Two months ago, I posted that Americans for Truth About Homosexuality was holding a “Truth Academy” in order to train the next generation of anti-gay-rights activists. Attendees needed to pay a registration fee and get a “recommendation” from a pastor. I wrote that I would gladly pay the fee for anyone who wanted to go.
Ultimately, two people — Maria Pahl and “Perry D’Olia” (a pseudonym) — were accepted into the Academy. They did this using their real names and providing the requested documents. Both were present for the entirety of the academy, with any exceptions listed below.
The opinions expressed are entirely their own. Since there was a lot of overlap in their experience, I’ve used Maria’s writing as the basis for their perceptions of the day itself while Perry’s writing is the basis for the specific lectures.
I arrived at the first day of the AFTAH Truth Academy at 8:45 a.m. on Thursday morning.
After a few hastily gulped servings of coffee, AFTAH president Peter LaBarbera asked everyone to take their seats.
LaBarbera kicked off his welcome speech with an anecdote about how AFTAH had been ejected from more hotels than they’ve actually held conventions in, and yet somehow people accused them of being the hateful ones! (Cue laughter)
Quite honestly, I found that many of these people were not “hateful” in the sense that they don’t actively wish LGBT people harm. They truly believe that if homosexuals would only live the lifestyle and hold the beliefs they themselves hold, those homosexuals would go on to live richer, more fulfilling lives. I experienced many of those attending the conference to be kind, concerned individuals. With perhaps a couple exceptions, they certainly didn’t believe things of the Fred Phelps variety. (Phelps was mentioned a couple of times, and everyone seemed to agree he was crazy. It was also stated at one point that Bill O’Reilly is a windbag, though I don’t know if they think he’s a windbag for the same reason I do.)
By my count, around 45 people attended the conference on any given day. That’s including the speakers and the families of the speakers, so actual attendee numbers on any given day were lower, and some new attendees were there on Friday and Saturday. Of the people attending, a large majority were older. On the first day there were only around five people attending who looked to be under the age of 30.
Throughout the first day, I had several conversations with a girl named Timna. Unlike the other attendees, who generally spoke at length about their viewpoints on the subject of homosexuality, Timna simply asked questions and listened. As the day came to a close, I handed her my e-mail address. She pulled me aside out in the hallway and told me that we needed to talk.
“I just want you to know,” she said, “I’m not an anti-gay activist. I’m writing a blog on it…”
I started to laugh. “Me too!”
I found it at least a little comforting that, from what I could gather, Perry and I weren’t the only ones there who disagreed with the speakers.
I went to dinner with two very nice people who mainly discussed the seminar issues. Upon returning from the break, about 100 protesters were outside. None of them confronted us, but stories were told later of the hateful things they said to some of the other attendees. I just got a lot of dirty looks while passing them.
I really wish that the protesters were more civil. It seemed like the ones who were behaving themselves were the attendees. The attendees seemed like a much more cohesive group after that. They talked amongst one another more, probably because of the faces they could then place on the opposition. Before the last talk of the evening, LaBarbera spoke for a moment about the hateful things they said. He used that as evidence for the difference between the two sides. He said that AFTAH espouses love, not hate.
He then led a short prayer for those outside. At the end of the day, I spoke with a few of the protesters and revealed why I was there. They were appreciative, but were still not very civil about what they wanted to do. I highly doubt that screaming matches will help anything. The protesters indicated that Ryan Sorba (see below) was the only one who was inflammatory.
Peter LaBarbera: “From Gay Pride to Gay Tyranny“
LaBarbera threw around several statistics, and other speakers did as well. Because there was no dissenting opinion present, there was no way to verify this information, and I have not had time to look into each myself. So I will present any statistics recorded as they were presented.
He began by indicating that homosexuality is harmful, and thus, must be stopped. He indicated that homosexuals have 44 times the incidence rate of HIV and 46 times the rate of syphilis when compared to heterosexuals. He talked about how the “pro-gays” have a clear agenda that endangers the Christian way of life. He said that the pro-gays are getting backing by the public schools to educate the children about homosexuality. He explained that even nature is against gays.
He went on to say that eventually building owners would be legally required to rent their homes to gays. Personally, I don’t see the problem with this. If I am a homeowner, I should not have the right to discriminate based on sexual orientation.
He brought attention to the comparison in the media between Tony Blair and Barack Obama — amongst other traits like charisma, Obama and Blair also shared support for the gay community. The decriminalization of gays has allowed them to organize and force their views on others. This is just plain wrong, but he explicitly laid out the idea that tolerance has become acceptance and will eventually become forced acceptance. He called for no civil unions to be legalized, as it is simply marriage by another name. He also asked people to call out “supposedly” Christian organizations that do not take hard enough a stance on gay rights.
This is one thing I give everyone at this seminar credit for: they are consistent. Even when other Christian organizations express tolerance of homosexuality, they call them out on it.
For example, he called out Andrew Marin, the Christian who apologized for once being a homophobe at the Gay Pride Parade in Chicago. He asked why we allow this type of behavior as a norm in our society.
He said that CEOs of pro-gay organizations make between $200,000 and $300,000 per year and so clearly want to keep it going. He closed by saying that we need to return to a law of Biblical backing. In a final display of paranoia, he explained how teenage television is teaching the kids that homosexuality is normal and that the continued acceptance of gays might eventually lead to anti-gays being jailed and the illegalization of Christianity.
LaBarbera also failed to mention how all the HIV risk factors work together and he never mentioned the difference between MSM (men who have sex with men) and gay — MSM often self-identify as straight.
Rena Lindevaldsen, Liberty University School of Law: “History of Modern ‘Gay’ Activism and the Courts“
Rena was very knowledgeable about the laws behind the pro-gay movement. Here, she basically gave a history of the litigation that has allowed gays to become accepted in our society. She explained how laws have progressed to allow more and more homosexual behavior and portrayed this as a slippery slope that will eventually allow everything, including pedophilia.
She said that by eliminating sodomy laws, we are showing acceptance of the behavior. I don’t disagree with her idea that by making it legal, it eliminates the idea that it is wrong. I do believe, however, that among consenting adults, this behavior is not wrong.
She explained how gays are using “backdoor” methods to legalize gay marriage. Examples she used were same-sex adoption, rulings putting children with their non-biological parents, and the changing of birth certificates to allow two parents of the same sex.
She says that sexual orientation is now a protected class above gender. She called out conservative judges for not being hard enough. She equated civil unions with legalized promiscuity (I don’t quite understand that relationship, as a civil union is a commitment to one person). She explained why they do not want gay partnerships to have benefits of marriage. She said this is because the reason the benefits exist is to give an incentive to procreate.
Lindevaldsen explained we are where we are today in regards to accepting homosexuality because we strayed from God’s standard, and that there’s a homosexual agenda trying to eliminate the concept of right and wrong by making homosexual conduct equivalent to straight conduct.
God’s standards are unchanging and we’re called to fight and educate the public on these standards. She asked: Is it rational for me to say that which God tells me is sin is not good for you? She answered her own question: Yes, it is. Marriage is the foundation for all that is stable and noble for the continuing of civilization. If it preserves our nation, it is essential.
Of all the speakers, Cliff seemed to be the only one that was genuinely hateful.
His talk was all about the “Marxist philosophy” of the gay movement. He said that gays have a mental disorder that makes them more susceptible to manipulation and they want to strike back against American values. He explained how Bradley Manning, the serviceman responsible for the Wikileaks release, was gay and was getting back at the American military.
He showed Manning’s Facebook page, which showed many pro-gay group memberships. I also happened to notice Manning was a fan of P.Z. Myers‘ Pharyngula. Kincaid indicated that someone in the Obama administration must have known that Manning was gay and chose not to remove him, as is demanded by law.
He then went into a large web of information linking gay activists to Marxism. He drew a connection between pedophilia and homosexuality. Apparently, pro-gays want to eliminate age-of-consent laws because they are in cahoots with NAMBLA. He made the same connections with the Gay Liberation Network, the organization that picketed the event. He finally made a connection between Obama and communism.
Kincaid also pointed out that Manning flaunted his sexuality — he made that point at least five times — he flaunted it, he flaunted it, he flaunted it. Manning was also non-religious, we were told.
Kincaid said that Harry Hay was considered to be the founder of the homosexual movement. I’ve been an LGBT activist for the past five years, and before today, I had never heard of Harry Hay. I looked him up on Wikipedia — it turns out he was a player in some gay rights efforts, but largely withdrew from LGBT activism in the late 1970s. Still, we were told Hay was an atheist, a Marxist, a member of the “Radical Faeries” pagan sex magic group, and his confusion about his sexual identity is something to be pitied and studied. His real contribution to Communism in America was developing the idea that homosexuals, like workers under capitalism, were being oppressed and had to assert their “rights.”
Finally, he talked about what we “knew” about Obama — that the mysterious individual known as “Frank” from Obama’s book Dreams from My Father was actually Frank Marshall Davis, a known communist. He was a sex pervert, a pornographer, and a bisexual. This was reported as a fact, though we were given no citation.
Ryan Sorba, Young Conservatives of California: “The ‘Born Gay’ Hoax“
Ryan’s talk was very hard to follow. He was a terrible public speaker and read to us for the most part. The real problem was that he did not even read properly. He chopped up sentences and stumbled over words.
His talk attempted to disprove the “born gay” idea. As evidence for this, he said that there was no gay identity in history — prior to 1862, there was no known record of any human being claiming to have been born gay. He then drew a connection between childhood molestation and homosexuality. This was a connection that was made by many speakers. Apparently, the only way to be gay is by childhood molestation or lack of proper rearing.
He reiterated that legality makes normality. He said that TV and Hollywood desensitize the public to gays. Moderate Christians lend credibility to this idea. (I thought the moderate Christians comment was interesting because atheists often point to moderate Christians as lending credibility to extreme Christians. I guess nobody likes the moderates.)
He went on to say that if sexuality is shown to be fluid, the gay movement fails. He claims this is because the gay movement relies on showing that people cannot change. I know for a fact that homosexuals consider sexuality to be fluid. There is variation among this, but it is not essential to the gay movement that people be “born gay.” He said that gays are too prideful and therefore lack meaningful relationships because they cannot accommodate another person in their lives. He again returned to saying that gays have a developmental disorder. Also, that non-gay children are sent to training camps where they are told to be gay.
I, for one, would love to find out where these “training camps” are.
He used another slippery slope argument to both oppose gay marriage and say that homosexuality was not natural. He said that if a child lacks paternal care, he over-relates to the mother. This makes him want to hang out with and relate to girls at school, which results in attraction to boys.
As for the fluidity of sexuality, queer theory does say that sexuality is fluid, meaning it falls along a spectrum and not in discrete boxes, but nowhere does it imply that it can be changed through a force of will.
Fluidity of sexuality in no way supports a theory that it can be forcibly changed — merely that sexual attraction is a more complicated subject than the discrete definition of “gay,” “bi,” or “straight” can successfully describe. I would further point out that queer theory is not representative of LGBT individuals, but merely a theory about the social construction of gender and normative sexual practice, and that a small portion of the LGBT community actually ascribe to it.
Laurie Higgins, Illinois Family Institute: “Using Reason and Logic in Answering Pro-Homosexuality Arguments“
Higgins mentioned that she spoke with Hemant about their clashes and that he was very nice. She also said that a large number of students from the high school he works at would be at the protest and that even though he kept his atheism separate from his teaching, he still influenced the students negatively.
[Hemant adds: It’s true that I spoke with Higgins earlier this summer to discuss some of the things we’ve written about each other. As for her comment about students from my school protesting, not a single student contacted me about going to the protest. Nor have I been in a school environment since I first learned about the protest. I looked at the protest’s Facebook page and while there were students from my school listed as “Attending,” I didn’t know a single one of them. I never taught them. I don’t know who they are. Why are they attending? I think that protesting anti-gay-rights activists is so important to so many high school students that there will inevitably be an overlap, but it’s completely unfair to insinuate that I directly had something to do with that.]
She explained how the public schools are teaching the children to be pro-gay and do not provide an alternate viewpoint, later adding that polyamory was the closest analogy to homosexuality. She also said that the pro-gays use intimidation and rhetoric to silence conservatives.
On her side, religion informed their morality and, for that reason, she believed they could not give up religion in an argument. She said that gays should not be singled out for discrimination — as is the case with recent anti-bullying laws — because there are many groups that are denied marriage. Gays are blocked based on gender, pedophiles on age, polygamists on number, and incestuous people by relation. She called for conservatives to stop being timid.
Higgins spoke about how a bigot treats a group with hatred or intolerance. Holding moral precepts is not bigoted and that’s what they were doing.
What about the interracial marriage argument? Banning interracial marriage was based on a false belief that different races were of different natures. However, there are differences between sexes — they have different natures — so it’s ok to ban same-sex marriage.
She said that children fared best when raised by a mother and a father and that study after study had shown this… however, there were no citations offered.
Arthur Goldberg, Jews Offering Healthy Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH): “Can Gays Change? Is Gay Parenting Good for Kids? Presenting the Research on Homosexuality“
Goldberg runs a gay conversion therapy organization. He began by saying that we have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. And that if we allow homosexuality, we also have to allow bestiality… (I don’t see the connection.)
He said that leaving homosexuality was possible for those who wanted to change, adding that there was no evidence that this therapy was harmful. He said that the incidence of other disorders was much higher in gays and that homosexuality was caused by men being too sensitive.
He used the same argument that Ryan Sorba did: Gay boys are too attached to their mothers and so they identify with them. He also said that gays have body image issues and that this makes them desire in the same sex what they wish they had themselves. He noted that sexual abuse is present in 40-70% of gays. I’m not sure why the wide discrepancy exists (30% is a very large level of variation in statistics). For lesbians, he cited abuse in 50-90% of cases (40% discrepancy).
He then took issue with same-sex parenting. These parents pushed gender-normative activities less. We were told the average homosexual relationship lasted 3-5 years and had three times the violence rate that heterosexual relationships do. Lesbians are especially violent, he added, because they lack a male counterbalance and compensate by being forceful.
He boiled down homosexuality to eroticization of envy.
Goldberg referred to “sound evidence” that children exposed to homosexual lifestyles were at risk for emotional, developmental, and physical harm. Again, citations weren’t given.
One line he said stood out to me: “We have the Communist Manifesto. We have Mein Kampf. Now, we have the Gay Agenda.”
Panel Discussion, featuring all of today’s speakers, along with Greg Quinlan (Pro-Family Network) and Matt Barber (Liberty University): “Can the Effort to ‘Mainstream’ Homosexuality in American Culture be Stopped?“
Perry and Maria:
Barber: We should not be politically correct. It’s natural for gays to be reviled. It’s important to focus on the health risks of homosexuality, but we need to be aggressive and unapologetically loving.
Quinlan: If you Bible-thump or talk about sex, it turns pro-gays off. If you give them the science, you sound like somebody in authority and they don’t know how to respond to that.
Goldberg: We need to use the term “homosexual” instead of “gay” because it has a more negative connotation. No one is gay; they’re only “gay identified.”
Kincaid: This issue of homosexuality affects you because gays are demanding to give blood. The hemophiliacs are outraged by the homosexual lobby saying they have a right to give blood. They want to force themselves into the blood supply in a callous and arrogant manner. Mothers need to speak up. Mothers, your children are at risk!
Quinlan: The church has to be involved in politics. Politics are dirty. Our Founding Fathers were all religious men. They weren’t all just deists. They were Bible-believing men. We do have the truth and the truth is this: a family is made up of a mother and a father because it takes a mother and a father to raise a child.
Higgins: Parents need to remove their children from public schools. Even after doing that, they need to make law changes because our taxes go to the public schools. When we are silent on this issue, we teach our children through role-modeling to be cowardly conformists. We bequeath a legacy of much greater oppression to our children and our grandchildren. At least I can say to my children that I did everything I could.
Lindevaldsen: We need to work to completely eliminate public schools — government schools — and push a Christian/Biblical model of educating our children
Sorba: We need to unify behind common winning talking points. Boycott the term “gay.” They are in no way attached to any kind of identity because it’s not an identity. They’re not functioning in accord with their design. We need to repeat over and over and over again that there is no scientific evidence that people are born gay. There is no study that proves causation. Psychiatrists need to reclassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.
LaBarbera: “Born gay” evidence is unreliable. There was once a pro-gay activist yelling as loud as he could that I was a maniac who wanted to kill gay people. This shows how unstable these guys are.
Sorba: Genes code for proteins, not for behaviors. The “born gay” thing is a debate that we’re definitely going to win. Nobody’s a meat puppet dangling from the strings of the chemical reactions of their brain. It’s letting your emotions rule instead of your reason. It’s a debate about if you’re able to define reality vs. your ability to intellectually understand the reality of world around you. We should be able to argue for the re-criminalization of sodomy and overturn Lawrence v. Texas — the punishment would just be a fine. It would inhibit gay night clubs from springing up where AIDS is spread. It’ll inhibit pornography. We need to go on the offense. Then we know we’re gonna win. You’re not born gay; it’s a vice. These people need help.
Barber: The reality of ex-gays poses an enormous threat to the homosexual movement. Their entire argument hinges on the immutability of homosexuality.
LaBarbera: [Discussing LGBT protesters] They come there with their hateful signs; this is the level of fanaticism we’re dealing with. It’s just as hard to convey how radical the movement is as how bad the behavior is.
Barber: At gay pride parades, they have sex in the street in front of children.
Kincaid: Left-wing student groups are leading boycotts of blood drives, because they’re “discriminatory.” This movement is expanding. If this keeps getting bigger and bigger, we are going to face a shortage of blood. It’s extortion. I remember when AIDS happened. I remember covering this. You have to be older to understand what was happening at this time. I really don’t think a lot of the young people today remember the panic and catastrophe that enveloped the nation because of AIDS. They don’t understand how it developed. They don’t understand the devastation. We need to educate the young people about this disease as well as new-and-potentially-just-as-deadly diseases that may not be being detected currently through blood tests. It’s not a matter of discrimination. It’s a matter of life.
Sorba: Of course romantic attraction can happen between any two people, but the question is whether it adheres with the “Good.” A thing is Good insofar as it helps actualize the potential for humanity. Man is a rational animal. His final end is to know God and truth; truth means correlation with reality. Absent truth, what’s the point? Absent correspondence with reality, what are we doing here, dreaming? If Eros is the thing by which you define the Good, a man leaves his wife and kids in the name of “love.” Love is not the supreme decision maker for us. The Good is.
[Several panelists were also cited saying if homosexuality were genetic, twin studies would show 100% correlation.]
Greg Quinlan: “An Ex-Gay Christian Discusses Love, Truth, and Homosexuality“
Greg is an ex-gay and he started with his detailed testimony. He was abused by his atheistic, chain-smoking father. His mother took him to church. He was introduced to sex at age 13. He felt this affirmed him as a person, and he got love that he was not getting elsewhere. He had over 100 of his friends die from the homosexual lifestyle.
He then talked about the deathbed conversion of his father and how this made his father no longer hate him and no longer racist. The story was all very heartfelt and Quinlan was an extremely powerful speaker. He then promoted his conversion organization and explained how they have to stand up for the truth despite the criticisms.
Maria was not at this talk.
Tomorrow: Maria gets kicked out before a post-Prop-8 strategy session AFTAH didn’t want her to hear! But Perry was there and he tells us what happened…