Christian group calls to pray for George Michael’s death

I blogged Monday in Queer Music News that singer George Michael has been hospitalized in Austria due to pneumonia. In that post, I added that Fox News reported there is speculation that his illness is much more severe than being let on. This appears to have spawned the group Christians for a Moral America to action and have called for the singer’s demise.

Huffington Post’s Gay Voices posted tweets by Kyle (@GodsWordIsLaw) from Nov. 26 about their intentions. His profile cites @CFAMABlog as the group’s official feed. From HuffingtonPost.com:

After the Daily Mail reported that Michael’s family and long-time partner Fadi Fawaz had gathered at his bedside in Vienna, Christians For A Moral America took to Twitter, claiming the singer “has AIDS” and calling for followers to pray for the his demise in light of his “satanic lifestyle.”

Read their Twitter posts after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Megachurch wants choir to sign anti-gay covenant

Associated Press

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. — Several choir members at Orange County’s Crystal Cathedral say they’re upset over a document they’ve been asked to sign that takes a strong stand against homosexuality.

The “Crystal Cathedral Worship Choir and Worship Team Covenant” recently handed out to members states that they should commit to being Christians by following the Bible in every way, the Orange County Register reported Tuesday.

Former and current choir members say they are particularly offended by a statement in the document that refers to homosexuality. Longtime church members say this is the first time they have seen the cathedral take a firm stand against homosexuality and are disturbed by it.

“I understand that in an era where images of family relationship and personal sexuality are often confused, Crystal Cathedral Ministries believes that it is important to teach and model the biblical view,” the covenant reads. “I understand that Crystal Cathedral Ministries teaches that sexual intimacy is intended by God to only be within the bonds of marriage, between one man and one woman.”

Sheila Schuller Coleman, daughter of the founder and senior pastor of the megachurch, issued a statement saying the document is intended to “clarify expectations placed on them as ministry leaders.” Coleman also apologized for the pain the covenant has caused some choir members.

Ann Moore Waltz, a longtime church member and former choir member, said she does not agree with the statement in the covenant.

“If I were still in the choir and if that was presented to me, and if a gay person had walked out, I would have walked out with him or her,” she told the Register. “If you are a Christian group and people come to you, you should be a good servant, love them and shine the light of Jesus on them — regardless of who they are.”

Don Neuen, the cathedral’s longtime choir director, left the church last year because he disagreed with Gretchen Schuller Penner’s view that choir members should be “vetted” to make sure they are good Christians, the Register reported.

Penner is a producer for the cathedral’s Hour of Power program, broadcast to audiences worldwide.

Larry LaBonte, a church member for more than three decades, said he disagreed with the clause in the covenant with regard to homosexuality as well.

John Charles, a spokesman for the cathedral, said this does not mean gays are banned from the choir.

“This contract is to educate choir members about what our church believes in,” he said.

The megachurch has dealt with a series of controversial issues over the last several years, including a family rift that prompted the founder’s son, Robert A. Schuller, to split from the church and salaries and housing allowances for Schuller family members.

Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Oct. 18, citing debts of more than $43 million. The church has ordered major layoffs, sold property and canceled its annual “Glory of Easter” extravaganza.

—  John Wright

COVER STORY: Larry and KC Jansson found love in the midst of anti-gay ‘reparative’ therapy

How counseling by unqualified therapists and distorted use of a 12-step program brought a young gay couple together at an ‘ex-gay’ camp

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

KC Jansson came out to his parents in ninth grade. His parents sent him to counseling. Then he came out to them again as a high school senior.

“My dad’s a Southern Baptist pastor in Missouri, in a small southern town.” he said. “They said I was either going to be on the streets or do it their way. They were going to pay 10 grand for me to go to this camp.

“I didn’t have a choice but to go there,” he said.

Jansson described the camp as a sort of drug rehab center for being gay. He said he was raised to believe that if he was gay he was going to become an alcoholic and a drug addict and get AIDS and never go to college or love anyone.

INSEPARABLE | People who know the Janssons call them the most perfectly matched, in-love couple they know.

Larry Jansson, on the other hand, lived in Southern California and had very accepting parents.

“I never thought I’d marry a small-town guy,” he said. “There was no God in my family. No church.”

But when he was 18 and still struggling with his identity, Larry started doing theater with a Christian group.

“They started doing their work on me,” he said.

He “got saved,” he said, by a group called Harvest Crusade. But from then until he was 26, he lived a double life.

“I was either hanging out with these people who thought that I was a Christian or I was out totally doing the gay thing without them knowing,” Larry said.

Then he found out about Love in Action, a group in Memphis, Tenn., that does “reparative therapy.” He decided that he was going to figure things out and so spent his entire $10,000 savings to attend.

Larry said he convinced himself, “If somebody says that God is the answer and this can be changed, I want to know for myself.”

So Larry’s parents drove him to the program. But his mother kept telling him he didn’t have to go.

KC and Larry arrived at the facility at the same time. This was KC’s first time away from home and his first time to be around other gay people.

The camp

The two described the restrictions: No cologne. No clothing by Calvin Klein.

“I had a Nintendo Gameboy. I couldn’t keep that, because it would keep me from being focused on God,” Larry said.

“I played piano,” said KC. “I couldn’t play because they said it would distract me from my therapy.”

And although they described the therapy as based on recovery programs used for addictions, the 12 steps they followed were a very distorted version based on shame, the two men said.

For the first three days, they were not allowed to talk and always had to look at the ground. Each person was assigned a “house brother” who had gone through the program. That person, who was gay, had made it through the first three months to the next stage.

“My big brother was more flamboyant than anyone else in the house,” Larry said. “But he was so about Jesus and getting through this.”

The first night there was a meeting with the four new house members and their “big brothers.” Although they weren’t supposed to look at each other, Larry and KC kept making eye contact.

There were no doors on the rooms and each room had three beds. Larry and KC were assigned to share a room.

Bathroom time was limited to 15 minutes. They had to set a timer to make sure no one was spending too much time locked in there doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing.

The next day they went to church. Larry and KC described the church as Prestonwood Baptist-sized, and said all of the members knew who they were. They were escorted to the first row and felt the condemnation of the crowd as they took their seats.

Each morning they would drive down to the church. They would sit in a circle for “Courage, Honesty and Respect” group.

“You would call someone else out for something they did,” said Larry, and the person being accused couldn’t respond for 24 hours.

“I would say something like, ‘KC, you didn’t set your egg timer this morning and we have rules here and I want you to think about that,’” Larry said. “And KC would get fuming red — but he couldn’t say anything.”

KC regarded the rules as a joke. Larry took them very seriously. He wanted to know if these were the rules that were going to turn him straight.

They had group and individual counseling sessions. A woman in Larry’s group said that she was raped and that she didn’t feel comfortable sitting next to a man.

No one there could help her.

KC said his “counselor” was in college but worked at this house unsupervised. Two others were former drug addicts who had gone through 12-step programs themselves. None was a licensed therapist.

“In individual sessions, I was asked to open up about certain things that only a real counselor could deal with,” Larry said. “I now am seeing a true counselor because they opened up these wounds and never closed them.”

At night, the counselors would discuss the group. In the morning they would come to the meeting and tell each one what they could no longer do.

Larry was a dancer and today teaches two dance classes in Plano. He said when he was nervous he’d begin to tap. One morning he was told he could no longer dance.

“That was one of the most devastating things they could do to me,” he said. “It was like waking up one day and finding out I was paralyzed.”

In order to turn the group into “men,” at 6:30 each morning they had to go to the gym because gay people don’t go to a gym.

But they had Larry play basketball.

“We’re in a gym full of hot bodies and muscles,” said Larry. “One day, they had me play basketball. Just because I’m 6’-2” doesn’t mean I can dunk a damn ball.”

But he did it because he wanted the program to work.

LET THEM EAT CAKE | KC, left, and Larry became the Janssons when they married in Connecticut. They later held a ceremony at Cathedral of Hope, followed by a lavish party at the W hotel, complete with a 5-tiered wedding cake. (Photo courtesy Jessica Adkins/Aravaggio Photography)

Building a friendship

During the first three months of the program, KC and Larry developed what they both called a genuine friendship.

Whenever they went anywhere, they had to go in groups of three and always had to be within eye contact of each other. Larry said that if one person needed to go to the bathroom, they all had to go.

After three months, Larry and KC graduated to the second part of the program. Their parents attended an actual graduation ceremony, but they simply continued to the next phase of the program.

KC said he had no choice but to stay because his alternative was to return home to rural Missouri. Larry was still determined to see the program through.

During this period, they were allowed to get a job. Larry went to work for the church, and KC got a job at Radio Shack. But the program still tried to monitor every movement.

“But they’re constantly calling you, constantly e-mailing you,” KC said.

“You have to call your house manager when you leave work and they time you to make sure you get home at the right time,” Larry said.

In this part of the program, they had to work on “trigger trips.” They sent the group of four who had started together to places that might trigger sexual feelings.

Their first trip was to the mall — their first shopping trip in three months.

“I remember walking into that mall and hearing angels,” Larry said.

Larry was given a clipboard and had to write down what triggered them.

One member of the group wanted Godiva chocolate but the other three restrained him because apparently only gay people eat Godiva chocolate.

But the biggest test was when the four walked by Abercrombie & Fitch. Larry said that when the four saw the huge poster of the ripped model in the window, they stopped short and fell on top of one another.

Larry and KC had become best friends and once they graduated and were given more freedom, they began doing things together.

“Any time we were allowed to be alone together, we started doing crazy little date things,” Larry said.

They went to a drive-in movie; “We told them we were going to go to the batting cages,” KC said.

But still nothing happened between them. They were just enjoying each other’s company.

“I never even told KC that I thought he had the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen,” Larry said, “because I thought God wanted something else for me.”

Over the next five months their friendship developed, but without physical contact between them. “No kiss. No hug. No touch,” Larry said.

Then the church secretary was going out of town and asked Larry to walk her dogs and water her plants. KC began to tag along.

“All of a sudden we had this place to go that was a little more intimate,” Larry said.

Then on the way back one evening, they stopped at Sonic.

“I had my leg propped up where the gearshift was and he put his arm on me,” KC said. “And from that point forward, I knew I was in love with him.”

A few days later they were at the church secretary’s house. Larry could tell something was wrong with KC.

When Larry finally convinced him to talk, KC admitted he had feelings for Larry and both agreed that it was wrong.

KC turned his back to Larry, and Larry put his arms around him. And as they sat on the couch with their arms around each other, they told each other that it was wrong.

They drove back to the house where they were living, conflicted and in silence. But later that night, they had to let the dogs out again, so they went back. And that’s when they had sex for the first time.

Larry said KC told him he loved him before they had sex. KC thought it was after.

But KC said he told Larry, “I love you. I want to be with you. We’ll do whatever it takes.”

Leaving the program

They were in the last month of their program. Larry needed to decide what he was going to do. He thought he might return to California, but whatever he did, it would be whatever Jesus had planned for him.

He knew he loved KC also, but couldn’t say it.

“I was the brainwashed one trying to make this work,” Larry said. “I wouldn’t let myself say it.”

He wondered if he should tell someone what they had done.

On the third day after they had sex, they drove around Memphis looking at houses. Larry drove up to a mansion that he had seen and stopped.

“What are we doing here?” KC asked.

“I’m going to get you that one day,” Larry told him and KC started crying.

They said that was the point they knew they would build their lives together.

“We just needed to find a way to get out of there together,” Larry said.

KC had planned to move to Dallas, live with his brother and go to college. Larry signed up to go on a short missionary trip to Dubai.

At the end of the six months, KC left for Dallas and Larry left for Dubai. Larry had spent all of his savings on the program. KC had some money. He took enough to get to Dallas and left the rest in a drawer at the house for Larry to get when he got back from Dubai.

When Larry got back from the Middle East, he returned to Memphis, gathered up his belongings, collected the money KC had left for him, got in his car and headed to Dallas.

He packed and snuck out of the house at 3 a.m. No one from the program ever called him to find out where he was or what happened.

KC’s brother was married with three children and Larry was not welcome there. So KC rented him a room at a cheap extended-stay motel. KC told his brother that Larry was his accountability partner. Accountability partners are friends that help each other not be gay.

Larry drove into Dallas and met KC at a gas station at Frankford and the Tollway.

“We were excited about beginning our life together,” Larry said.

Larry had already gotten a job in Carrollton with Washington Mutual, the company he had left six months earlier in California to enroll in the program.

After three days, KC couldn’t stand being apart from Larry and he moved in with him. He told his brother, he said, who was more extremely religious than his parents.

“Thanks, con man,” his brother told him. “You better get out of my house before my wife gets home.”

Happily ever after

Larry and KC lived in the extended stay hotel, changing hotels several times until they could afford an apartment. Then three months after moving to Dallas, Larry proposed.

For KC’s birthday, the two drove to Galveston. After checking into their hotel, they went to the beach and walked out onto a rock pier.

Larry got down on one knee, took out a ring and said, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”

But before they were able to get married, Larry got a call in the middle of the night that his mother had been killed in car accident. A drunk driver hit his parents and his father was seriously injured as well.

KC recalled the last time he saw Larry’s mother.

“As we were leaving, she said to me, ‘Promise me you’ll take care of him for the rest of your life,’” she said to him.

They waited for the trial of the drunk driver to be finished before getting married. In September 2009 they legally married in Connecticut and then held a ceremony for friends and family at Cathedral of Hope in December. They had 14 attendants and a lavish reception at the W Hotel.

They invited everyone they knew, and a few they didn’t, including the Obamas and Larry’s favorite TV host, Tyra Banks. While the Obamas didn’t respond, Banks sent her regrets but invited them to participate in a show on same-sex marriage, which they did last June.

By the time the wedding in Dallas took place, KC’s brother had divorced his wife. The brothers had become closer and he served as KC’s best man.

The couple took a honeymoon cruise, and now own a house in Frisco and a little Maltese dog. They decided they wanted the same last name. Because they liked the way KC’s sounded better, with the help of attorney Lorie Burch, they legally became the Janssons.

KC is finishing his degree in accounting at UT Dallas and works full-time managing a salon. Larry is the director of marketing for Boys and Girls Clubs of Collin County.

Mention the Janssons to Dawson Taylor, the pastor who married them at Cathedral of Hope, and he just laughs.

He said he’s never met two people who are so perfect for each other and so in love.

And despite having gone through reparative therapy camp, Larry said, “I want everyone to know we’re good with God.”

Taylor agreed and said that their wedding was as much a worship service as a marriage ceremony.

After dealing with Larry’s mother’s death and the subsequent trial, Taylor said, Larry’s family needed a celebration. Family members came from all over the country and Larry and KC reveled in being the source of joy after so much sadness in the family.

Now, life for the Janssons has settled into a normal routine.

In addition to their jobs and school and a happy suburban life in Frisco, both have returned to activities taken away by Love In Action. Larry teaches dance classes. KC plays the piano.

And once KC finishes school, they’ll begin seriously looking into adoption.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.

—  John Wright

Focus on the Family says bullying issue being hijacked to bring homosexuality into schools

Associated Press

DENVER — The conservative Christian group Focus on the Family is accusing national gay advocacy groups of using bullying-prevention initiatives at public schools to introduce the viewpoint that homosexuality is normal.

Focus on the Family education expert Candi Cushman told The Denver Post for its Saturday, Aug. 28 editions that the Christian group supports bullying prevention but that the issue “is being hijacked by activists.”

“We feel more and more that activists are being deceptive in using anti-bullying rhetoric to introduce their viewpoints, while the viewpoint of Christian students and parents are increasingly belittled,” Cushman said. The Colorado Springs-based group said conservative Christians are portrayed as bigots for their opposing viewpoints, while public schools increasingly teach students that homosexuality should be accepted.

The national Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network says it wants all students to be treated with respect regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or race, ability or national origin.

“Bullying is a serious public health crisis in this country, according to no less an authority than the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” Eliza Byard, the executive director of GLSEN, told The Denver Post.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a 2008 report that about 30 percent of sixth-to- 10th-grade students in the U.S. report being bullied, and Byard said the problem is more common with gay students.

Focus on the Family took aim at a 24-page GLSEN booklet titled, “Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation and Youth.” It will be delivered to public school superintendents around the country, Focus on the Family said.

“The theme: Schools are only allowed to provide one message about homosexuality — that it’s normal and should be embraced,” Focus on the Family said.

Byard said the idea for the booklet came from GLSEN but that it was authored by a coalition of medical, mental-health and education organizations.

—  John Wright