Melissa FryrearThe title of a press release issued yesterday by Focus on the Family was cause for joy:

“Love Won Out Looking Forward to Dialogue About Homosexuality”

That sounds most promising. But the press release makes it clear that no actual dialogue will occur:

Colorado Springs, Colo. – Focus on the Family welcomed news today that its April 14 Love Won Out conference at Trinity Church in Omaha will be protested by gay activists, saying it looks forward to adding its voice to a communitywide dialogue on homosexuality.

It is perhaps a sad self-reflection of Focus on the Family’s “values” that it considers antigay protest and counterprotest to be equivalent to dialogue.

The press release was e-mailed to Ex-Gay Watch by Focus on the Family Action, the politically partisan lobbying arm of Focus on the Family. It marketed the organization’s April 14 ex-gay road show in Omaha, Neb.:

Most of the 43 Love Won Out events held since 1995 have seen some form of protest, said Melissa Fryrear, a Love Won Out speaker and director of Focus on the Family’s Gender Issues Department.

Is the fact that LWO is protested really so pertinent to LWO’s mission that it belongs at the top of the press release? And is Focus’ preoccupation with protest beneficial to those families who are genuinely seeking help in their struggle with sexual orientation?

And that’s perfectly fine in America.

Not exactly. When a nation is so divided by political and religious partisans that conversation occurs solely by means of protest and counterprotest, that cannot be very healthy for the social cohesion of the nation — or its churches.

“How great is it that our country guarantees its citizens the right to speak out about issues they care about – even when those issues are controversial?” Fryrear said.

Fryrear’s statement is, literally, a repudiation of the campaign by the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, and Exodus Groundswell to suppress the free-speech rights of Gay/Straight Alliances, Days of Silence, and safe-schools programs. But somehow one suspects this repudiation was not Fryrear’s intent.

“The protesters have every right to exercise that freedom with regards to their views on homosexuality. So do we – and that’s what we’ll be doing on April 14: exercising our right to offer families who are affected by homosexuality information they may not get elsewhere.”

Fryrear refrains from offering this “information” freely in her press release. Why must parents pay Focus on the Family $50 to $100 to discover that, in fact, Fryrear blames them for their adult children’s homosexuality?

Those who oppose Love Won Out have used words like “bigotry” and “hatred” to describe the event. Fryrear said that’s exactly the opposite of Love Won Out’s mission and message.

“Our conference is about truth, love and hope,” she said. “In every city we’ve ever gone to, we’ve found men and women who are dissatisfied living homosexually; what we offer them is the reality that change is possible – that unwanted same-sex attractions can be overcome. My life and the lives of thousands of other ex-gays like me are proof of that.”

I’m sorry to say that I find nothing truthful or hopeful about a program that blames allegedly overbearing mothers and overworked fathers for their children’s struggle, and which offers only two examples of poorly defined “former homosexuals” — Fryrear and Exodus chairman Mike Haley — out of the tens of thousands of people whom Exodus claims have passed through Exodus-affiliated ex-gay programs.

In addition to the personal stories of Fryrear and Mike Haley, a former homosexual and the conference host, the event will feature discussions of the roots of homosexuality and what the Bible says about the subject.

“The No. 1 misleading statement made about us is that we believe homosexuality is a choice,” Fryrear said. “That’s not at all true. We believe same-sex attractions are caused by many complex factors, and we explain that very meticulously in our sessions.”

“Many complex factors” — a euphemism for Focus on the Family’s blame game against parents.

The conference will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Trinity Church, 15555 West Dodge Road in Omaha. A news conference to address the charges leveled by protesters will be held at noon Friday, April 13, at the church.

It seems that Focus on the Family remains more interested in partisan protest, blame, and schism, than in nurturing families, promoting social conversation and preserving unity in church and nation.

A socially healthier, more spiritually mature approach would require Focus to:

  1. disclose its unscientific theories about parental causation to prospective attendees
  2. invite independent mainstream experts to disclose the established findings about biology to attendees
  3. refrain from strawman arguments about the concerns of protesters
  4. denounce discrimination and bullying
  5. present local success stories at each ex-gay road show, rather than importing partisan, paid political activists from Colorado Springs
  6. promote the well-being of same-sex-attracted persons and their families by refraining from partisan divisiveness and half-truth.
  7. support true conversation by co-sponsoring independently moderated roundtables with scientific and psychological experts from across a comprehensive spectrum of viewpoints.

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