This post is an in-depth review of the March 4, 2012, worship service at First Baptist Church of Charlotte — its pastor, Mark Harris, the president of the North Carolina Baptist Convention — and its guest sermon by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins (reported by The Charlotte Observer here). Quotes from Harris and Perkins, along with the full audio, follow initial commentary. In addition, other commentary by Matt Comer is provided in red and [in brackets]. A YouTube video with Perkins’ most direct comments on marriage and North Carolina’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment, young people and LGBT people is included at the end, along with a transcript. A final commentary and a call for Perkins and Harris to end their harm against LGBT youth and people follows at the conclusion of the post. Finally, my first column in the new weekly series, “Sex, Cash & Politics,” will delve into Perkins’ hate group connections. The column will be delivered today to print and online publications across North Carolina and cane be used free-of-charge as an op-ed or guest commentary. Click here to learn more about the column and subscribe for free.
You gotta hand it to Southern Baptists. They know how to put on a show. Blaring trumpets, waving flags and soaring patriotic melodies blended together with a little bit of soul and spirit in calls for defending “God and Country.”
It was Durham-based blogger Pam Spaulding that alerted me to the Family Research Council‘s Values Bus Tour stop on Sunday at First Baptist Church-Charlotte. I and an acquaintance decided to go. Mostly I was curious: Why in the world was Mark Harris, the pastor of one of Charlotte’s landmark Baptist churches and president of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention, allowing a man like Family Research Council President Tony Perkins to speak at his church? Why would a seemingly Christ-loving, people-loving pastor allow the leader of a hate group to speak to his congregants?After more than an hour of First Baptist worship, the reason became clear.
“Tony Perkins…has been willing to step up and speak out,” Harris told his congregants, affirming that Harris’ brand of Christianity is just as hate-filled and exclusive as Perkins’.
Marriage and the church are under attack, First Baptist Church-Charlotte Pastor and N.C. Baptist Convention President Mark Harris and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said on Sunday. And, it is up to the faithful to defend against the attacks of Satan. For any keen observer — and, no doubt, to any of the few LGBT young people in the audience (of which I am sure there are quite a few, given how large a congregation First Baptist is) — it’s clear who Harris and Perkins think are on the satanic side of the LGBT equality debate. For all their whimpering over faith and freedom, what they really wish to create is a heterosexuals-only, exclusive country club.
Take, for instance, the First Baptist choir’s performance of the song, “Livin’ in the Homeland,” before Perkins’ sermon. A recording of the song (not of the choir itself, sorry) and portion of the lyrics:
Livin’ in the homeland, not afraid to take a stand,
Every woman, child and man deserves to be free.
Stand tall. Don’t fall. All for one. One for all.
That is the battle call for you and for me.
Side by side, hand in hand, for freedom’s cause we’ll take a stand!
March! March with our flags held high.
Not afraid to fight. Not afraid to die.
March! March for the cause is just.
‘Tis a sacred honor, ‘tis a holy trust.
Freedom and liberty demand a high cost.
Many rights gained through so many lives lost.
The brave and the free know it goes hand in hand,
If you dare to dream, dare to dream,
Dare to dream of livin’ in the homeland.
And, they call gay people militant? That’s another debate for another day (and one we’ve had before…). But, one can’t help but find it ridiculously funny that Harris, Perkins and Co. believe they are the ones whose rights are under attack. I see no proposed constitutional amendments seeking to limit their rights. I see no organized movement to send Christians to “ex-Christian” camps. I see no state legislatures taking up “Don’t say Christian” bills. I see no school principals or school boards in mass denying the formation of Christian school groups or expelling heterosexual students and their boyfriends or girlfriends.
It’s a topsy-turvy world Harris and Perkins live in. The whole weight of a discriminatory body of law weighs down on the lives of LGBT people, yet it’s the WASP-y Christians who are oppressed? Talk about delusional. Continue reading this post…
Truth Wins Out and Wayne Besen have revealed damning new stories of psychological and sexual abuse at the hands of so-called “ex-gay” therapist Alan Downing of JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality).
From a press release:
JONAH was co-founded by Arthur Abba Goldberg, a Wall Street criminal mastermind who was convicted in 1987 of “fraud of spectacular scope”. Upon completing parole, Goldberg secretly reinvented himself as a moral leader who “cures” gay and lesbian people. Known as “Abba Dabba Do” in the financial world, Goldberg was sentenced to 18 months in jail for bilking poor communities with complicated bond schemes and served six months in prison.
“Given the sordid history of JONAH, this latest scandal is not too surprising,” said TWO’s Besen. “This is an unscrupulous organization of high moral turpitude that has few qualms about harming desperate and vulnerable clients. This group has consistently been tied to bizarre, sexually suggestive methods that are unsettling, dangerous and ineffective.”
Journey into Manhood, where Downing is a counselor, exhibits similar eyebrow raising techniques. Writer Ted Cox infiltrated this peculiar program and wassurprised to find what he called, “homoerotic exercises” and a cabin that he called “The Cuddle Room” because it was a space where supposedly “ex-gay” men gave each other inappropriate massages.
“Apparently some of the guys in one cabin threw their mattresses into the middle of the room and had an all-night holding session,” said one of the men attending the Journey into Manhood session, according to Cox’s article.
“How ironic that therapists that claim to cure homosexuals keep ending up naked with their gay clients,” said TWO’s Besen. “Such lurid exploitation has moved from a disconcerting pattern to a full-blown trend and it needs to be investigated by the authorities.”
TWO Joins Coalition of North Carolina Organizations to Counter Infamous ‘Ex-Gay’ Road Show
New Landmark Publication, ‘Ex-Gay & The Law’, To Be Unveiled At Friday Press Conference
Truth Wins Out (TWO) announced today that it has joined a coalition of North Carolina Charlotte at Nightgay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocates responding to Focus on the Family’s Love Won Out conference, which encourages people to “pray away the gay.” Led by the Charlotte Rainbow Action Network for Equality (CRANE), there will be a week of educational events in Charlotte designed to get correct information to the public about the danger of ex-gay programs. The coalition will also offer honest and accurate depictions of the lives of GLBT people, to counteract the distorted view offered by Focus on the Family.
“The research is very clear that you can’t pray away the gay and attempts to do so can be harmful,” said Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. “Focus on the Family is offering false hope to vulnerable people and profiting from their pain. They are intentionally confusing stereotypes with legitimate science in an attempt to mislead people about homosexuality. We hope to offer a realistic view of our lives and use sound science to set the record straight.”
The week’s events include a lecture by Besen (Pictured Right) on Thursday, Feb. 19, at theWayne TuxLesbian & Gay Community Center (7:00-8:30 PM). On Friday, Feb. 20, there will be a press conference at the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Charlotte (11:30 AM). On Saturday, Feb. 21, there will be a non-violent protest against Love Won Out (11:00 AM-2:00 PM) in front of Central Church of God (5301 Sardis Road).
At the Friday press conference, Truth Wins Out and Lambda Legal will release a landmark publication, “Ex-Gay & The Law”, that aims to educate victims of “ex-gay” programs of their legal options. The many people who have had their lives damaged by ex-gay programs inspired this work.
“Ex-gay programs teach that homosexuality is demonic and ‘treat’ children as young as three years old,” said Besen. “What they do is dangerous, scientifically unsound and rejected by every respected medical and mental health association in America.”
CRANE is a grassroots coalition of activists and community members working toward civil and social equality for Charlotte’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community. Truth Wins Out is a non-profit organization that defends gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from anti-gay lies. TWO also counters the “ex-gay” myth and educates America about gay life.
In response to a recent Dan Savage column, ex-gay Randy Thomas, an official with Exodus International, wrote (h/t Ex-Gay Watch):
For the most part, we are intelligent, balanced, stable, tolerant of what we may not personally accept and loving. We looked at what identifying as gay and all of the predetermined relational options of what that means and said, “no thanks.” Some of us have experienced orientation shift and others haven’t … and we are all living out our faith and life as we see fit. I and everyone I know, have no desire to force others into our line of thinking.
Except that last line is a lie. Time and time again, ex-gay ministries or their supporters have forced gay teenagers at ages 16 or 17 into residential treatment centers.
Back in Summer 2005, teenager Zach Stark was forced into an Exodus International-affiliated treatment center. The late Jerry Falwell, an Exodus supporter, “dismissed psychologists’ claims that consent is fundamental to a healthy counseling relationship and that parents should not force their gay kids into therapy.”
And we can’t forget about Lance Carroll, who was forced to attend the same residential treatment center as Stark. He says the “therapy” included isolation and group shaming sessions where one participant would be singled out and shamed for the personal occurrences in their life.
There’s also this gem, the story of Jeff Williamson, a young man whose parents made an appointment for him to go to an ex-gay therapist referred by Focus on the Family, an Exodus supporter. He says he wasn’t “exactly forced,” but felt “an intense pressure” from his parents. What else is a teenager supposed to do?
It’s situations like Williamson’s that might just be the most dangerous. Teenagers and other young people who feel so pressured to go into these therapies that they keep all of their emotion, grief or anger bottled up inside. For LGBT youth, who are already more susceptible to suicide, these factors are all a dangerous combination.
The first thing I thought… “They’re kidding right?”
Evidently, twisting the Grace and Love of God in order to inflict pain and shame on gay and lesbian youth isn’t the only think ex-gay advocates like Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX) is good at. It seems they’ve also got a knack for twisting the law.
In a press release titled, “Human Rights Office Sued for Refusing to Protect Former Homosexuals,” PFOX claims that the Washington, D.C. Office of Human Rights fails “to protect former homosexuals under its sexual orientation anti-discrimination law.”
Said PFOX Executive Director Regina Griggs, “The ex-gay community is the most bullied and maligned group in America, yet they are not protected by sexual orientation non-discrimination laws.”
Far be it from to know just how a group of “former homosexuals,” whom the majority of the powerful religious right fully embrace and support, can be called “the most bullied and maligned group in America.”
David Benkof/David Bianco, who recently made waves with a string of anti-gay op-eds in gay and mainstream news publications, has decided to give up his alliance with anti-gay, radical right activists.
“I no longer feel comfortable being allied with the people running the Prop. 8 campaign, and the same-sex marriage movement in America in general, with a few exceptions – most notably Maggie Gallagher,” the former Q-Syndicate founder/owner told Wayne Besen’s Truth Wins Out. “I have made a tentative decision not to publicize the disturbing information that caused me to end my promotion of man-woman marriage in the United States. But there is very little that I know about those subjects that a journalist, blogger, or activist cannot find out through diligent googling and asking the right questions of the Prop. 8 campaign.”
Benkof echoed similar thoughts on his blog:
It is with great sadness that I announce that I feel I must withdraw from openly supporting man-woman marriage in the United States. I recently learned quite a bit of disturbing information that makes it impossible for me to continue supporting a movement I no longer respect. I have not yet decided when or even if I will write about why I’m ending my participation in this debate.
The Carolinas’ QNotes, where I am employed, ran into a bit of a skirmish with Benkof in May. Box Turtle Bulletin reported on that situation.
Just received in the inbox, from our good friends at the Liberty Council (my notes in italics):
Lisa Miller is the fit, biological mother of a daughter, with whom Janet Jenkins [Miller's former partner] has neither a biological nor an adoptive relationship. In 2000, while living in Virginia, Lisa and Janet entered into a Vermont civil union. Lisa gave birth to her child in Virginia through artificial insemination from an anonymous donor and her daughter was born in Virginia, but the relationship ended when [allegedly] Janet became abusive and Lisa became a Christian [she became "ex-gay" just to keep her child]. Janet wants to have custody of Lisa’s daughter while continuing in her own lesbian lifestyle.
Does anybody else find it even just a bit disconcerting that this Virginian lesbian has not only used anti-gay laws against her own community, but that she now defends herself with anti-gay organizations which first helped to create these anti-gay laws?
Do I sense a Benedict Arnold any where? Lisa Miller’s actions are sickening. I’m sure the folks at Liberty Council are just sitting back and taking it all in. It isn’t enough they have to cause damage to the community, now they get to cause damage within it.
I don’t have much time this morning, so here is a quick run-down:
“The Fighting Words of Michael Brown” — David Rattigan over at Ex-Gay Watch profiles Dr. Michael Brown. The esteemed doc responds throughout the 250-post long comment thread. David says: “Brown’s disclaimer is that [his movement] is “a non-violent revolution based on purity, compassion, and sacrifice rather than one based on anger, intimidation, rebellion, and force,” but these are hardly comforting words to the targets of Brown’s crusade. Even when such language is clearly not meant in a physical sense, how is one supposed to receive it – especially when used to deny others their rights – if not as angry, intimidating, rebellious and forceful? Read the rest.
No ‘gay’ in Tennessee – If successful, a new bill introduced in the Tennessee legislature would “prevent public elementary and middle schools from allowing ‘any instruction or materials discussing sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.’” The bill was submitted by Representative Stacey Campfield of Knoxville. This, of course, follows the spread of anti-gay adoption frenzy to the Volunteer State last week.
The N.C. State “Gilberts” – Conservative columnist and UNC-Wilmington criminology professor Mike Adams writes on N.C. State University’s new LGBT Student Center, which opened last week. Also, an article on the opening from the campus paper, The Technician; and… a more recent article from the same.
The Grey Zone – Hilarious video
Beyond Ex-Gay is a remarkable movement that has sprung up recently and if you the oppurtunity to attend the weekend which Matt blogged about, I would highly recommend it. I was able to observe the 2007 Ex-Gay Survivor Conference and if that was any indication of what Memphis has in store, you won’t want to miss it. I may or may not be researching cheap tickets myself.
Here’s another look at what Beyond Ex-Gay has going on:
BeyondExGay.com (see the ad in the sidebar) has organized around the Feb. 23 Memphis Love Won Out Conference being thrown by the anti-gay, ex-gay Focus on the Family and Exodus International.