Record low turnout for ‘ex-gays’ in Sugarland?

The “ex-gay” group Exodus International held its quarterly Love Won Out convention near Houston this weekend. The Houston Chronicle reports that about 450 people attended the conference at Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Sugarland:

Outside the church, dozens of protesters lined up near the Southwest Freeway to complain about the group’s message. Exodus president Alan Chambers argued the group is anything but anti-gay.

“The fact of the matter, I was gay, the people who are leading these ministries were gay,” Chambers said. “We know what anti-gay felt like. That is something we could never be. And so for us, because of our faith and because of our beliefs and because of our experience, decided we wanted something different.”

The group holds the Love Won Out conferences four times a year throughout the country. And wherever Exodus International heads, critic Wayne Besen follows, gathering locals to protest the group.

Besen, the founder of Truth Wins Out and author of Anything but Straight, has been countering Exodus International’s image of homosexuality for several years. “They present it to be a miserable life that is either going to end in death or loneliness or unhappiness and that’s not true,” he said. “You are entitled to your own opinion, you are not entitled to your own facts.”

Besen reports on TWO’s blog that it may have been a record low turnout for Love Won Out.

The event included an officer from the Sugar Land police force that deliberately harassed and ticketed me for allegedly jaywalking. It was clear that this was rogue cop with an attitude problem. The other officers on the scene had been easy to get along with. There were also a few fundamentalists who came into the protest to argue scripture, showing that they were both ignorant of the Bible and homosexuality.

While our protest was a success, Love Won Out continues its decline, with perhaps a record low attendance of 450 people in the nation’s fourth largest city. The failure of Exodus at home is one reason the hate group is increasingly pushing its destructive message overseas in nations where LGBT people are unable to defend themselves for fear of persecution and even violence.

Watch video from TWO’s protest below.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: LGBT leaders meet with SBC president; Weiner tells friends he’ll resign

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. All eyes remain on the New York State Senate, which is still one vote short of the majority needed to legalize same-sex marriage in the nation’s third-largest state. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s marriage equality bill cleared the Assembly on Wednesday night but must pass the Senate before the session ends next week. The Williams Institute reports that the bill would affect more than 42,000 same-sex couples.

2. After hand-delivering  a petition calling on the Southern Baptist Convention to apologize for its anti-gay positions, LGBT leaders met for more than 30 minutes Wednesday with SBC President Bryant Wright. From the Baptist Press: The remarkable meeting — cordial the entire time — took place between the morning and afternoon sessions of the SBC in Wright’s annual meeting office at the Phoenix Convention Center. The nine-person coalition included representatives of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, Faith in America and Truth Wins Out. They protested outside the convention hall and requested to deliver petitions to Wright, who decided to turn the event into a dialogue. Several members of the media also attended.

3. Congressman Anthony Weiner has told friends he plans to resign. From the New York Times: The news comes as Democratic leaders prepared to hold a meeting on Thursday to discuss whether to strip the 46-year-old Congressman of his committee assignments, a blow which would severely damage his effectiveness. Mr. Weiner, a Democrat, came to the conclusion that he could no longer serve after having long discussions with his wife,  Huma Abedin, when she returned home on Tuesday after traveling abroad with her boss, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

—  John Wright

Truth Wins Out, GetEQUAL Texas join list of LGBT groups condemning Perry’s Day of Prayer

Wayne Besen

Truth Wins Out, which fights anti-gay religious extremism, has joined the list of LGBT groups — which already includes the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Texas, the Houston GLBT Poltiical Caucus and National Stonewall Democrats  — that have issued statements condemning Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s Day of Prayer funded by the American Family Association.

“This opportunistic and divisive publicity stunt unwisely marries politics and fundamentalism at the expense of our nation’s unity,”  Truth Wins Out’s Executive Director Wayne Besen said in a press release today. “This offensive event should be immediately canceled. If not, we will consider organizing a counter action to mobilize the masses who believe in a free and diverse nation that celebrates pluralism.

“It is time the Republican Party is held accountable for its partnership with one of the most insidious groups in America,” Besen added. “The American Family Association’s inflammatory rhetoric is dangerous, and it is unconscionable that Perry and the GOP are embracing such a fringe organization. Is this what the modern GOP stands for?”

GetEQUAL Texas has launched a petition calling on Perry to exclude the AFA and other anti-gay hate groups from the Day of Prayer. Sign the petition by going here.

“Having the AFA host this event only tells LGBT persons of faith that they are not welcome at this event which is in direct conflict of our Governor’s duty to represent all Texans,” GetEQUAL Texas states. “By signing this petition, we are demanding that Governor Rick Perry do his duty by excluding the AFA and any other hate group from this event as these groups go against the very fiber of the American spirit and Texas values.”

TWO’s full press release is after the jump.

—  John Wright

WHAT’S BREWING: Elizabeth Taylor dies, Apple pulls ‘ex-gay’ app, Chick-fil-A exposed

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Actress Elizabeth Taylor, a longtime celebrity advocate in the fight against HIV/AIDS, has died at 79 from congestive heart failure. From Wikipedia: Taylor devoted much time and energy to AIDS-related charities and fundraising. She helped start the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) after the death of her former costar and friend, Rock Hudson. She also created her own AIDS foundation, the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation (ETAF). By 1999, she had helped to raise an estimated US$50 million to fight the disease. In 2006, Taylor commissioned a 37-foot (11 m) “Care Van” equipped with examination tables and X Ray equipment and also donated US$40,000 to the New Orleans Aids task force, a charity designed for the New Orleans population with AIDS and HIV. The donation of the van was made by the Elizabeth Taylor HIV/AIDS Foundation and Macy’s.

2. In response to an outcry from the LGBT community, Apple has removed Exodus International’s “gay cure” app from the iTunes store. “We removed the Exodus International app from the App Store because it violates the developer guidelines by being offensive to large groups of people,” an Apple spokesman told FoxNews.com. More than 146,000 people had signed an online petition launched by Truth Wins Out calling for the app to be removed.

“This is not a question of free speech, but of stopping a virulently anti-gay organization from peddling false speech at the expense of vulnerable LGBT youth,” said John Becker, director of ommunications and development for Truth Wins Out. “Exodus may pose as the victim, but they are a victimizer that has left a trail of shattered lives and broken families. We are grateful that Exodus has lost at least one platform with which to disperse its dangerous message.”

3. An investigative report published Tuesday by Equality Matters shows that from 2003-08, Chick-fil-A’s charitable arm gave more than $1 million to anti-gay groups: When two Missouri organizations, the Clayton Chamber of Commerce and FOCUS St. Louis, decided earlier this month to cancel a presentation by Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy over his company’s controversial affiliations, they made the right decision. Although Cathy has unequivocally denied being anti-LGBT and claimed that he and the company have “no agenda against anyone” and “will not champion any political agendas on marriage and family,” Equality Matters research proves just the opposite. In fact, the company has strong, deep ties to anti-gay organizations like Focus on the Family and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and its charitable division has provided more than $1.1 million to organizations that deliver anti-LGBT messages and promote egregious practices like reparative therapy that seek to “free” people of being gay.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Youth pastor at anti-gay church says he had sex with boys to purify them

 

Brent Girouex

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A former youth pastor at an anti-gay church in Iowa is charged with 60 counts of sexual exploitation after he told police he molested young males to purify them in the eyes of God. Brent Girouex, 31, of Victory Fellowship Church in Council Bluffs, said he wanted to help the victims with homosexual urges by praying while they had sexual contact with him, according to police. “When they would ejaculate, they would be getting rid of the evil thoughts in their mind,” Girouex allegedly told authorities. In 2010, Victory Fellowship Church used its website to call on people to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices who voted to legalize same-sex marriage. Read more on Girouex’s church from Truth Wins Out.

2. Speaking of “ex-gay” therapy, Exodus International now claims its iPhone app isn’t designed to cure people of homosexuality. The group’s statement comes in response to a petition by Truth Wins Out — which now has more than 127,000 signatures — calling on Apple to remove the ex-gay app from the iTunes store.

3. A homophobic new ad (screen grab above) for the Brazilian liquor Cachaça Magnifica suggests that parents might need a strong drink after discovering their son is gay. Who the hell comes up with this shit? Answer: Agência 3, Rio.

—  John Wright

Janssons to speak at Truth Wins Out event

KC, left, and Larry Jansson

KC and Larry Jansson, the subject of last week’s Valentine’s article, will speak in Memphis on Feb. 21. That stop is the end of a 12-city tour for Truth Wins Out founder Wayne Besen.

The event will highlight the harm caused by programs that claim to turn gay people straight through prayer and therapy, according to a Truth Wins of press release. Besen said he chose Memphis as his final stop because Exodus International’s flagship ministry, Love In Action, is based here. The Janssons met while participating in the six-month program at Love In Action.

They will share how they tried to “pray away the gay,” according to the press release. Well, maybe Larry did. He called himself the more brainwashed of the two. But KC thought the rules were a joke. He attended because his parents sent him and his choice was to be homeless.

Truth Wins Out wrote this:

Besen’s multi-media presentation offers a unique, innovative and entertaining look behind the mask of so-called “ex-gay” programs. Besen is the author of two books including the critically acclaimed, “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth”. He is also noted for photographing “ex-gay” poster boy John Paulk in a gay bar in Washington, DC and helping expose the late Rev. Jerry Falwell’s personal “ex-gay” activist Michael Johnston as a fraud.

The couple appeared on the Michelangelo Signorelli’s show on OutQ on Sirius radio today. Then on March 6, they will appear locally on Lambda Weekly on 89.3 KNON-FM at noon.

Larry called the attention they’ve gotten from the article overwhelming.

“It’s important to continue to speak out so that others don’t have to live through the pain we did,” said Larry. “It’s possible to live a happy and healthy life as gay.”

Sound like an “It Gets Better” video? They’re planning one soon.

—  David Taffet

This JONAH has one whale of a story to tell

Jewish ‘ex-gay’ group is just another attempt to get money from conflicted gay men for ‘therapies’ that do nothing but let closeted gays get their jollies through others’ fears

Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

JonahWith all the hubbub of the Fred Phelps Cult making a visit here and the oil spill continuing in the Gulf, one story seems to have dropped through the cracks. Luckily, Wayne Besen at the blog Truth Wins Out (TruthWinsOut.org)  has been on it like a dog on a bone. It involves a group called JONAH.

Aside from the biblical acronym, the group’s full name is Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality, and it is part of the ex-gay industry.

Now before anyone corrects me and notes that it should be called the “ex-gay movement,” let me explain.

Not only has the whole “ex-gay” or “reparative therapy” thing been debunked by the scientific community, no major scientific group actually approves “treatment” to change sexual orientation. No one, from the American Psychiatric Association to the American Psychological Association, even considers homosexuality something to be cured.

So what you have with the ex-gay industry is a bogus cure in search of a disease, and more to the point, several organizations who have found that the whole useless endeavor can generate a lot of cash.

So, far from being a grassroots movement, the ex-gay scam is a business, albeit “non-profit.”

Meanwhile, back to JONAH.

The group was co-founded by a fellow named Arthur Abba Goldberg. Seems he was known 20 years ago in the financial community as “Abba Cadabra” for his apparent wizardry with money. That wizardry turned out to be a scam, and Goldberg was convicted of federal mail and wire fraud as well as a conspiracy to sell worthless bonds.

The guy is a real peach, and now he has reinvented himself as the leader of an “ex-gay” therapy group.

One of his “life coaches,” Alan Downing, recently has been implicated in something a bit more touchy-feely than you would expect from an ex-gay. According to men who went to Downing, part of his treatment involves having clients strip naked in front of a mirror while touching parts of their bodies, including their genitals.

The activity is observed by the “therapist” while he encourages the subject to “internalize his masculinity.” If this sounds like a voyeurs’ delight, you haven’t heard anything yet.

Downing and Goldberg are part of another bunch called “People Can Change.” A big part of their “therapy” is participating in a retreat near Phoenix, called “Journey into Manhood.” According to a writer, Ted Cox, who secretly attended one of the sessions, for $650 a pop you get to participate in a group grope for the weekend.

Now if this sounds homoerotic, what goes on there seems even less like therapy and more like just plain sex. Participants make the journey to manhood by hugging, touching and lying on each other in a “cuddle room.” Manly stuff!

If this were a Body Electric retreat I could understand it, but for something that is supposed to “cure” homosexuality, it seems to be far off the mark.

My whole point is that the “ex-gay” industry is rife with scandal. From George Rekers, the anti- gay activist who hired a “rent boy” for a European vacation, to John Paulk, former chairman of Exodus International who was photographed coming out of a gay bar in Washington D.C., the ex-gays just can’t seem to keep their gay from coming out.

I fully expect to hear about even more surprises from the reparative therapy scam in the future. But I shouldn’t be surprised.

It all stems from the greed of folks who see in gay men a vulnerability, especially if those gay men have not fully accepted their own sexuality. It is the worst kind of deceit, to prey on the psychologically vulnerable and manipulate them for cash.

It is unfortunate that they hide behind pseudo-religious organizations that protect their questionable programs as “free speech.” Maybe as more and more of these groups are exposed and debunked, their victims will see the futility of trying to change and embrace their sexuality.

That will also take society to change as well, but luckily it is already happening. Public opinion surveys show more and more Americans affirm the idea of equal rights including marriage for LGBT people.

It is my hope that some day those unhappy people who turned to groups like JONAH will emerge like the biblical Jonah from the whale into the sunlight. Then they can work on frying the bigger fish, accepting their sexuality and enjoying their lives.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 23, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Anti-gay activist George Rekers outed after hiring male escort from RentBoy.com

George Reker
George Rekers

George Alan Rekers, who co-founded the Family Research Council with James Dobson and is one of the nation’s leading anti-gay activists, has been outed by the alternative weekly newspaper Miami NewTimes.

Rekers, a Baptist minister who’s considered a top scholar for the Christian right, hired a gay escort from RentBoy.com to accompany him on a recent trip to Europe, NewTimes has confirmed. Rekers is currently a board member for the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), a prominent “ex-gay” organization.

—  John Wright