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

don wildman Complaint Filed With Mississippi Attorney General Against American Family Association For Selling Fraudulent Ex Gay VideoJACKSON, Miss. — Truth Wins Out announced today that it would file a complaint this week with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood against the Tupelo, Mississippi-based American Family Association for selling a misleading video on its web-site titled, “It’ Not Gay.” In a letter to Hood, Truth Wins Out urged him to expeditiously pull this fraudulent video from the marketplace, require a written apology from the AFA and that refunds be offered to dissatisfied consumers.

“Nowhere does the American Family Association inform potential viewers that Johnston’ “cure’ did not endure,” wrote Truth Wins Out’ Executive Director Wayne Besen in the letter to Hood. “This organization is undeniably peddling false hope to vulnerable and desperate people and bilking them out of their hard earned money. In doing so, the American Family Association 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, Americans For Truth, 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, AFA spokesman Buddy Smith told Southern Voice, “I don’t think the message is changed at all, though of course the messenger is certainly harmed. I don’t foresee he would ever be back in a place of public ministry, especially in an outreach to homosexuals like the ministry he had.”

Despite publicly admitting that Johnston had failed in his efforts at heterosexuality, AFA 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 25, 2007

Attorney General Jim Hood
Attn: CONSUMER PROTECTION DIVISION
P.O. Box 22947
Jackson, MS 39225-2947

Dear Mr. Hood:

I am writing to file a complaint against the Tupelo, Mississippi-based non-profit organization the American Family Association. 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, an AFA spokesman, Buddy Smith, told Southern Voice, “I don’t think the message is changed at all, though of course the messenger is certainly harmed. I don’t foresee he would ever be back in a place of public ministry, especially in an outreach to homosexuals like the ministry he had.”

Despite publicly admitting that Johnston had failed in his efforts at heterosexuality, AFA 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 AFA guilty of deceptive advertising and duping unsuspecting consumers who are led to believe that Johnston had miraculously changed sexual orientations.

Nowhere does the American Family Association 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, the American Family Association is unscrupulously capitalizing on the sincere and heartfelt religious convictions of its followers and exploiting them for the organization’ financial gain.

This is not a matter of free speech, but protecting consumers against false speech. Indeed, Truth Wins Out is not demanding less speech on the part of AFA, but more speech, by having AFA tell the full story behind Johnston’ supposed conversion. The First Amendment gives AFA the right to promote its message, but not to knowingly give a platform to, and profit from, an insincere messenger who is clearly not who he says he is in this video.

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 AFA that must be posted prominently on its website and that refunds be offered to dissatisfied consumers.

Thank you for reviewing the enclosed information and I look forward to hearing back from you 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 Mississippi and nationwide will not be taken advantage of by a dishonest and unscrupulous organization.

Sincerely,

Wayne Besen
Executive Director
Truth Wins Out