From Wayne Besen:
Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2005
AFA’s Video Features ‘Ex-Gay’ Leader Caught In HIV Scandal, Says Wayne Besen
NEW YORK – Author Wayne Besen called on The American Family Association today to immediately stop selling a video featuring an HIV positive “ex-gay” leader who allegedly had unsafe sex with several Virginia men.
The video, “It’s Not Gay,” features Michael Johnston who once said he had gone from gay to straight through the “power of Jesus Christ.” The “ex-gay” leader stepped down in 2003 after credible allegations that he was meeting men online and having unsafe sex.
After the incident, AFA spokesman Buddy Smith called Johnston’s failure a “moral fall.” With the AFA publicly acknowledging that they were aware of Johnston’s failure as an ex-gay and his unsafe behavior, it is shocking that they would continue to promote “It’s Not Gay” on their website.
“The American Family Association is blatantly committing fraud by suggesting that Johnston is heterosexual and they are promoting the spread of HIV by continuing to use him as a spokesperson,” said Wayne Besen, author of Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth. “This episode suggests a stunning lack of integrity on the part of the American Family Association and utter contempt for the truth. If they have a shred of decency and morality, they will immediately stop selling the tape and apologize for their disgraceful behavior.”
In 1998, a coalition of conservative religious groups launched a high-profile national print and television ad campaign preaching that gays can change. Johnston appeared with his mother, Frances Johnston, in a controversial print ad under the headline “From innocence to AIDS.” A similar television commercial also appeared in 1998, dubbed “Mom.” Johnston also worked with Rev. Jerry Falwell and was the founder of National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day.
Johnston’s moral fall in 2003 wasn’t the first time he acknowledged having sex with men without disclosing his HIV status.
“I continued to live as a homosexual for two years after I knew I was HIV-positive,” Johnston said in a 1998 speech to a California church, reported in POZ magazine. “And I am ashamed to say that in those two years not once did I ever tell any of my partners that I was carrying this deadly disease.”
“The American Family Association ought to be ashamed that they continue to use this scoundrel as their spokesperson and shamelessly plug his products even though they are well aware of his past,” said Besen.