Wayne Besen is a passionate gay activist and non-religious, liberal Jew who has dedicated himself to opposing the idea that homosexuals can become heterosexual. To that end, he founded the Truth Wins Out organization, and he writes extensively on the subject of “ex-gays,” with a monograph, hundreds of posts, and articles for the Huffington Post to his credit. (As to the question of “ex-gays,” see Chapter Twelve of my book A Queer Thing Happened to America.) Wayne has also appeared on O’Reilly and other TV shows, and he is never at a loss for words, especially when it comes to the “religious right.” In that spirit, he has graced me with several articles, including the not so subtly-titled, “Michael Brown Is an Anti-Gay Monster” (August 31, 2011).
In that article, Wayne claims that my “game is to try inciting followers to possible violence against LGBT people, while innocently maintaining that he loves homosexuals and simply wants them to meet his militant and perverted version of God.” He calls me “a slick dude,” a “sick and cynical” person, someone with “a messiah complex [who] is a diabolical individual who aims to manipulate impressionable followers to launch some sort of holy war,” noting however, that, I’m “too much of a coward to start the war” myself.
He even confesses, “I do strongly believe to my core that Brown’s ultimate goal is to create the conditions for a nasty physical clash.” Indeed, “The madman fully understands that he only has to create a hostile climate to inflame the most unstable of his thugs and they will eventually provoke the type of confrontation that this pathological monster deeply desires.”
God bless dear Wayne! He certainly has a way with words. After all, it’s not every day that you get called a pathological monster, a slick, sick, cynical, diabolical madman with a messiah complex, as well as get accused of trying to incite a bunch of unstable thugs “to engage in a violent physical clash with LGBT people.” (For what I actually advocate, namely, a totally non-violent, moral, cultural, and spiritual revolution, click here.)
Wayne even weighs in again in his own comments section, calling me an “ego-maniac,” while other commenters follow in his footsteps with sophisticated posts like these: “I would not be surprised if ‘Mein Kampf’ were to be found on his nightstand.” (This was followed by other comments too vulgar to print.) What a delightful, thoughtful bunch!
But I am only one of Wayne’s targets. In his most recent attack, “Mainstream Christians Must Stand Up to the Religious Right” (September 19, 2011), he reviles the hundreds of Christians with whom I attended the recent gay pride event in Charlotte, claiming that we “confronted and harassed festival attendees with [our] arrogant slogan ‘God Has A Better Way.’” He refers to us as “despicable bullies” and speaks of our “fanatical behavior,” although, for the record, our group of roughly 400 consisted of grandparents, moms, dads, kids, and college-age singles who handed out about 2,500 free bottles of water (labeled “Jesus Loves You”) and engaged in civil and respectful conversation with any who cared to talk with us. Oh, the horror!
All this, however, is the backdrop for Wayne’s heartfelt appeal. He is desperately concerned that religious “extremists” like me, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Bachman will “defile America – and permanently define Christianity.” Instead, Wayne wants the “Religious Left” to rise up and show America what Christianity really is. He writes, “It is time to stand up, speak out, and give voice to our values. If not now, when? Are we going to wait until it is too late and we have lost our country?”
The problem, of course, is that the “Religious Left” has rejected most of the fundamental tenets of the historic Christian faith, denying the authority of Scripture, espousing religious pluralism, defending abortion, and championing homosexuality. Could this be why these so-called “mainstream” churches are in such numerical decline while conservative churches are growing exponentially in many parts of the world? And could it be that the conspicuous lack of moral and spiritual absolutes in many of these “mainstream” churches is part of what fails to inspire their constituents?
Wayne himself is not optimistic about the prospects, writing, “This reluctance to stand up and speak out has created a hazardous vacuum where only the shrill and unreasonable voices of fundamentalism are heard. Instead of the dialogue that many progressives of faith claim to desire, this perceived weakness creates a lopsided right wing monologue, which is having a deleterious effect on our nation and the world.”
The reality, of course, is that the “Christianity” Wayne calls for bears little resemblance to the faith of the Scriptures or the faith of history, but that should not surprise us. After all, what else should we expect when a non-religious, gay Jewish liberal tries to redefine Christianity?
Your new book, ‘A Queer Thing Happened to America,’ has now been out for three weeks, and has garnered praise from the likes of Christian television host Sid Roth, and hate from gay activists such as Wayne Besen (something reflected in the Amazon book page in the form of 1 and 5 star reviews and a ‘tag war’ between supporters and haters), has this polarized opinion regarding the book been surprising?
Brown: This polarized opinion is exactly what I expected, and it’s also playing out in expected ways. Those who have taken the time to read the book have written positive reviews. Those who have scorned and mocked the book in the strongest terms are those who haven’t read it. Very interesting! I also find it revealing that the reviewers who agree with the book are, generally speaking, writing in gracious terms, recognizing the serious scholarly research that went into the book and very much aware of my compassionate tone towards the GLBT community (with which I often differ in my book) — yet they (and I) are allegedly part of the intolerant, bigoted camp. On the other hand, the reviewers bashing the book and even describing it with in some cases vulgar terms, are supposed to be the voices of tolerance and inclusion. Again, this is very revealing and fully confirms what I wrote in the book about the intolerance and hatred coming from those whose agenda we reject. Read the reviews and ask yourself: Who are the haters?
You appeared on the Sid Roth “It’s Supernatural!” program a few weeks ago discussing the book and the impact of gay activism on society. While many have said they were impacted by the program in a positive way, gay activist blogger Joe.My.God called the skit at the beginning of the program showing an Elementary teacher reading Two Daddies or Two Mommies to her class “repulsive.” What involvement did you have in developing the skit, or other portions of the program that aired?
Brown: I didn’t see the skit until the show was posted online, and my only involvement was to lend Sid’s staff some of the children’s books so they could photograph them. Those who liked or disliked the skit can commend or criticize Sid and his staff; those who like or dislike the book can commend or criticize me. As for the program itself, as normally happens with TV interviews, you record segments with the host. Everything else is done subsequently — graphics, adding of music, ads, etc. — and that was the case with this show.
The gay activist organization ‘Truth Wins Out’ recently attacked the book, stating that you’re “starved for attention,” a “pompous ego maniac and a long winded stage horse,” and “a self-righteous bore,” also claiming that the only reason the book made it to the top of the Amazon Gay & Lesbian Nonfiction chart was that your publishing firm, EqualTime Books, bought out the books on Amazon in order to “make it look like they have a popular book – when they don’t.” How would you respond to these accusations?
Brown: The folks at Truth Wins Out certainly have a way with words, don’t they? Actually, when I see attacks like this, I can only smile and pray for God’s grace and love to flood their hearts. I really don’t take it personally, and because I’m not particularly impressed with myself (in fact, I think I’m far more aware of my weaknesses than my strengths), all the egomaniac accusations actually amuse me. As for my ministry buying from Amazon the books that we sold them (since we self-published the book) — meaning, that we would be buying them from Amazon at more than twice the price they got them from us), are you kidding? Who in the world has money to throw away like that? Anyway, Amazon has records of all the orders, and they can readily attest to the fact that lots of individuals are buying them.
In chapter 12 of the book, you critique ‘Truth Wins Out,’ and the organization’s founder, Wayne Besen. What conclusions have you drawn regarding Mr. Besen and his organization?
Brown: I have concluded that Mr. Besen is very committed to his cause and that he really believes in what he’s doing, and that, despite the bombastic words, he is very serious about his work. He appears to genuinely believe that gays can’t change and that religious leaders like me are either hateful, mercenary, or both. And, of course, I have concluded that he is wrong.
Some of the articles attacking you did so based on a Christian Post article that claimed that you were “struggling to draw public attention” to your book but that the “gay rights agenda [was] shutting down debate on homosexuality,” and thus the “book tour failed to garner any members of the mainstream press.” Do you think this “shutting down [of] debate” is why there was very little mainstream news coverage of your news conference in Washington DC?
Brown: Actually, I had no idea if any media would come to the National Press Club event but I felt it would be a good way to officially announce the book release regardless of who showed up. In fact, when I was asked by the reporter from the Christian Post if I felt that the lack of turnout was part of the media’s tendency to ignore our side of the argument, I stated that this was not necessarily the case, that a lot was happening in the world (Japan; Libya) and that the media might not have had a reason to be at this press conference. I did state that it was possible some were choosing to ignore the book, but I had no way of knowing that and certainly wasn’t disappointed with the very small turnout. Thankfully, I have a national radio show that serves as a great platform to talk about the relevant issues, and the press club event was more of an official statement than anything else.
What can people do to support the book and its message in the midst of these attacks?
Brown: First, they can pray that truth and light will triumph (2 Cor 13:8; John 1:5) and that the Lord would bless those who are attacking the book. Second, they can pray that the attacks will draw more people to read the book and that it will have a national impact. Third, they can tell their friends about the book and help get the word out. Posting on Facebook and Twitter and the like is very helpful. Fourth, if they have read the book they can post reviews and even without reading the book, they can weigh in on Amazon as to which reviews they find helpful or unhelpful. Fifth, they can go to their local bookstore or library and ask them to carry the book. We have a specific strategy to that effect on the book’s website, AQueerThing.com.
The bottom line is this: I believe that God called me to write this book, I worked hard on it during a period of six years, and many people are praying with me that the book would be used to bring about positive change in our nation. And so the bottom line is that I’m trusting God to have His way.
In writing the book, he … chides the church for demonizing homosexuality and calls on it to repent of its sins against the gay community.
At the same time, he believes the LGBT issue is the greatest challenge to religious freedoms and family foundations in this generation, and Christians must not ignore it.
From gay activist newspaper Q-Notes (written of course prior to the author reading the book):
I expect Brown’s book … to paint a wholly inaccurate and woefully biased and prejudiced picture of LGBT people in this country.
From Washington DC’s TBDTV (note the strange sarcasm):
Brown is hawking the book as “so controversial that no major publisher was willing to touch it”—for Brown’s take-down of “pro-gay” forces is so well-researched and mild-mannered that it threatens to dismantle the gay lobby once and for all!
And finally, from the vitriolic gay activist team of Hurst and Besen at Truth Wins Out, who seem to delight in judging the intentions of men they don’t know.
From Evan Hurst:
Goodness, SEVEN HUNDRED pages on God Hates Fags? Wow.
Anyway, let me tell y’all a little something about Michael Brown, because he will very likely show up in the comments section to this piece, so starved for attention is he. He is absolutely, bizarrely obsessed with “dialoguing” with gay people, but he is not a good egg. He loves to pull people into long, drawn-out debates wherein he clings to the idea that he is exhibiting the “love of Christ,” when it is obviously anything but, and really just wastes people’s time. He does not actually care about gay people, at least not in a human way. He cares in that sick, fundamentalist way that says “I care enough about you to try to convince you to deny your true self and your humanity for the sake of my worn-out, disproven, harmful ideology.”
From Wayne Besen, TWO’s founder:
Michael Brown is a pompous ego maniac and a long winded stage horse. I’ve met him. What a self-righteous bore.
The fundie publishing houses usually buy their own books or some version of this deceptive practice to make it look like they have a popular book – when they don’t.
Did the last three articles mentioned, from mainstream gay activist voices, cause you to stop and wonder how such words of accusation, mockery, and libel could be written publicly without any of the authors even making an attempt to read the book, or (seemingly) really hear the heart and intentions of the man behind it? Did it cause you to question how we got here in the first place, where these are the voices of ‘tolerance,’ while we are labeled voices of ‘hate?’ Then get a copy of A Queer Thing Happened to America, and find out for yourself (and for the record, Brown’s publishing company did not, of course, buy its own books from Amazon as was alleged by Besen, for more on that, listen to today’s Line of Fire show where this was mentioned).
We pray for Evan Hurst, Wayne Besen, and Matt Comer, that they may experience the true blessings of God in their lives!
The Sixth annual Day of Truth, a day countering the Day of Silence, will be happening on April 15th. Focus on the Family had this to say:
The sixth annual Day of Truth is an initiative, sponsored by Exodus International, which takes place one day before the Day of Silence – sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).
Candi Cushman, education analyst with Focus on the Family, said the Day of Silence “turns participants into political lobbyists for GLSEN’s adult-driven agenda.”
“Evidence of a political agenda is clear when you look at the Day of Silence materials,” Cushman said. “The group encourages students to use the Day of Silence as a ‘tool’ to get things like a ‘queer-friendly prom’, homosexual-themed library books and teacher training. They also encourage teachers to feature lesbian, gay and bisexual materials in the classroom.”
This year’s theme for the Day of Truth is “Get the Conservation Started.” Students can wear T-shirts and pass out cards with the message: “People with differing, even opposing, viewpoints can freely exchange ideas and respectfully listen to each other. It’s time for an honest conversation about the biblical truth for sexuality. Let’s get the conversation started!”
Gay activist organization Truth Wins Outcommented:
The DOT mobilizes antigay churches and students to harass LGBT students and their friends, and — under the guise of so-called “conversation” — to lobby schools to exclude LGBT students from schools’ antibullying policies.
So when organizers talk about getting “the conversation started” and “respectfully listen[ing] to each other,” gay activists hear a desire to mobilize students to “harass LGBT students and their friends”? Are gay activists afraid of having students hear both sides of a story from their peers? Do they only want to have their viewpoints to be heard in schools across the country? This is precisely why this day is needed.
To participate in the Day of Truth, click here. Let’s open up dialogue on these key issues in our generation!
Controversial filmmaker Molotov Mitchell (often featured on WorldNetDaily) recently released a video entitled “Uganda is right, Rick Warren is Wrong” concerning Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill which would criminalize homosexuality, allowing for the death penalty in certain situations.
The video certainly contains some food for thought and some important American and Ugandan historical information, but one section gave me particular pause. At the 35 second mark, Mitchell states:
According to the Bible, God created the death penalty, not man. And it was God who determined what crimes deserved it.
So unless there’s some passage in scripture that I have missed where Jesus said “I have come to abolish the law,” then Ugandans are right, and Rick Warren is wrong.
During this segment, he displays a reference to Leviticus 20:13 which states:
If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
Mitchell, then, is claiming that since Jesus did not come to “abolish the law,” then the Old Testament law that requires the death penalty for those caught engaging in homosexual acts should be enforced in obedience to God. Thus, “Uganda is right, and Rick Warren is wrong.”
It is true that Jesus did not come to abolish the Old Testament law, as Michael Brown has stated in response to the Anti-Missionary claim that “Jesus abolished the Law”:
“As Messiah, Yeshua was the ultimate Torah teacher, showing us how the entire Hebrew Bible reached fulfillment in him and also giving us deep spiritual insights into how the Torah could remain relevant for the Jewish people in generations to come, even when we would be scattered throughout the world, without a Temple, a sacrificial system, or a functioning (earthly) priesthood…”
– Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Volume 4
Does this mean, however, that all nations are bound to issue the laws of capital punishment given to Israel through Moses? If so, when governments refuse to carry out the judgments required in the Old Testament, are Christians required to perform them in their stead? (Gay activist sites have been concerned about this very thing, stating “This is what incitement to violence looks like” and “It’s this nation’s conservative movement, who must condemn this kind of behavior wholly and loudly before someone’s literal blood permanently stains their movement!”)
In the video, Mitchell seems to be quite at ease with this conclusion. But if we are required to put homosexuals to death for the OT laws they have broken, then are we not also required to put adulterers, Sabbath breakers, and rebellious teenagers to death? All of these are capital offenses according to the Old Testament. Does Mitchell really want to go in this direction? (Would Mitchell himself be alive under such a regime?)
As Frank Turek has pointed out, governments have three choices when it comes to legislating a behavior. They can prohibit it, permit it or promote it. Serving as salt and light in the places in which we reside as believers in Jesus, we stand firmly against governmental promotion of homosexuality, adultery, and other behaviors that are detrimental to society. Reasonable minds can disagree as to whether detrimental behaviors should be permitted or prohibited (take the use of alcohol and drugs for instance), and reasonable minds can also disagree with regard to which (if any) behaviors should require the death penalty (for example, first degree murder). The idea however that governments (and perhaps even individual Christians) are required to put homosexuals to death because God required it of ancient Israel, and, after all, Jesus did not come to “abolish the law,” is one that, if it is followed through consistently, would result in either a theocratic state consisting of very few people (imagine loading everyone that has worked on a Saturday into trucks and hauling them off to the electric chair) or a chaotic Christian killing spree (is this at all consistent with the model put forth in the New Testament of Jesus and the early Church?)
Such scenarios are, of course, completely ludicrous, and that is the point. It is true that Colonial America criminalized homosexuality, but they also criminalized adultery and sex outside of wedlock. How many conservatives would hold up to such requirements today? (Need I mention the number of conservative politicians that have failed in this area? Should they be put to death?) Gay activists often unfairly accuse believers in Jesus of “cherry-picking” Bible verses to suit their needs, using scripture as a “prop behind which to hide their bigotry.” I’m afraid statements like the ones made in this video regarding the application of Old Testament law must come from either a place of ignorance (perhaps he had not fully thought through his argument before making it) or as a direct fulfillment of these very accusations. One thing is clear, the scriptures are not to be used in some cavalier fashion, as if we were free to use these precious divine words to attack others and justify ourselves as we please. In the end, “in the same way [we] judge others, [we ourselves] will be judged, and with the measure [we] use, it will be measured to [us].” Let us therefore judge rightly… resisting the homosexual agenda with courage, and reaching out to the homosexual community with compassion.
On February 19, 2009, CRANE hosted Wayne Besen, author of Anything But Straight and leader of Truth Wins Out, for a presentation entitled “Pray Away the Gay.” Besen’s lecture attempted to expose what they call the “Ex-Gay Myth,” in response to Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out conference in Charlotte which occurred two days later. About fifty people gathered to hear Besen’s presentation, which was laden with humor at the expense of the Ex-Gay Ministries (including Focus on the Family, Exodus International, NARTH, and PFOX), which he attempted to expose as hypocritical, backward, political, and unloving.
The presentation opened with a newspaper editorial by Focus on the Family leader Melissa Fryrear regarding the Love Won Out conference. In the article, she made clear that they are bringing a message of “hope, not hatred” to those who are seeking help to address their unwanted same sex attractions. Besen then presented other quotes from Focus on the Family to show the supposed contradiction between their “real” attitude and the “nice” statement they gave to the media. The clip highlighted the ideas put forth from Focus on the Family that homosexuality reflects “bondage and sexual brokenness,” and that homosexuality causes pain to both the homosexual and his or her family. “That’s not the kind of love I grew up with,” said Besen in response (a phrase which he repeated several times throughout the night).
His next point amounted to nothing more than the ridicule of the former president of PFOX, Richard Cohen, as Besen showed a segment of the Daily Show featuring both himself and Cohen in which Cohen and his therapies were made to look ridiculous and ineffective, even counterproductive. It should be noted that recently, a number of leading Ex-Gay Ministries have disassociated themselves from Cohen.
Besen then proceeded to address the so-called “Ex-Gay Myth,” and attempted to prove that the therapies that the Ex-Gay Ministries use have been “discredited,” including self-talk and prayer, and that none of these ministries have any effect whatsoever on a person’s homosexual orientation, implying that rather than helping people, these therapies supposedly cause the depression and condemnation that often accompany unwanted same-sex attractions.
Interestingly, Besen condemned the Ex-Gay Ministries for “targeting children” by making information available at schools for children struggling with gender and sexual identity issues, as well as NARTH’s alleged offer of providing therapy to 3 year olds at conferences, implying that these ministries were abusive and/or harmful to developing children as they attempted to help them identify mentally and emotionally with their physical characteristics. One wonders, however, who is really “targeting children” in a harmful manner, homosexual activists and their allies or these Ex-Gay ministries? Here is some food for thought from Dr. Brown’s recent lecture at Love Won Out:
At the Park Day School in Oakland, teachers are taught a gender-neutral vocabulary and are urged to line up students by sneaker color rather than by gender. “We are careful not to create a situation where students are being boxed in,” said Tom Little, the school’s director. “We allow them to move back and forth until something feels right.” — NY Times 12-1-06
California State Senator Sheila Kuehl has introduced legislation [Bill SB 777] that will ban textbooks and teachers from any instruction that reflects adversely upon homosexuality, transgenders, bisexuals or those with perceived gender issues.
“. . . we must dishonour the prevailing belief that heterosexuality is the only acceptable orientation even though that would mean dishonouring the religious beliefs of Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc.” — from a teachers manual in British Columbia
Children’s Book: One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads, Blue Dads. From the book’s dedication: “To Jacob, who has only one mom and one dad. But don’t feel sorry for him. They’re both great parents.”
Children’s book: Girls Will Be Boys Will Be Girls: The antithesis of the “Dick and Jane” coloring book, this is a funny, playful and provocative deconstruction of traditional gender roles. The activist authors use drawings as well as images taken from old children’s books to show how completely silly and unnecessary most common gender assumptions are
Another accusation that Besen brought against the Ex-Gay Ministries was that they were almost exclusively concerned with politics, rather than sincerely helping and caring for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions, as they claim, and that the ministries’ “concern” for these people is essentially a front for their political goals, referring to these ministries as “desperate” because the GLBT community is now “winning” on most political and ideological fronts. During the Q&A time at the end of the night, I was able to ask Besen the question “What criteria do you use to judge the privately held motivations of … these [ex-gay ministry] leaders?” Besen responded by saying:
I believe that Ex-Gay Ministries are very sincere people… And I think they’d have a lot more credibility if they were not in Washington… Many of these organizations have little puny organizations that are starving to death, and all this money’s going on these political roadshows and big ads… If James Dobson really thought there was a cure for this, you’d see millions poured out, but we see a roadshow… But I will say that many of the people are sincere… I don’t know if they’re sincere about trying to change gay people, but nobody should ever question that they’re sincere in their beliefs. That’s what makes them very tough opponents.
While one wonders how Besen was able to draw such a matter-of-fact personal judgment from such scant evidence, it is encouraging to see his acknowledgment of the fact that these ministry leaders are “sincere,” a judgment he also stated later in the Q&A period in response to a comment from the audience that the ex-gay ministries were simply “moneymakers,” a statement which Besen disagreed with when it comes to the main ministry leaders, saying “if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Dobson is that he’s very sincere” and “Allan Chambers from Exodus International, I think he’s sincere.”
Following his analysis of the political motivations of the ministries, he went on to give a light-hearted presentation of the fall of a number of former Ex-Gay Ministry leaders who fell back into homosexuality, including whom Besen claimed were the co-founders of Exodus International who left their wives for one another, one of Focus on the Family’s first Ex-Gay leaders, John Paulk, who Besen photographed at a gay bar, and Jerry Falwell’s former Ex-Gay ministry leader. The implication of this was that there are no true Ex-Gays, and despite everything they proclaim, the ex-gay leaders of these groups remain homosexuals. Besen called for the Ex-Gay ministries to acknowledge the failures of their leaders, not to get involved in politics, and not to use phrases that seem to promise to turn gays straight with no more struggles, because even many of the Ex-Gay leaders will acknowledge that change isn’t always complete, and some of the desires may still exist. (Besen’s point that we should not gloss over these failures and the self evident hypocrisy that arises in some of the ex-gay leaders is a fair one, though it is not a subject to be laughed at or taken lightly).
Besen next argued that the statistics and studies the Ex-Gay ministries use to build a foundation for their case are either old and outdated, conducted by phony scientists, or grossly distort the conclusions of real scientists, who are very unhappy with their work being taken out of context. He used the example of Allan Chamber’s changing the numbers of ex-gays in existence drastically each year (which can quite easily be explained by the fact that he is not specifying an exact number when he says “thousands”), and James Dobson’s quoting of two researchers offended that their studies were used in a way that they didn’t intend them to be used (a charge which again can easily be explained by the fact that facts are facts, and can be used in various ways the original researcher didn’t originally intend).
A video was played of one researcher’s response to Dobson’s statements, stating that his conclusions from her study were “caricatures” and an oversimplification of her work, that shouldn’t have been used “against” homosexuality, and then Besen made this statement: “In fact, we’re going to really ramp up this campaign next year, we’re going to make it really hard to lie, in fact, we’re going to make it very painful to lie over the next couple of years … they’re actually going to have to rely on quacks again, and not distort real researchers.” (Emphasis added).
Besen’s apparent threat of ex-gay ministries and conservative organizations rings hollow. Clearly studies shouldn’t be used in a false or misleading way, but Besen seemed to be going one step further when in his attempt to prove that research had been distorted, he asked researchers questions like “Is this what you meant? Did you really back James Dobson?” Should not the question be asked in a way that removes politics, religious beliefs, and personal likes and dislikes from the equation? Should it not have been phrased in a more neutral fashion such as “Your research was said to have proved X, did your research really prove X?”
In addition, while Besen emphasized how wrong it is to take quotes out of context so they indicate something other than what was meant, he clearly participated in the same behavior in his own presentation. Take for instance a quote he had on the screen by Melissa Fryrear that referenced homosexuals “I never met one woman who had not been sexually violated or sexually threatened in her life. I never met one woman. And I never met one man either, that had not been sexually violated or sexually seduced in his life.” Besen responded to the quote he displayed by saying, “Not one? How honest is that? I mean, okay, you know what? [raises hand] One! So I hope we never hear that again, because I’m, as they say, living proof that’s not true.” Was Fryrear really stating that every gay and lesbian has been abused? Clearly not! At the Love Won Out conference the following Saturday, she said essentially the same thing, but made it abundantly clear that it was in the context of her own personal experience as she was working with a ministry where these people had come for help and counseling, and that she certainly didn’t mean that all people struggling with homosexuality had been abused, threatened, or seduced. Other examples of Besen’s misquoting or misusing people to prove his point happened throughout the night.
The next set of points Besen made painted a picture of Ex-Gay ministries as sinister, “playing on the fears of people,” again blaming all unpleasant feelings that accompany unwanted same-sex attractions many people have on the “backward” and “oppressive” idea held by some parents, conservatives, and ministries like these, that they can and/or should want to change from gay to straight. He said that every accredited association, such as the American Psychiatric Association, states that trying to change one’s sexual orientation is inherently unhealthy (and possibly immoral), and that the rejection homosexuals experience from people not fully accepting and condoning their lifestyle can make them suicidal.
He then gave a call to be involved in legal action that he is in the process of building against these ministries:
I have to deal all the time with the victims of these ministries who have had their lives shattered, they’ve been destroyed, they’re hurt … we worked with Lambda Legal on an exciting new booklet called ‘Ex-Gay and the Law…’ We’re going to go around the country and ask people this, [and] if anybody here has been through these ministries, and you’ve been harmed, you’ve been hurt, you’ve had your life upended because of this, because you received fake information, because you received bad science, or you were abused sexually … in a lot of cases we see this b/c they have these repressed therapists who are still gay acting out, if this has happened to you, you need to read this … you may have legal options, you may have legal recourse, and we want you to take a look at this, this will refer you to some of the best attorneys in the United States of America … this will be a great addition to our efforts to counter the Ex-Gay industry.
Besen then moved on to talking about “bizarre techniques” used by Ex-Gay Ministries, introducing the subject by using a video clip of a woman talking about casting demons out of various parts of the body (the woman was not associated with the main Ex-Gay organizations), which then colored all the quotes that he showed from leaders of Exodus International, Focus on the Family, etc. regarding the spiritual roots of issues and the concept that Satan is involved in the bondage of people struggling with homosexuality (which were simply phrased with standard Orthodox Christian language). He called the idea of self-denial therapy “cultlike,” and listed several methods used by some ministries or therapies that appeared very odd, without context, and talked about Ex-Gay conferences being full of pressure and coercion. Besen also said all these ministries are increasing the divorce problem, as people divorce their husbands or wives after “trying to be ex-gay.”
He concluded the presentation by saying that the Ex-Gay ministries actually SEPARATE people from God, because they get a negative view of God through the emotional trauma they experience by having their homosexual lifestyle called sin, and being called/expected to change their behavior and hopefully, their attractions. His summary remarks are as follows:
The ex gay ministries are like actors playing a role. Some of the people are very sincere … they read the lines they’ve been given, and if you read it hard enough and you’re under enough pressure, you can even believe the line, and get so into the role, you can believe you have changed. The human mind is capable of amazing things for periods of time, but like all plays, all theatrical productions, the final curtain has to come crashing down … even these people who are in it for many years, the final curtain of reality comes crashing down.
With this quote in mind, I asked the last question of the night during the Q&A session: “The final part there you said that basically the final curtain will fall upon these leaders and were implying also people that were affected by the leaders… my question is, are you stating that everyone who at one point in their life is gay or lesbian will eventually return to that lifestyle, and if so, how do you know that?”
In reply, Besen stated that while it is theoretically possible for people to change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual (citing Dr. Lisa Diamond’s research), that “There is no organization out there that can sexually engineer you to go from one sexuality to another, either gay to straight or straight to gay,” and again emphasized the unhealthy nature of repressing homosexual desires, stating “Alan Chambers said … and I’m paraphrasing … ‘every day i get up and do what’s not natural for me,’ and if people want to do that, get up and do what they don’t feel is natural, they may have the willpower to do that for an entire lifetime, but that’s very few people. I think … [it would] cause a lot of psychological problems [for most people].”
While Besen and other ex-gay protesters are busy demonizing these ministries, the reality is that there is a real outcry from people that are not happy with their same-sex attraction and want to change, and these ministries are simply answering that call as best as they know how. And with God’s anointing and guidance gracing these ministries, they are seeing success, whether people like Besen and CRANE (who held up signs protesting the Love Won Out conference on Saturday) want to admit it or not.
This weekend two religious conferences offer different takes on homosexuality and faith.
One seeks to be a refuge for homosexuals struggling with their sexuality by turning them away from homosexuality. The other seeks help homosexuals find love and acceptance.
Two perspectives on a complex issue.
Love Won out, by Focus on the Family, is part of the ex-gay movement in which people abandon homosexuality. It’s Saturday at the Central Church of God.
For people who are dissatisfied with homosexuality the conference offers an alternative, said Melissa Fryrear, who used to be gay.
“It’s a message of hope and encouragement.”
Rev. Nancy Wilson disagrees. Wilson is part of the Leadership Conference that is Wednesday-Saturday at the Omni Hotel. A focus of the conference is to show that someone can be a GLBT person of faith and feel good about themselves, and improve the community at large through volunteerism.
“People ultimately are happy if they are true to themselves,” she said. “We pick up the people who are ex-gays. It’s bad psychology. It’s bad theology they’re teaching.
“What these people need is to find a sense of self-acceptance, to be able to live healthy and good lives as gay people.”
The issue of sexuality isn’t as simple as either side frames it. It’s not as simple as we in the media frame it either. It’s not us versus them. It’s an intensely personal issue that can rip apart lives and families. Or depending on the person it can also build stronger individuals, families and communities. I know people who fit in both categories as well as people who fit somewhere in between.
The conferences are here when homosexuality is back in the local headlines. On Saturday, Charlotte Presybterians voted to end the ban on gay clergy. Earlier this year, county commissioners voted to study providing domestic partnership benefits to county employees.
At least 250 faith leaders from GLBT friendly churches will participate in the annual Leadership Conference gathering, which begins Wednesday. Participants are typically church members and leaders from area Metropolitan Community Churches, the Fellowship, and Unity Fellowship churches. Sessions are designed to spiritually and emotionally bolster faith leaders who cater to the GLBT communities.
“It’s very challenging to be a leader in our community,” Wilson said. “There are a lot of needs, a lot of brokenness, a lot of challenges. There’s a lot of healing that’s needed. You have to have strong leadership for that to happen.”
The day the Leadership Conference ends on Saturday, is the same day that the Love Won Conference takes place at the Central Church of God on Sardis Road. This is the eleventh year of the conference. Charlotte also hosted the conference in 2002 at First Baptist.
Love Won Out caters to GLBT people who want to overcome their sexuality as well as to family members of GLBT people. About 1,000 people are expected. Workshops topics include examining homosexuality, GLBT clergy, pro-gay theology and gay marriage.
No matter which side you agree with, the conferences will give you insight and likely challenge your own perceptions about sexuality and about faith. Ultimately, I hope they help individuals struggling to find peace within themselves.
It was encouraging to see such an even-handed report. The only element of the story that gave me pause was her use of the word abandon in her comment “Love Won out, by Focus on the Family, is part of the ex-gay movement in which people abandon homosexuality.” With the word usually used to refer to something that a person has left behind but shouldn’t have (as in, abandoning a child), I was concerned that the Observer was slipping in an implied moral judgment on the subject. According to thefreedictionary.com, the relevant definitions for the word are:
1. To withdraw one’s support or help from, especially in spite of duty, allegiance, or responsibility; desert: abandon a friend in trouble.
2. To give up by leaving or ceasing to operate or inhabit, especially as a result of danger or other impending threat: abandoned the ship.
3. To surrender one’s claim to, right to, or interest in; give up entirely. See Synonyms at relinquish.
4. To cease trying to continue; desist from: abandoned the search for the missing hiker.
WIth the primary definition corresponding to my understanding of the word’s most prevalent usage, I asked the reporter whether she was using the word in a way that was more defined by the first definition, or the third definition. She responded by saying “No. 3 – to give it up.” It’s encouraging to see the local media being even-handed in their reporting.
Truth WIns Out
With a decidedly different approach to reporting, Truth Wins Out, a pro-gay organization that describes itself with the catchline “Fighting Right Wing Lies and The ‘Ex-Gay’ Fraud”, reported on the Love Won Out event as well as other homosexuality-related events on their blog here. Their original post is reprinted below:
North Carolina, National Groups to Protest ‘Ex-Gay’ Road Show
Exodus International and Focus on the Family take their exgay-for-pay road show, “Love Won Out,” to Charlotte, N.C., on Feb. 21.
The event is timed not to help Carolina ex-gays or their families, but instead to coincide with the Human Rights Campaign’s Carolinas Gala and a conference of the gay-affirming Metropolitan Community Church and Unity Fellowship
The Charlotte Rainbow Action Network plans a series of events Feb. 14-21 to raise public awareness about the ex-gay organizations’ ongoing acts to divide families and churches and to replace school science lessons with sectarian religious rhetoric. Truth Wins Out is among the invited participants.
In his presentation, “Pray Away the Gay,” Besen will discuss the myths and lies of “ex-gay” organizations like Exodus International. The event will be held at 7 p.m. at Charlotte’s Lesbian & Gay Community Center.
A press conference will follow the next day. Media has been invited to the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Charlotte where Besen will unveil a new Truth Wins Out/Lambda Legal booklet “Ex-Gay & the Law.” The new publication offers resources for those who might have been victimized by unscrupulous “ex-gay” ministries and therapies.
On Saturday, Feb. 21, the grassroots group’s efforts will culminate in a non-violent, silent protest of the Love Won Out conference. Members and supporters will be present outside Central Church of God on Sardis Road from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Other invitees for the events countering Exodus and FOTF include Lambda Legal, the Human Rights Campaign and Faith in America, and local and state groups such as One Voice Chorus, Gay Men’s Chorus of Charlotte, Charlotte Coalition for Social Justice, UNCC Pride and EqualityNC.
The section concerning the reasons for Love Won Out’s schedule were of particular interest. Our February 2nd article “Love Won Out” and “Truth Wins Out” in Charlotte dealt with the timing of the events, and so I left the following comment on the Truth Wins Out article:
Your article states:
“The event is timed not to help Carolina ex-gays or their families, but instead to coincide with the Human Rights Campaign’s Carolinas Gala and a conference of the gay-affirming Metropolitan Community Church and Unity Fellowship.”
Incorrect! I’m affiliated with the ministry of Dr. Michael Brown, a speaker at the event, and this is what we published on February 2nd concerning the two events occurring on the same date:
“In addition, the Human Rights Campaign will be holding their annual Carolinas Gala, featuring North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan as their keynote speaker, on the same day as the Love Won Out Conference (though it should be noted that the conference was not scheduled in response to the Carolinas Gala, in fact, neither Dr. Brown nor the other leaders from Love Won Out were even aware of the fact that the two events were scheduled for the same day until a few months ago, well after it was scheduled).”
Please correct this in your article.
Editor: Voice of Revolution
While the author responded with hostility in our back and forth conversation (you can read it here), he did change the section I called into question. The section that had previously read:
The event is timed not to help Carolina ex-gays or their families, but instead to coincide with the Human Rights Campaign’s Carolinas Gala and a conference of the gay-affirming Metropolitan Community Church and Unity Fellowship.
The event’s timing was suspicious, as it coincided with the Human Rights Campaign’s Carolinas Gala and a conference of the gay-affirming Metropolitan Community Church and Unity Fellowship.
The section, while still getting across the point that the timing was “suspicious” (which is a feeling TWO is clearly allowed to have, though their suspicion is unfounded), no longer states that Love Won Out is more interested in raining on HRC’s parade than “help[ing] Carolina ex-gays or their families.” It’s encouraging that, if only in this small way, truth really did win out on the “Truth Wins Out” blog.
Following the “PrayAwaytheGay” “protest rally” on February 19th, CRANE (Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality), will be hosting “a short non-violence training” for a silent protest that will be held outside of the Love Won Out conference from 11am – 2pm on February 21st. TheFacebook event for the protest states:
CRANE will present a non-violent, silent protest of Focus on the Family and Exodus International conference, Love Won Out, in front of Central Church of God, 5301 Sardis Road Charlotte, NC 28270.
CRANE has teamed up with several local and national organizations to counter the lies and myths of the “ex-gay” industry in Charlotte.
“These programs sell false hope and take advantage of desperate and vulnerable people who just want acceptance from loved ones,” said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. “Love Won Out’s dangerous sexual engineering campaign is ineffective, psychologically damaging and confuses stereotypes with science. We hope to educate the community and provide people with accurate and reliable information.”
Pray that God would cause a spirit of repentance to arise in protesters like these who are actively seeking to be stumbling blocks… encouraging people in their sin, and keeping people from wholeness and holiness.
Protests like these have been held before, and thankfully, some of the protesters have actually taken time to listen to the message that Love Won Out actually puts forth. Consider this story from a young gay man that was protesting outside a Love Won Out conference in San Diego:
At a conference in Pasadena, a volunteer approached one of our staff and shared how Love Won Out changed his life. Several years prior, at a LWO conference in San Diego, this young man was participating in the protest outside the church where our event was held. He wanted to hear what we were saying, so he paid the registration fee to enter the conference. As he sat through the sessions, and especially after hearing Mike Haleys personal story of walking away from homosexuality, he gave his life to the Lord and vowed to overcome this in his own life. He contacted a local Exodus ministry and began his journey. Years later, he volunteered for our event in Pasadena and shared his story with our team.