So-Called Miracle “Cure’ Did Not Endure, Yet Consumers Intentionally Kept In The Dark About “Ex-Gay’ Leader’ Failed Sexual Conversion

peter labarbera Complaint Filed With Illinois Attorney General Against Right Wing Group For Selling Fraudulent Ex Gay VideoCHICAGO — Truth Wins Out filed a complaint today with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan against the Naperville, Illinois-based non-profit organization Americans For Truth and its president Peter LaBarbera for selling a misleading video on its web-site titled, “It’ Not Gay.” In a letter to Madigan, Truth Wins Out urged her to expeditiously pull this fraudulent video from the marketplace, require a written apology from LaBarbera and that refunds be offered to dissatisfied consumers.

“Nowhere does Americans for Truth inform potential viewers that Johnston’ “cure’ did not endure,” wrote Truth Wins Out’ Executive Director Wayne Besen in the letter to Madigan. “This organization is undeniably peddling false hope to vulnerable and desperate people and bilking them out of their hard earned money. In doing so, Americans for Truth is unscrupulously capitalizing on the sincere and heartfelt religious convictions of its followers and exploiting them for the organization’ financial gain.”

The primary spokesperson featured in “It’ Not Gay” is Michael Johnston, an HIV+ so-called “ex-gay” leader who offers testimony claiming he became heterosexual in 1998 “through the power of Jesus Christ.” He went on to collaborate with The American Family Association, Coral Ridge Ministries and Rev. Jerry Falwell.

In August 2003, Johnston’ claims at sexual conversion collapsed in an embarrassing scandal. Michael Hamar, a Virginia attorney, called Besen to say he had a client who had been having an affair with Johnston, not realizing, at first, Johnston’s true identity as a prominent ex-gay figure. Besen was also introduced to another young man who claimed to have had unprotected sex with the ex-gay leader. While in Virginia, Besen was shown a video of a man that looked eerily similar to Johnston having unprotected sex with several men. Hamar’s client signed an affidavit swearing the man was Michael Johnston.

The news broke in Southern Voice, a respected gay publication in Atlanta. Johnston resigned his ministry in disgrace and fled to a sex addiction facility in Kentucky, Pure Life Ministries, where he sought counseling. In reaction to Johnston’ fall, LaBarbera told Southern Voice, “He obviously had a moral failing, that’s true.”

Despite publicly admitting that Johnston had failed in his efforts at heterosexuality, Labarbera is now selling the specious “It’ Not Gay” video and portraying Johnston to unsuspecting viewers as a “former homosexual.”

Truth Wins OUT is a non-profit organization that counters right wing propaganda, exposes the “ex-gay” myth and educates America about gay life. For more information, visit www.TruthWinsOut.org.

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January 18, 2007

Attorney General Lisa Madigan
Attn: CONSUMER FRAUD
100 West Randolph Street, 12th Floor
Chicago, IL 60601

Dear Ms. Madigan:

I am writing to file a complaint against the Naperville, Illinois-based non-profit organization Americans For Truth and its president Peter LaBarbera. This organization is selling a misleading video on its web-site, titled “It’ Not Gay.” The primary spokesperson featured in this video is Michael Johnston, an HIV+ so-called “ex-gay” leader who offers testimony claiming he became heterosexual in 1998 “through the power of Jesus Christ.”

In August 2003, Johnston’ claims at sexual conversion collapsed in an embarrassing scandal. Michael Hamar, a Virginia attorney, called me to say he had a client who had been having an affair with Johnston, not realizing, at first, Johnston’s true identity as a prominent ex-gay figure. I was also introduced to another young man who claimed to have had unprotected sex with the ex-gay leader. While in Virginia, I was shown a video of a man that looked eerily similar to Johnston having unprotected sex with several men. Hamar’s client signed an affidavit swearing the man was Michael Johnston.

The news broke in Southern Voice, a respected gay publication in Atlanta. Johnston resigned his ministry in disgrace and fled to a sex addiction facility in Kentucky, Pure Life Ministries, where he sought counseling. In reaction to Johnston’ fall, LaBarbera told Southern Voice, “He obviously had a moral failing, that’s true.”

Despite publicly admitting that Johnston had failed in his efforts at heterosexuality, Labarbera is now selling the specious “It’ Not Gay” video and portraying Johnston to unsuspecting viewers as a “former homosexual.” Indeed, on the front of the box under a picture of Johnston it says, “Former homosexuals tell a story few have heard.”

How can Johnston continue to be presented as a “former homosexual”? The word “former” clearly implies that he has ceased all homosexual activity prior to filming “It’ Not Gay.” However, abundant homosexual activity on the part of Johnston had occurred after the video was released. This makes LaBarbera guilty of deceptive advertising and duping unsuspecting consumers who are led to believe that Johnston had miraculously changed sexual orientations.

Nowhere does Americans for Truth inform potential viewers that Johnston’ “cure” did not endure. This organization is undeniably peddling false hope to vulnerable and desperate people and bilking them out of their hard earned money. In doing so, Americans for Truth is unscrupulously capitalizing on the sincere and heartfelt religious convictions of its followers and exploiting them for the organization’ financial gain.

It is in the state’ best interest to expeditiously pull this fraudulent video replete with bogus claims and outright fabrications from the marketplace. Truth Wins Out also urges the state to require a written apology from LaBarbera that he must post prominently on his website and that refunds be offered to dissatisfied consumers.

Thank you for reviewing the enclosed information and I look forward to hearing back from Ms. Madigan after the investigation is complete. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am happy to assist you and provide you with additional information that will help ensure consumers in Illinois and nationwide will not be taken advantage of by a dishonest and unprincipled organization.

Sincerely,

Wayne Besen
Executive Director
Truth Wins Out