In February, a brave gay Ugandan living in exile, Kushaba Moses Mworeko, appeared at the National Press Club in Washington with a paper bag over his head to denounce Uganda’s deadly Anti-Homosexuality Bill. He wore a mask to conceal his identity because he feared for his life. At the D.C. press conference, he decried the interference in Ugandan affairs by intolerant American evangelicals, including the “ex-gay” organization Exodus International.
The catalyst for the infamous “Kill the Gays Bill” was a 2009 conference in Kampala featuring Scott Lively, who wrote The Pink Swastika, a book that blamed gay men for the rise of Nazism in Germany, and Don Schmierer, a board member for Exodus International.
Looking back, these were heady days for Exodus, with high-profile television appearances and globetrotting to exotic lands to evangelize the “ex-gay” myth. The good times were rolling with Exodus living by the economic rules of “God’s Economy”, where strong faith trumps smart finances.
The spiritual drunkenness of Exodus had led the organization to foolishly trade its leased offices in favor of a building with a million dollar mortgage. Now, deep into the recession, the organization is left begging the Lord for a loan and asking God’s helpers for a helping hand. On Monday, Exodus wrote on its blog, “Will you pray and ask if God would use YOU to extend His hand of generosity to our ministry during this challenging season?”
In this same Internet post, the organization announced layoffs. The downsizing mirrored severe cuts by Focus on the Family, which sold its financially strapped “ex-gay” road show, “Love Won Out”, to Exodus last year. Apparently, it was not such a wise investment for Exodus, judging by the group’s latest plea for help.
“Dear friends, please pray for us at Exodus,” wrote the organization’s President Alan Chambers. “We have experienced an unexpectedly low giving season this summer coupled with much higher expenses (insurance, utilities, etc). Sadly, we have had to let several staff go. Your prayers are appreciated. For those who are also having to endure this unfriendly economy, our prayers are with you!”
Those who do not follow the “ex-gay” industry must have been surprised by Exodus’ poverty plea. After all, on Aug. 10, the organization’s President Alan Chambers told CNN’s blog that, “Our calls are increasing. Our ministries say we’re busier than ever.”
Exodus’ Vice President, Randy Thomas, also appeared to be oblivious to the cliff ahead. On Aug. 7, he posted a flamboyant video where he gregariously sang, expressed horror that his deodorant smelled too gay, and ordered a designer Starbucks “iced venti, skinny vanilla latte”.
However, the shortfall wasn’t a shock to those of us who study these groups. In late January, I first warned that Exodus was in trouble, evidenced by its moribund website and tardy press releases – which suggested there had been staff cuts. At that time I wrote, “The group’s last press release posted on its sluggish website is dated November 16, 2009. Memo to Exodus, the New Year’s ball has dropped. You can come out of your slumber.”
Exodus financial downturn seems to be echoed by Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH), which recently begged supporters to send old clothes, so the group could resell them, presumably at second-hand stores or flea markets.
The reason for the relative decline of these groups is that they are selling a fraudulent product. If they had really “cured” self-loathing homosexuals, these groups would be swimming in money, donated by satisfied clients and ecstatic relatives. All they offer, however, is an infomercial for false hope and their seedy scheme is beginning to catch up to them.
Unfortunately, failed American “ex-gay” outfits can still do enormous damage overseas. For example, Hong Kong’s Society for Truth and Light just published a 52-page booklet citing the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) This is the organization best known for George Rekers, its anti-gay board member who had to step down this year after vacationing with a prostitute he had met on Rent Boy.com.
This week, Kushaba Moses Mworeko released a new video, courageously taking off his mask to call attention to the plight of LGBT people in most African countries. He implored Anglican bishops attending the All African Bishops conference in Entebbe, Uganda, to denounce the “Kill the Gays Bill.”
While it may take Exodus a while to fix its financial mess, the global wreckage it has left behind will not be so easy to clean up.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”