Stabile apologizes for lying, says he was ‘badly hurt’ by Pure Life Ministries
Representatives from Heartland World Ministries Church in Las Colinas had already uncovered James Stabile’s web of lies.
In fact, Stabile had decided to leave the congregation after being confronted by church leaders, and he’d been kicked out of the home where he’d been staying with other members.
But that didn’t stop Heartland from asking Stabile to do an interview for a segment on televangelist Pat Robertson’s “The 700 Club” about the so-called purity sieges organized by the church outside gay bars on the Cedar Springs strip.
In his interview for the segment, which aired on national TV and was circulated widely on the Internet, Stabile said he’d had a religious experience at one of the sieges that quelled his desire to be with other men.
“He had come clean, and he had said he wasn’t going to lie any more, and they ["'The 700 Club'] wanted him on there,” said Joe Oden, a Heartland evangelist who’s been helping to organize the sieges. “We just gave him the benefit of the doubt. Hindsight is 20/20. Maybe we would have done things differently.”
Oden denied the church exploited Stabile, a 19-year-old who is bipolar but was not taking his medication.
“There’s no way we took advantage of him,” Oden said, adding that Stabile stayed at the Heartland member’s home for several weeks before “The 700 Club” requested the interview.
“We had no idea we would get publicity on anything, period.”
Stabile, meanwhile, apologized to the LGBT community this week and said he hopes his story will discourage others from entertaining ideas that they can change their sexual orientations. Stabile also provided a glimpse inside the ex-gay treatment facility where he went before returning to his parents’ home in Richardson in early December.
“If I could, I would take back everything I’ve said,” Stabile told Dallas Voice. “I’ve hurt a lot of people in the gay community, and I am truly sorry from the bottom of my heart.
“I’m not here to get any attention,” he added. “I’m here to say to people that I want to help prevent other young gay guys from experiencing what I experienced, because I don’t want them to be hurt, and I was hurt really badly.”
Stabile, diagnosed with bipolar disorder about a year ago, said he hadn’t taken his medication in 2 and-a-half weeks and had been drinking when he encountered the group from Heartland on the strip Friday, Sept. 28.
Stabile said he told people from the church what he thought they wanted to hear because he’d decided he didn’t like being gay.
He said he lied about his family and his past. He even continued to go to gay bars after joining the church and moving in with the Heartland members.
Stabile said it was one of those members who advised him not to resume taking his medication, a claim which Oden denies.
In any case, Stabile said being off the medication caused him to act impulsively. He bought a new car that since has been repossessed and maxed out a $5,000 credit line.
After admitting his lies to church leaders, Stabile said he returned to his parents’ home in Richardson briefly before getting word that he’d been accepted into an ex-gay program.
Stabile said he went to stay with a family from another church while $2,100 was raised to send him to Pure Life Ministries, which operates a residential facility in Northern Kentucky for those struggling with “sexual sin.”
A representative from Pure Life did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.
At Pure Life, Stabile said he was given a bunk bed in a room with 15 other men at a ranch house. He was also given a minimum wage job hanging clothes at Ameripride Services Inc., a work apparel rental company.
“We called it Amerihumble because it would break any sense you had of worth,” Stabile said.
Stabile said his earnings were barely enough to pay his $150 weekly rent at Pure Life, plus laundry, food and transportation expenses. As a result, he lost three pant sizes in the time he was there.
When he wasn’t working, Stabile said there were counseling sessions, prayer meetings, Bible study, reading assignments and workbook exercises all geared toward making him believe that if he didn’t stop being gay, he was going to hell.
Any touching, including handshakes, was strictly prohibited, Stabile said. So, too, was communication with other men at Pure Life to cure their homosexuality.
Stabile said people in the program had to be fully clothed from the neck down at all times, including when they went to bed. There was no radio or television, he said, and only certain types of music were allowed.
It was a few weeks into the program when Stabile began to question whether he could change his sexual orientation. He said he decided to pray for the answer.
“I said, “‘God, am I going to be gay when I come out of here?’
And he said, “‘Yes,’” Stabile said. “I don’t want to be gay, but I am gay, and because I’m gay, I’m going to have to accept it.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 21, 2007.