Open Letter to Exodus

Many of you know about an ex-gay conference that took place this past weekend in Uganda. (You can read several articles about this over at Box Turtle Bulletin) US-based promoters and providers of ex-gay treatments have increasingly sought ways to export their ideologies internationally with varying degrees of success and failure. This most recent mission trip to Uganda, a country that punishes gays with life long prison sentences, reaches new heights of irresponsibility.

Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin, Mike Airhart and Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, and, David Roberts of Ex-Gay Watch have issued a joint statement to the Exodus board about their role in participating and supporting this endeavor (actively and passively).

Perhaps some folks at Exodus will simply react to this open letter by saying,

“The gay bloggers have attacked us, so we must be doing something right.”

Sadly this has been the default setting by many Exodus leaders for a long time. Ex-gay survivors, gay activists, and distressed citizens have raised serious concerns about the practices and teachings prevalent in various ex-gay ministries and programs. These have either been ignored or dismissed as attacks.

Those of us who were consumers of these practices and teachings know firsthand what happens in these programs–the good and the bad–and perhaps naively have expected that those practitioners who care more about people than politics will take to heart and into serious consideration our experiences and especially the harm we have experienced by those who say they meant to bring blessings into our lives.

A few have listened and have moved past a defensive stance. Others may be listening but remain silent about what they are hearing. One would think that after all of the mess that has gone on at Exodus programs like Love in Action and fallout,  that even for practical reasons and in order to avoid liability, these folks will humble themselves enough to listen.

Perhaps they are too invested in all this to see it clearly and choose to stick their fingers in their ears and pretend that the enemy is attacking them. Otherwise they may hear something that will cause them to question. The result may be that they will ultimately lose their places of power and privilege in a church that demands their leaders be anti-gay in order to have a seat at the table. Steve Biko, the famous South African anti-aparthied leader said,

The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.

Here is the open leader to the board members of Exodus International

Open letter to the Exodus International Board of Directors:

We, the undersigned organizations, have monitored the ex-gay industry for more than a decade. To our great horror, prominent members of the ex-gay organization Exodus International participated last week in a conference in Uganda that promoted shocking abuses of basic human rights. This included draconian measures against gay and lesbian people such as forced ex-gay therapy, life imprisonment for people convicted of homosexuality and the formation of an organization designed to “wipe out” gay practices in Uganda. The conference also featured Scott Lively, a holocaust revisionist who at the event also blamed the 1994 Rwandan genocide on gay people.

The facts incontrovertibly show that Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, was aware of the list of speakers and abhorrent content prior to the conference. Exodus board member Don Schmierer, who spoke in Uganda, made no objections to the radical and dangerous platform offered. Instead, these mortal threats to the lives of gay and lesbian people were met with a deafening silence. Exodus, in effect, gave this insidious conference its tacit approval.

Today, we take the unprecedented step of joining together to demand that Exodus International’s Board of Directors take immediate action to hold accountable those who used the Exodus brand to promote an atmosphere conducive to serious human rights abuses. The accountability must begin with reasonable and responsible action by Board Chair Bob Ragan, including:

  • Dismissing Exodus President Alan Chambers for his knowing role in using Exodus to promote human rights abuses
  • Removing Board member Don Schmierer for speaking at a hate conference that promotes physical harm and psychological torture against GLBT people
  • Boldly articulating Exodus’ policy against human rights abuses including forced therapy
  • Promising to end future participation in all conferences that call on the persecution and criminalization of gay and lesbian people

We do not take this call to action lightly. These steps are necessary and commensurate with the massive breach of ethics and trust by the Exodus leadership. Clearly, Exodus has lost credibility and its claim to “love” gay people in the aftermath of Uganda seems duplicitous and insincere. As long as Chambers and Schmierer remain at Exodus, the organization is hopelessly compromised and even complicit in grave human rights abuses. It is time for the Exodus Board, led by Bob Ragan, to assert its moral authority by appointing new leadership and taking the organization in a more humane and principled direction.

Sincerely,

Jim Burroway
Box Turtle Bulletin
David Roberts
Ex-Gay Watch
Wayne Besen
Truth Wins Out
Mike Airhart
Truth Wins Out

Click here to read about the documentation outlining the case against Exodus leaders.

This post has 9 Comments

  1. dhconcerts on March 12, 2009 at 2:06 am Reply

    Has Exodus been put on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s official list of hate groups? It looks like maybe it should be there after this recent event.

  2. p2son on March 12, 2009 at 6:02 am Reply

    dhconcerts, interesting question. Over a year ago someone from SPLC contacted me and asked if I thought Exodus was a hate group. I thought about it and concluded it is more of a “self-hate” group.

    I think the question warrants more consideration and discussion.

    What are your thoughts?

  3. queermergent on March 12, 2009 at 9:18 pm Reply

    i think when Exodus aligns itself with groups like this one in Uganda and endorses this man from S. Africa by linking to him on their site, they are endorsing more than self-hate imho.

    Can you explain more about what SPLC is about? Thanks!

    Existential Punk

  4. dhconcerts on March 13, 2009 at 2:39 am Reply

    I agree with queermergent. When exodus encourages people in another country to imprison, torture or kill its own citizens, that is way beyond just being wrong. If a person is imprisoned for sexual orientation, torture and death at the hands of the captors would not be beyond belief.

    There is an article today on huffingtonpost about rape to ‘fix’ lesbians. South Africa: ‘Corrective Rape’ Spreads To ‘Fix’ Lesbians (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/12/south-africa-corrective-r_n_174380.html). From what you described, exodus could be encouraging the same thing in Uganda, implicitly if not explicitly.

    Gay-bashing is a bad thing anywhere, but speaking against human rights for any group of people, in a country known for human rights abuses, is without conscience. How can they believe that what they are doing is in any way ‘Christian’? In my opinion, what they are doing is beyond immoral and unethical. It borders on criminal. And, it is most certainly at the opposite end of the spectrum from anything that could be called ‘love’.

  5. dhconcerts on March 13, 2009 at 2:49 am Reply

    The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors hate groups in the USA. Here’s a link to their site: http://www.splcenter.org/index.jsp

  6. p2son on March 13, 2009 at 9:15 am Reply

    Existential Punk, you write,

    “i think when Exodus aligns itself with groups like this one in Uganda and endorses this man from S. Africa by linking to him on their site, they are endorsing more than self-hate imho.”

    Yes, I agree. This has been the growing troubling pattern of Exodus’ history over the past 15 years in that in conjunction with Focus on the Family they have become more and more aggressive about pushing their message on others–in particular parents and youth. When they stopped having as much success directly with the LGBT people who attended their programs willingly, they began to diversify and engage in efforts to recruit people to their cause.

    This latest move to support this conference in Uganda goes farther than they have up until now.

  7. p2son on March 13, 2009 at 9:17 am Reply

    Casey Sanchez of the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote a piece about the ex-gay movement back in the Dec of 2007.

    Straight Like Me

  8. dhconcerts on March 13, 2009 at 12:04 pm Reply

    I’ve read that SPLC article before, but I just realized it sounds like the inspiration for the movie “But, I’m A Cheerleader.” In the movie, RuPaul played the ‘ex-gay’ (male) camp counselor who was obviously not over his same-sex attractions. The movie took this painful subject and made it into a comedy and coming-of-age story.

    They tried to teach the boys to do ‘male’ things (football, guns, cars) and the girls to do ‘female’ things (change diapers, wash dishes, vacuum). I thought that was just a technique to highlight how narrow the thinking is in those programs. I didn’t realize, until I read that article again, how closely it matched the description of Love in Action. Here’s a link to the 1st 20 minutes of the movie: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2100717398322651771

  9. Michael Bussee on January 15, 2010 at 7:07 pm Reply

    It has been months now, and Exodus/Schmeirer have still not officially apologized, admitted that they were careless in ignoring the warnings — or that they have since adopted strong, official policies against criminalization and forced “treatment”. Nor has there been a promise not to take the ex-gay message and agenda into countries that already criminalize homosexuality.

    I agree with this from Warren Throckmorton’s blog today:

    “Jim Naughton, a former canon in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C., says their message plays one way in the U.S., but differently in a place like Uganda. And they should have known.

    “If you go to countries where there’s already a great deal of suspicion and maybe animosity towards homosexuals, and begin to tell people there, ‘Well, actually these people are child abusers, they’re coming for their children, that they’re the scourge that is being deposited on you by the secular West,’ you’re gonna get a backlash.” Naughton says it’s like “showing up in rooms filled with gasoline, and throwing lighted matches around and saying, ‘Well, I never intended fire .‘”

    Time to take firm action to put it out.
    I am not part of any organization, but I so wish I could sign the Open Letter.

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