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Religion and homosexuality

Part 1: 1998 & 1999: "Ex-gay" advertisements

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1998-JUL Newspaper Ads:

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 Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is the one of the main organization in the U.S. that monitors anti-semitic, racist, anti-LGBT, and similar hate groups.

The SPLC wrote in their Intelligence Report for Winter 2010:

"Even as some well-known anti-gay groups like Focus on the Family moderate their views, a hard core of smaller groups, most of them religiously motivated, have continued to pump out demonizing propaganda aimed at homosexuals and other sexual minorities. These groups’ influence reaches far beyond what their size would suggest, because the 'facts' they disseminate about homosexuality are often amplified by certain politicians, other groups and even news organizations. Of the 18 groups profiled ... the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) will be listing 13 next year as hate groups, reflecting further research into their views. ... Generally, the SPLC’s listings of these groups is based on their propagation of known falsehoods " claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities " and repeated, groundless name-calling. Viewing homosexuality as unbiblical does not qualify organizations for listing as hate groups." 2

The SPLC list of 18 groups identified three of the sponsors of the "Truth in Love" advertisements as anti-gay hate groups: American Family Association, Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, and Family Research Council. It also identified three of the sponsors as anti-gay groups whose activities did not rise to the level of a hate group: Concerned Women for America, Coral Ridge Ministries, and Liberty Counsel.

The ads were seen many newspapers, including 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 a homosexual orientation into heterosexuals. Topics of one ad included:

bullet "One boy's sin and the making of a lesbian,

bullet Being a woman became a mystery;

bullet There's a God-shaped hole in everyone's heart;

bullet Knock and He'll answer - But the next step is still yours;

bullet Once God answers, He never hangs up;

bullet Changing hearts, changing lives;

bullet There is another way out."

These ads were followed up with a TV ad campaign in 1998-OCT whose theme was "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 promoted:

"... 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. 3He 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."

Aftermath of the 1998 ads:

Newsweek cover Newsweek magazine ran a cover story about John and Anne Paulk -- the "poster boy and girl" of the 1998-JUL ads. The ads discussed their position that they were lesbian and gay, but had been able to convert to heterosexuality. They later married.

Two years later, a gay author, Wane Besen, received a call from a friend in a gay bar who explained that John Paulk was in the bar chatting him up. Besen 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." 4,8

Besen investigated further and found that of the four male stars of the 1998-JUL ad campaign:

bullet Paulk was outed by Besen in a Washington DC gay bar.

bullet Another outed himself as a homosexual.

bullet A third was discovered in mid-2003 taking part in a men-only orgy.

bullet The final star has not been heard from.

When interviewed in the Guardian, a UK newspaper, Besen 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." 5

The "changed their behavior" statement probably refers to some gays and lesbians who have been able to remain celibate, even as they retained their homosexual orientation, and to some bisexuals who have decided to confine their relationships to opposite-sex individuals even as their bisexual orientation remained unchanged.

It took over a half a generation, but John Paulk finally offered two apologies to people that he had harmed by promoting the ex-gay movement. The first was a partial apology during mid 2013-APR in PQ monthly when he said that his words were only "misconstrued." Later that month, on APR-14, he issued a full apology, saying in part:

"For the better part of ten years, I was an advocate and spokesman for what’s known as the 'ex-gay movement,' where we declared that sexual orientation could be changed through a close-knit relationship with God, intensive therapy and strong determination. At the time, I truly believed that it would happen. And while many things in my life did change as a Christian, my sexual orientation did not. ..."

"I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people. I know that countless people were harmed by things I said and did in the past.

Parents, families, and their loved ones were negatively impacted by the notion of reparative therapy and the message of change. I am truly, truly sorry for the pain I have caused. ..."

"Today, I see LGBT people for who they are: beloved, cherished children of God. I offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology to men, women, and especially children and teens who felt unlovable, unworthy, shamed, or thrown away by God or the church. ..." 6

We have never found public apologies by any of the 15 sponsors of the ads. If anyone is aware of any, we would really appreciate information about their apology. A Contact Us button is at the bottom of almost all essays in this web site.

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1999-MAY TV ads:

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 had created a new division, the Center for Reclaiming America.  Their mission statement was 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." 7

The Center developed a new series of television ads. As of 1999-MAY, they were initially aired in Washington DC because, as a Center spokesperson said: "that's where the policymakers are." The ads were 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:

bullet "involved in homosexuality"

bullet "sometimes they make bad choices"

bullet "walk away from homosexuality"

bullet "freedom from homosexuality"

bullet "hope for change"

The Truth in Love - "Families" ad uses phrases:

bullet "both [were] former homosexuals"

bullet "active in the gay community"

bullet "walked away from it" (referring to the gay community)

bullet "struggling with homosexuality"

bullet "hope for change"

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Toward hope and healing for homosexuals," is a typical "Truth in Love" 1998 newspaper ad. A copy  is at: (Link no longer functioning)
  2. "18 anti-gay groups and their propaganda," Intelligence Report, Winter-2010, Issue #140, at:
  3. "Mainline Minister Criticizes 'ex-gay' ads," Worldwide Faith News, 1998-JUL-16. See:
  4. Decca Aitkenhead, "Going straight," The Guardian newspaper, 2004-APR-03, at:
  5. Wayne Besen, "Anything But Straight: Unmasking The Scandals And Lies Behind The Ex-Gay Myth," Routledge, (2003). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  6. Wayne Besen, "TWO Demands Sponsors Of Failed ‘Ex-Gay’ Ad Campaign Apologize After Poster Boy Comes Out," Truth Wins Out (TW)) 2013-APR-14, at:
  7. "Center for Reclaiming America" had a web site at: It closed down in 2007'
  8. Book image Wayne Besen, "Anything but Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth," Routledge, (2003). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store. The cost of this book ranges from about $39 in paperback. $37 in Kindle, and $97 in hardcopy. However, the web site normally lists used copies for a few dollars.

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Copyright 1998 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Latest update and review: 2013-JUN-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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