The St. Louis Post-Dispatch follows up on yesterday’s “Love Won Out” exgay road show. The newspaper counts more than 350 vigilers peacefully protesting the conference from outside.

(Previous XGW coverage, including photos by Colleen Keating.)

The Post-Dispatch notes that a handful of career exgays dominated the stage inside — and some charged distraught parents an exorbitant $50 (in addition to the $50-60 admission fee) for a few $7 exgay books [see addendum below]. According to the Post-Dispatch, there were few if any exgays apparent among the 1,700 attendees:

Most of the audience were parents and family members of gay people, while about one-fourth were ministers.

Focus exgay activist Melissa Fryrear told this audience of family members to reject invitations to attend their gay relatives’ civil-commitment or marriage ceremonies:

“We suggest you decline an invitation to a civil commitment ceremony,” Melissa Fryrear told a group of parents. Some busily took notes; a few others wiped away tears. “So many Christians are yielding on this part.”

Fryrear also told parents not to blame themselves for their children’s homosexuality — even as she proceeded to blame them:

She told parents in the crowd not to blame themselves for their children’s struggles with same-sex relationships. Sometimes, she claimed, lesbianism can be traced to “an inner sense of emptiness and longing,” a fractured mother-daughter relationship” and some type of sexual abuse. “Ever wonder why some lesbians look mannish?” she asked. “It’s a vulnerability to be a woman. That suit of armor to keep you from being hurt.”

Focus on the Family vice president Bill Maier advises parents to be nice — to discriminate with a smile.

Bill Maier, a psychologist and conference speaker, said the talk isn’t fire-and-brimstone as churches did in the past. Organizers stressed that parents should be nice to their children’s gay partners. They shouldn’t bring it up in every phone call or the kids will stop calling.

While the Post-Dispatch once again fails to report that Exodus and Focus support antigay discrimination in housing and employment, and criminalization under sodomy laws, the newspaper at least acknowledges that some attendees found the conference corrupted by a conditional, manipulative and exploitative sort of “love.”

Not everyone inside the church supported the conference’s message. Critics came, as well – paying the same $50 or $60 admission fee to take part. One was Meredith Anderson, a student at Eden Seminary and a member of the United Church of Christ. She said the tone at the conference was far from any feel-good message of love that promoters claimed.

“What I’m hearing instead is, ‘We’ll really love you more if you will change,’” Anderson said. “What makes me so angry is that a lot of clergy and straight folks aren’t speaking out about this.”

Love Won Out‘s next stop: Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in May. The event will be hosted by the Rev. D. James Kennedy and his Christian Patriot organization Coral Ridge Ministries. Numerous critics link Coral Ridge to the Christian Reconstruction movement, which calls for fundamentalist rule over America and the enforcement of a “Biblical” death penalty against homosexuals.

While a fundamentalist federal government is unlikely in the short term, in the meantime Coral Ridge’s Center for Reclaiming America lobbies for the reimposition of sodomy laws which imprison homosexuals for 20 years or more.

Addendum: I should have been clearer in this article that, according to the Post-Dispatch, conference speakers were offering (among other options) small box sets of exgay books for $50. “Coming Out of Homosexuality” is available from for $7 (used) to $10 (new). “You Don’t Have to Be Gay” is available for $11-14. How many books would have to be boxed to justify the $50 cost? The Post-Dispatch does not say.

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