In the past two years, there has been an epidemic of eight suicides in Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin school district. Anti-gay bullying may have played a role in half of the suicides. The school district is being sued for not stopping anti-gay bullying, which many people feel is a result of its notorious “gag rule” forbidding the discussion of homosexuality. Critics of the rule say that some teachers fail to stop bullying because they are afraid of violating this insidious policy, which officially renders LGBT students invisible.
In July, Truth Wins Out went undercover and found that Marcus Bachmann, husband of presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, had a clinic that practiced “reparative therapy,” designed to turn gay people into heterosexuals. So, it is no surprise that these school suicides have occurred in Bachmann’s congressional district.
Bachmann is not directly responsible for the carnage and some of the tragic deaths might be blamed on a suicide contagion. However, her war against LGBT people and her family’s promotion of the “ex-gay” myth surely must have helped create an intolerant climate where LGBT youth are routinely bullied in school.
A New York Times article this week quoted the website of the Minnesota Policy Council, a Bachmann ally and key organization that seems to support continued bullying in schools: “When a child has been deliberately misinformed about the causes of homosexuality and told that homosexual acts are normal and natural, all hope for recovery is taken away.”
Another key proponent of “ex-gay” therapy is a former Minnesota teacher named Janet Boynes whose ministry is less than ten miles away from where the suicides are occurring. Her book, Called Out: A Former Lesbians Discovery of Freedom, was endorsed by Marcus Bachmann and sold in his clinic. Boynes believes that LGBT activists “recruit” children and that LGBT lives are full of “emptiness.”
“For those reading this book who may be considering the homosexual lifestyle, let me tell you the truth: It isn’t fun. It isn’t glamorous. It isn’t trendy. It doesn’t fill the emptiness inside. It doesn’t help you find your identity. It doesn’t give you peace – and it never, ever will,” Boynes wrote in her book.
Boynes runs the National Education Association’s Ex-Gay Educators Caucus with Cottage Grove, Minnesota resident Susan Halvorson. The “Ex-Gay” Educators Caucus is a politicized anti-gay front group that hosts a booth each year at the National Education Association’s annual meeting. The goal of this campaign is to promote the notion that “people deserve to hear all the facts so they can make their own decisions [on sexual conversion]” and to let students know that “for those who truly want change, change is possible.”
Contributing to the anti-gay atmosphere is former Christian metal rocker Bradlee Dean who is now a talk radio show host and leads Annandale, Minnesota-based You Can Run But You Cannot Hide Ministry. In May 2010, Dean praised Sharia law as being “more moral” than American Christianity because of its harsh penalties against homosexuality.
At the 2010 Awakening conference at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, I personally heard Dean and his minions brag that their ministry had spoken at hundreds of public schools in Minnesota. If this is true it is beyond scandalous and might help explain the dire situation.
Fortunately, at the national level “ex-gay” ministries and their homophobic sponsors are losing steam. This past weekend, I joined 70 protesters outside Sugar Creek Baptist Church to demonstrate against the “ex-gay” Love Won Out conference, a quarterly road show hosted by Exodus International. The seminar featured Exodus President Alan Chambers who invented an entirely new sexual orientation: “The opposite of homosexuality is holysexuality,” he claimed. (Is that sex with a doughnut?)
With Exodus devolving into such idiocy in recent years, it is no surprise that only 450 people attended this conference in a conservative suburb of America’s fourth largest city. This is a precipitous fall from the heyday of Love Won Out, where attendance was often double the size of the Houston event.
In Memphis, Exodus’ flagship “ex-gay” ministry, Love in Action, dropped its infamous residential program, which once made headlines for forcing youth to attend against their will. A new film by Morgan Jon Fox, This is What Love in Action Looks Like, does a terrific job of telling this horrific story.
Meanwhile, a Polish university canceled an “ex-gay” seminar last week by Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, the co-founder of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), after the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza rightfully criticized the quack-fest.
Most encouraging, an August poll by the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute found that nearly half (44 percent) of young evangelicals between the ages of 18-29 favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. This might explain the noticeable exodus from Exodus conferences in recent years.
The heartbreaking situation in Minnesota, however, shows that even as these groups decline, they can still be quite deadly. This is why I am teaming up with Join the Impact Massachusetts to protest an Exodus conference in Auburn, New Hampshire on Saturday. If you are in the area, I hope you will join us from 8-11 a.m. (45 Myles Drive)
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”