If there is one certainty about “ex-gay” ministries is that many of the movement’ leaders who once said that they had “changed” later recanted or were found to not be living their lives as they had advertised. The following are some of the defections and scandals that have cast a long shadow doubt on the efficacy of these organizations:
* John Paulk was the chairman of Exodus International and founded Focus on the Family’ Love Won Out conference. He had appeared on 60 Minutes, Oprah, Good Morning America and landed on the cover of Newsweek during a high profile 1998 ex-gay ad campaign. On Sept. 19, 2000 activist Wayne Besen photographed Paulk in Mr. P’ — Washington, DC gay bar. The incident cost him his job as Exodus’ chairman and Focus on the Family greatly diminished his role.
The John Paulk ‘Ex-Gay’ Scandal
* Michael Johnston was the founder of “National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day.” The HIV+ ex-gay leader worked with Rev. Jerry Falwell and appeared in commercials and videos for Coral Ridge Ministries and The American Family Association. In 2003, he resigned after he allegedly had unprotected sex with men he met on the Internet. Johnston now resides at a sex addiction facility in Kentucky, where he also works.
The Michael Johnston ‘Ex-Gay’ Scandal
* In 2000, Wade Richards appeared as a media spokesperson for a group called the Saviors Alliance for Lifting the Truth and gave his testimony of “change” at a major press conference sponsored by right-wing zealot Peter LaBarbera, who now works at Americans For Truth. But a year later, Richards rebuked the “ex-gay” ministries when he came out in an interview with the Advocate magazine.
* In the early 1970′ Gary Cooper and Michael Bussee were counselors at an “ex-gay” ministry in Anaheim, Calif. In 1976, they organized the first national conference of “ex-gay” ministries. At this conference, Exodus International was formed and it is now the world’ largest “ex-gay” organization. While traveling on behalf of Exodus, the two men acknowledged that they had not changed and were in love with each other. They soon divorced their wives, moved in together and held a commitment ceremony. In 2006, Bussee apologized at an Ex-Gay Survivors Conference for his key role in starting Exodus International.
* In 1973, John Evans co-founded Love In Action, the first contemporary “ex-gay” ministry on the outskirts of San Francisco. However, after Evans’ best friend Jack McIntyre committed suicide in despair over not being able to “change”, Evans left the program. Today, he works to help victims of these organizations find self-acceptance.
* In 1979, Seventh Day Adventist minister Colin Cook founded Homosexuals Anonymous (HA). Appearing twice on the Phil Donahue show, he became the face of the ex-gay movement. But Cook’ career collapsed in 1986 after it was discovered he was giving nude massages to clients. Cook moved to Colorado and made a comeback in 1992 by helping Colorado for Family Values and Focus on the Family promote anti-gay campaigns. In 1995, Cook’ efforts once again unraveled after several of his clients accused him of engaging in phone sex, inappropriate hugs and other unethical behavior.
* In 1987, Jeremy Marks founded Courage, London’ first “ex-gay” ministry. In 2001, after nearly 15 years of watching people – including himself – struggle in vain to “change”, he renounced Exodus, saying that they were failing in their efforts to change peoples’ sexual orientation.
* Desert Stream ministries acknowledged in their Mid-Year 2001 Report that, “At the end of 2000, we faced an unusual number of Desert-Stream-related leaders who fell into sexual sin, or who at least demonstrated a colossal lack of wisdom in their social choices…Several were placed on different plans of discipline and restoration.”
Jaylen Braiden: Desert Stream Survivor Shares Experience
* In its Summer 2003 newsletter, Portland Fellowship announced that its long-time director Phil Hobizal was stepping down because of an “emotional entanglement” with a man.
* In Sept. 2007, ex-gay therapist Christopher Austin was convicted of sexually assaulting a client. Austin was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but received seven years probation, had to register as a sex offender and was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine. Austin had started Renew Ministries, a counseling center run out of a church in Irving. He was affiliated with the National Association For Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH). Indeed, Austin taught a seminar at NARTH’ 2004 annual convention entitled, “Understanding and Treating Compulsive Sexual Behavior in Men with Value-Incongruent Homosexual Issues: A Multidimensional Approach.”
* In 2007, the website “Beyond Ex-Gay” was founded by Peterson Toscano, who was involved in ex-gay ministries for fifteen years. He, along with the GLBT advocacy SoulForce, held an Ex-Gay Survivors Conference in Irvine, California. The event included more than a hundred victims of ex-gay organizations and highlighted the harm of these groups.
* In 2002, therapist Richard Cohen, former president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) and head of the International Healing Foundation (IHF) was permanently expelled form the American Counseling Association.