The AFTAH Anti-Gay-Rights Academy: From the Perspective of Two Who Attended, Day 1 of 3 August 10, 2010

The AFTAH Anti-Gay-Rights Academy: From the Perspective of Two Who Attended, Day 1 of 3

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.

This is Part 1 of 3. Part 2 can be read here. Part 3 can be read here.


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.

The Lectures:

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.

Cliff Kincaid, America’s Survival and Accuracy in Media: “No Criticism of Homosexuality Allowed: Combatting Pro-Homsexual Media Bias


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. MyersPharyngula. 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 said the gay agenda includes moving public attention toward civil rights and away from the fact that all they want to do is commit sodomy. He listed the reasons for homosexual behavior as power (as in prisons), attention (as in lesbians at parties), and money (as in homosexual pornographic actors).

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…

Part 2 can be read here.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Alex

    Have we ever found a straight gene?

  • flawedprefect

    This is very enlightening. It is also scary. It is also making me angry. I will be reading closely the next couple of days. Maria, Perry, I applaud you. I sincerely hope no rallies like this are ever held in Australia, but should that day come, I hope I can have the courage to turn up to one and do as you did.

  • VXbinaca

    Can’t people just respect each others rights and legal protections, despite that they may disagree with whatever it is they do under the sheets or who they chose to be with?

    So dumb. Some of the things they said were quite ugly. Others unexpected. Gays and Lesbians are now “violent”? I may not understand them much or like them much but I know they’re not violent. Wow thats just the weirdest thing I’ve heard in the last week. They’re more afraid of straight people I seem to notice.

    Hermant truly is the friendly atheist, even those who tried to cause him trouble say nice things about him.

  • Pony

    Alex Says:
    August 10th, 2010 at 5:33 am
    Have we ever found a straight gene?

    No, they’re all double-helix.

  • Will

    I’m gay and reading that just sends chills down my spine. Love really is about making someone’s life hell according to them huh?

  • VXbinaca


    I think it’s more about control over others to keep their own in line, or mistunderstanding, or maybe some truely believe or maybe most of them reuely believe. Probably some strange combination of all of that.

    It must be so weird to lie like that and be under cover. I couldn’t do that. I never get asked about my atheism.

  • MaryLynne

    Thank you, Hemant and Perry and Maria. It is so important for us to know what we are up against. I think until we read things like this, it is hard to imagine that people think like this. This will make it more urgent and easier to speak up against ignorance in whatever small way I can when I get the opportunity.

  • Ron in Houston

    Great story – kind of like reality TV only on a blog.

    I found Perry’s interaction with the protesters interesting and providing some valuable lessons for people trying to advance an atheist perspective.

  • Sorba sounds like he’s been influenced by Foucault (who argued that both homosexuality and heterosexuality as a form of identity didn’t emerge until the 19th century). He puts the origin of the category of homosexual at 1870, though, rather than 1862.

  • So much hate. So much anger. Christianity should be about acceptance and tolerance, not this bigoted treatment of people who are different. This sort of stuff makes me sick. Thank you Maria and Perry, for being able to sit through this kind of crap.

  • Stan

    Please tell me they really did say “backdoor methods”.

    Humor aside, as a young gay guy who lost both his uncles to AIDS, this whole conference just disgusts me. That people really think all we want to do is have sex with children and destroy the church is insane.

  • My head hurts…so many lies. And…do they hate bisexual people (or pansexual or any other orientation besides lesbian/gay) too, or am I safe?

    And on the “gays and especially lesbians are more violent part”–I actually tried to do a project last year on rates of intimate partner violence and same-sex sexual assault. Guess what? It’s not been studied. It is only just recently receiving attention in research as far as I know. So I know at least that part can’t be based upon real statistics.

    And “gay” only emerged in the 1800s? I guess maybe that’s when the label came about, but women have been having sex with women and men have been having sex with men for MUCH longer than that. Ancient Greece, anyone?

  • stogoe

    I found Perry’s interaction with the protesters interesting and providing some valuable lessons for people trying to advance an atheist perspective.

    Meh. I’ve found that you can’t change the minds of bigots, but you can make them ashamed of being a moron, and by extension nip the proto-moronitude of others in the bud.

  • Justin

    “Oh noes, gay blood!” C’mon, guys, don’t whine about a shortage from boycotts when there’s a whole demographic not being tapped. The excuse is a higher incidence of blood-borne disease, but I don’t see racial minorities with a higher incidence being turned away.

    Also, Sorba and Lindevaldsen put forward some really unsettling propositions in that panel.

  • Hitch

    Unfortunately this kind of stuff is not that fringe. Conservative christians in Europe also have similar lines of thought.

    And it’s not just one joint movement either. The evangelical type, that this one seems to be is rather disjoint from the catholic type.

  • Swedishskinjer

    I’m endlessly amused by how they accuse gays of being violent, unstable individuals while simultaneously expressing ideas that are highly unstable, dressed up only in flowery language that they don’t expect their sheep to look beyond. From this, their hypocrisy is astounding: they want to eliminate the “homosexual agenda”, and yet they want to force a fundamentalist Christian/Biblical agenda on children, no questions asked. They oppose the “mainstreaming” of gays, and yet they wouldn’t mind dominating our lives with their particular perspectives. They speak of gays, and yet I’d be willing to bet that they have never communicated once with a gay family. They do not see this hypocrisy because they communicate in such blatantly black-and-white terms: gay = bad, Christian = good.

    Their sweeping generalizations and lack of citations also amused me greatly. It’s a shame that they can’t fully comprehend what they are saying.

  • Aaron

    Man is a rational animal. His final end is to know God and truth; truth means correlation with reality.

    No cognitive dissonance there.

  • Caroline

    Everything they say can pretty much be boiled down to: When people look or act or believe differently from me this makes me uncomfortable because I know what is best for everyone. I also do not allow my daughter to play with cars or my son to play house because they might catch the gay.

  • Nicole

    I confess that I am also a bit disappointed to hear that the protestors were combative and/or belligerent.

  • Steve


    And “gay” only emerged in the 1800s? I guess maybe that’s when the label came about, but women have been having sex with women and men have been having sex with men for MUCH longer than that. Ancient Greece, anyone?

    But as it was generally understood, it wasn’t considered an orientation or inborn trait as today. The concept of “homosexuality” as we know it now, really did only come about at the end of the 19th century. And that change actually did some harm, by putting it in very clinical and detached terms.

    In ancient Greece and Rome it was really about behavior. First off, a lot of homosexual contact existed in the form of pederasty between men and boys. Second, between adults the taboo was not about doing it, but about the roles taken. It was ok to be the the active one/top, but not to receive, i.e. take a perceived female role. Some even considered oral sex to be receiving in that way.
    That distinction still exists today in Saudia Arabia of all places. Because of the strict gender segregation, people turn on their own gender just to get sex, though they aren’t necessarily gay. Truly gay people (especially ones willing to be bottoms) are harder to find, usually among the immigrant population.

    Still, some Greek philosophers wrote a lot about emotional affection between men as a great ideal. And there were same-sex marriages of one form or another in both Greece and Rome. Homosexuality between women isn’t really documented of course, as history was written by men, but it’s briefly mentioned by Plato in his “Symposium” for example.

    That said, there were certainly people who thought there were born that way. A prominent example is Anne Lister, who lived from 1791 to 1840. During her life she wrote a four million word diary, 1/6th of which was encoded in a simple substitution cipher. For that time, she had an incredible understanding of herself of what/who she was. She always sought a partner to spend her life with and was very direct in pursuing that goal – social conventions be damned. She got away with it because she was a relatively well-off landowner and later had a long-term relationship with a wealthy heiress. Their social status made them untouchable. She basically “married” two women in ceremonies. One in a church of all things, when they asked the priest to bless them or something. She also studied the scientific literature of the day, to find out about why was that way. Paris was apparently something of a lesbian mecca in those days.

  • pmsrhino

    My favorite part is you could go through all this and replace “homosexual” with “black” and you’ve got an anti-civil rights conference that could have easily been held a few decades ago.

    I mean really, can they not see how their arguments are almost EXACTLY the same? *head desk*

  • aerie

    I just blew my frontal lobe. I don’t know how the 3 sat thru that “academy of evil” with composure maintained. These people live in a state of emotionalism and have lost their ability to reason. Emotionally retarded & dishonest.

  • Claudia

    Wow…just…wow. It started off being merely irritating, but I could literally feel myself getting angrier and angrier at each passing lie.

    First, the most important thing; THANK YOU to Maria and Perry for this awesome reporting and thank you to Hemant for organizing it.

    The lies are simply too numerous to really deal with individually. I find it hard to believe that they could spout off so many lies out of mere ignorance. They must be aware that they are using deception in at least some cases. “Lying for Jesus”. A few randomely selected idiocies;

    – inmmutability of sexuality: My limited reading indicates that male sexuality is more rigid than female sexuality, but neither are particularly suceptible to forced change. A woman may identify as bi and then go gay (or straight) but she cannot will herself to do any of it, as far as I’m aware.
    – Genetic vs. twin studies: Twin studies only indicate that there is not a simple genetic cause of sexuality. Which kinda makes sense, since sexuality is such a complex thing. It could well be that there is no straightforward genetic cause but that it has more to do with maternal proteins during pregnancy.
    What I find hilarious about these people is that they simultaneously want to say that homosexuality has no biological origin but heterosexuality is “natural” (which they conflate with “good”, another story altogether). So sexuality IS biological, but only one kind of it. Cakes and eating come to mind…

    – Blood donation: Tell you what Kincaid and his ilk can take blood from a bank that does not test for HIV, syphylis, hepatitis, tuberculosis etc. but that is 100% assured to come from only straight donors, and the rest of us will use a a bank that does not exclude anyone and performs the routine tests for STI’s that have been in place for decades. Deal?

  • WishinItWas

    Well that entire ex-gay-christian story sounds accurate to real life and not made up at all…..*insert the most extreme sarcasm possible here*

  • LeAnne

    it’s a good thing i didn’t volunteer to go and whatnot. i don’t think i’d be able to sit through three days of them spewing hate and lies about gays/lesbians. it’s disgusting.

    i am far too strongheaded to keep calm when they just bash and bash and bash without any real facts.

  • Matt

    What troubles me is that they talk about the arguments from our side as if they have extensively studied them, but I have a sneeking suspicion that their only knowledge of our arguments comes from groups of unfortunate protesters that are not representative of our movement as a whole and, indeed, can be found even on their own side. This allows them to make sweeping statements like “gays don’t know what to say when you present scientific, factual arguments” because they apparently don’t know that gay individuals in various communities have written comprehensive, scientific articles that would debunk their nonsense.

  • littlejohn

    The obvious (and rhetorical) question that ought to be posited to these people who believe homosexuality is a choice is this: “When, and under what circumstances, did you personally decide to become heterosexual?” If they can actually answer that, it should be followed with “It must be very difficult for you to resist the desire to be gay. You must be very strong.” I can’t imagine any of these bigots having any coherent response at that point, although the questioner might risk physical assault from the more goonish of them.

  • Alan E.

    I wonder if they use 1862 because of Abe Lincoln. The gays were the hidden force behind the War of Northern Aggression and WW2 (and who knows how many if not all of the wars in the past?!) They are violent, of course, and according to that guy interviewed on the Daily Show, have no inhibitions at all. Perfect war machines. Did you also know that the buff guys in the window at the gym are secret gay military recruiters?

  • I was doing alright until I hit:

    “Genes code for proteins, not for behaviors.”

    *geneticist rage*

  • Phrosty

    Top-notch read. I can’t wait to read the rest…. That’s not a figure of speech. I mean it. Post the rest NOW.

    It was mentioned in the article that the attendees of the event were not behaving in a hateful manner. I have to disagree. They sound like they were still hateful, albeit passively.

  • I was raised by lesbian parents and I don’t think that I turned out badly at all. I’m straight, educated, and openminded. What really sickens me is that these people hide behind their “religion” that makes it ok for them to judge. I’m an atheist, but that hasn’t stopped me from reading about major religions, which leads me to this point: If the Christian god is benevolent, then he isn’t going to send gays to hell (which in my opinion doesn’t even exist) and god would also want orphaned children to have loving parents regardless of sexuality. There are plenty of shitty heterosexual parents out there. This whole conference is a judgment, and according to Christianity, judgment is only supposed to come from god.

  • Iason Ouabache

    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.

    And exactly how much does Porno Pete make off of selling hatred? I’m sure that he isn’t doing this for free.

  • Claudia

    @Jennifurret, this biochemist feels for you. I think I nearly cracked my head with the facepalm. But remember that these people almost certainly also believe that the universe is 6000 years old, so our beloved biology is not being singled out, they don’t believe in geology or physics either.

  • It is sweet of Maria to say that the people there were genuinely concerned about other’s welfare. I think this means that there is hope that their errors can be pointed out and corrected. They seem so caught up with the idea that gay people are somehow damaged into being gay that they miss the whole concept of gays being people who just want the same as they do. It means that their “hate” is simply misdirected concern and not malicious. That’s a good thing surely.

  • Neon Genesis

    I thought according to the homophobes, all gay men were supposed to be effeminate crossdressers but now we’re all manly violent men?

  • Silent Service

    Well, I did spend 20 years in the military and have studied the martial arts for the last 5 years. Would that make me a manly violent man? Oh, wait a moment. Since I’m bisexual, I can’t be part of the gay Gestapo that Porno Pete imagines.

  • Morgan

    I really liked the part where they said that the ‘pro-gays’ would be shocked by arguments based on science. They are absolutely right I’d be shocked by a reasonable argument!

    Now they just need to get one…

  • ckitching

    I have to wonder… Given how many homosexual people end up raging, irrational homophobes, were there more gay people outside the church protesting or inside?

  • OMFSM, so horrible! While I would probably consider myself to be a more “diplomatic” atheist, I find that I just can’t be diplomatic about homophobes. These people are all dicks. They may all be nice in person and they might contrast with the angry protesters, but I feel that this only highlights the fact that they could have been good people if they weren’t so devoted to hateful and truth-denying bigotry.

  • Timna

    Nice job on this article, Maria and Perry! It’s good to see that we came away with many of the same observations. I can’t wait to read what happened on the second and third day…

  • L.Long

    Maria relates….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….
    Sorry but THEY are HATEFUL. They just cover it up in smiles and nice language. Say in the negative and the sentence says …
    They are not like us xtians and belief as we do so they have poor, unfulfilled miserable lives.
    people without power to enforce their hate always speak nice.

  • Richard Wade

    Attendees needed to pay a registration fee and get a “recommendation” from a pastor.

    The names and church addresses of every one of those pastors should be published, their churches picketed, and their support of this vile hate camp publicly condemned. Act locally. Make associating with this group a liability.

    Are there any large Christian churches or influential Christian leaders loudly and publicly denouncing this Institute for Advanced Ignorance?

    … Any medium-sized churches or moderately influential Christian leaders?

    … Any tiny churches or known-around-town Christian leaders?

    … Hello?

    …Is this mic on?

  • Siamang

    I just have to say that I disagree with the point that the protesters should have been nicer.

    No, they shouldn’t have been. As long as they’re sticking to nonviolent principles, shoot all the dirty looks they can muster.

    Here’s why:

    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)

    Here we have people mistaking criticism of the thing for the thing itself. This happens in double-speak land of political punditry as well, like when the right-wing commentator recently said that accusing someone of racism is actually racist!

    But it’s about more than attitude. The fact that these hate-mongers can be cool and spock-like in their hate doesn’t mean its less hateful. It just means that their lives aren’t the ones being impacted.

    It’s easy to tell me to cool it if it ain’t YOUR family we’re talking about. It’s easy for some smug-ass College Republicans to make some chilly-cool jokes about AIDS, while people who’ve lost loved ones to the disease are livid and fit to be tied.

    People somehow equate being angry for being hateful, and being mellow for being loving.

    That’s bullshit. Be mad. Make those fucks uncomfortable. They have no right to comfort while they’re fucking you over.

    Be nonviolent. But get your point across with passion.

  • Greg Quinlan is using the all too common “Christian Credentials“.

    To rise in status or power in Christianity, you can work hard, go to seminary school and get a theological degree. You could also build a church from the ground up, winning a large congregation.

    But the cheapest, easiest way to rise in status in Christianity is to have a “dramatic conversion” – and the more dramatic, the better!

    It’s like listening to a fisherman retell the story about “the one that got away” for the 20th time – from the initial seed of truth, you can almost plot the increasing exaggeration.

    But unlike the fish story, a Christian “dramatic conversion” story always finds people willing and eager to believe in every word.

  • People like LaBarbera, Higgins, etc, may not have come across as hateful but they’re more vile than the entire Phelps clan. Phelps stands around with nasty signs and makes a fool of himself. He’s so nasty on the surface even the bigots want to distance themselves from him. But he and his clan have done not one thing to actively harm gay people.

    LaBarbera and friends spread insidious lies about gay people. They push anti-gay legislation. They smile and use words like “love”, yet they promote hatred and intolerance. To make matters worse, they pretend they’re the victims in the matter. They’re not.

  • Neon Genesis

    If you have to have every one of your speakers deny they hate a group of people every time they get to speak, shouldn’t that send up the red flags?

  • Claudia

    Sorry but THEY are HATEFUL. They just cover it up in smiles and nice language. Say in the negative and the sentence says …

    Certainly some of them are hateful, but I don’t actually believe all of them are. Here’s an analorgy. Go back, say 70 years, and a plurality of white people in the US had deeply racist views of black people. Did they all hate black people? No, they were ignorant and held ignorant positions and probably deeply contorted rationalizations of how the current situation was to the benefit of everyone, including the “negroes”.

    I think that many of the leaders are most certainly hateful, but many of the people who voted for Prop. 8 could be accused mostly of deep ignorance. Now, and this is key, it doesn’t actually matter. Whether or not the persecution of GLBT people comes from a place of hate or one of ignorance or some mix is merely a strategy question of how to fight the war. In practice, I could give a shit if you sincerely think you’re being loving when you advocate children remaining orphans rather than being adopted by gay couples. The action itself is despicable and I will fight it tooth and nail. Two can play at the “I don’t have to hate you to oppose you” game. While you seek to limit the rights of others your actions are hateful, even if you yourself are not, and we must continue to rub their faces in that. If we can show some of the ignorant-not-hateful ones how hurtful and hateful their ACTIONS are, they’ll be more likely to stop them.

  • Parse

    A huge thank you goes to Hemant, Maria, and Perry for exposing this to light.
    And though it’s unfortunate that the protesters were ‘uncivil’, I can’t fault them for that. Yes, it grants the attendees ‘martyr cred’ for the harassment, but on the other hand it’s probably the only time they’ll see somebody who is vocal about disagreeing with them. And if an attendee’s there because they actually agree with the speakers, then they deserve every nasty look sent their way. If you think that gays are wanna-be child molesters, Marxists, abominations of nature who don’t deserve the same rights as other people, then you shouldn’t be offended when they disagree with you.

    One common thread that ran through many of the speakers seems to be “Stop trying to make me treat gays like they’re real people!” As pmsrhino said, you could easily move the arguments back 30 years and switch ‘black’ for ‘gay’ and it would fit right in.

    Also, “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.”” This stuck out as a particularly offensive quote to me, which says a lot. There is no way he can both believe this and ‘love the sinner.’

  • Anna

    Some infuriating bits:

    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.

    That’s a neat trick, considering that the first second-parent adoption took place in 1985, long before same-sex marriage became a political issue, and plenty of LGBT individuals adopted even before that. I don’t think they are able to grasp that parenting rights are unconnected to marriage rights. In many states, gay and lesbian couples share equal legal parenthood, but they still can’t get married. Whether or not marriage is ever legalized, it has nothing to do with making sure that children have the right to stay connected to nonbiological parents or have both parents’ names on their birth certificates.

    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.

    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.

    Yup, no citations, because that evidence simply does not exist. What is distressing is that there have been so many studies done on LGBT parents and their children, and none of those studies have indicated problems, and yet it’s never going to be good enough for the anti-gay detractors. They either pretend the evidence doesn’t exist, or they just keep moving the goalposts because they already have their minds made up and couldn’t care less how many studies are performed and under which conditions. There have been close to 100 studies carried out over the past 30 years, but that doesn’t seem to make a bit of difference.

    It’s funny because at this point those of us who have lesbian mothers are probably one of the more studied groups in modern society. How many other children of minority families are held to this level of scrutiny? How many other groups are studied and debated this much? I can’t think of any others that compare.

  • Demonhype

    So many lies upon lies and ignorance and passive aggressive hatred dolled up in “pretty” language (and yes, I said hatred–when you go to the extent of making up your own alternate reality in order to justify the persecution of others, I call it hatred).

    Anyway, I couldn’t even finish reading–I got to a point where I just skimmed, for my own sanity. There is no damn way I could have sat there quietly listening to such deliberate lies and encouragements to return to the good old days of persecution and discrimination.

    As someone said, we constantly conflate “anger” with “hatred”, and that is absurd. Ignorant people have stumbled upon this idea that all you have to do to “win” is to be as ignorant and obtuse as possible, repeat yourself ad nauseum, and when your opposition gets frustrated or goes off on you, you claim victory. It’s what idiots do when they can’t win an argument using logic, reason, facts, or anything else that remotely involves that little inconvenience called reality. So, as they have no personal stake in this–they are not actually the ones being persecuted, after all–they can afford to stay calm in demeanor as they spew forth ignorant and hate-filled lies. When their opposition gets angry–anger being the driving force of all social change, as Greta Christina observed so well–they claim victory while crying “persecution!” in an attempt to rob their victims of a very important tool for social progress–possibly the biggest tool.

    Don’t let their calm facades fool you. It’s the typical Christian passive-aggressiveness. It’s how they have to clothe their spite these days, since they don’t have the power anymore to torture or execute their opposition. The very fact that they are willing to make up bullshit “facts” and fabricate their own reality to prop up their own a priori bigotry and avoid genuinely learning anything at all about the people they purport to “love” says it all. If they “loved” gay people, they’d actually listen to what they are saying instead of creating their own bizarro-world in their desperate attempt to ignore it.

    Ya know what? I just got done arguing with dear old mom about her idea that one should always be laissez-faire about religious beliefs, and no one should ever criticize or “disrespect” another person’s “deeply held faith”. Among my arguments was the fact that some very ugly people hide behind this laissez-faire concept so every time someone calls them on their ugliness or hatred all they need to do is use the carte blanche of “deeply held faith, you have to shut up now!” and suddenly their very damaging idea is exempt from scrutiny. This is a great example of what I was telling her. If people like her had their way, no one would ever be allowed to call them on their bullshit and they could lie with total impunity, because it’s their “deeply held faith” and therefore off-limits. “Well, yes, I suppose it could be seen as wrong to drag someone behind your truck or beat them up and tie them to a post, but just try to realize that that they were acting out of their deeply held beliefs about homosexuality–you need to respect their beliefs!”

    Screw them. I don’t see how a little verbal anger and dirty looks compare to being tortured, institutionalized, castrated, or executed, not to mention being left vulnerable to being kicked out of housing or fired from jobs–which amounts to a death sentence in our society, which is the common way the powerful try to control others. Boo hoo, they are so very persecuted by the words of those mean ol’ protesters, I weep tears made of the very Blood of Christ for them.

  • ff42

    I stopped after reading “If I am a homeowner, I should not have the right to discriminate based on sexual orientation.” If we don’t respect property rights than what else matters?

  • Sarah

    If genetics don’t affect behavior, then how is heterosexuality more “natural”? And where the hell do all our other instincts come from?

    Whenever they start talking about “reality,” they become not only nonsensical, but incomprehensible.

  • Dan W

    I’m glad Maria and Perry are willing to sit through so much of this bigoted bullshit so they can report what was said at this event. I don’t think I would be able to stand hearing so many bigots spew all those “loving” views, fallacies, and outright lies about homosexuality. Kudos to them for doing this reporting on the bigoted fundies who are out of touch with reality.

  • Rich Wilson


    It must be so weird to lie like that and be under cover. I couldn’t do that. I never get asked about my atheism.

    Do I misunderstand, or was that how you were saying you wanted them to live the other day?

    I support equal rights in every way for them, I do not like to hear about or accept (I didn’t say “tolerate”) their lifestyle

  • VXbinaca

    No I was saying I couldn’t go under cover like that. I’m too honest and open.

  • Kai

    Wow. Just…wow. I could not have sat there and listened to this bullshit without giving myself away. My hand would shoot in the air before I could help myself. Props to Perry and Maria for having awesome self-control.

  • David Ehrenstein

    Harry Hay was a very important figure in the postwar “Homophile” movement — the term that was used back then. He and his lover Will Geer (yes, Grandpa Walton) had been communists. The party ordered them to marry women and go straight. They both did, but Harry’s marriage did not take. He divorced his wife and fell in love with Rudi Gereich (of topless bathing suit fame)
    Read Stuart Timmons’ “The Trouble With Harry Hay” for the whole story. It’s ironic that La Barbera and his cabal are quite like the communists who they claim to despise.

    When Will Geer died Harry went to the funeral.

    Geer’s widow: Well I had him at the last, Harry.

    Harry: Yean but I had him first!

  • David in Houston

    I love how they’re able to completely discount the identical-twin studies because the number of gay twins is only 50% instead of 100%. As if sexuality were like an on/off switch. Yet, they fail to address the SCIENTIFIC fact that if one twin is gay, the other has a 50% chance of being gay. That percentage is 10-times higher than if the child were born by themselves. Since they are unable to explain that compelling statistic, they come up with a reason to throw out the entire study.

  • unclemike

    I’m a little disappointed Perry didn’t elaborate or give examples of the “hateful things” the outside protesters were claimed to have shouted. Perry says he and his dinner companions were never confronted, and just got dirty looks, and then there are later claims of hateful things being said. Given the conventioneers propensity for exaggeration and outright lying, it seems a little odd that Perry would just accept the claim at face value, and even wish the protesters were “more civil.” At any rate, this is a great report and I can’t wait for the next two.

  • muggle

    That’s bullshit. Be mad. Make those fucks uncomfortable. They have no right to comfort while they’re fucking you over.

    Be nonviolent. But get your point across with passion.

    Right on!

    Wonderful reporting but, Maria, I too must correct. This was hate speech with a hate agenda. It is the freeze out rather the punch out but it’s intent is to exclude people from society, plain and simple. And I, for one, don’t doubt that if the freeze out doesn’t work, the smiles will disappear and the fists and arms raised.

    I also don’t get all this born gay. I tend to think it’s true at least to some degree but I also put forth that it doesn’t freaking matter if it is inborn or a choice. It doesn’t hurt anyone so who the hell cares? Give me one valid (not this pack of lies or a religious one) reason for not accepting homosexuality.

    I was infuriated with equating it with pedophilia. I wish my ex had been gay instead of a pedophile. My daughter (and most likely the half brother she never met) as well as some other kids should have been so much better off. My ex turning out to be gay, I could more than live with.

  • Tim

    Heterosexuality is not normal, it is common.

  • That’s bullshit. Be mad. Make those fucks uncomfortable. They have no right to comfort while they’re fucking you over.

    Be nonviolent. But get your point across with passion.

    way late to this party, but i gotta agree with this 1000%

    comfort is not what these people deserve. the Civil Rights and AIDS activism movements were successful BECAUSE they made people uncomfortable. silence = death. being nice is exactly why so many DC based advocacy groups are ineffectual. bothering the rich, powerful, bigoted and wrong is never a bad idea. it’s interesting and i’ve seen this happen before, the way nice liberals automatically take on the side of the people they’re trying to understand. it proves they’re nice liberals, imho. but the point is: “ex” gays are the brownshirts of the the hater movement, they’re just more ‘gentle’ about it. their masters want me dead. no, i will not go quietly.

  • Casey

    Does anyone else find it ironic how all of these speakers kept mentioning logic and reason? Logic and reason are the antithesis of religion.

  • The remark about the pay of the CEOs of gay rights organizations sparked my curiosity. As a tax-exempt organization, AFTAH must file a form 990 with the IRS showing, among other things, the salary of anyone making more than $50,000 per year. These forms are publicly available at It seems that AFTAH has never filed a form 990, and is on the IRS list of organizations about to lose their tax exempt status.

  • bcarter3

    I’m shocked and appalled that a “LGBT activist for the past five years” has “never heard of Harry Hay”, who was arguably the most important figure in the entire history of American gay activism, with an activist career spanning half a century .

  • Rei

    While there are clearly MANY glaring faults in their arguments, as a science student I find some of their conclusions show a big lack of biological knowledge…

    …if homosexuality were genetic, twin studies would show 100% correlation…

    Yes, because all twins are 100% identical in everything that has any genetic influence? I think not. They seem to be suffering from the old ‘1 gene = 1 behaviour’ misunderstanding. Of course there won’t be a single ‘gene for gay’, and no sensible geneticist would ever expect there to be. SO far off the mark I had to palmface.

    Genes code for proteins, not for behaviors.

    Yes, genes code for proteins. And proteins switch on other genes, and build brains, and control hormone releases, endorphins, sex hormones, and thereby yes they affect emotions, mood, and guess what? Behaviour. Ever time you get horny it’s because of hormones in your system that are coded for by proteins FROM GENES. That’s not to say that homosexuality is 100% genetic (almost certainly isn’t, in fact), but to say genes don’t affect behaviour is ridiculous. Biologists and psychologists have known for years that behaviours are the result of a complex mixture of genetic and environmental factors. Then again, Christian extremists never do seem to be the types to love a biology lesson…

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