Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
This article can be found at:
Latest Posts

Posts for July, 2013

Former Exodus Vice President Issues Open Apology to LGBT Community

Jim Burroway

July 23rd, 2013

Randy Thomas, Exodus International’s former vice president, has posted an apology to the gay community on his personal blog, covering three specific areas in which he has been active during his two decades as part of Exodus and its member ministries. I only want to post a few excerpts here, but would encourage you to read the whole thing. The first part covers his work in public policy:

I participated in the hurtful echo chamber of condemnation. I gave lip service to the gay community, but really did not exemplify compassion for them. I placed the battle over policy above my concern for real people. I sometimes valued the shoulder pats I was given by religious leaders more than Jesus’ commandment to love and serve. That was wrong and I’m disappointed in myself. Please forgive me.

I directly empowered people to co-opt my testimony and use it against the gay community. There were a few times I almost worked up the nerve to confront them, only to hear them invoke my name at an opportune moment. “Of course I love gay people,” they would say. “Just look at my good friend Randy…” It was very selfish of me to back down in these situations. I apologize.

The second part deals with how he dealth with some of the problems he observed at Exodus:

In 1992, I was part of an Exodus affiliated ministry in Texas that believed being in relationship with Jesus alone was our goal. I never felt pressured to change my same sex orientation. I saw my life greatly improved by having the freedom to question my sexuality and identity. I assumed this was what happened at every Exodus group, and I ended up idealizing the entire ministry based on my singular experiences in Texas. However, after joining the Exodus staff, I was confronted with the reality that some methods used by some of our local ministries ended up bringing hurt and pain to the very people they were trying to comfort.

There are many good people in the broader Exodus movement that I didn’t want to hurt by sharing the bad we’d uncovered. Other staff members and I dealt with some of these ills privately. But by keeping quiet, and not even letting our own leaders know the depths of what concerned us, I contributed to the negative response surrounding Alan’s recent apology. To protect some leaders, which wasn’t totally inappropriate, others didn’t know how bad some things had gotten. Therefore, some have been shocked that Alan apologized and that I, among others, were supportive. In order to protect the reputation of some, I chose silence. I apologize for remaining silent and passive. Looking back on my time with Exodus, it seems I was always waiting for a convenient time to discuss some of my concerns publicly. But as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.”

The third part relates to some of the teachings he helped to promote at Andrew Comiskey’s Living Waters program. It’s worth remembering that Comiskey was one of the first Exodus ministry leaders to publicly criticize Exodus president Alan Chambers after Chambers acknowledged that “99.9%” of ex-gay ministry members “have not experienced a change in their orientation,” disavowed the particular form of sexual orientation change therapy known as Reparative Therapy, and acknowledged that gay Christians can enter heaven. Comiskey is now board chairman for Restored Hope Network, comprised of a hard core breakway group of former Exodus ministries. Comisky has denounced Chambers’s apology to the gay community, which Chambers delivered immediately before shutting down Exodus International altogether. Of Thomas’s work with Comiskey’s Living Waters, he writes:

When I look back at some of my old interviews, group meetings, and keynotes over the past twenty years, I realize there are many things I would communicate differently today. In the past I taught quite a mixture of performance-based accomplishment along with God’s grace. I taught that God is always present, but if we don’t manage our sin properly, it could negatively impact our relationship with Him.

That’s not grace. It doesn’t take seriously the finished work of the Cross.

I look back on my time as a Living Waters coordinator (eleven years ago) with the most remorse. Even though there is some good in this program, it often ripped open old wounds in the name of healing by attempting to manufacture an environment for the Lord to work in. I have to apologize for the times some people may have felt manipulated to bare their souls to a group full of strangers. I apologize for any pressure we, on the Living Waters team I led, might have placed on group participants as we tried to help them cultivate “authentic experiences.”

As a trained Living Waters coordinator, I used to hang on to every word Andrew Comiskey said. I even did some online consulting work for him. But today, over a year after leaving his employ as a consultant, I look back and recognize there were signs that something was wrong. In retrospect, I realize I helped build Andrew Comiskey’s online platforms – platforms which have increasingly gotten more vitriolic and stigmatizing toward the LGBT community. I regret that and I’m sorry.

As I said, his entire apology is worth reading. No single apology or statement can ever cover two decades of work. When someone sets about writing such an apology, the first difficulty they will encounter is the near-impossibility of  addressing those things which perhaps they don’t remember, which didn’t leave much of an impression on them, or can’t bring themselves emotionally to address, but were nevertheless harmful to others. When there is so much to address, where do you begin? All you can do is to begin where you know to begin. That’s why turning over a new leaf is such a lengthy process, of ongoing and continual discovery and, perhaps, repeated or new apologies. It would take an entire memoir’s worth of apologies to cover it all.

So there will always be things that people can point to and say he left this out or he glossed over that. And many will inevitably be right. This apology — or any apology — won’t be the thing that sets things right. But it can be the thing that allows the work of setting things right to begin.

NY Times and NPR on Exodus International’s Change in Direction

Jim Burroway

July 7th, 2012

The New York Times describes the ex-gay movement as being convulsed by Exodus International president Alan Chambers turning away from Reparative Therapy and other forms of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE). You can see some of those “convulsions” from NARTH’s David Pickup, who claims that “my homosexual feelings began to dissipate and attractions for women grew” as a result of Reparative Therapy. PFOX’s Greg Quinlan plays armchair psychologist and says, “I think Mr. Chambers is tired of his own personal struggles, so he’s making excuses for them by making sweeping generalizations about others.”

And from a theological standpoint, Robert Gagnon has come forward to denounce Chambers’s move. And you can always tell when Gagnon gets upset that others don’t recognize the sheer genius of his theological insights. (Right Timothy?) He countered Chambers’s move with a 35-page response (PDF: 729KB/35 pages!). I’ll let you read it. Chambers himself hasn’t responded, but in the broken-clock-is-still-right-twice-a-day category, I’ll suggest you look at how Exodus former VP Randy Thomas reacts. I’ve had plenty of disagreements with Thomas on a number of things, but I’ve always enjoyed his wit. He’s in fine form today.

Gagnon’s irritation with Exodus is not insignificant. It was only a year ago when Gagnon gave a Wednesday morning plenary talk at the Exodus conference in Ridgecrest, North Carolina, followed by two workshops. It was his first time spelling at Exodus, and I’m guessing it will probably be his last.

NPR’s All Things Considered also featured a story in Exodus International yesterday. You can find audio and a write-up here. In this interview, Chambers talks about another of the many reasons for his change in emphasis: “I believe we’ve been hypocritical. I believe that we have looked at the issue of same-sex attraction differently than we look at anything else.” He expanded on this theme during his opening night plenary talk at the Exodus Conference, and it became an interesting topic for an informal Q&A the next day, which I will talk more about next week.

My very short take-away from my own first-hand experience at the conference is this: There really are significant changes afoot at Exodus. And having looked around and engaged in some rather significant conversations in St. Paul, I have come to the conclusion that change is possible at Exodus. But it has been neither instantaneous nor complete. And if it does come about, it will only be after a very long struggle.

The Daily Agenda for Friday, October 7

Jim Burroway

October 7th, 2011

TODAY’S AGENDA (OURS):
Campus Pride College Fair and Prep Day: Boston, MA. Campus Pride’s College Fair is an opportunity for LGBT students and their families to discuss educational opportunities with participating LGBT-affirming colleges and universities. The fair features expert advice about LGBT-friendly colleges, scholarship resources and even effective tips for campus visits. The Northwest Region College Fair takes place today at Boston’s City Hall, from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. More information can be found here. Future College Fairs will take place in Los Angeles (Oct 15) and New York (Nov 4).

AIDS Walks This Weekend: Columbus, OH; Indianapolis, IN and Kent/Sussex, DE.

Pride Celebrations This Weekend: Atlanta, GA; Orlando, FL; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Tucson, AZ.

Also This Weekend: Iris Prize Film Festival, Cardiff, UK.

TODAY’S AGENDA (THEIRS):
Values Voter Summit: Washington, D.C. The Family “Research” Council, one of only a handful of organizations tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center for being an anti-gay hate group, kicks off its annual Values Voter Summit in the nation’s capital this morning with a breakfast talk by Mat Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty Unversity’s Law School. Members of Staver’s Liberty Counsel and law school staff have been implicated in the Isabella Miller-Jenkins kidnapping case, while teachers have instructed law students to ignore “man’s law” in favor of “God’s law.” And so as you might expect, the Summit just goes straight downhill from there. Other speakers include House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and GOP Presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum. And all of that is before lunch, when voting begins for the Summit’s straw poll. Afternoon speakers include GOP presidential candidates Herman Cain, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, plus Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). The evening plenary session features another GOP presidential candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), as well as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. The craziness just goes on and on and on through Sunday morning.

Exodus International Florida Regional Conference. Leesburg, FL. Exodus International will conduct a two-day conference with the theme “Chosen for Freedom,” beginning today and continuing through Saturday. The conference’s featured speakers include Exodus International president Alan Chambers, former Exodus president Joe Dallas, and former Exodus vice president Randy Thomas. Also speaking is Dr. Julie Hamilton, a former president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and whose book, Handbook of Therapy for Unwanted Homosexual Attractions, includes a final chapter by discredited ex-gay activist George Rekers. As we reported in our original investigation of Rekers’s “treatment” of four-year-old Kirk Murphy, Rekers claimed that he had successfully turned the “effeminate pre-homosexual” boy into a straight man. He built his entire career on that supposedly groundbreaking success story. Except there were a couple of problems: Kirk grew up to be gay, and he ultimately committed suicide over the lifelong conflicts he struggled with as a result of that therapy. Yet in Hamilton’s book, Rekers boasted that Kirk “had a normal male identity,” six years after Kirk took his life. Hamilton’s book with Rekers’s boast is still on sale at NARTH’s web site, and I have no doubt that it will also be available at the conference, which takes place today and tomorrow at the First Baptist Church in Leesburg, FL.

Minnesota Anti-Marriage Strategy and Briefing Session: Bloomington, MN. The Minnesota Faith and Freedom Coalition, supporters of the latest proposed constitutional amendment to make same-sex marriage even more illegaler in the Gopher state, will hold a Strategy and Briefing Session at the Doubletree Inn in Bloomington, MN this morning from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Invited speakers include GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and former Christian Coalition honcho Ralph Reed.

If you know of something that belongs on the agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?

Randy Thomas, Ex-Gay Superstar?

Jim Burroway

August 22nd, 2011

There’s a new web site that has popped up with an introductory video:

I’ve clicked around the new web site Confessions of an Ex-Gay Superstar, hoping to find evidence that the site is some kind of a clever satire, but allas, it’s not. The former Exodus International vice president has yet another (!) blog.

Exodus VP Stepping Down

Jim Burroway

April 12th, 2011

Exodus International vice president Randy Thomas is stepping down from his position, according to a blog post by the group’s president Alan Chambers. Thomas isn’t going far however. He will take on a part-time position as Exodus’s Director of Digital Media and Development — basically, running the online and social media platforms for Exodus. According to the announcement, this gives Thomas an opportunity to allows his “pastoral, artistic and creative gifts …to grow and develop to their full potential.”

The announcement doesn’t indicate when the change becomes effective.

Uncle Silly’s Celibacy

Timothy Kincaid

July 14th, 2010

July 23, 1992. That’s the last time that Randy Thomas, Exodus’ VP, had sex with another person. He was 24.

But he doesn’t mind. He’s fine being celibate and he doesn’t even mind not having any form or romantic or sexual relationship; he has other people’s kids to meet that need.

I can’t imagine myself at 50 either! But when I was 24, EIGHTEEN years ago :) I wouldn’t have imagined I would be single at 42 years old and not having sex with another person for the next 18 years!

As a matter of fact, if I had know that at 24 my brain might have exploded.

But let me ask you this, even if you are gay … is it possible to be alone … and gay … at 50? Is it possible to be with a partner but still lonely or miserable at 50? In fact, is it possible neither of us could make it to fifty? OR live to 100 and have a blissful life?

I also don’t envy my married friends anymore. I enjoy being “Mr. Randy” or “Uncle Silly” to kids all across North America. My relational needs are met and being met abundantly.

I’ve known plenty of people who find contentment in celibacy. And I fully support the right of each person to find the life that gives them meaning and fulfillment.

I just wish that Randy didn’t use his decades of celibacy as a tool to deny me my civil rights. I wish that he agreed with me that each person has the right to find the life that gives them meaning and fulfillment, even if it does not fit his god’s expectations.

The Ex-Gay “Post-Gay” Charade

Jim Burroway

June 16th, 2010

There have been a lot of talk about the so-called “post-gay” phenomenon. Andrew Sullivan has posted quite a few examples of it on his web site over the past few years. “Post-gay” describes a world in which gay, straight, bisexual, whatever have all achieved true equality and acceptance, to such an extent that maintaining a separate social structure remains moot. It’s John Lennon’s “Imagine” for sexual orientation, a world without fears, rejection, discrimination; no more sorrow and no more pain.

Post-gay is a world of complete assimilation, and this assimilation would happen not because people went back into the closet, but because the very concept of a closet no longer makes any sense. Nor would the idea of a gay club or a gay ghetto. It would come about when the culture war is over, with those who fought against LGBT equality having lost and those who fought for LGBT equality having been made irrelevant.

That’s what is meant by “post-gay.” It describes a world that is completely alien to those who oppose LGBT equality. In fact, it is their worst nightmare. Which is why it is beyond offensive to see Exodus International vice president and perennial culture warrior Randy Thomas to expropriate the term “post-gay” as a euphemism for “ex-gay”:

I contend (hat tip to Peter Ould) that people like us are on a Christian post-gay journey where the gay vs. ex-gay vs straight labels are no longer sufficient … or even appropriate … to describe who or what we are about.

What Thomas describes as a “Christian post-gay” journey is the complete negation of what post-gay is all about. If Thomas had bothered to really pay attention to the WBUR radio program on the subject that he linked to, he would see that.

To be truly post-gay, Thomas would have to believe not just that the labels no longer matter, but the meaning behind the labels no longer matter either. In other words, being gay is no longer an issue, but also that having a relationship with someone of the same sex is also no longer an issue. Obviously, that is a non-starter for him. Otherwise, he would no longer work for an organization that spends a million dollars a year convincing other people that being gay — or being in a same-sex relationship, if that is all he really cares about – is an issue. A big issue. An issue big enough to dedicate his life to making it an issue for everyone else everywhere he goes. From  London to Mexicali and all points in-between.

If Exodus were post-gay, then that means that Exodus will meet next week at their annual conference to spend four days and nights talking about something that is no longer relevant. They will cap it off with a Love Won Out conference, again to talk about something that is no longer relevant. Exodus President Alan Chambers will be speaking for six nights at a church in Rio de Janero in July, presumably to talk about something that is no longer relevant.

Exodus is working on a post-gay journey? Tell that to the people who have been impacted by Exodus’ message of “truth and love” to the LGBT community. Tell that to the people of Uganda.

In fact, Thomas isn’t interested in a truly post-gay world, but a “Christian post-gay world,” which he admits in an earlier post is simply a euphemism for “ex-gay”:

Ex-gay is an identity label based in what we are not and I have never seen how that is supposed to be positive.  The secular media likes it because it quickly pigeonholes a sound bite.  I have reluctantly used it in the past, Exodus has reluctantly used it from time to time but I only know maybe 4 people who actually like using that term.

He doesn’t like “ex-gay”? Fine. But abusing the English language to confuse people into thinking that what you’re describing is the complete opposite of what they think you’re describing is fraud, pure and simple.

Thomas’ “ex-gay equals post-gay” charade is as disingenuous as PFOX’s “ex-gay discrimination” tirade, and equally as offensive. In today’s climate, Thomas is no more post-gay than I am. I look forward to the day when Box Turtle Bulletin becomes irrelevant. So does Thomas, I suspect. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that that day looks very, very, different to him than it does to those who truly envision a post-gay world.

Exodus International Issues Statement Condemning Ugandan Anti-Gay Bill

Jim Burroway

March 22nd, 2010

The board of directors of Exodus International has issued a statement condemning the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill that is now before Parliament. This statement comes amid year-long criticism of the ex-gay organization after one of its board members, Don Schmierer, conducted an anti-gay conference in Kampala alongside two other anti-gay American activists, Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively and International Healing Foundation’s Caleb Brundidge. That conference, which included Lively’s infamous “nuclear bomb against the gay agenda”, fanned the already burning flames of virulent homophobia in that country and ushered in the proposal a draconian new law which would, among many other things, result in the death penalty for gay people under certain conditions.

In this latest statement from Exodus International, the Board says:

Exodus International believes that every human life, regardless of an individual’s sexual behavior, is of inestimable worth to God and that defending this principle is foundational in offering a Christian response to any issue. As such, Exodus International has not and will not support any legislation that deprives others of life and dignity including, but not limited to, Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009. We stand with all who are defending this basic, biblical tenet and remain committed to sharing the compassion, hope and life-giving truth and grace of Jesus Christ.

“In November of 2009, several of us sent a letter to Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and First Lady Musenevi expressing our concerns regarding The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009. The legislation would render some homosexual practices crimes punishable by life imprisonment and possible death. We believe that sexual crimes against children, whether committed by someone of the same or opposite sex, are the most serious of offenses and should be punished; we consider same-sex behavior in consensual adult relationships another matter.

Exodus issued their open letter to President Yoweri Museveni on November 16, 2009, more than nine months following the Kampala conference. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was formally introduced into Parliament on October 15.

On March 10, 2010, barely a full year after the Kampala conference, Exodus International president Alan Chambers left a comment on Warren Throckmorton’s web site expressing disappointment over not having had an opportunity to appear on ABC’s Nightline, saying, ” would have loved nothing better than to share our disdain for this bill and apologize for going anywhere near such a horrible conference.” While this statement from Exodus accomplishes the first goal, there is no apology for having participated in the “Nuclear Bomb” conference.

The latest statement also condemns criminalization of homosexuality as a hindrance to the group’s mission “assist hurting men, women and youth who might otherwise seek help in addressing this personal issue.”

Exodus’s statement is signed by Alan Chambers, vice president, Randy Thomas, board chair Bob Ragan, and fifty-one other board members and ex-gay ministry leaders, including Don Schmierer. The full text of the statement is reproduced below. The statement appears on the Exodus International blog, but so far it does not appear on the organization’s official web site.

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

Click here to read Exodus International’s full statement.

Exodus VP: “Disney Makes Right Decision Concerning ‘Ex-Gay’ Policy”

Jim Burroway

March 15th, 2010

Last week, we briefly noted a quixotic attempt by the ex-gay organization PFOX to force a vote among Disney shareholders to recognize “ex-gay” as a sexual orientation. Shareholders instantly recognized it as a complete waste of time, with 98% voting a resounding “no!” Exodus International vice president Randy Thomas thinks Disney made the right call, and finds PFOX’s messaging “confusing”:

It appears they are doing a “find and replace” word processing function on their organizational messaging. They are copying gay activist talking points and replacing every instance of “gay” with “ex-gay.” Greg Quinlan, PFOX’s Director, states that ex-gays are forced into the Disney “closet.” Over the past few years PFOX keeps talking about the “ex-gay community” needing to be added to the laundry list of sexual/gender identities in need of protected class status in various venues.

PFOX had been a member ministry under the Exodus umbrella, but they reportedly parted ways last summer.

Two Anti-Gay BFF’s Mend Their Near-Falling Out

Jim Burroway

December 21st, 2009

Matt Barber is patching things up with Peter LaBarbera over a statement by Barber posted on LaBarbera’s web site. It was a bit touchy there for a while, with Barber’s employer, the Liberty Counsel, getting involved with the dust-up. But now things are all smiles.

It all began when Peter “Porno Pete” LaBarbera was trying to build support over a proposed boycott of the Conservative Political Action Conference over its co-sponsorship by GOProud, which describes itself as  “the only national organization for gay conservatives and their allies.” LaBarbera is completely beside himself over this, and when he gets beside himself, his rhetoric becomes even more intemperate than normal (if you can imagine that). This time, I guess words failed him, so he turned to his good friend Matt Barber to supply the pithy line:

Matt BarberIt boils down to this: there is nothing “conservative” about — as Barber inimitably puts it — “one man violently cramming his penis into another man’s lower intestine and calling it ‘love.’” Or two women awkwardly mimicking natural procreative relations or raising a child together in an intentionally fatherless home.

That got Exodus International vice president Randy Thomas’ attention, and that, in turned, spurred a letter by Exodus president Alan Chambers to Matt Barber’s employer, the Liberty Counsel. (You see? Exodus International really is capable of rapid response when they want to call others on the carpet, but not when it comes to keeping their own house in order.) That letter led to a response from the Liberty Counsel, which essentially called Peter LaBarbera a liar:

Neither Matt Barber nor anyone with Liberty Counsel wrote or made any such public statement that is being alleged in this blog. Liberty Counsel promotes the traditional family of one man and one woman because we believe that such relationships are best for society and for children. While we strongly disagree with the sexual politics and agenda of activist organizations and individuals, we also believe that each person is entitled to respect. While there are some that hate us because of our message of sexual integrity, redemption, change, and hope, we have never, and will never, confuse the person with the agenda. We have never sought to dehumanize people to promote our message. Our message is one of redemption through the power of Jesus Christ.”

Nice huh? Barber would never really say anything like that, would he? After all, that would be dehumanizing. LaBarbera defends himself in a comment on the Exodus blog:

Peter LaBarberaThe quotation in question by Matt Barber — a brutally honest and necessarily accurate description of homosexual sodomy — is printed verbatim and was made in conversation between the two of us years ago — long before he went to work for Liberty Counsel. I asked Matt at the time if I could quote him on it and he gave me permission to use it, and ultimately I did — in the context of showing how CPAC or any organization that defends sodomy (as GOProud and countless other GLBT organizations implicitly and explicitly do) cannot call itself “conservative.”

LaBarbera also denounced Exodus for being unbiblical. I guess Exodus is too “nice” for LaBarbera’s taste. LaBarbera has also followed up with this on his own web site, and he wants the world to  know that he quoted Barber correctly with this clarification from Barber himself:

“This is for clarification only. As affirmed in Liberty Counsel’s statement, neither I nor anyone with Liberty Counsel ever publicly ‘wrote or made’ the comment in question – an unapologetically direct and accurate depiction of the sin of sodomy (a sin that God directly and accurately calls both an ‘abomination’ and ‘detestable’). Some years before I began working with Liberty Counsel, I made the comment in private conversation with Peter LaBarbera. At the time, Peter asked if he could ‘quote me on it’ and I said yes.

Now that Barber is happy to claim ownership to the quote that his own employer characterized as dehumanizing, can we expect another “clarification” from the Liberty Counsel? It looks like the ball is back in their court now.

Exodus Sends Letter To Ugandan President

Jim Burroway

November 16th, 2009

Exodus has announced that they have sent a letter to Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni concerning the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Act that is now before Parliament. The letter, which is signed by Exodus President Alan Chambers, vice president Randy Thomas, “former homosexual” and AIDS survivor Christopher Yuan, and Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton, the letter begins by making a distinction between child sexual abuse and consensual relationships between consenting adults. It then continues:

While we do not believe that homosexual behavior is what God intended for individuals, we believe that deprivation of life and liberty is not an appropriate or helpful response to this issue. Furthermore, the Christian church must be a safe, compassionate place for gay-identified people as well as those who are confused about and conflicted by their sexuality. If homosexual behavior and knowledge of such behavior is criminalized and prosecuted, as proposed in this bill, church and ministry leaders will be unable to assist hurting men, women and youth who might otherwise seek help in addressing this personal issue. The Christian church cannot and should not condone homosexual living or gay-identified clergy within its leadership, but it must be permitted to extend the love and compassion of Christ to all. We believe that this legislation would make this mission a difficult if not impossible task to carry out.

Written as it is by an organization which is does not affirm the dignity and worth of LGBT people to live their lives responsibly in freedom and self-determination, there is certainly much in this letter that merits criticism. Furthermore, the letter makes no recommendations except to “consider the influence this law will have” on the work of those who believe that the only valid option for LGBT people is to self-deny their own existence. The “influence” this law will have on LGBT people themselves, well that’s apparently inconsequential and not worthy of discussion.

Content-wise, there is almost nothing I can agree with. But then, this letter wasn’t written by an LGBT advocacy group, nor was it written on behalf or in defense of LGBT people. It was written by an organization who wants to make gay people straight – an already improbable task from a practical standpoint, soon to be made impossible by the legal impediments this law would impose. From that viewpoint, this letter makes their case well.

Besides, the contents of this letter shouldn’t allow us to refrain from both acknowledging its importance and welcoming its tardy arrival. For more than eight months after Exodus board member Don Schmierer participated in a conference in Kampala which fanned the flames of hatred that brings us to where we are today, Exodus remained officially silent. This letter breaks that long and exasperating silence. The damage done by eight months of silence won’t be fixed by a single letter, but it’s a start in the right direction. And as first steps go, this is a very good first step.

But to really be meaningful, this letter needs to be followed up with more actions and statements. I have a suggestion: The Observer, The Independent and The Monitor, all independent Ugandan newspapers, have printed letters and op-ed columns criticizing the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Act. I’m sure they’d be interested in the opinions of an American evangelical leader who presents himself as an expert in homosexuality and wants to approach the subject “with grace and truth.”

Will Exodus follow up with more action? Given the stonewalling we’ve seen to date, I’m not willing to place any bets. It seems to me as though they are looking for ways to do as little as possible, but just enough to inoculate themselves from criticism. This letter, by itself, is not an inoculation. Many more boosters will be needed. Eight months of silence is too long a trend to reverse in one shot. Besides, it’s not about criticism from us and other LGBT advocates that should be the issue. It’s the lives at stake in Uganda, lives made much more precarious following a certain conference last March.

The complete letter is reproduced below.

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

Click here to read Exodus International’s letter to President Museveni.

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.

When Words Lose All Meaning

Jim Burroway

May 15th, 2009

It was just a month ago when Exodus Vice President Randy Thomas finally got around to commenting on Exodus board member Don Schmierer’s participation at an anti-gay conference in Uganda alongside Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively. While leaders of that conference endorsed a policy of forcing people into ex-gay therapy upon conviction under that country’s draconian anti-sodomy law, Don Schmierer — the supposed ex-gay “expert” at the conference — remained silent. While we feared that this would spark another round of anti-gay vigilantism, arrests and torture (and it has),  Thomas rushed to Schmierer’s defense. He also admonished us for demanding accountability on the part of Exodus:

It isn’t going to be a gay activist yelling at the Ugandan government that will actually get our ssa brothers and sisters out of jail. It will be people like me pleading with these leaders to recognize the Christ-likeness inherent in respecting self-determination and the dignity of every soul that draws breath. If I had the opportunity I would go directly to the jail and visit these people and plead for their freedom.

My gut response: “Book the damn flight already.”

Well, it’s been exactly one month later. Two gay men, at last report, have been jailed in Mbele, one more in Mukono and reportedly another in Entebbe. And more people, some of them not gay, are also getting caught up in accusations, kidnapping and torture.

And lo and behold, Randy Thomas has indeed booked a flight.

To London.

He had a fabulous time with fellow ex-gay leaders Christine Sneeringer and Sy Rogers. He had a nice dinner and took in a West End musical. So many things to see and places to go, and lots and lots of photos.

Meanwhile in Uganda, those guys are still in jail, waiting for him to plead for their freedom. Now that he’s got his passport and knows how to use it, I’m sure Thomas will be jetting off to Kampala any day now.

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

Sanctimony Alert

Jim Burroway

March 13th, 2009

Exodus International’s vice-president Randy Thomas has collected his thoughts on the Uganda anti-gay conference mess. How’s this for a jaw-dropper:

It isn’t going to be a gay activist yelling at the Ugandan government that will actually get our ssa brothers and sisters out of jail. It will be people like me pleading with these leaders to recognize the Christ-likeness inherent in respecting self-determination and the dignity of every soul that draws breath. If I had the opportunity I would go directly to the jail and visit these people and plead for their freedom.

Shoulda, coulda, woulda. Talk is cheap. Book the damn flight already.

I saw this earlier this afternoon and spent the rest of the day trying to figure out to respond. But at the end of the day I just had to give up. I’m speechless. I’ll be spending this weekend counting to 100,000.

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

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:

Older Posts