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Posts for October, 2009

Does Exodus Support Criminalizing Homosexuality?

Jim Burroway

October 16th, 2009

Scores of Human Rights activists around the world have publicly denounced Uganda’s proposed anti-homosexuality bill which, in addition to lifetime imprisonment for those convicted of homosexuality, adds the death penalty for those who are HIV-positive. It also criminalizes all advocacy on behalf of LGBT citizens in Uganda, and contains an extra-territorial clause which extends the long arm of Ugandan “justice” to LGBT Ugandans abroad. Reading the text of the bill, it’s hard to imagine anyone crafting a worse piece of legislation.

L-R: Don Schmierer, Scott Lively, Lee Caleb Brundidge

L-R: Don Schmierer, Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge

The three Americans who kicked off this latest spasm of anti-gay hostility have really outdone themselves. This whole thing started last March when Exodus board member Don Schmierer, Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively, and Caleb Lee Brundidge of Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation conducted a three-day anti-gay conference in Uganda. Schmierer was there as the “ex-gay expert.” The result of that conference was the initiation of an anti-gay task force calling for strengthening Uganda’s already draconian anti-homosexuality laws. It also unleashed a wave of anti-gay vigilantism which led to arrests, torture, blackmail and ruined careers. According to Sexual Minorities Uganda, it has also led to several deaths, including the death of Brian Pande at Mbale Hospital as he awaited trial. And it has led to where we are today, with Parliament Wednesday giving first reading to this new proposal to effectively ban all freedoms — even the freedom to exist — for LGBT people and those who would support them and provide safe haven.

While human rights activists around the world have been quick to raise their voices for the defenseless, one might ask where’s Exodus in all this? Early signs indicate that you needn’t bother looking. Exodus Vice President Randy Thomas left a comment on Warren Throckmorton’s blog in which, speaking strictly for himself and not on behalf of Exodus, he condemned the proposed bill. It’s interesting that he can only say this speaking strictly for himself. Would Exodus be willing to say the same thing officially? Will they try to tamp down the wildfire their own board member helped to ignite? Thomas says don’t count on it:

Not sure that a statement from Exodus will happen. As for the past, Don never needed our permission to spend his own money to attend a non-Exodus conference to talk about topics from his books. He is one of the most caring people I have ever met and am glad those folks had a kind person to minister to them. That said I’ll be praying for doors to open for ways to try and speak love and redemption into what is obviously a very hostile environment.

This is a cop out. They knew about the conference long before it took place, when it was still possible to do something about it. And since then, they’ve tried every way they knew how to wash their hands of their board member’s handiwork. And they’ve refused to address the situation in Uganda where it really matters — in Uganda. This isn’t beyond their facility to do so. Uganda media has telephones, fax machines and email just like everyone else, and Don Schmierer has contacts over there. Exodus is not helpless or without resources.

And Exodus leaders certainly aren’t incapable of raising their voice when they want to. Anyone following Exodus International knows that this is not a shy outfit. We know well that they are very eager to have their voices heard on issues they really care about. They quickly went on record as being “troubled” by the ELCA’s vote to affirm same-sex relationships. On something like that they have no problem whatsoever finding their voice, loud and clear. Obviously, the decisions of a church to minister to those who are comfortable with their same-sex attractions — a decision which has no impact to conversion therapy or ministry to those who are “struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions” — is something that Exodus nevertheless cares deeply about.

But ask them to take responsibility for their own handiwork in Uganda, and we get unofficial excuses, denials, and crocodile tears. But no official statement, even though, according to Sexual Minorities Uganda, Exodus already has blood on its hands. And Exodus may well end up with more blood on their hands when the first HIV-positive gay person is executed by the Ugandan government.

Does Exodus Support Criminalizing Homosexuality?
Exodus’ silence is puzzling. But as disturbing as this silence is, it is in keeping with Exodus’ pattern of saying one thing to one audience and saying something else (or keeping silent) for another audience. And we see this whenever the subject of criminalizing homosexuality comes up.

For example, Alan Chambers told the American publication The Christian Post that Exodus doesn’t support Uganda’s policy of criminalizing homosexuality. He added that “neither Schmierer nor the ministry agrees or endorses Uganda’s criminalization of homosexuality law, imprisonment of homosexuals or compulsory therapy.”

That’s great as far as it goes. But this statement appeared in one specific forum to one specific audience concerning one specific set of circumstances. Uganda’s current law, which provides for lifetime imprisonment for those convicted of homosexuality, ought to be an easy law to denounce. So good on them for doing so. But they did it to that limited American Evangelical audience only, addressing only this particular set of circumstances. There was no attempt to make their position known to leaders in Uganda, not even to the evangelical Ugandan leaders who hosted the conference where the three Americans spoke. That’s where the message counts, not on the pages of the Christian Post.

So what if someone who hadn’t seen the Christian Post article wanted to know if Exodus supports criminalizing homosexuality? One would hope that the simple answer is no. And to find that simple answer, a natural place to look might be on Exodus’ own web site. But it turns out that the answer is not that simple, and perhaps not that “no” we were hoping for. It turns out that when one searches Exodus’ web site, one is left with the distinct impression that Exodus actually supports criminalization — at least as it existed in the U.S. before the Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas.

I have found only two statements on the Exodus web site related to criminalizing homosexuality, and both are reactions to the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision. In this “News Media Highlights,” Randy Thomas posted excerpts from “one who believes sodomy to be a sin and is directed to people who share that belief.” Thomas quotes the reaction of that unnamed writer with no further comment:

If the Supreme Court does repeal these laws, it will rob citizens, of all beliefs, the opportunity to enter their voice into the public record over this issue. Yet on the same hand it is this writers conviction that sodomy laws work against our redemptive witness.

So clearly that unnamed writer that Thomas quoted was against the Lawrence v. Texas ruling. But what about Exodus themselves? The only other statement I could find, this one quoting Alan Chambers, is equally negative:

As a result of today’s ruling, young people will be led into further confusion. Alan chambers [sic] states, “Our young people are not going to grow up under the same teachings about morality that we did. The school books will simply state that homosexuality was legitimized by the Supreme Court on June 26, 2003. We are risking the moral upbringing of all the generations to come. …”

Unfortunately, the political pendulum could swing harshly the other way. Americans of all conservative faiths are facing a serious problem; now that this decision damages the traditional view of sexuality and relationships, progay initiatives across the country will gain momentum. People of faith could potentially experience marginalization if we do not implement loving concern and active civic involvement.

Why won’t Exodus Speak Up Where It Matters Most?
So the question remains: What is Exodus International’s position on the criminalization of LGBT people? And if their position is any different from these two examples posted on their official web site – as Alan Chambers implied in the Christian Post — then why can’t they just say so on their own web site?

And more pressing, why can’t they raise their voice in Uganda? They ought to be able to do that pretty easily. After all, their own board member has some pretty powerful contacts over there.

One possible explanation for Exodus’ silence — and if this is true, then it means that they are far more petty than anyone can imagine — is that they don’t want to be seen as caving to “gay-identified activists.” But look at what’s happening. This isn’t some comparatively petty culture war over employment non-discrimination legislation or Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We’re talking about a very real and imminent matter of life and death in Uganda. At some point, if Exodus had an ounce of integrity or a smidgen of conscience, they would have to see that it’s time to suck it up, drop the defensive ego trip, screw whatever the “gay-identified activists” might say and do what they know in their hearts what needs to be done to try to fix what Schmierer helped break.

But so far — and you don’t know how eager I am to be proven wrong in this! — it looks like they have neither the integrity nor conscience. Their silence — or their actions; it’s their choice — will tell us everything we need to know about their character. Everything.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

The Denial Of Alan Chambers

Jim Burroway

July 29th, 2009

Exodus International president Alan Chambers has a new book out, called simply Leaving Homosexuality. Typically, books like this come and go with little mention in the LGBT blogosphere, but this one appears to have caught a few people by surprise, namely because of this passage from Cambers’ second chapter:

When I was first starting out in ministry and sharing my testimony, I often heard the comment from gay individuals and activists, “You’re just in denial, Alan.” That comment always incensed me because it seemed to negate my message and intelligence. However, as I began to pray about it, I realized that we, as Christians, are indeed called to a life of denial, and as such I should not despise something the Lord commands of me nor should I get angry when someone calls me on it. Those who reject the concept of self-denial haven’t reaped the joys that result from it.

…Every day for more than a decade, I have made denial, as Jesus taught in this verse, the major focus of my morning prayer time. I am keenly aware that I am prone to blowing it in this area of my life and am, therefore, in desperate need of help. … And you know what? I love my life of denial.

Chambers repeated much of this in his CitizenLink interview:

CitizenLink: Now, I’ve heard it, and you’ve heard it: Gay activists are going to read that and say, again, “Alan Chambers is living a lie. He’s suppressing who he really is.” You make a great point in the book that is very applicable to anyone who struggles with any temptation—and that is, self-denial isn’t a bad thing. How do you respond to those who say you’re just living a lie?

CHAMBERS: For so long I’ve heard gay activists say to me, “You’re just in denial. You’re not grasping the reality of the situation. You’re just denying who you really are.” The truth is, I am in denial, but it is self-denial. I’m not in denial of who I used to be. I’m not in denial of the temptations that I could still experience. I am denying the power that sin has over me.

This has certainly gotten a lot of attention. Queerty and Dan Savage have both commented on this, among many others. Dan Gilgoff, at US News and World Report, wonders of this is the start of a new consensus between gays and religious conservatives. Unfortunately, he appears to have misread the statement as “shift away from promoting conversion therapy.”

For those who may mistake this as a new position that will somehow remake Exodus, it’s important to gain a historical perspective. Longtime readers of Box Turtle Bulletin may remember that this “new” line isn’t so new. As I reported two years ago, Alan Chambers said essentially the exact same words at a workshop he gave at Love Won Out. Later that year, I made a video in which you get to hears a small audio clip of Chambers making that statement:

YouTube Preview Image

When I attended the Exodus Freedom Conference in Irvine, California later that summer, I heard Alan give almost precisely that same talk on the opening night of that five-day conference. That was the same summer when Alan Chambers told the Los Angeles Times that he had never met a successful ex-gay.

Those who may be tempted to believe they detect a shifting position are mistaken. Chambers had staked this position out as early as two years ago, and he may have been exploring that theme even earlier. But despite that, we’ve seen little change on Exodus’ work in opposing equal protections and other public policy initiatives against gays and lesbians who choose not to pursue change. Exodus has turned the phrase, “Change is possible” into a mantra. But that doesn’t mean that change is likely from Exodus.

Alan Chambers Addresses Developments In Uganda

Jim Burroway

April 20th, 2009
April 19, 2009 edition of Uganda's Red Pepper (Names and faces obscured by Box Turtle Bulletin. Click to enlarge).

April 19, 2009 edition of Uganda

Late yesterday, I posted about the latest disturbing developments in Uganda as the tabloid Red Pepper published a full-page article publicly outing forty LGBT Ugandans. I also wondered aloud what it would take for Exodus President Alan Chambers to finally address the events in Uganda.

Today, Exodus International President Alan Chambers addressed the situation in Uganda with this statement on his personal blog:

A recent hullabaloo over a conference in Uganda has had me thinking and praying about some things. The conference centered on a conservative, presumably Christian, response to gay issues in that country. In Uganda, homosexual behavior is punishable by imprisonment and there is talk of stiffening the penalties. Several American gay activists and even some conservative Christians have raised a ruckus about the event and rightfully so. Uganda’s policies seem reprehensible. Publicly exposing or arresting gay-identified men and women for homosexual behavior or forcing them to undergo therapy is a true violation of free will and a compassionless transgression.

Chambers’ statement departs from Uganda to provide a broader context of past Christian failures toward the LGBT community. He lauded the gay community for having stepped up to the plate to do the hard work that should have been the work of the church, particularly contrasting the LGBT community’s response to the AIDS crisis with the reaction of Christian leaders. He also wonders aloud “what things in California might be like if the Church had spent the $39 million dollars they raised for Proposition 8 to show the love of Christ to the gay community.”

In the final paragraph, Chambers returns to Uganda:

Confession is good for the soul, they say. There’s a reason for that. So, to my fellow Christians in Uganda, California and elsewhere around the world, my suggestion as you engage in social dialogue over this issue is this: pray, confess your own sins and remember where you were before God found you. And to the gay community: it is my great hope that we as a Christian church will give you no more reasons to justifiably doubt God’s love for you. I am sorry for the times when I have contributed to that.

Chambers covers a lot of ground in this confession. It can mark a great first step, but the statement alone remains insufficient. It was action that sparked the latest events in Uganda, and it will take action on Exodus’ part to address what Exodus board member Don Schmierer helped wrought.

This statement and others like it need to get into the hands of Uganda’s media, much like Warren Throckmorton’s statement a month ago. The typical Ugandan, after all, isn’t likely to be a regular reader of Chambers’ blog. In fact, they are less likely to have reliable Internet access at all, hence the importance of following Throckmorton’s example and going to Uganda’s media directly.

It’s too early to know whether Chambers’ statement will remain an exercise in absolving his conscience or if it signals a resolve to try to set right what has been broken. My cynical side says it’s the former, but my inner cynic is wrong at least as often as he’s right. I am hopeful for the latter, but that hope is tempered with the experience of seeing similarly noble sentiments followed by inaction. In either case we will remain watchful.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Uganda’s Anti-Gay Vigilante Campaign Is Now In Full Swing

Jim Burroway

April 19th, 2009

This is what Exodus International helped spark. It is today’s issue of the Ugandan tabloid, The Red Pepper, which featured this “killer dossier.” Yes, those are the Red Pepper’s own words:

April 19, 2009 edition of Uganda's Red Pepper (Scans via GayUganda. Names and faces obscured by Box Turtle Bulletin. Click to enlarge).

April 19, 2009 edition of Uganda's Red Pepper (Scans via GayUganda. Names and faces obscured by Box Turtle Bulletin. Click to enlarge).

This is a killer dossier, a heat-pounding and sensational masterpiece that largely exposes Uganda’s shameless men and unabashed women that have deliberately exported the western evils to our dear and sacred society. …

This is what we have long feared: names, identifying features, places of employment, residences, boyfriends and girlfriends, and other unfounded charges and illicit gossip intended to destroy their reputations and worse. It is a repeat of the 2007 vigilante campaign which was also trumpeted by — you guessed it — the Red Pepper.

Ugandan newspaper headlines in 2007. Click to enlarge

The Red Pepper in 2007. (Click to enlarge.)

In fact, this latest article is a retread of the Red Pepper’s infamous 2007 “Homo Terror” article, which was a centerpiece of that year’s campaign. And like before, the Red Pepper doesn’t intend to stop with just this article. Today’s Red Pepper promises to publish “more shocking things you don’t know about Homos” in next Sunday’s edition. Interestingly, this “killer dossier” does not appear in the Red Pepper’s website.

For the latest round, LGBT Ugandans are bracing for the worst while drawing strength from one another:

It is Saturday evening. I debated whether or not to show my face in public. My lover convinced me it was no big deal. Just go, and show my mug. And anyone have a problem, well, to hell with them.

So, I went to my favourite pub. And, found that most other kuchus [gays] had also gravitated there. Showing there [sic] faces.

…But nothing could hide the anger, and the sense of community. We were together to take strength from one another. We have been exposed to the merciless gaze of hate of a homophobic society. We were, and are, hurting. There is little that we can do, but we can brave it out, and give strength to one another. We don’t know what the actual fall out will be, individually, on a person to person basis. Or, to the community. There were some photos, this time, too. As if the need was that it was necessary to sheer up the believability of the red rug. Just a few photos. But enough.

This is the fruit of Exodus International board member Don Schmierer’s participation alongside Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively in an anti-gay conference in Kampala, Uganda during the first weekend of March. The conference, in which Schmierer was intended to serve as the “ex-gay expert,” announced a policy proposal to change Uganda’s draconian laws against homosexuality to force those convicted into unproven and unregulated “therapies.”

Exodus board member Don Schmierer (left) and Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively (right)

Exodus board member Don Schmierer (left) and Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively (right)

Because Schmierer and Exodus have decided to remain silent about their roles in this fiasco, Ugandan anti-gay organizer Stephen Langa has used Schmierer’s and Lively’s talks to lend legitimacy to a series of meetings which followed the original conference. Those meetings then culminated in a press conference carried live on national television featuring George Oundo, who claimed to be “ex-gay.” Oundo has since been fueling a public outing campaign on radio and in the newspapers, culminating in this long-feared feature in the Red Pepper.

This latest development is very worrisome because the Red Pepper was the major cheerleader in past public anti-gay vigilante campaigns. Those campaigns resulted in innocent people being arrested, tortured, fired, and driven into hiding and exile.

Exodus President Alan Chambers’ only response to Schmierer’s associations is to “applaud” Schmierer’s role. Neither he nor Schmierer have spoken out in any meaningful way, either to forcefully condemn the aftermath of that conference, or to own up in Exodus’ role in facilitating the actions stemming from it. For some inexplicable reason, Exodus remains silent as their handiwork in Uganda continues to exact harsh consequences to innocent people.

For the love of all that is decent and holy, when will Chambers do the right thing? What is he waiting for? What will it take for him to finally man-up and do the right thing? Is he really waiting for bloodshed, as it seems right now? Is that what it will take?

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Alan Chambers will say ANYTHING

Timothy Kincaid

April 16th, 2009

The Baptist Press says this about Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International:

For Chambers, the Day of Truth is personal. He struggled with and overcame unwanted homosexual attractions as a teenager and young adult. He is now married, and he and his wife and have two children.

“Many people don’t know that change is possible or that there’s any alternative out there for people,” he said. “… There was a time when I was trying to fit that with my life, trying to marry my homosexuality and my Christianity and trying to see if I could be a good gay Christian. It didn’t work.”

Really? Alan overcame unwanted homosexual attractions as a teenager and young adult? And his wife and children are evidence of this?

Now that’s a fascinating retelling.

Because I also happen to know that Alan has said that while his attraction has greatly diminished over the course of 16 years, he still struggles with homosexual temptation and lives a life of denial of what comes naturally to him. And it seems that in their effort to paint Alan as an ideal family man they forgot to mention that Alan took nine months to consummate his marriage or that his two children are adopted.

If Alan’s going to tell kids about the “alternative out there for people”, he should tell them what that alternative really is. But I guess telling the truth wouldn’t serve his goal of vilifying and hindering those good-hearted students who are trying to stem the flood of abuse against their gay classmates in public schools.

Uganda Columnist: “Happy Easter …Irrespective of Sexual Orientation”

Jim Burroway

April 10th, 2009

Columnist Bernard Tabaire, writing for Uganda’s Daily Monitor, offers a very refreshing and sane take on the latest round of anti-gay agitation taking place in Ugandan media. His column is so wonderful and refreshing, it’s hard to know where to start. He starts this way:

It is Holy Saturday, today, the final day of Holy Week and of Lent – “a period of spiritual preparation for Easter which typically involves fasting, penance and prayer”. Besides fasting, penance and prayer, the Lent period in Uganda this year has been characterised by something else: virulent gay-bashing.

Tabaire calls out Stephen Langa, director of Kampala-based Family Life Network, on this latest round of public gay-bashing with remarkable clarity and logic. He notes the obvious rivalries between Langa and other “Christian” leaders — petty rivalries which appear to behind charges that one prominent Catholic priest was gay. Those charges were made by some so-called “ex-gays” that were trotted out by Langa at a press conference. But of the more concerning accusations — that gay Ugandans are “recruiting” schoolchildren, Tabaire asks the questions that ought to be obvious:

But enticing minors into sexual activity, any sexual activity, is illegal as well. So why are the Georginas [referring to George Oundo and Emma Matovu] not reporting this matter to the police? Why do they report to Mr Langa’s little outfit? If they do not know about the rights of children, surely, Mr Langa knows. Why does he then not encourage them to report these things to the police?

In fact, the police should swing into action and arrest anyone, straight or gay, who has lured children to sexual activity. Otherwise they will stand accused of going along with Mr Langa’s posturing as the guarantor of morality in Uganda.

Indeed, the main point that has come out of Mr Langa’s shrill anti-gay crusade is that adults are messing with our children. This, though, begs the question: what has recruitment of children into homosexuality got to do with two consenting adults having a sexual relationship? In his zeal, Mr Langa appears over his head here. He needs to straighten his priorities not gays and lesbians.

Tabaire also points out the obvious dangers which stem from this latest upsurge of anti-gay rhetoric and accusations:

There is something potentially dangerous in what Mr Langa is doing in inveighing against fellow Ugandans just because they are not heterosexual. It will come as no surprise if individuals falsely name others as gay or lesbian to settle personal scores.

Tabaire’s column is a very welcome island of sanity in the sea of madness we’ve seen lately. I hope this will encourage others to raise their voice as well.

And maybe — just maybe — Exodus President Alan Chambers will be moved by the celebration of the Easter season to muster the courage that Bernard Tabaire has demonstrated. Maybe.

Chambers rushed to Peter LaBarbera’s defense, and LaBarbera’s life and liberty isn’t close to being threatened. Meanwhile, we hear that Ugandan television followed police as they arrested two gay men in their own homes. Those men will reportedly spend their Easter weekend in jail.

I hope that in this season, Alan Chambers may find the courage to contact Ugandan media — as Warren Throckmorton did, so we know it’s not that difficult to do — and call for a halt to the vigilantism that his fellow Exodus board member facilitated. A member of his organization helped to create this mess; he can make a big difference in trying to correct the situation.

Alan, the ball is in your court. You can choose to do the right thing, or you can continue to remain silent. The choice is yours. Happy Easter, irrespective.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

When Good Men Do Nothing

Jim Burroway

March 16th, 2009

Anti-gay activists are not all cut from the same cloth. There’s a broad spectrum of behavior among them, from the well-reasoned and considerate to the dangerously crazy. One can imagine a hierarchy of sorts: Those at the top of the hierarchy are the more reasonable ones who can generally see gays and lesbians as human beings and can usually address the debates with honesty and integrity, even as they continue to oppose policy proposals which are important for LGBT people. Only a few examples come to mind which fit that description (David Blankenhorn would be one). The most visible LGBT opponents, like Focus On the Family or the Family Research Council, sit recognizably below that top notch, but they are nevertheless well above the bottom rung of this hierarchy.

Now don’t get me wrong. Focus and FRC certainly fight against us at every turn, and they aren’t above lying and distorting to try to get their way. But one can imagine that there are steps they will not take, steps that those at the very bottom of our hierarchy have no qualms about taking.

Scott Lively speaking at a 2007 Watchmen On the Walls conference in Riga, Latvia

Scott Lively speaking at a 2007 Watchmen On the Walls conference in Riga, Latvia

Those who anchor themselves firmly at the bottom include those who have called for our execution (Paul Cameron), who rejoiced in our deaths (Fred Phelps), who excuse those who have killed some among us (Scott Lively), who tell everyone who will listen that the Nazi movement was a fully homosexual one (Lively, again), that it was the gay Nazis and not straight Nazis who harbored a special animosity towards Germany’s Jews (ditto), or that gay activists are all secret fascists determined to remake the world in the image of Nazi Germany (ditto again).

In other words, there are those whose purpose it is to stoke the fears and visceral hatred of ordinary people to prod them into doing the most extraordinary, horrific things — whether its killing a gay immigrant in Sacramento, flinging feces at gay worshipers at a church in Latvia, or hunting down LGBT people on the streets in Uganda.

However much we disagree with Exodus, FOTF, FRC and others, we must at least grudgingly recognize that there are many things which are beneath them.

Hatred Is An Extraordinary Thing
It is that recognition of this hierarchy of opposition which leads us here at BTB to refrain from using the word “hate” wherever possible. We use that word to describe people’s motivations only under the most rare and extraordinary circumstances because we recognize that the evil of hatred in its purest form is a most rare and extraordinary thing.

The Southern Poverty Law Center agrees. They list only twelve anti-gay hate groups across the country. Notice that Exodus, FOTF and FRC are not listed. That’s because the SPLC doesn’t label just anybody as a hate group based on policy positions. To be listed, the group must “go beyond mere disagreement with homosexuality by subjecting gays and lesbians to campaigns of personal vilification.

There are only twelve groups on the SPLC’s list, which suggests to me that it’s pretty easy to avoid landing on it. But one man bears the unusual distinction of appearing on the list twice. Scott Lively is Abiding Truth Ministries, and he is also a co-founder of Watchmen On the Walls. As far as I know, he’s the only person to have inaugurated one-sixth of all the SPLC’s listed anti-gay hate groups in America. One really has to go out of one’s way to earn that rare position, but Lively has well earned his place.

Exodus International President Alan Chambers

Exodus International President Alan Chambers

Exodus International however has operated in a very different mode from Lively’s. They’ve tended to operate somewhere nearer to the Focus On the Family territory rather than than the Traditional Values Coalition territory in my anti-gay hierarchy. Exodus has worked vigorously against gay-supportive policy proposals, sometimes being less than candid about their own movement in the process. And Exodus International president Alan Chambers isn’t above deploying in a bit of rabble-rousing himself. When he spoke at the Family Impact Summit in 2006, Chambers described gay advocates as following an “evil agenda” while reminding his audience of the famous warning attributed to Edmund Burke: all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

But for the most part, Exodus tends to shy away from alarmist rhetoric, preferring instead to present a shiny, agreeable face for the ex-gay movement. While they’re not averse to the politics of personal vilification in front of selected audiences away from the spotlight, they’ve avoided completely immersing themselves in it to the degree that Lively has with such consistency.

Chambers: “I Do Care How People Are Impacted By My Words”
In early 2008, New Direction Executive Director Wendy Gritter gave a profound keynote address at the Exodus Leadership Conference, which she followed up with a heartfelt essay on Ex-Gay Watch. Wendy pointed to the distractions that politics placed on their work in the ex-gay movement, and she called upon ministries to become “pastorally-focused, not politically driven.” She also called on ex-gay leaders to express remorse for the harms they had done to clients and others in the gay community. Chambers, who just a few months earlier gave his rousing talk at the Family Impact Summit, appeared to have been touched by Wendy’s words, particularly in how the ex-gay movement impacts the gay community:

“What is said by gay activists is not lost on me. I do care how people are impacted by my words, actions and ministry. Ironically, I know the Lord uses every voice, suggestion, encouragement and criticism to shape me.”

That’s not to say the Exodus changed much since then. Despite eliminating the position of Director of Governmental Affairs, Exodus remains as engaged in the culture war today as it ever was. And yet for all of our vigorous disagreements with Exodus International, we believed that there were still places that Exodus would not go. Places too — dare I say it? — hateful for Exodus to enter.

I’ve heard Alan Chambers publicly denounce the hatred — yes, I said it — of Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church. He has done it in front of ex-gay audiences, and he did it at the much more hard-line Family Impact Summit — the same venue where Chambers delivered his “evil agenda” line. I personally witnessed Chambers denounce Phelps both without reservation and with conviction in front of an audience which, frankly, was only a little more moderate than a roomful of Phelps’s (judging by how many in the audience who were uncomfortably fidgeting with their Blackberrys as Chambers spoke). This tells me that Chambers recognizes that people are impacted not just by his words, but by Phelps’ words and others’ as well.

Doing Nothing
Exodus Board Member Don Schmierer worked alongside Lively in Kampala last week at a conference which lauded Uganda’s draconian criminal penalties against LGBT people and recommended a reinforcement of that law by forcing LGBT people into therapy. Exodus International president Alan Chambers applauded Schmierer’s participation, saying:

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.”

The problem, of course, is that there is no evidence whatsoever that Schmierer attempted to “convey these truths.” There’s no record that Schmierer spoke up against criminalization of homosexual behavior or compulsory therapy. But he didn’t do nothing. In fact, we have it on record that Schmierer did more than nothing. He pointedly deferred to Lively when asked about whether homosexuality was natural.

There are so many things wrong with this picture, it’s hard to know where to begin. Should we be more outraged over an Exodus leader lending legitimacy to Lively’s hate-inspired revisionist history — I no longer hesitate to use the word “hate” in this context – which Lively has been energetically spreading throughout the world? Or should we focus our anger over Schmierer’s deferring to Lively instead of addressing the precarious situation LGBT people find themselves in Uganda while he was actually there and on the ground? Or should we instead remain appalled that Chambers remained silent and watched as this episode unfolded for all to see?

I’ve pretty much come to expect just about anything from Lively. His rhetoric is extremely dangerous, especially in countries like Uganda where his relentless vilification of LGBT people finds fertile ground. But I didn’t expect Schmierer to remain silent while sharing the stage with the founder of two — two!– hate groups which conduct “campaigns of personal vilification” against an entire community. And the last thing I expected from Chambers was to see him refuse to denounce Lively.

Chambers can denounce Phelps but not Lively. Why is that? Is it because Phelps is an easily dismissed clown while Lively has considerable influence in some quarters? Is it because Phelps is harmless because he lacks a measurable following, while Lively attracts large crowds when he speaks overseas? Or is it because Phelps has denounced Exodus as sharply as Exodus has denounced Phelps, but Lively is a colleague of Seattle pastor Ken Hutcherson — another Watchmen co-founder who Chambers counts among his close friends?

Chambers’s silence in the presence of a Holocaust revisionist is shocking because, irony of ironies, it is the Holocaust itself – the very tragic historical fact that Lively skewers to vilify gay people — that warns us about the consequences of good men doing nothing.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Scott Lively and Alan Chambers Respond to Questions About Uganda Conference

Timothy Kincaid

March 13th, 2009

Dr. Warren Throckmorton contacted Scott Lively about the coverage of the Uganda conference in which he endorsed criminalization of homosexuality. Here is his response:

I did promote therapy as an option to imprisonment, citing my own experience benefiting from optional therapy after an arrest for drunk driving many years ago. In fact, it was during that period I accepted Christ and was spontaneously healed of alcoholism and drug addiction.

I don’t think under the circumstances homosexuality should be decriminalized in Uganda since it seems to be the only thing stopping the international “gay” juggernaut from turning Uganda into another Brazil.

He also posts the full Exodus International response.

Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, responded to reports about an Exodus board member’s participation at a conference in Uganda on homosexuality:

“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.”

I don’t trust myself to respond just yet other than to say that it would seem that Alan doesn’t know the meaning of the word “unequivocally”.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Exodus Applauds Schmierer’s Part in Uganda Conference

Timothy Kincaid

March 13th, 2009

The Christian Post has an article today in which Warren Throckmorton was critical of the carelessness with which ex-gay ministries approached the conference in Uganda:

“It is illegal to be homosexual in Uganda. There’s also a category of homosexuality (act) that has a potential for life imprisonment,” said Throckmorton to The Christian Post on Wednesday. “How often it is enforced is not clear.”

“I think it’s inappropriate to try to transplant American concepts of ex-gay ministry into an environment where you can’t even go in and open yourself up to that kind of disclosure without some kind of risk,” he said.

But Alan Chambers, President of Exodus, was not apologetic.

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.

Exodus says neither Schmierer nor the ministry agrees or endorses Uganda’s criminalization of homosexuality law, imprisonment of homosexuals or compulsory therapy. Rather, the ministry says it “unequivocally denounces” the positions the government of Uganda has towards homosexuality.

We do not yet have the full text of the statement. But to be perfectly honest, my stomach turned when I read this.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Ex-Exodus Minister Condemns Uganda Conference

Timothy Kincaid

March 12th, 2009

New Direction is a ministry in Canada for those individuals who struggle with sexual and gender identity issues. Until last year they were an affiliate of Exodus International, but chose to disassociate due to a difference in view about the purpose and direction of ex-gay ministries. New Direction strongly believes in staying out of politics and is more interested in engaging gay people than in winning battles at the ballot box.

However, the situation in Uganda is beyond the typical rhetoric or political positioning. And it has compelled Wendy Gritter, the leader of New Directions, to respond regarding what God’s calling for His people:

It is not just to advocate for the criminalization of gay people. Currently, gay people in Uganda face the possibility of life in prison. This ought not to be! And those who name the name of Jesus need to speak up and say so.

It is not just to coerce gay people into therapy. Disputes about the harm of reparative therapy aside, forced therapy ought not to be. And those who know the invitational character of Jesus need to speak up and say so.

It is not just to stir up fear and hatred of gay people. Blaming gay people for the genocide in Rwanda cannot be tolerated. Equating homosexuality with pedophilia when the research clearly refutes such a notion is inexcusable. It must be challenged for what it is – inciting hatred and potential violence towards gay people in an already volatile context such as Uganda. Such hatred is completely inconsistent with God’s call to shalom. And those who follow Jesus need to speak up and say so.

Wendy invites other Christians to join her in countering the behavior engaged in by the Uganda conference participants.

I invite others to join me in calling for the decriminalization of homosexuality throughout the world. I invite others to join me in standing for justice for our gay neighbours – in Uganda and throughout the world. And I invite others to do all they can, through relationship and in word & deed, to overcome the incitement of hatred with love.

I hope that those who seek to be followers of Christ will pay careful attention to Wendy’s words.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Open Letter To the Exodus International Board of Directors

Jim Burroway

March 11th, 2009

We’ve been following with great alarm the participation of Exodus International board member Don Schmierer in an anti-gay Conference in Uganda this past weekend. (Our coverage began here.) We aren’t alone in our concerns. Today, I join Ex-Gay Watch’s David Roberts and Truth Wins Out’s Wayne Besen and Michael Airhart in calling for swift action by the Exodus Board of Directors. Our open letter to the Exodus board is below.

I signed this letter because I believe that as we watched events unfold over the past week, we saw the Exodus leadership cross a line they hadn’t crossed before. The repugnant nature of Schmierer’s associations and actions go beyond anything we’ve seen from a supposedly mainstream advocacy organization. Calling for Alan Chambers’ resignation may seem like a strong response, but I assure you I did not come to this lightly. Longtime readers will know that I am not in the habit of demanding resignations. In fact, it’s not something I’ve ever done before. But watching these disturbing events unfold — and in consideration for the safety of LGBT citizens in Uganda and elsewhere — there must be strict and swift accountability for what happened. Otherwise the very name of Exodus will have taken on a whole new meaning.

That said, I should point out that I signed this letter in my role as editor of this web site, but I did not sign it on behalf of any other writers of Box Turtle Bulletin. That means the usual cautions apply: this letter may or may not necessarily represent the opinions of other writers at this web site. But it most certainly represents mine.


Open letter to the Exodus International Board of Directors:

We, the undersigned organizations, have monitored the ex-gay industry for more than a decade. To our great horror, prominent members of the ex-gay organization Exodus International participated last week in a conference in Uganda that promoted shocking abuses of basic human rights. This included draconian measures against gay and lesbian people such as forced ex-gay therapy, life imprisonment for people convicted of homosexuality and the formation of an organization designed to “wipe out” gay practices in Uganda. The conference also featured Scott Lively, a holocaust revisionist who at the event also blamed the 1994 Rwandan genocide on gay people.

The facts incontrovertibly show that Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, was aware of the list of speakers and abhorrent content prior to the conference. Exodus board member Don Schmierer, who spoke in Uganda, made no objections to the radical and dangerous platform offered. Instead, these mortal threats to the lives of gay and lesbian people were met with a deafening silence. Exodus, in effect, gave this insidious conference its tacit approval.

Today, we take the unprecedented step of joining together to demand that Exodus International’s Board of Directors take immediate action to hold accountable those who used the Exodus brand to promote an atmosphere conducive to serious human rights abuses. The accountability must begin with reasonable and responsible action by Board Chair Bob Ragan, including:

  • Dismissing Exodus President Alan Chambers for his knowing role in using Exodus to promote human rights abuses
  • Removing Board member Don Schmierer for speaking at a hate conference that promotes physical harm and psychological torture against GLBT people
  • Boldly articulating Exodus’ policy against human rights abuses including forced therapy
  • Promising to end future participation in all conferences that call on the persecution and criminalization of gay and lesbian people

We do not take this call to action lightly. These steps are necessary and commensurate with the massive breach of ethics and trust by the Exodus leadership. Clearly, Exodus has lost credibility and its claim to “love” gay people in the aftermath of Uganda seems duplicitous and insincere. As long as Chambers and Schmierer remain at Exodus, the organization is hopelessly compromised and even complicit in grave human rights abuses. It is time for the Exodus Board, led by Bob Ragan, to assert its moral authority by appointing new leadership and taking the organization in a more humane and principled direction.

Sincerely,

Jim Burroway                                 David Roberts
Box Turtle Bulletin                          Ex-Gay Watch

Wayne Besen                                 Mike Airhart
Truth Wins Out                               Truth Wins Out


The documentation implicating Exodus leaders for their participation at a hate conference in Uganda is robust and powerful. Most important, it is guided by indisputable facts:

The Case
Don Schmierer is a member of the board of directors for Exodus International. Last weekend, he used those credentials while speaking at an anti-gay conference in Kampala, Uganda alongside noted Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively. Those credentials as a leader of American’s largest and most influential ex-gay organization gave Schmierer the ability to speak authoritatively about the policies and ethics of sexual reorientation therapy. And more broadly, his presence as a leader of Exodus International lent credibility to the other speakers at the conference and the policy recommendations that emerged.

And so with Exodus International’s prestige fully utilized, we were outraged to discover that the conference was a forum for some of the most despicable statements and recommendations we have ever come across. During this conference we heard:

  • Gays blamed for the rise of Nazism in Germany. According to one eyewitness, Lively spoke extensively about his revisionist version of Nazi history, based on his book, The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party. In that book and in speeches, he claims that Nazi movement was, at its core, a homosexual movement. Despite the historical record to the contrary, Lively blames gays for the rise of Nazism and for the Holocaust itself, and claims that “the connection between homosexualism and fascism is not incidental.”
  • Gays blamed for the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Lively often claims that wherever gays gain the upper hand, they unleash a murderous rampage on innocent populations. In The Pink Swastika, Lively claims that “homosexuals are responsible for 68% of all mass murders in America.” According to one eyewitness at the Kampala conference, he extended that charge by blaming gay men for the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda, which borders Uganda just to the south.
  • Gays blamed for recruiting/molesting children. In line with a common slander deployed by Ugandan anti-gay extremists in recent campaigns of anti-gay vigilantism and violence, Lively claimed that the gay rights movement consists of an entire network trying to recruit young children, including “predatory homosexuals who are always out to satisfy their sexual desires.”
  • Parents blamed for their children’s homosexuality. Don Schmierer presented his contradictory list of fourteen “signs that an adolescent may be struggling with gender issues.” But his focus appeared to have been on one suggested cause: it’s the parent’s fault. One eyewitness said, “He told participants that one of the biggest causes of homosexuality is the lack of “good upbringing” in families. In other words, good parents make straight children; bad parents, gay children.
  • Calls for new laws enacted in Uganda to require that those convicted of homosexuality be forced to undergo sexual reorientation therapy. The law in Uganda currently calls for a life sentence upon conviction for homosexuality. As far as we have been able to tell, no one at the conference called for decriminalization of homosexuality, nor a reduction in the current penalties. Instead, there were calls to strengthen the law to add the requirement that convicted gays be forced to endure unregulated and unproven therapies, under duress and against their will.
  • Announcement of a new organization designed to “‘wipe out’ gay practices” in Uganda. It is unclear what form or tactics this new organization will take, but another follow-up meeting was called for March 15. Our fear is that this will lead to another round of officially sanctioned extrajudicial anti-gay vigilantism, with Ugandan media — as they did in previous campaigns — publicly identifying private LGBT citizens and calling for their arrest or worse.

Given Uganda’s recent history, this is no idle fear. There were at least three successive public anti-gay campaigns in 2005, 2006 and 2007. In the most recent campaign, government-affiliated newspapers published articles identifying specific individuals with physical descriptions, addresses, places of employment — even photos — of those targeted, making them easily identifiable to neighbors, family members, employers, and the police.

Watching this unfold with the active participation of an Exodus board member has left us concerned with the direction that Exodus is taking. Some of us contacted Exodus president Alan Chambers on Friday, February 27 to raise our concerns about Schmierer’s participation alongside a Holocaust revisionist at this conference. We did this even though we do not believe it is the responsibility of Exodus’ critics to inform Exodus about the activities of an Exodus leader.

Chambers is not just the President of Exodus International, he’s also a fellow board member with Don Schmierer. He, along with board chairman Bob Ragan, had plenty of time to contact Schmierer to demand that he withdraw from the conference. (They do have cell phones, SMS text messages and email in Uganda, especially at the luxurious four-star Hotel Triangle in Kampala where the conference took place.) Chambers also had plenty of time of time to publicly articulate Exodus’ policy on forced conversions and criminalization of homosexuality, two subjects which are not new to the controversies surrounding ex-gay ministries. And he had plenty of time to clarify Exodus’ position on Scott Lively’s Holocaust revisionism and to denounce Lively’s dangerous rhetoric. But in all of this, Chambers has remained silent.

Don Schmierer, as a board member — and as one who was identified at the conference under those very credentials — could have spoken out against the excesses of anti-gay violence that has marked Uganda’s history. He could have spoken out against criminalization of homosexuality and denounced the policy recommendation of forced conversion therapy against the will of the individual being “treated.” Schmierer could have denounced Lively’s rabid anti-gay extremism, historical revisionism, and dangerous scapegoating. But in all of this, Schmierer has remained silent.

And the board, particularly Board Chairman Bob Ragan, could have exercised is oversight responsibility to ensure that Exodus’ name and reputation remain unsullied by its association with Scott Lively and the Uganda conference.

Exodus serves as an umbrella organization of some two hundred ex-gay ministries, each of which, according to Exodus, is “an independent organization which has met Exodus’ criteria for membership.” If Exodus is unable to regulate the actions of its own board member, how can we expect Exodus to monitor the practices and qualifications of their member ministries?

Despite informing Exodus of our concerns on February 27, they have remained silent on Schmierer’s association with Scott Lively, as well as their own links to him. And with the passage of each day, as we’ve received more reports about the conference, our concerns have grown to outrage.

It is not the first time forced therapy has become an issue with Exodus International. This issue was raised in 2005 when “Zach”, a 16-year-old gay teen, was forced against his will to attend an eight-week ex-gay therapy program at Exodus-affiliated Love In Action in Memphis. That same year, another father drove his 17-year-old son to Love In Action in handcuffs. Despite all this, Love In Action remains one of Exodus’ most prominent member ministries. Today, the calls for enshrining forced therapy into Ugandan law has been met with silence at Exodus. We call upon Exodus once and for all to address the morality of forcing people into unregulated and unproven therapies against their will.

Laws banning private consensual relationships between adult same-sex couples are no longer in force in the United States. While this is settled law in this country, it is not a settled position among most anti-LGBT organizations. Furthermore, criminalization of private, consensual relationships remain a reality in many countries throughout the world, many of which provide harsh, draconian penalties upon conviction. As Exodus International engages in ex-gay movements around the world, we call upon Exodus once and for all to address the morality of punishing private adult consensual relationships.

Because of Schmierer’s actions, Exodus International will bear responsibility for any renewed convulsions of violence that may arise in the aftermath of this conference. Given the highly volatile history of anti-LGBT vigilantism in Uganda, we find Schmierer’s actions there appallingly reckless and irresponsible. Lives and the well being of many Ugandans may well be at stake in the weeks and months to come. Because of the danger that Schmierer’s actions may pose to citizens of that volatile nation, we call upon the Board of Directors of Exodus International to remove Don Schmierer from the Board of Directors.

Scott Lively, along with another of Alan Chambers’ “good friends”, Seattle pastor Ken Hutcherson, is a co-founder of Watchmen On the Walls, one of twelve anti-gay hate groups identified and tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Incidentally, Scott Lively’s Abiding Truth Ministries is also listed by the SPLC as a hate group. While speaking at a Watchmen conference in Novosibirsk, Russia, in 2007, Lively excused the murder of Satendar Singh, a gay immigrant from Fiji who was killed in an anti-gay hate crime in Sacramento. We call upon the Board of Directors of Exodus International to resolutely and unambiguously denounce Scott Lively’s dangerous rhetoric. We further call upon the Board to end future participation in all conferences that call on the persecution and criminalization of gay and lesbian people.

It is clear that that Exodus under the leadership of Alan Chambers has failed to live up to its claim of challenging “those who respond to homosexuals with ignorance and fear.” The Board must take swift action and remove Chambers as its leader. If the Exodus Board fails to act, it bears culpability and full responsibility for creating a climate where hate crimes can and do occur both at home and abroad.


Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Exodus’ Silence About Uganda: Day Five

Timothy Kincaid

March 6th, 2009

On Friday, February 27, we inquired to be certain that Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, was aware of the character and history of those participating at the Uganda anti-gay conference. Alan’s response was off the record. But because he responded we know he received our email and was therefore aware of the list of presenters and of our concerns.

So on Monday we asked him to let us know if he and the Exodus leadership would develop a position on Don Schmierer’s activities in Uganda.

Since that time, conference speaker Scott Lively has endorsed the criminalization of gay persons and declared that the Ugandan government should “subject the criminals of homosexuality to a therapy”.

To date, we’ve not heard back from Alan as to whether he, Schmierer, and the rest of the Exodus leadership denounce the theme of Schmierer’s conference or if they too endorse criminalization of homosexuality and forced ex-gay therapy. Until we hear otherwise, we must assume that their silence is an indication that their board member is representing them in Uganda and that they endorse the positions taken by the conference.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Richard Cohen Is Back In The PFOX and Exodus Orbit

Jim Burroway

February 26th, 2009

Richard Cohen is back and he’s on tour, with the full blessing of Exodus International member organization PFOX.

Two years ago, the ex-gay movement was widely embarrassed by Richard Cohen when in July 2006 he revealed his “holding” or “touch” techniques before a nationwide audience. It’s a controversial techniques that Cohen promotes through his International Healing Foundation. Cohen had also been president of the PFOX, but he was forced out after that CNN episode aired.

That embarrassment was compounded when in March 2007 he appeared on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. That prompted PFOX and NARTH to scrub their web sites of all mention of him, and Exodus International publicly distanced themselves from his techniques:

Exodus International does not endorse the work of Richard Cohen or the methods utilized in his practice. Some of the techniques Mr. Cohen employs could be detrimental to an individual’s understanding of healthy relational boundaries and disruptive to the psychological and emotional development of men and women seeking clinical counsel and aid.

That was wise, if belated. Five years earlier, Cohen had already been expelled from the American Counseling Association (ACA) for multiple ethical violations.

Well, that exile didn’t last long. Even though PFOX scrubbed their web site to pretend they had never heard of Cohen, we learned that just a few months later PFOX was referring “clients” to Richard Cohen’s International Healing Foundation. Then last year came word of a possible rapprochement between Exodus and Cohen. That was quite a turnaround considering that Exodus International president Alan Chambers had resigned just a year ealier from PFOX’s board of directors because they hadn’t distanced themselves enough from Cohen

And now PFOX, which through all of this has remained a member in good standing in Exodus’s referral network, is promoting Cohen’s “National Tour!” — complete with exclamation marks. Actually, there are no tour dates set just yet. They’re still begging for people to invite him. But the timing’s no coincidence. Cohen will have a new book out, “Loving Gays the Right Way: The Other Side of Tolerance.”

Let’s see, what would the other side of tolerance be?

To remind you of Cohen’s “healing” techniques, here’s a clip of Cohen on CNN.

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Patronizing B.S., Part 2.

Jim Burroway

November 6th, 2008

From Exodus International president Alan Chambers:

And, while I am thrilled with the vote in support of keeping marriage the way God intends it, I am truly heavy in heart for the men and women who saw same-sex marriage as an answer to their struggle for acceptance. I do not take any joy in seeing people’s dreams or hearts crushed even if I disagree with them. I pray this morning that the proponents of Arizona’s Prop 102, California’s Prop 8 and Florida’s Amendment 2 celebrate with these broken hearts in mind and with a desire to comfort those who need comfort in the wake of what has to be bitter disappointment. Truly this is what Jesus would do!

This is the same guy who just a year ago characterized these same “brokenhearted people” as following an evil agenda

Exodus International Vice President Randy Thomas’s reaction on his liveblog was much more transparent:

11:37 Randy Thomas: CNN says that Amendment two is still at 62% with 87% of the precincts reporting in.
11:38 Randy Thomas: I JUST GOT AN EMAIL FROM THE AMENDMENT 2 CAMPAIGN SAYING THAT IT PASSED!
11:39 Randy Thomas: That’s a big wow. I will be honest… this is the second time I have gotten emotional tonight.
11:40 Randy Thomas:

A Few Hickups In Exodus’ Message Machine

Jim Burroway

July 16th, 2008

Exodus International’s annual conference went under way in Asheville, North Carolina yesterday, and their messaging machine was rolling along. We’ve often noted before how Exodus carefully tailors their message for different audiences, and ths time is no exception. Exodus President Alan Chambers told the Ashevile Citizen-Times, “The truth is that homosexuality does not send people to hell. Gay people live in heaven. It’s not about fire and brimstone, it’s about an alternative option.”

Chambers’ most recent comment is a drastic turnaround from just ten months ago, when he labeled the push for equality under the law an “evil agenda” last fall. But we’ve seen twists and turns in Chamber’s message before. Exodus is very good at modifying its message depending on the audience. You may recall that Alan Chambers had a similar charm offensive in advance of last year’s Exodus conference in Irvine, where he downplayed “change,” a statement from which he appeared to have backtracked somewhat a few days later. And his charm offensive turned decidedly ugly with his snide remarks in response to heartfelt apologies from former Exodus leaders.

While Chambers has nice words for the newspapers, Exodus vice-president Randy Thomas, like many vice-presidents, takes the roll of attack dog:

Thomas countered, “Exodus is no stranger to opposition, but neither was Jesus. Exodus is not in the business of converting anyone. We just offer a hand to walk beside people who want freedom from the bondage of sexual addiction.”

Sexual addiction Randy? Is that what this is all about? I thought it was homosexuality.

Actually, this is another key component of the Exodus message machine: painting all gay people as sex addicts. I don’t know what choices Randy Thomas has made in his life, but it’s time he recognized that the rest of us bear no responsibility for his past choices.

Randy, this message is especially for you today.

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Alan Chambers: Death or Change

Jim Burroway

May 27th, 2008

Yesterday we reported on two Exodus-affiliated leaders who claimed that there were only two choices facing struggling gay kids and adults: Change or die. Now we learn that Exodus President Alan Chambers has reinforced this false choice in an interview with radio talk show host Chris Farby on May 16th. Towards the end of the program, Alan Chambers was asked about teen suicide:

Chris Fabry: We had another email that talked about, especially teenagers, and how many teenagers are caught in this emotional trauma, and how many take their own lives because of the homosexual issue. You were a teenager caught in that too weren’t you

Alan Chambers: I was a teenager, you know the bulk of my struggle was during my teenage years, from about 11 to 21 or so, and I understand feeling like the only way out is you kill yourself. In fact one of the things that made me want to die — was when I heard, there is no way out of this, this is your only option, there is no other choice, in fact there is no choice – you are who you are and that won’t ever change. And I thought, that can’t be the truth, and if it is, I can’t live this way.

Instead of confronting the false choice between death or change, Alan Chambers reinforces it. With Exodus, it’s change or die.

But the real danger here is that too many people, believing that there really are only two choices, choose the latter. When I attended last year’s Ex-Gay Survivor’s Conference in California, I talked with one person whose former partner was told that his only choice was to “change or go away.” He chose to “go away” by taking his own life.

Indeed, blood has stained the ex-gay movement from its beginning. Love In Action co-founder John Evans describes the suicide of his best friend, Jack McIntyre, while at the Marin General Hospital Psychiatric Ward. Evans recalled, “In Jack’s suicide note, he wrote that he believed that God would forgive him for killing himself, but not for having even one more ‘impure’ thought.”

That was more than thirty years ago. Meanwhile, the “change or die” mantra continues.

[Hat tip: Pam Spaulding's House Blend.]

See also:
Exodus’ False Choice: Death or Change

Nicolosi: Gays Would Be “Jerking Off In Hamburgers All Over”

Another former patient of Dr. Joseph Nicolosi comes forward

Jim Burroway

May 3rd, 2008

Earlier this week, Daniel Gonzales provided his reaction to the recent Byrd, Nicolosi & Potts paper that appeared in Psychological Reports. Daniel’s comments were based on his own experience as a former patient of Dr. Nicolosi’s:

In my first session of therapy with Dr. Nicolosi he repeatedly pressed myself and my father, who was there with me, asking us if I had been molested as a child — which I hadn’t. In fact, much of that first session was focused on “digging around” for the supposed cause of my homosexuality.

Gabriel Arana, a Cornell University grad student and columnist for the Cornell Daily Sun, has come forward to write about his remarkably similar experience with Dr. Nicolosi in a recent column:

For three years I had weekly sessions with Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, president of the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). Dr. Nicolosi thought that homosexuality was a pathology, a sublimated desire to reconnect with one’s lost masculinity. The theory: under-attentive fathers and over-attentive mothers create gay children. The purpose of therapy was to put me in touch with my masculine identity and thereby change my sexual orientation.

Years after I stopped therapy, I requested the case notes, knowing they would be destroyed after seven years. They provided an annotated collection of long-forgotten events. Next to the description of an argument with a male friend, Dr. Nicolosi scribbled “needs to look at the real source.” This was code: whatever the problem, it would be traced back to my lost masculine sense of self; I was angry because my friend had not paid attention to me as my father had not. Much of therapy also involved uncovering the numerous ways in which my parents had cheated me (as a teenager, I was more than happy to blame things on them).

According to Arana, Dr. Nicolosi didn’t try to conceal his utter disgust with gay people:

Disgust with what was termed the “gay lifestyle” was implicit in therapy. I remember Dr. Nicolosi telling me, in response to the question of whether one could easily contract HIV from semen, that if this were the case then gays would be “jerking off in hamburgers all over” to infect people.

That is was passes for ethical professionalism at NARTH. As does this:

…I know Dr. Robert Spitzer’s study well. Dr. Nicolosi asked me to participate in it, but instructed me not to reveal that he had referred me; while he wanted his organization’s views represented, he did not want to bring into question the study’s integrity.

The Spitzer study is the famous ex-gay study that purported to show that people can change their sexual orientation. However, the study was stacked with people who had a vested interest in demonstrating change. According to Dr. Spitzer, “the majority of participants (78 percent) had publicly spoken in favor of efforts to change homosexual orientation, often at their church,” and “nineteen percent of the participants were mental health professionals or directors of ex-gay ministries.” Among that 19% was Alan Chambers and Randy Thomas, Exodus International’s president and vice-president.

By the way, this is not the first time we’ve seen allegations that Nicolosi advised his clients to lie to Spitzer. Daniel Gonzales described a very similar conversation with Nicolosi nearly three years ago:

Nicolosi told me it would be great if I could represent the positive/success side of ex-gays in this study. Joseph Nicolosi asked me to lie to Spitzer when I called in for my study interview by denying Nicolosi had referred me. Turned off by this attempted manipulation, I never went through with taking part in the Spitzer study.

Hat tip: Ex-Gay Watch

Exodus Still Involved with Lobbying After All

Jim Burroway

March 11th, 2008

Last Thursday, we cheered Exodus International’s president Alan Chambers when he said that Exodus would be “backing out of policy issues.” While I was greatly encouraged by the news, I recognized what a dramatic shift that would be and wondered how long it would be before I was disappointed. When I wondered that out loud, I was thinking that disappointment wouldn’t happen for months. But it turns out that not even a week has gone by before learning that “backing out” means else besides backing out.

Ex-Gay Watch’s David Roberts has learned that Exodus is still a member of the religious conservative political organization, The Arlington Group. According to Roberts, Alan Chambers has confirmed Exodus’ membership, and Exodus plans on maintaining that membership in the future. Beyond Ex-Gay co-founder Peterson Toscano holds him to his word.

Alan Chambers: Exodus “Backing Out of Policy Issues”

Jim Burroway

March 5th, 2008

Last summer, we reported on Exodus International’s political lobbying activities, specifically the hiring of Amanda Banks as Exodus’ Director of Governmental Affairs. Ms. Banks spoke at the Exodus Freedom conference in Irvine about the many irons they had in the fire to try to make life more difficult for gays and lesbians who chose not to follow the ex-gay path.

There have been some rumblings that some Exodus-affiliated ministry leaders were dissatisfied with this latest move. Some felt that this political involvement was a unwelcome distraction to Exodus’ core mission as a ministry. And more to the point, a few worried that by maintaining such a public anti-gay posture, Exodus might actually interfere with a few of their member ministries’ efforts to engage in non-confrontational and non-judgmental outreach efforts.

Believe it or not, there are a few such ministries — perhaps a precious few, but they exist nonetheless — who really want to try to work in a less confrontational and judgmental manner. In fact, according to Exodus co-founder Michael Bussee, this was a key part of Exodus’ original vision.

More recently, Wendy Gritter, Executive Director of Toronto-based New Directions, gave a keynote address (MP3: 28.9MB/1:03:07) at an Exodus leadership conference in January. She urged her audience to put an end to its political lobbying, to stop emphasizing “change,” and to show genuine respect for those who are comfortable with their sexual orientation. She also joined several former ex-gay leaders with an apology of her own posted at Ex-Gay Watch:

I want to begin by saying I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the pain that some of those who follow this site have experienced from leaders like me and ministries like the one I lead. I’m sorry that some of you connected with this site who identify as Christian have had your faith questioned and judged. I’m sorry there is a felt need for a site like XGW. I’m sorry that it feels like legitimate concerns have not been listened to. I am sorry for the arrogance that can come across from leaders like me.

And now Exodus International president Alan Chambers talked with Ex-Gay Watch’s Dave Roberts and said that he has backtracked from his original decision to take Exodus in a more explicitly political direction. Last August, at about the same time we were reporting on Amanda Banks’ new job with Exodus, Alan “decided to back out of policy issues and our Director of Government Affairs took a position with another organization.”

But to the question of whether these changes were permanent, Alan replied:

One area that we found to be incredibly beneficial was simply sharing our stories with lawmakers. If and when there are opportunities to do that we will.

As for lobbying, promoting policies, etc., I don’t see us being involved in the near or distant future. Will we ever feel the need to get involved? Maybe — as a ministry we care about religious freedom and we are always watching to see how changes in policy might negatively impact our freedom.

They’ve used the “religious freedom” meme as an oft-repeated objection to hate crimes legislation — even though the proposed legislation only addresses violent crime and not speech, religion, or any other Constitutionally protected right.

It’s hard to know what all this means in the long run. But Beyond Ex-Gay co-founder Peterson Toscano is encouraged by some of this:

This is good news indeed and comes after much work on the part of folks both within and outside of Exodus to help the leadership to consider backing away from getting tangled in debates about LGBT rights.

Back in July during the Ex-Gay Survivor Initiative sponsored by Soulforce, ex-gay survivors shared their stories around the country with a recurring theme about harm, but also with a call to ex-gay leaders and church leaders to consider pastoral care and people’s lives before politics.

It’s not just former ex-gays who feel this way. While I was attending the Exodus conference in California last June, I ran into a few “strugglers” there who also disagreed with Exodus’ political activities. A few of them voiced to me some rather sharp of anti-gay statements made by prominent religious leaders, some of whom taped video welcome messages which were played at the start of the conference. There were a few names and faces which flashed on the screen which prompted scattered pangs of anguish and hisses among a very few members of the audience. And particular disgust was registered at those who were known for having used HIV/AIDS as a cudgel against the gay community in the past.

These changes at Exodus are long overdue and will be welcome by many both inside and outside the movement — assuming these changes are lasting and substantial. Whether that happens, only time will tell. I suppose we all will be putting together our own personal litmus tests over the next few months. Here’s mine: maybe this will mark the end of Alan’s appearances like his recent showing at the Family Impact Summit. That would be welcome news indeed.

Alan Chambers On Hillary Clinton

Jim Burroway

November 29th, 2007

Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, began by saying, “I have been described as an ultra conservative and a member of the vast right wing conspiracy. I am a Republican, a conservative Christian and the head of an international pro-family organization.” With all that, he’s not happy with the political discourse in the current presidential campaign:

Ironically, when I made an appointment with Senator Hillary Clinton’s office last year senior level staffers were assigned to that meeting. When I walked in, presumably as a member of the enemy camp, I was warmly welcomed, greeted and treated the entire time. I am sure her staff hated my position on the issues I was discussing with them, but they were consummate professionals and treated me with the utmost respect. I have been in hundreds of offices on the Hill and not all Republican ones treat me like they did. Whatever the reason for their demeanor, I appreciated and believed it genuine.

Regardless of her accomplishments and my opinion of her politics, however, I must unequivocally denounce the names she is being called by fellow Republicans, especially those who are followers of Christ.  ….I was very disappointed when Senator McCain failed to stand up for a fellow Senator, Presidential rival and woman last month when one of his supporters asked, “How do we beat the bitch?”

It’s a well-crafted statement. And we should all be able to agree on his closing remarks: “If you don’t like Hillary, don’t vote for her.  But, for goodness sake, have some respect.” I’ll second that. And I would like to point out that you can substitute any name, Democratic or Republican, for “Hillary” and it should still hold true.

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