Religion and homosexuality
|"...sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be altered. Groups who try to change the sexual orientation of people through so-called conversion therapy' are misguided and run the risk of causing a great deal of psychological harm..." Raymond Fowler, executive director, American Psychological Association.|
|"At-risk adolescents and parents have a right to know that homosexuality is preventable and treatable and the sooner intervention takes place, the better the prognosis." Richard Fitzgibbons, MD; writing for NARTH's web site.|
The battle for the minds of North Americans on the topic of sexual orientation is not between homosexuals and heterosexuals. It is mainly between conservative Christians and the rest of society. Conservative Christian groups have sponsored newspaper and TV ads in an attempt to convince the public that homosexual orientation is a choice that can be readily changed through trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior and by reparative (a.k.a. conversion) therapy or the efforts of transformational ministries.
In mid 1998, 15 very conservative Christian groups took out full-page "Truth in Love" advertisements in leading American newspapers. 1 The groups included:
Alliance for Traditional Marriage - Hawaii, American Family Association, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, Center for Reclaiming America, Christian Family Network, Christian Coalition, Citizens for Community Values, Colorado for Family Values *, Concerned Women for America, Coral Ridge Ministries, Exodus International, Family First *, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Kerusso Ministries, Liberty Counsel, Mission America, and National Legal Foundation.
* Email address only.
The ads were seen in the the Washington Post on JUL-14, New York Times on JUL-15, and USA Today also on JUL-15. They promoted the concept that reparative therapy is successful in converting persons with homosexual orientation into heterosexuals. Topics of one ad included:
|"One boy's sin and the making of a lesbian,|
|Being a woman became a mystery;|
|There's a God-shaped hole in everyone's heart;|
|Knock and He'll answer - But the next step is still yours;|
|Once God answers, He never hangs up;|
|Changing hearts, changing lives;|
|There is another way out."|
These ads were followed up with a TV ad campaign in 1998-OCT which concluded "It's not about hate, it's about hope."
William R. Johnson is a United Church of Christ minister, an executive member of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, a certified sexologist, and is gay. He commented that these ads promote:
"... false hope...Sexual orientation cannot be changed...I am saddened that the old chestnut of 'reparative therapy' for homosexuals has again reared its ugly head."
Rev. Johnson pointed out that the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have repudiated "reparative therapy" claims. 2 He further stated that:
"Tens of thousands of lesbians and gay men, and hundreds of former victims of such 'therapies' who learned the hard way, know that sexual orientation cannot be changed. Indeed the more truthful 'ex-gay' counselors privately tell their clients what they rarely acknowledge in public that they cannot change a gay or lesbian person's same-gender attractions...It is telling that, despite their claims of 'thousands' of successful conversions, 'ex-gay' organizations refuse to allow any independent peer review of their records or psychological or scientific analysis of their clients."
Newsweek magazine ran a cover story about John and Anne Paulk -- the "poster boy and girl" of the 1998-JUL ads. The ads implied that they were once homosexual, but were able to convert to heterosexuality. They later married.
Two years later, a gay author, Wane Bensen, received a call from a friend in a gay bar who explained that John Paulk was in the bar chatting him up. Bensen went to the bar, photographed Paulk there, and got the inspiration for his book: "Anything But Straight: Unmasking The Scandals And Lies Behind The Ex-Gay Myth." 12
Bensen found that of the four male stars of the 1998-JUL ad campaign:
|Bensen was outed by Bensen in a Washington DC gay bar.|
|Another outed himself as a homosexual.|
|A third was discovered in mid-2003 taking part in a men-only orgy.|
|The final star has not been heard from.|
When interviewed in the Guardian, a UK newspaper, Bensen said:
"I have never met a single person I believe has changed. I've met a few people who've changed their behavior - but not their orientation. The founder of every single ex-gay ministry has failed. All of them have failed." 13
Rev. D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries in Fort Lauderdale, FL produces the "Coral Ridge Hour" on TV and the "Truths that Transform" program on radio. They are a Fundamentalist Christian group. The Ministry has recently created a new division, the Center for Reclaiming America. Their mission statement is to provide "non-partisan, inter-denominational information, training and support to enable Christians to have a positive role in developing a biblical virtues-based culture in their communities and in our nation." 3
The Center developed a new series of television ads. As of 1999-MAY, they were being initially aired in Washington DC because, as a Center spokesperson said: "that's where the policymakers are." The ads are being sponsored by a coalition of very conservative Christian groups. They show men and women who have left the "homosexual lifestyle." Some have married, and have started families, all "through the power of Jesus Christ." They conclude with the statement that "It's not about hate. It's about hope."
The Truth in Love - "Mom" ad uses phrases such as:
|"involved in homosexuality"|
|"sometimes they make bad choices"|
|"walk away from homosexuality"|
|"freedom from homosexuality"|
|"hope for change"|
The Truth in Love - "Families" ad uses phrases:
|"both [were] former homosexuals"|
|"active in the gay community"|
|"walked away from it" (referring to the gay community)|
|"struggling with homosexuality"|
|"hope for change"|
At no point do the advertisements claim that anyone has actually changed their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. The phrases used are ambiguous:
|The intent of the messages appears to be that persons with a gay or lesbian sexual orientation can, by being saved, convert to a heterosexual orientation through prayer and reparative therapy. This belief is supported by a very small professional mental-health association, NARTH. But all of the large professional associations, like the American Psychiatric Association, and American Psychological Association, have condemned reparative therapy; they consider it ineffective and potentially dangerous. It can trigger severe depression and suicide.|
|The actual wording of the ads can be interpreted to refer to:
At no point do the ads talk about orientation; they only discuss behavior. Bisexuals can, by an act of will, decide to "change," and to "walk away" from homosexual behavior without changing their orientation. Persons with a homosexual orientation can, through celibacy, also change and walk away.
The TV ads do not answer the question that the vast majority of friends and relatives of persons with a homosexual orientation have: whether their friend or family member can actually change their orientation. They seem to answer the question, but it is all sleight-of-hand.
A spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said: "They are trying to put forward a kinder, gentler kind of prejudice but it won't work."
The major television networks have refused to run these ads. Bob Davies, the executive director of Exodus International, claims this is because leaders of homosexual-rights groups pressured the networks. An alternative explanation is that networks are concerned about indirectly being responsible for needless deaths. The American Psychological Association and American Psychological Association have warned that reparative therapy is ineffective, since sexual orientation cannot be changed. It is well known that the guilt, depression and sense of personal failure following unsuccessful reparative therapy can trigger a person to commit suicide.
Davies said that "The gay community wants to silence us...In spite of what they say, they are not interested in tolerance." He sees it as part of a larger assault, presumably by secular forces. "The persecution and hostility we are receiving now is beginning to happen to the church [at large]. Looking five years ahead, I am starting to see where all this is headed. Christians are becoming the bad guys. Christians create the problems in the country, according to non-Christians...[The church is] being assaulted from without and within...The authority of Scripture is being eroded daily. Eventually it seems our whole foundation may crumble. It has been happening for many years. The body of Christ is in danger of being compromised." 7
Concerned Women for America have two TV ads available on their web site. 8 The texts of the ads are also located there.
|Human Rights Campaign Foundation: HRC produced a advertisement to counter the religiously based ad. It was sponsored by a coalition of gay and lesbian groups, including the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund Foundation, Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, The Gill Foundation, Human Rights Campaign Foundation, An Uncommon Legacy Foundation, National Black Lesbian and Gay Leadership Forum, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Gay & Lesbian Task force, National Latina/o LGBT Organization, National Youth Advocacy Coalition, and Parents Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays. It featured topics like: Our lesbian daughter is the apple of our eye; Minnesota is in the heart of America; Gay people and their families are people of faith; Our church, Your church; All leading medical experts agree; Equal rights, not special rights; Help us support our daughter. 4|
|Demonstration: On 1998-AUG-22, hundreds of gays and lesbians protested in front of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, FL. They waved signs; one read "Don't crucify us with hate." D. James Kennedy, who heads Coral Ridge Ministries commented: "This ad campaign is not about hate. It's about hope. Hope for change...People need to know this [homosexuality] is not a lifetime sentence. No one has been saying that. Change is possible." Some people who claim to have been healed of their homosexuality were present at the news conference. 5|
|Bisexual groups' response: The bisexual and transsexual communities
were outraged at the ads of the religious right. Some were also not particularly
enamored at the the response ads by lesgay groups which had ignored
bisexuals and transsexuals. The latter responded with a response ad of their
own. 6 It uses the same slogan as the religious right:
"If you really love someone, you'll tell them the truth."
They then point out that:
The ad states, in part:
The response ad was sponsored by: Anything That Moves Magazine; BiNetUSA; Bisexual Resource Center; Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE); FTM, International*; Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Veterans of America; Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network; Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund*; Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation; GenderPAC; International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission; Intersexed Society of North America; LLEG�: The Nat'l Latina/o Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Organization*; Nat'l Center for Lesbian Rights*; Nat'l Black Lesbian & Gay Leadership Forum *; National Gay & Lesbian Task Force; Nat'l Youth Advocacy Coalition*; Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays, and other groups.
Copies of the response ad are available in various formats for local use, royalty free.
* Email address.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors allegedly issued a letter that was critical of these TV ads. They also passed a resolution urging local TV stations to avoid showing the ads. The letter allegedly claims a "direct correlation" between the message of conservative Christian groups and "horrible crimes committed against gays and lesbians." A group of three Fundamentalist Christian ministries, the American Family Association (AFA) Kerusso Ministries, and the Family Research Council (FRC) filed a defamation lawsuit against the city in late 1999-OCT.
A spokesperson for the AFA's, Stephen Crampton, said: "They basically accused us of the murder of Matthew Shepard and other homosexuals...I think the city of San Francisco represents an increased hostility against religion, in general, and Christians, in particular, and what we hope here is to nip this trend in the bud."
Matthew Shepard was a gay University of Wyoming student in Laramie, WY. He was tortured, abandoned, crucified and ultimately died at the hands of some homophobic young men. Russell Henderson is serving two life sentences after having pleaded guilty to Shepard's kidnapping and murder. Henderson was a Mormon, and may have been influenced by the church's teachings on homosexuality. He has since been excommunicated by his church. 11
A spokesperson for the FRC, Jan Larue, allegedly believes that these actions by the city have violated the 1st Amendment. She said: "If this goes unanswered, this kind of hostility by government officials against people of religious beliefs will escalate across the country." 9
During 2000-JUN, a federal judge ruled in favor of the city, saying that the city was only doing its duty to address concerns for public safety.
Brian Fahling, spokesperson for the American Family Association's Center for Law and Policy commented "Nothing like this has ever happened in this country. This, really, is extraordinary and should give everybody great pause, because now we have a court decision -- a federal court decision -- that says governments can take official action condemning religious beliefs."
Yvette Schneider, spokesperson for the Family Research Council: "There are people who are not happy with their homosexual lifestyles and need to hear that there is a way out." She said that the San Francisco action was symptomatic of a "scary and threatening" cultural shift in the U.S. that is of particular concern for "Christians who believe what the Bible says -- that homosexuality is a sin...that people can leave any sinful lifestyle."
[Author's note: The ads seem to imply that a homosexual can change their sexual orientation. In reality, "ex-gay" movements seem to only have success in convincing homosexuals to remain celibate and bisexuals to confine their relationships to opposite-sex partners only. The judge's rationale appears to be that through fraudulent advertising, these groups promote the idea that sexual orientation can be changed, and that this generates hatred against gays and lesbians among the general population.]
|Who is right about homosexuality: Conservative Christians or others?|
|Homosexuality: is it a choice or a fixed orientation?|
|What do professional associations and research studies say?|
|Effectiveness and safety of reparative therapy|
|NARTH National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality|
|Homosexuality: Is it a reversible choice or a fixed orientation?|
|NARTH The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality|
Copyright © 1998 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update and review: 2009-JAN-11
Author: B.A. Robinson
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