In the United States, the leaders of Exodus International and Focus on the Family strive to make life dangerous for gay and bisexual Americans and their families by:
- associating equitable punishment for violent antigay hate crimes with “thought crime“
- distributing antigay literature in public schools and opposing anti-bullying programs
- opposing inclusion of sexual orientation in existing antidiscrimination laws, which already include religion as a protected category and exempt religious groups from compliance
- blaming innocent parents for their child’s sexual orientation
- promoting pro-violence activists such as Ken Hutcherson, an Exodus conference speaker who demands that employers discriminate and affirms violence against gay men and “effeminate” heterosexual men in the United States and Eastern Europe
The goal of these activities, as Exodus president Alan Chambers has acknowledged, is to compel same-sex-attracted persons to change, in defiance of biology, psychology, and sound moral conscience. Chambers admitted in 2004:
Had same-sex marriage been legal in 1990 I am certain that I would have tested that option. I met men whom I wanted to “marry.” … The law kept me from making one, if not many, huge mistakes. And while honoring and preserving the sanctity of heterosexual marriage is the bedrock of my opposition to redefining marriage to suit a few, I believe a positive bi-product of keeping same-sex marriage illegal is that it will save tens of thousands of hurting young people like me from the biggest mistakes of their lives: looking to man to meet a need that only God can meet.
In addition to making homosexuality illegal, public officials, the media, and ministers have incited mobs to such a degree that, on Jan. 29, one mob invaded a house where five gay people who were having a dinner party, beat them senseless and apparently killed at least one man. Last year, a mob disrupted a gay man’s funeral and trashed the church. In 2004, according to Time magazine, a teenager was nearly killed when his father learned his son was gay and urged a mob to lynch the boy at his school. And when two of the island’s gay-rights advocates, Steve Harvey and Brian Williamson, were murdered, a crowd celebrated over Williamson’s disfigured body. Time recounts numerous other mob killings in recent years.
Jamaica’s public defender, Earl Witter, blames the victims, saying there would be less antigay violence if homosexuals weren’t open about their orientation.
One desperate victim of mob violence, Andre, subsequently sought out ex-gay sermons from an ineffectual pastor who had a vested interest:
With the pastor standing over him, Andre said he would try to be attracted to women, if only so he would never be beaten again. But he mentions another option, as well: leaving Jamaica.
The pastor says he has a son who is gay and has been unable to turn him around. But he is intent on converting Andre.
“Instead of cutting him, people should be counseling him,” said the pastor, who declined to be identified out of fear that his family might be attacked for protecting a gay man. “He needs to get over this demonic thing.”
The pastor believes the gay man — not the murderous mob — is demonic.
This pastor’s inept counsel and victim-blaming is different only in degree, not in intent, from Exodus’ claim to be a compassionate American alternative to funeral-chasing Rev. Fred Phelps — a claim that it makes even as it accuses gay Americans of conspiring with the devil and warns them either to change or to face the wrath of antigay churches.
In the past month, Exodus has refused to condemn the killing of two American gay and gender-variant youths and a violent assault upon a third gay man. It has refused to urge its church network and youth activists to join efforts to stop violence and harassment against gay and gender-variant individuals. Instead, Exodus executive vice president Randy Thomas merely acknowledges the violence — and changes the subject, claiming that equitable punishment of violent antigay hate crimes threatens his freedom of speech.
Jamaica offers us a glimpse at what may happen to a society that allows antigay rage, paranoia and tolerance for violence to escalate to logical but tragic outcomes.
Addendum: Ex-gay movement critic Timothy Kincaid reported in 2004 that Exodus Global Alliance, the global ex-gay umbrella network, actively contributed to the violence and government complicity in Jamaica with fliers that declared homosexuals to be “sexually broken” and an event that recommended: “Some say decriminalise homosexuality……we say let’s offer solutions.” The speaker for this event, D.L. Foster, is notorious among gays and ex-gays for his incendiary and insulting diatribes about ex-gay issues, equality advocates, and gay-tolerant people of faith. He seemed to defend antigay warfare in Jamaica with comments such as this:
I have written before that so called homophobia is a justified reaction…In his powerfully written argument published in the Jamaica Gleaner, Dr. Leachim Semaj says “I take issue with the recent discussion describing Jamaican people who see homosexuality as dysfunctional or deviant as being sick people. This is what is done when one subscribes to the concept of “homophobia”…Dr. Semaj who has written for major outlets internationally, is on point with his commentary.