I received a disturbing email earlier today about an “ex-gay” conference at Sunshine Community Church here in Grand Rapids. For those of you who haven’t heard of them, “ex-gay” ministries are rightwing religious/political ministries that operate with a homophobic/anti-gay agenda that says that homosexuality is a mental illness that can be “cured” by prayer and/or “reparative therapy.”
This particular conference is sponsored by a group affiliated with Focus on the Family called Love Wins Out. It’s part of a multi-million dollar industry of rightwing ministries focused on repressing LGBT people. The conference features sessions outlining “the family dynamics that can lead to the development of same-sex desires,” how lesbians are a result of “emotional dependency,” how to raise children “toward a healthy heterosexual identity,” and how to pursue legislative efforts aimed at stopping LGBT equality.
If anything good came out of the news, it’s that there is already serious organizing going into the countering the hateful message of the program, with Grand Valley State University organizing a panel discussion on ex-gay ministries and a protest at Calder Plaza.
An email from GVSU’s LGBT Resource Center provides some background information and outlines the events:
Dear members and friends of the LGBT community,
Focus on the Family is bringing their anti-gay seminar “Love Won Out” to Sunshine Ministry Church on Saturday, June 13th. This program has a “pray away the gay” philosophy.
To present another side to that conversation, Grand Valley State University will host a panel discussion on religion and homophobia that will feature national and local experts.
“Religion and Homophobia: Spiritual Violence in Our Community” is set for Thursday, June 11, from 7-9 p.m. in the Eberhard Center, Room 215, on Grand Valley’s Pew Grand Rapids Campus at 301 W. Fulton St. The event is free and open to the public.
Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, will begin the discussion with a presentation about the nature, validity, and impact of “ex-gay” reparative ministries or therapies. Truth Wins Out is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to defending the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community against anti-gay misinformation campaigns.
Panel members will include the following:
• John Corvino, Wayne State University professor, author and lecturer;
• Milt Ford, director of Grand Valley’s LGBT Resource Center;
• Judith Snow, Grand Rapids area forensic therapist and author;
• Doug Van Doren, pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ;
• Josh Sleutel, GVSU student, previous reparative therapy patient.
Join our Facebook group, “Religion & Homophobia: Spiritual Violence in our Community” The National Organization of Women is planning a protest response to “Love Won Out” on Saturday, June 13 at noon – Calder Plaza. Join their Facebook group at “Grand Rapids NOW Takes Action!”
The event is sponsored by Grand Valley’s Division of Inclusion and Equity, Dean of Students Office, LGBT Resource Center, Women’s Center, Women and Gender Studies Department, Office of Multicultural Affairs, Liberal Studies Department, Allies and Advocates, and the LGBT Faculty and Staff Association.
For more information, call the LGBT Resource Center at (616) 331-2530. Tell your friends!