Wayne Besen, of Truth Wins Out, published a column today on the on-going issue of Ignite Student Outreach (www.igniteoutreach.org) I was the first to publicly say anything about this group when I received an invite to attend their summer camps, featuring ex-gay leaders. I quickly contacted Wayne Besen and his group, after which he also quickly went public with discussions on the group, in part fueling a web-based media frenzy (which is starting to hit the print media with Besen’s column and with my column coming out on Tuesday).
Anything But Straight: The Campiest Summer Camp
By Wayne Besen
Thursday, 30 November 2006
I am frequently asked if the big screen comedy depicting a wacky ex-gay camp, “But I’m a Cheerleader,” accurately reflects these conversion groups. People are surprised to learn that the hilarity and hijinx portrayed in the movie, starring drag diva RuPaul, is not farfetched from reality. Sometimes it is hard to tell if the zany movie is art imitating life or the other way around.
For example, this week we have learned that Exodus International, the largest ex-gay organization, has partnered with a Christian group, Ignite Student Outreach, to produce the campiest ex-gay camp America has ever seen. The featured speaker at the summer retreat is Justin Lookadoo, a peroxide blond who looks like punk rocker Billy Idol on crack.
If you click on Lookadoo’s webpage, he poses bent over while grabbing his tush. He lists among his favorite singers “Ricky Martin, when he was still Latino and Michael Jackson, when he was still black.”
Lookadoo and other “wholesome” figures will lead four summer camps this summer in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Ostensibly, they cater to all Christian youth, but if you delve below the surface, it appears to be a thinly-veiled front for ex-gay recruitment and the indoctrination of young Christian leaders.
What is particularly disturbing about Ignite Student Outreach is that it does not explicitly claim to be ex-gay and focuses on “close encounters” with God. However, even a cursory look at their webpage reveals that it is laced with a dangerous ex-gay message, lists Exodus Youth as its only affiliate (at least until my blog publicly revealed the camp this week) and features ex-gay speakers.
Indeed, Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus International, is scheduled to speak at the camp, as is his hunky Exodus Youth deputy, Scott Davis.
This camp appears to be a stealth strategy for Exodus to get a foothold into summer camps and mold impressionable minds. The way they are trying to accomplish this is by appearing “cool,” utilizing trendy graphics, innovative CDs and featuring hokey hipsters such as Lookadoo. The camp is also actively recruiting gay youths at colleges in the south through targeted e-mail campaigns.