious over the redactions, although they hardly left much to the imagination. The FBI confirms that Omar Mateen made three calls to 911 while gunning down LGBT patrons at the Pulse night club in Orlando.

Here is the FBI release:

ORLANDO—In order to provide an update on the progress of the investigation into the Pulse nightclub shooting, the FBI is releasing an excerpt from the timeline of events inside the Pulse nightclub during the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12, 2016. Out of respect for the victims of this horrific tragedy, law enforcement will not be releasing audio of the shooter’s 911 calls at this time, nor will law enforcement be releasing audio or transcripts of the calls made by victims at the Pulse nightclub during the incident. Furthermore, the name of the shooter and that of the person/group to whom he pledged allegiance are omitted.

The following is based on Orlando Police Department (OPD) radio communication (times are approximate):

2:02 a.m.: OPD call transmitted multiple shots fired at Pulse nightclub.
2:04a.m.: Additional OPD officers arrived on scene.
2:08 a.m.: Officers from various law enforcement agencies made entrance to Pulse and engaged the shooter.
2:18 a.m.: OPD S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons & Tactics) initiated a full call-out.
2:35 a.m.: Shooter contacted a 911 operator from inside Pulse. The call lasted approximately 50 seconds, the details of which are set out below:

Orlando Police Dispatcher (OD)
Shooter (OM)

OD: Emergency 911, this is being recorded.

OM: In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficial [in Arabic]

OD: What?

OM: Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [in Arabic]. I let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.

OD: What’s your name?

OM: My name is I pledge of allegiance to [omitted].

OD: Ok, What’s your name?

OM: I pledge allegiance to [omitted] may God protect him [in Arabic], on behalf of [omitted].

OD: Alright, where are you at?

OM: In Orlando.

OD: Where in Orlando?

[End of call.]

(Shortly thereafter, the shooter engaged in three conversations with OPD’s Crisis Negotiation Team.)

2:48 a.m.: First crisis negotiation call occurred lasting approximately nine minutes.

3:03 a.m.: Second crisis negotiation call occurred lasting approximately 16 minutes.

3:24 a.m.: Third crisis negotiation call occurred lasting approximately three minutes.

In these calls, the shooter, who identified himself as an Islamic soldier, told the crisis negotiator that he was the person who pledged his allegiance to [omitted], and told the negotiator to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq and that is why he was “out here right now.” When the crisis negotiator asked the shooter what he had done, the shooter stated, “No, you already know what I did.” The shooter continued, stating, “There is some vehicle outside that has some bombs, just to let you know. You people are gonna get it, and I’m gonna ignite it if they try to do anything stupid.” Later in the call with the crisis negotiator, the shooter stated that he had a vest, and further described it as the kind they “used in France.” The shooter later stated, “In the next few days, you’re going to see more of this type of action going on.” The shooter hung up and multiple attempts to get in touch with him were unsuccessful.

4:21 a.m.: OPD pulled an air conditioning unit out of a Pulse dressing room window for victims to evacuate.

(While the FBI will not be releasing transcripts of OPD communication with victims, significant information obtained from those victims allowed OPD to gain knowledge of the situation inside Pulse.)

4:29 a.m.: As victims were being rescued, they told OPD the shooter said he was going to put four vests with bombs on victims within 15 minutes.

(An immediate search of the shooter’s vehicle on scene and inside Pulse ultimately revealed no vest or improvised explosive device.)

5:02 a.m.: OPD SWAT and OCSO Hazardous Device Team began to breach wall with explosive charge and armored vehicle to make entry.

5:14 a.m.: OPD radio communication stated that shots were fired.

5:15 a.m.: OPD radio communication stated that OPD engaged the suspect and the suspect was reported down.

Update: After severe criticism from House Speaker He-Who-Cannot-Say-Our-Name (R-WI) and other conservatives, the FBI and Justice Department have decided to reverse course and issue an unreacted transcript of Omar Mateen’s first 911 call. Here is the full statement announcing that reversal. I’ve italicized the portion that was originally redacted.

Joint Statement From Justice Department and FBI Regarding Transcript Related to the Orlando Terror Attack

The Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued the following statement regarding the FBI’s release of the transcript related to the Orlando shooting:

“The purpose of releasing the partial transcript of the shooter’s interaction with 911 operators was to provide transparency, while remaining sensitive to the interests of the surviving victims, their families, and the integrity of the ongoing investigation.  We also did not want to provide the killer or terrorist organizations with a publicity platform for hateful propaganda.  Unfortunately, the unreleased portions of the transcript that named the terrorist organizations and leaders have caused an unnecessary distraction from the hard work that the FBI and our law enforcement partners have been doing to investigate this heinous crime.  As much of this information had been previously reported, we have re-issued the complete transcript to include these references in order to provide the highest level of transparency possible under the circumstances.”

Transcript of Orlando Police Department 911 Calls, June 12, 2016

2:35 a.m.: Shooter contacted a 911 operator from inside Pulse.  The call lasted approximately 50 seconds, the details of which are set out below:

(OD)   Orlando Police Dispatcher

(OM)   Omar Mateen

OD:     Emergency 911, this is being recorded.

OM:     In the name of God the Merciful, the beneficent [Arabic]

OD:     What?

OM:     Praise be to God, and prayers as well as peace be upon the prophet of God [Arabic]. I wanna let you know, I’m in Orlando and I did the shootings.

OD:     What’s your name?

OM:     My name is I pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.

OD:     Ok, What’s your name?

OM:     I pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may God protect him [Arabic], on behalf of the Islamic State.

OD:     Alright, where are you at?

OM:     In Orlando.

OD:     Where in Orlando?

[End of call.]

Bangladesh Police Kill Militant Suspected In Murders of Gay Rights Activists, Secular Bloggers

Jim Burroway

June 20th, 2016

Police in Bangladesh yesterday shot and killed an Islamist militant who was suspected of being behind the killing of two gay rights activists in April, and for taking part in the killing of a secular blogger last year.

The militant, identified as Sharif, one of the leaders of the banned group Ansar Ullah Bangla Team, took part in the killing of blogger Avijit Roy, U.S. citizen of Bangladeshi origin, in Dhaka last year, police official Abdul Baten said. Sharif was also behind the killing of two gay rights activists in April, as well as four other bloggers and a publisher, the police officer told a news conference.

…“During the pre-dawn raid, our personnel had to open fire after three suspected militants on a motorbike started firing at them,” he said, adding that Sharif died in the gunfight while two others fled.

Xulhaz Mannan (left) and Tanay Mojum (right)

Xulhaz Mannan (left) and Tanay Mojum (right)

The Bangladesh government has responded to international pressure by launching a massive crackdown on Islamist extremists, resulting in the arrest of more than 11,000 people. While human rights activists have raised alarms over the growing violence of Islamist extremists, they also note that hundreds of innocent people have been swept up in the police crackdown.

Last month, Bangladesh police paraded Shariful Islam Shihab before a group of reporters, alleging that he was one of five to seven attackers who hacked to death Xulhaz Mannan, and editor of the country’s first and only LGBT magazine, and fellow activist and actor, Tanay Mojumda. According to witnesses, Mannan and Mojumdar were hacked to death with meat cleavers in Mannan’s apartment on April 25.

Tennessee Church: God’s Wrath “Started To Fall On The Gays”

Jim Burroway

June 20th, 2016

Johnson CityLast Tuesday, Pastor Jesse Price of Beech Cliff Pentecostal Holiness Church in Johnson City, Tennessee, put a message on his church’s sign reading, “God’s wrath may be getting started to fall on the gays.” Price told a local WCYB reporter:

Beech Cliff Pentecostal Holiness Church Pastor Jesse Price

Beech Cliff Pentecostal Holiness Church Pastor Jesse Price

“We are not trying to kill them. I’ve had a lot of signs up here that homosexuals need to be saved but they didn’t say anything about that on. The only thing I said here in this one that God’s wrath looks like it’s going to start being poured down on the gays.”

He said the sign should not be taken offensively, but alliances of the LGBT community feel differently.

Price added that this wasn’t his first anti-gay message.

The message has since been removed, but Price says he wouldn’t hesitate to repost the message again.

The Daily Agenda for Monday, June 20

We Are Orlando

Deonka Deidra Drayton

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old.

Her family called her “Dee Dee. She grew up in Eastover, South Carolina, where her father is director of God Cares Charities, a non-profit that runs several thrift stores.

DeonkaDeidraDrayton-3Deonka had a hard life. When she was a child, she suffered brain injuries when she was ejected from the family’s car during an accident. “She struggled growing up with the chemistry of everything in her changing,” her father, Shephard Drayton, said. “… She went through a lot of difficulty growing up.”

She left South Carolina and, as ex-girlfriend Ashleigh Alleyne said, Dank was turning her life around. “She was actually putting in effort, because we both hit rock bottom at the same time,” Alleyne said. “She pushed me to get through her issues, and I always tried to do the same for her.”

On that fateful night, Deonka was hiding in the bathroom, texting her more recent ex-girlfriend, Emmy Addison, telling Emmy what was going on. Dee Dee’s last text was at 2:34: “If I die, call my mom.”

Emmy-son-and-Dede-e1465864692502-1Emmy wrote that they had a cruise booked for September. “She was so excited to go. We had been on and off for nine years and felt we needed to take some space to figure things out. We were already talking about moving back in together after the cruise, if things went well. … We had only been separated for two months when one man’s hatred ended our dreams of getting back together. Now we’re never going to have the opportunity to not be separated anymore.” Addison added that their 2-year-old son keeps asking here where his mommy is.

Front and back covers of ONE magazine, June 1963.

June is traditionally the month for weddings. Last June may be a particularly auspicious one for same-sex couples, with the U.S. Supreme Court overturning state bans on same-sex marriage nationwide. More than fifty years ago, ONE magazine dared to imagine the possibility of “homophile marriage” in its June 1963 issue. Randy Lloyd, the article’s author, didn’t really touch on the legal or religious elements of same-sex marriage. Instead, he was writing about just the idea of two people forming a relationship and calling it marriage. That idea, limited as it was, was quite radical in the gay community. In fact, there was a very large contingent of gay men and women who felt that one of the only advantages of being gay was that you weren’t expected to settle down and get married. Lloyd didn’t see it that way:

There are many homophiles who, like me, find the homophile married life so much more preferable, ethically superior, enjoyable, exciting, less responsibility-ridden (contrary to a lot of propaganda from the single set), and just plain more fun — well, there’s no sense beating around the bush — the truth is, many of us married homophiles regard our way of life as much, much superior and as a consequence, mainly stick to ourselves and look down our noses at the trouble-causing, time-wasting, money-scattering, frantically promiscuous, bar-cruising, tearoom-peeping, street crotch-watching, bathhouse towel-witching, and moviehouse-nervous knee single set.

Now, before you scream “Snob!” I want to say that there are plenty of the single set who just as strongly and volubly look down on us. And it seems to me that lately in the pages of ONE their viewpoint has been way out of line in preponderance. And, frankly, I’m sick of it.

As you can see, Lloyd’s problem wasn’t so much in convincing straight people that gays should be allowed to marry. He had to begin first in convincing gay people that other gay people might have legitimate reasons to want to marry. One problem, Lloyd said, was that settled-down gay men and women just weren’t that visible in the gay community. But he also pointed out the larger problem of the heightened visibility from straight people that would befall couples who decided to set up house together:

I realize that much of the lack of publicity on the homophile married set, and the extent of it, is our own fault, or, if you prefer (depending on your point of view), the fault of circumstances. Marriage, it has been said, is a private affair. A homophile marriage is a very private affair.

In the first place. usually we’ve got more to lose — a house, two good jobs (often in the professions), and a happy personal relationship that has been tempered by the years. To find a married couple so endowed that would take their chances on, for instance, appearing as such in a TV show would be tremendously difficult. Not only jobs and material things are at stake but also personal relations with one’s relatives and in-laws. Instead of just one set of heterosexual parents and relatives, in a homophile marriage there are two sets. I have only siblings, all of whom accept my circumstances. But my lover has three aunts, very religious, who raised him through sacrifices, and he would not dream of causing them embarrassment and grief. It would be a very rare homophile marriage that did not have on one side or the other some good reason for shunning publicity.

Lloyd explored the various aspects of gay marriage, including marriage-like relationships in history as well as the practical problems which made those relationships so difficult in 1963. That difficulty included meeting others in an environment that forced everyone underground, finding someone who isn’t more damaged by the social pressures than yourself, and the lack of role models. To address that last concern, Lloyd provided several tips on how to navigate the difficult emotional and practical problems, things that straight people naturally absorb from their parents and peers. Some of the advice is common sense (“Cultivate the homophile married life,” “Expect to adjust,” If you hanker for a house, don’t ‘wait for marriage’ to buy one.”) and other advice that seems, well, dated (“If you don’t cook, look for somebody who can.”). And he closed by calling for the start of a new marriage movement:

There are many homosexuals, who neither desire nor are suited for homophile marriage, that ridicule what they call the “heterosexual” institution of marriage. This is only a clever twisting. Marriage is no more a strictly heterosexual social custom than are the social customs of birthday celebrations, funerals, house-warmings, or, for that matter, sleeping, eating, and the like. I participate in those, not because they are heterosexual or homosexual things, but because I am a human being. Being homosexual does not put one out of the human race. I am a human being, male and married to another male; not because I am aping heterosexuals, but because I have discovered that that is by far the most enjoyable way of life to me. And I think that’s also the reason heterosexual men and woman marry, though some people twist things around to make it appear they are merely following convention.

After all, there must be something to marriage, else what is the reason for its great popularity? Marriage is not anybody’s “convention”. It is a way of living and is equally good for homosexuals and heterosexuals.

I think it is high time the modern homophile movement started paying more attention to homophile marriage. … Homophile marriage is not only a strictly modern idea that proves our movement today is something new in history, it is the most stable, sensible, and ethical way to live for homophiles. Our homophile movement is going to have to face, sooner or later, the problem of adopting a standard of ethics. We have got to start laying the groundwork. I can’t think of a better way to begin than by pushing homophile marriage.

ONE magazine, August 1953.

This wasn’t the first time ONE magazine tackled the issue of same-sex marriage. Ten years earlier in August of 1953, ONE published an article by E.B. Saunders titled, “Reformer’s Choice: Marriage License or Just License,” where Saunders observed that the homophile movement was avoiding the topic of marriage (see Aug 20). “One would think that in demanding acceptance for this group, legalized marriage would be one of the primary issues,” Saunders wrote. “What a logical and convincing means of assuring society that they are sincere in wanting respect and dignity!” Saunders however argued the idea of gay marriage was preposterous because getting married would mean giving up freedoms, not gaining them. “We simply don’t join movements to limits ourselves! Rebels such as we, demand freedom! But actually we have a greater freedom now (sub rosa as it may be) than do heterosexuals, and any change will be to lose some of it in return for respectability.” And since he saw marriage as the primary avenue for “respectability,” he declared all of the efforts of the homophile movement doomed. “All of this energetic work merely produces a hole,” he concluded. “Any bomb can do that.”

But in 1963, Lloyd wasn’t as gloomy about marriage, or about the gay rights movement for that matter. And many others turned to the idea of same-sex marriage, either legally or extra-legally, through the years. In 1970, Jack Baker and James McConnell tried to get married in Minneapolis (see May 18) and sued in state and federal court when their request for a license was denied. That ended with the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Most gay rights groups at that time were caught up in the broader sexual revolution rhetoric, and had little interest in pushing for something as conventional as marriage. That attitude remained through the 1970s and the 1980s. But when AIDS hit the gay community in the 1980s and partners found themselves blocked by law and relatives from caring for and properly burying their partners and remaining in the homes that they shared together, it finally dawned on a lot of people that they really were married, regardless of whether they had thought of themselves and each other that way or not. And so here we are, a little more than half-century later, and marriage is now at the forefront of the gay rights movement. And in just a few short years, we’ve already seen it expand in ways that Randy Lloyd probably never could begin to imagine.

[Sources: Randy Lloyd. “Let’s Push Homophile Marriage.” ONE 9, no. 6 (June 1963): 5-10.

E.B. Saunders “Reformer’s Choice: Marriage License or Just License.” ONE 1, no, 8 (August 1953): 10-12.]

(d. 2009) Raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, he attended the University of Arkansas where he became the first African-American editor of the university’s yearbook. After graduation, he worked in sales for IBM and Hewlett-Packard, but quit after thirteen hears to pursue his first love, writing. His first novel, Invisible Life, followed an African-American man’s journey of self-discovery as a gay man. Its depiction of the struggle between acceptance and shame among African-American men on the “down low” would become a recurring theme in Harris’s oeuvre. Invisible Life first failed to find a publisher, so Harris published it himself in 1991 and sold it out of the trunk of his car before he was finally discovered by Anchor Books in 1994.

After Invisible Life’s publication in paperback, his career was set. He went on to author ten consecutive books to land on The New York Times’s Best Seller List, making him simultaneously among the most successful African-American authors and most successful gay authors for the past two decades. LGBT advocate Keith Boykin observed that Harris’s books encouraged the black community to talk openly about homosexuality. “It was hard to go on a subway in places in New York or D.C. and not see some black woman reading an E. Lynn Harris novel,” Boykin said. Harris died in 2009 in Los Angeles of heart disease. In 2010, the Los Angeles Times posthumously named Invisible Life as one of the top 20 classic works of gay literature.

The Daily Agenda for Sunday, June 19

We Are Orlando


Kimberly Morris, 37 years old.

Friends either called her Kimberly or KJ. She had played basketball at Post University, a private college in Connecticut in 1997, and she remained passionate about the sport. Narvell Benning, who was on the men’s basketball team, said, “I just remember after every single game she would give me a fist bump and tell me ‘Good game,’ It didn’t matter how bad of a game it was, she was always there.” She also enjoyed mixed-martial arts fighting.

While in college, she helped to form the university’s first LGBT organization:

1280_KJ_Morris_0612162239b“She always had this ability to make me more comfortable with myself,” said (Steve) Farina. “She introduced me to the Broadway show Rent. For a talent show in school, we did ‘Light My Candle’. I was Roger and she was Mimi. Kim always wanted to get into entertainment.”

“She loved being out there,” he continued. “In college we were really into resident life. She was a resident advisor. She had the ability to get the best of people and make them comfortable.”

Those people skills helped Morris, a huge basketball fan, get into security work at clubs in Massachusetts, where she also worked as a drag king known as “Daddy K” at Northampton spot Diva’s.

After college, she moved to Hawaii. Then a couple of months ago, she moved to Orlando to help her mother and grandmother. “She came back to move and to start a life,” said her mother, Deborah Johnson-Riley. She also said that KJ was enjoying Orlando. “She just had a smile from here to here. She just glowed.”

“Everybody that she met, I don’t know anybody that didn’t love her,” her mother said. “And she was such a good person, but they say the good die young.”

1208_KJ_Morris_2_FacebookShe got a job as a bouncer at Pulse and loved it. Pulse owner Barbara Poma said that KJ “was a good fit for our family.” She was also about to get a job as an assistant basketball coach at a local school. Things really seemed to be lining up for her. Her former girlfriend, Starr Shelton, said, “She was so excited. She’d just started working there and told me how she was thrilled to get more involved in the LGBT community there. She was such a great person and so full of life. I can truly say heaven has gained an angel.”

KJ was among the earliest victims to be identified, and hers was among the first funerals held on Thursday. Among the speakers at her funeral was a Pulse co-worker, who was also working that night. “One thing I do remember of her, four nights a week, was her smile. She had the biggest smile, she would walk in the room and immediately it lit up,” Charice explained. “I want you guys to know the last time I saw her, she was smiling and laughing and enjoying life and she wants you all to continue to laugh and smile and enjoy life like she did.”

Sen. Lester Hunt, Sr. (D-WY)

Sen. Lester Hunt, Sr. (D-WY)

Sen. Lester Hunt, Sr. (D-WY) had an illustrious career. He served as governor of Wyoming from 1943 to 1949, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. He was popular enough to defeat the incumbent Republican Senator by a landslide. Hunt quickly became a harsh critic of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s (R-WI) slanderous Red and Lavender Scares.

McCarthy and his cronies got their revenge however when Hunt’s twenty-year-old son and namesake, Lester Hunt, Jr., (his nickname was Buddy) was arrested in June of 1953 for soliciting a male undercover vice cop in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette Square. Ordinarily, this being Buddy’s first offense — and with his father being a Senator — this would have been handled quietly. And that’s pretty much how things started out. Roy Blick, head of the D.C. vice unit was well known for his hardline stance on homosexuality in the District, but after meeting with Sen. Hunt’s administrative assistant, he agreed to seek a dismissal of the charges. U.S. Attorney Kitty Blair Frank concurred (The District was still under the direct control of Congress, with U.S. Attorneys criminal prosecutions in the city.) Everything seemed to have been taken care of. Buddy, who was a theology student, then went to Cuba for a summer practicuum with an Episcopal parish.

StylesBridges (R-NH) and Herman Welker (R-ID)

StylesBridges (R-NH) and Herman Welker (R-ID)

Nevertheless, rumors flew among the political class, and they quickly reached Sen. Styles Bridges (R-NH), who was chairman of the Republican Campaign Committee. The Senate was split evenly between Democrats and Republicans at the time, and if Hunt could be forced to resign, Wyoming’s Republican governor would appoint his replacement and the Senate would finally be under Republican control. Bridges and Sen. Herman Welker (R-ID), who had a longstanding reputation as one of the most conservative, most anti-communist, and most anti-gay Senators in Washington, They also called the Chief of Police, Robert Murray, to demand an explanation for why the charges were dropped. They summoned Blick to a meeting. It’s not clear what happened at that meeting, but when Blick was summoned again the next day for another meeting with Bridges and Welker, Welker ominously told Blick that he had heard “rumors” that Blick received a bribe to fix Hunt’s case. Blick denied the rumor. After that meeting, Block was called later that night from his home, for another late night meeting with Welker. This time, Welker claimed to have proof that Blick had been bribed. Blick denied the charge again.

By the time Buddy returned from Havana that autumn, Blick had been relived of his responsibility over the case, and U.S. Attorney Frank was replaced by another U.S. Attorney, Kenneth Wood, who re-filed the charges. Meanwhile, Welker turned to the popular University of Wyoming Athletic Director Glenn “Red” Jacoby, who happened to be a childhood friend of Welker’s as well as a close personal friend of Sen. Hunt’s. Jacoby was sent to deliver a message from one friend to another: “If Hunt would retire from the Senate at the end of this term and not run for reelection next year, the charges against his son would not be prosecuted.” But if Hunt refused to resign, Welker would make sure the case was smeared all over Wyoming. Jacoby refused to be the go-between, but he confided his part of the plot to Tracy McCracken, publisher of Cheyenne’s two newspapers, who passed the story on to Sen. Hunt.

Hunt declined the “invitation.” The trial was held in October, with Sen. Hunt and his wife in attendance. While the arrest was a classic case of entrapment, the judge didn’t see it that way. He found Buddy guilty and sentenced him to thirty days in jail or a $100 fine (worth about $900 today). Hunt paid the fine, but his assistant later said that it was the first time he had “seen a man die visibly.”

At least one Washington newspaper carried the story, on page 5, but it failed to catch on publicly. Most Wyoming papers refused to run the story. But that didn’t mean Hunt’s enemies didn’t forget. In December, 1953, while the Hunts were back home in Wyoming, their Washington, D.C. home was broken into and ransacked. “Every drawer had been turned upside down, and every cranny had been looked in,”, Hunt., Jr. later said. “It was obviously some kind of a search.” Only two token items were missing: a camera and a pair of binoculars. No one was ever arrested.

The following April, bolstered by opinion polls showing that Hunt would likely win re-election, he announced that he would run again. Sens. Bridges and Welker tried another tack. They got White House staff to offer Hunt a higher-paying job as Chairman of the Federal Tariff Commission if he quit his Senate seat. That post paid $15,000 a year ($134,000 today) versus $12,000 as a Senator ($107,000 today). Hunt turned it down, knowing he’d be forced to explain why he took a higher-paying job in exchange for turning the Senate over to Republican control. Welker then let it by known that while many Wyoming papers refused to run the story of Hunt, Jr’s. arrest, Welker would make sure that the story wound up “in every mailbox in the state.” He even printed up 25,000 flyers to send out. On June 8, 1954, Hunt announced that he was withdrawing from the race. Citing health concerns, he said, “I shall never again be a candidate for elective office.”

Sens. Bridges and Welker won. But that wasn’t enough to satisfy Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who was already feeling the walls closing in around him when, during the famous McCarthy-Army hearing held on June 9, lawyer Joseph Welch blasted McCarthy with the question everyone else was asking: “Have you no sense of decency?” The hearings ended a few days later with McCarthy’s reputation in tatters. Struggling to find his footing, again, McCarthy declared on the Senate floor that he would open an investigation into an unnamed Senator who he claimed was bribing D.C. police. He didn’t name Hunt, but it was pretty obvious that McCarthy’s nemesis was in his crosshairs. The next morning, Hunt brought his hunting rifle to his Senate office and shot himself at his desk. He died two hours later in the hospital.

Lester Hunt's funeral

Lester Hunt’s funeral

News reports had it that Hunt killed himself because he was despondent over his health. But privately, Senate colleagues knew differently. On June 21, Sen. Edwin Johnson (D-CO) rose on the Senate floor to speak of his colleague:

Lester Hunt was a warm-hearted friendly soul…Politics to him…was based on warm friendship, courtesy, kindness, gentleness and good will toward all men. He was ill-prepared for the cruel, brutal, rough aspect of national partisan politics. He thought evil of no one, and his gentle nature was shocked into panic, that persons whom he liked and respected would destroy him in the cause of national partisan politics, when he was wholly without guilt. Perhaps his devoted friends in the Senate took too much for granted his capacity to accept barbaric treatment…To have such a lovable person die of a broken heart in our midst is indeed a tragedy.

The details of Hunt’s blackmail and suicide had circulated through Washington’s political class and became just one more factor, albeit an unspoken one, in the Senate’s vote to censure McCarthy in December. But that vote was taken too late to save the GOP’s majority. The November mid-terms elections delivered both the House and Senate into Democratic hands. The GOP-controlled lame duck Senate nevertheless had some more business to attend to, including a memorial for members who had died recently. Sens. Bridges and Welker were among those eulogizing Hunt. Hunt’s cousin, William Spencer, learned of their eulogies and was outraged. He wrote to Welker:

I was shocked when I read this. It recalled to my mind so vividly the conversation with Senator Hunt a few weeks before he died, wherein he recited in great detail the diabolical part you played following the unfortunate and widely publicized episode in which his son was involved. Senator Hunt, a close personal friend of mine, told me without reservation the details of the tactics you used in endeavoring to induce him to withdraw from the Senate, or at least not to be a candidate again. It seems apparent that you took every advantage of the misery which the poor fellow was suffering at the time in your endeavor to turn it to political advantage. Such procedure is as low a blow as could be conceived. I understood, too, from Senator Hunt, that Senator Bridges had been consulted by you and approved of your action in the matter.


Drew Pearson’s column of June 21 (Click to read the whole column)

Hunt’s blackmail remained hidden from the public until Drew Pearson, the popular muckraking political reporter, published an exposé three days after Hunt’s death in his nationally-syndicated column, Washington Merry-Go-Round. He had been following the story for several months, and wanted to publish an account of Bridges’s and Welker’s blackmail attempt in December of 1953, at about the time of the break-in of the Hunts’ home. But Hunt’s office convinced Pearson not to run it. When he did publish it on June 22, this time exposing everything he knew, Senate Republicans launched a fierce counterattack to discredit Pearson. Admittedly, Pearson wasn’t hard to discredit; his columns typically veered more towards sensationalism than balanced journalism, but his political enemies did succeed in pressuring the Capital Transit Company, D.C.’s privatized streetcar monopoly which depended on Congressional favors to keep their streetcars running, to pull their sponsorship of Pearson’s weekly television program.

In 1959, Hunt’s blackmail and suicide served as inspiration for Allen Drury’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Advise and Consent. In the novel, and the 1962 political-noir film that was based on it, Sen. Fred Van Ackerman of Wyoming blackmails Utah Sen. Brigham Anderson over a gay affair after Anderson derailed the confirmation of the President’s pick for Secretary of State. Like Hunt, Anderson shot himself in his Senate office.

But as gripping as that story was, Advise and Consent was still fiction, and the real story of Hunt’s suicide remained largely untold. It would take another several decades, long after Bridges’s and Welker’s deaths, after their personal papers became available to researchers, and after former aides became more willing to talk, when Rodger McDaniel could finally put all of the pieces together, definitively, in his 2013 book, Dying for Joe McCarthy’s Sins: The Suicide of Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt (also on Kindle).

In a dramatic and emotional plenary talk during the opening night of the Exodus Freedom Conference in Irvine, California, Exodus International President Alan Chambers announced that the 37-year-old organization would no longer continue.

The day began with a far-reaching apology for the “trauma … shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope” that former clients and members of Exodus-affiliated ministries had experienced. But more than a corporate apology, it was also a very personal one for Chambers:

Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.

More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.

The formal apology ended with a note of more announcements later that night at the conference, which we later learned was the close of Exodus’s final chapter. That chapter opened eighteen months earlier when Chambers appeared at a conference of the Gay Christian Network in Orlando and acknowledged that “the majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation.” He also acknowledged that he, too, was still attracted to other men (while also remaining in love with and devoted to his wife). Later that month, Chambers withdrew his organization’s support for the particular form of conversion therapy known as Reparative Therapy. In May, when Exodus board member Dennis Jernigan went to Jamaica — where homosexuality is a felony punishable with ten years’ imprisonment — to speak in support of its anti-gay laws. Chambers swiftly responded with a statement opposing criminalization of homosexuality and Jernigan resigned. Also that year, Chambers condemned the Family Research Council for honoring a pastor who called gay people “worse than maggots” and that God had an “urban renewal plan for Sodom and Gomorrah,” and he declined to oppose a California law that bans sexual orientation change therapies for minors.

All of this together has resulted in a general exodus of several member ministries from Exodus, with many of them forming a much more hard-core Restored Hope Network. The Exodus Conference in 2012 went ahead much as before although there were a number of differences in message and tone from before. But by the time the 2013 conference came around, it was obvious that what remained of Exodus was now much smaller. The conference schedule was significantly scaled back, and attendance was down to about three hundred, versus the thousand or more that was typical for previous conferences.

Chambers opened the conference by recalling the “scandal” of the previous eighteen months. “The scandal has been about finally sharing things about myself and about this ministry and about these issues that I’ve learned along the way,” he said. “Never in a million years did I dream that some of the things that I’ve shared would become the controversies that they are today, or the scandals that they are today, or would have ripped our ministry apart in the way that it has ripped our ministry apart. I tell people all the time I’m not smart enough to create a scandal like that. And therefore I’m convinced that the scandal is of God’s making.”

And what were those scandals? Saying that almost nobody changed their sexual attractions, and admitting that he also continued to “experience same-sex attractions.” Another scandal was a theological one: proclaiming that “that no matter what we do, no matter where we go, no matter how we behave, when we have a relationship with Jesus Christ, we have an irrevocable relationship with Jesus Christ. And what that means is what I just said.” He continued:

We in the church have been motivated by fear. It is our fear that keeps us straight, it is our fear that keeps us off of all sorts of chemicals, it’s our fear that keeps us looking a certain way, and acting a certain way, and living a certain way, and treating anybody who doesn’t live and act in those ways like sinners in the hands of an angry God. It is fear that is the biggest motivator for people in the Body of Christ to act in the religious way that they do. My true story is I spent the majority of my life pretending that I was something I’m not because I was afraid of the Church. And I was afraid that they might be right, that that’s how God felt too.

And it has been the most amazing journey for me to come to the realization that my Father in Heaven will never abandon me. He will never turn his back on me. He won’t turn his back on me even if I turn my back on him. … And you know what that means? All sorts of people will live in all sorts of ways that you might not endorse or condone. But let me let you in on a secret: you’re not God and it doesn’t matter what you think anyway.

He also listed as another scandal the fact that they had acknowledged the damage that they had done to  many of those who had been involved with Exodus. He described meeting a number of ex-gay survivors, an experience he described as “excruciating,” as “they told stories of abuse and pain, missed opportunities, awful words were spoken to them, stories of abuse and pain from the Church and even from Exodus.” Turning back to the apology that had been released earlier that day, he said that he heard from a number of people who were angry that he apologized:

“There is a concerted effort in parts of the Church to disqualify me from my rightful place as a son, simply because we dared to say we were sorry to people who deserved an apology. …We’re not going to control people anymore. We’re not going to tell then how they should live. We’re not going to be responsible for what they’re doing. It’s not our job. You are not the Holy Spirit.”

And finally, he acknowledged that Exodus had become a rules-based religious institution, “focused on behavior and sin management, and short on grace. … and it is for these reasons, and for other reasons, that we the International Board of Directors for Exodus and many within our leadership believe it is time for Exodus to close.”

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