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02/18/2009

Love Won Out ad: Man who says he no longer wants to lay a man is himself no layman

by Jeremy Hooper

If an organization runs an ad that promotes "gay change," shouldn't that organization reveal if the "changed" gay featured in the ad is actually on their payroll? We certainly think so. However, the "ex-gay" community routinely puts their own staffers in their ads, presenting them as seemingly run-of-the mill everyday "former homosexuals" sharing their personal stories, without ever mentioning that "ex-gay" advocacy is the subject's full-time job.

Latest case in point? The following ad that is running in the Charlotte Observer to promote Focus on the Family's upcoming Love Won Out conference. The "Jeff" in question is FOF/ Love Won Out staff member Jeff Johnston:

Jeff-Johnston-FOF

Now, Jeff may be totally happy in his "formerly gay" life. He may have been always attracted to both men and women, and has now relegated those feelings to only the XX-chromosomed set. He may truly live a happy life. We don't know, nor really care. But what we DO know without even a scintilla of doubt is that Jeff uses his own personal life journey to advocate against homosexuality. FOR A LIVING. He isn't just living his life -- he is making it harder for millions of well-adjusted, perfectly happy, non-desirous-of-"change" gays to live out their own realities. That is what he does for a career! And yet Focus on the Family, the very organization that finances and fosters his work, feels it's perfectly okay to overlook his placement within their pocket? Sorry, but to us that is extremely shady!

If the Trix bunny advocates for that one cereal, that's perfectly okay because his connection with the company is laid out for all to see. A paid actor can even testify to a product's greatness without the testimonial presenting a great moral quagmire. But is it okay for a Folgers coffee heir to anonymously appear in a taste test wherein they rave about the smooth taste? Is it responsible for a cousin of a political candidate to go undercover and gush over the "perfect stranger" who's running for office? Should a nutritionist pretend to offer an objective assessment of a certain diet if they themselves created/profit from the meal plan? We say no to all scenarios. And we also stand against a Focus on the Family staffer anonymously emboldening the scientifically-unsound promise that pays his electric bill!

Is There Freedom from Homosexuality? [CitizenLink]

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Your thoughts

Thanks for this post, it's quite satisfying to learn that even in their more public face, they are equally duplicitous lying liars as they are behind closed doors.

Those guys have no shame! To them it is all about the win, and any means necessary to achieve that is perfectly within bounds. They have no aversion to using lies, deceit, fear, or any other tactic in their jihad. Of course, from those who make a living off of deceit and out right lies, that they stoop to this level of deceptive advertising should not come as much of a surprise.

Posted by: Dick Mills | Feb 18, 2009 6:53:06 PM

Thank you for showing, really showing, just what lyin'-ass liars they are at Focus on the Family.

You never do see, like, a letter to the editor of a small-town paper from an ex-gay manager of the local Home Depot, do you? I can sort of understand where someone who is ashamed enough of their homosexuality to go to one of these ministries would hide it, but it's still suspicious that *all* the ex-gays I've seen are ex-gay for a living.

Posted by: GreenEyedLilo | Feb 18, 2009 8:48:34 PM

They really don't have much choice but to show paid spokesmen, since no one can ever seem to find one of their "success stories" anywhere else.

Posted by: RainbowPhoenix | Feb 18, 2009 10:34:40 PM

Check this out

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pu0EJsAA3KQ

Posted by: AANNDDRREEWW | Feb 18, 2009 11:47:28 PM

Ex-gay for pay?

Posted by: John Ozed | Feb 19, 2009 10:39:30 AM

How is this any different than someone being paid to work for HRC or any other lobbyist organization? His paycheck has little to do with the claim of becoming straight (if he is even claiming that).

This is a pointless argument which gets us nowhere. So you're aruging that change doesnt happen because these people work for the ministry which pushes change?

Instead we should be arguing that these people have really changed their sexuality much but instead have been able to cultivate an attraction/relationship with someone of the oppositite sex. And we should be arguing that this is not a necessary "change" and does not prove the wrongness of homosexuality.

But instead gay people want to feel good about themselves by making fun of someone for where they work.

Oh when will we grow up and really move forward?

Posted by: Pomo | Feb 19, 2009 11:54:05 AM

Completely unfair, Pomo.

First off: The issue is that the ad, presented to the general public in local newspapers, does not REVEAL that he is a staffer. And yes, this is a big deal. As stated in several comments above, you most never come across an "ex-gay" who is a mechanic, baker, etc. They are most always professional "ex-gays." Those who see this ad have a right to know that the seemingly everyday person featured within is on the organization's payroll!

Secondly: It is grossly unfair to boil down our "ex-gay" work on the basis of one post. Do you know how many we have written on the subject of "ex-gay"? Well we do: 412! We have covered every facet of this movement in about every way one possibly can. So please don't come here -- the first time I have ever known you to comment, by the way -- and try to reduce our work because you find one post to be unfair. That itself is unfair!

Lastly: Nobody is "making fun" of Jeff Johnston or where he works. We are quite seriously stating the belief that he and FOF should make it known that their ad subject is a paid staffer.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Feb 19, 2009 12:11:07 PM

I read your blog daily. Have never felt a need to comment until now. Don't be so defensive :)

I spent 7 years in exgay ministries. What you are not taking into account is that many of these "professional exgays" are professional because they believe so strongly in what they are doing. The same way someone who works for HRC does it because they believe in the cause. That still does not discredit them. Nor do they have to preface everything they do with "I work for HRC".

When I was exgay I didnt care how the person received their pay.I wanted to know if it was possible to change.

LWO is trying to convince people that gay people can deny their feelings and develop them for the opposite sex. They use someone who they happens to work for them as an example of this type of change. And he probably works for them because he believes he has changed and wants to help others. So once again, the argument has no basis in refuting their claim. Only serves to make us look like whiners.

Its much more beneficial to deal with the claims they are actually making and address the bias & assumptions that go into them.

Posted by: Pomo | Feb 19, 2009 1:33:19 PM

"Don't be so defensive :)"

Okay, now we're going to get into my pet peeve. That is: It's a weak debating tactic to accuse someone of being "defensive" when they defend themselves against what they feel to be unfair representations. You called my words "pointless," said to "grow up," and reduced my work on this matter so that is sounds like childishness. I do, quite rightfully, have a few things to say in reply to that. And I like ti be a direct participant in my comments section -- the reason why I moderate (and therefore read) every last one.

Now, back to the post: In my estimation, you're missing the point of the post. This is not about the "credibility" of Mr. Johnston's claims. This is not about what led Mr. Johnston to become an FOF employee. The point is transparency. And yes it ABSOLUTELY, 100% matters to the conversation that this guy is a paid employee rather than an everyday Joe! He has a vested interest in keeping LWO alive -- such should be disclosed.

What's really annoying me is that you're acting as if it's a trade-off: Either take on this transparency issue or take on the claims that one can be an "ex-gay." And you're also implying that this site eschews the latter in favor of the former. Again, that overlooks the hundreds of times we've written about the "ex-gay" movement, spoken out against the flaws in their arguments, and pointed out the fallacy of their every last aspect. We have covered it all, and will continue to do so in the future. But this particular post is specifically about whether or not someone on FOF/LWO's payroll should appear in a testimonial ad without letting the public know that they themselves are very much in the advertiser's organizational pocket. It is a valid, if unique, issue to take on.

Does someone who works for HRC have to preface everything they say with "I work for HRC"? No, of course not. But if they run an ad wherein some guy identified only as "joe" talks up the organizations ability to create certain positive "changes" in one's life, then they ABSOLUTELY should reveal if the "joe" in question is Joe Solmonese!


Posted by: G-A-Y | Feb 19, 2009 2:21:27 PM

C'mon Jeremy, you aren't being fair - that's just too high of a standard. Where are they going to find an average everyday ex-gay? There just aren't that many non-professional ex-gays out there.

And those who don't get paid to be ex-gay have the nasty habit of giving up the effort and recanting their testimony (think how Noe Gutierrez ruined I Do Exist). By now the ex-gay ministry has learned not to use amatures.

So what if the professional ex-gays occasionally get their picture taken in a gay bar or get exposed for having drug-fueled unsafe-sex orgies, at least they always repent and return to the fold. They are the safe ones to use in ads.

And surely, SURELY, you aren't going to hold FotF to the standard of full disclosure are you? Hey, Daddy James has got to pay the bills and he can't do that by honesty.

Sheesh, so demanding and picky you militant homosexual activists are.

Posted by: Timothy | Feb 19, 2009 2:23:57 PM

Timothy: You forgot your snark /snark tags. :-)

Posted by: G-A-Y | Feb 19, 2009 2:28:35 PM

"Where are they going to find an average everyday ex-gay? There just aren't that many non-professional ex-gays out there."

**********

If that's so, then why do the "ex-gays" always say (and add more each time) that "thousands and thousands of people become 'ex-gay' every day"?

Surely if thousands and thousands of people "come out of homosexuality" every single day, the "ex-gays" can find an "average everyday 'ex-gay'" to represent them.

And beings that pretty much all "ex-gays" are "professional" (meaning, hawking their ever-changing testimonies), doesn't that strike you a little funny? Sounds like a traveling circus of swindlers - just like half of the so-called "authors" booked on Oprah's show.

BTW, G-A-Y, this pomo guy harasses everyone with something negative to say about the "ex-gays", or about their "ex-gay" experience. I'm surprised he didn't call you "bitter" or one of his other favorite names to call people.

Posted by: Scott | Feb 19, 2009 3:02:56 PM

Pomo, you say that your were "ex-gay", but, presumably, now you are not? That sounds like an interesting story...

The reason that the professional designation to "ex-gays" matters, is that they have a financial stake in proving that their lies are truth. So, when they advertise their snake oil, it is a bit misleading to point to one of their paid employees as proof that the elixir works. There are very few "ex-gays" who venture to post here who aren't gainfully employed in the "ex-gay" trade. That leads us to believe that if the ordinary rank and file "ex-gays" do exist, then they should be on an endangered species list.

When HRC puts staffers in ads, they aren't embarrassed to admit that they are, in fact, paid staffers. When "ex-gay" organizations put staffers in ads, and they choose not to identify them as employees, they are misleading those who might read the ad. HRC also isn't in the business of selling any sort of therapeutic, self-help, "god will free you from the demons for a price" nonsense either. Fringe pseudoscience (like "ex-gay") is only profitable when they can offer up some proof that it works. And their only endorsements seem to come from those with a financial stake in the company.

But, if your assertion that these people only become professional "ex-gays" for the purest of intentions, then there is absolutely no reason why they would want to hide their identity. That is, in fact, the very reason why they would demand to be perfectly up-front and honest about it. And, when they're not up-front and honest about it, then how can you believe any of their other lies.

Posted by: Dick Mills | Feb 19, 2009 3:15:18 PM

GAY - I hear your point. I disagree but thats ok. I appriciate the work you are doing none-the-less.

SCOTT - I harass "everyone with something negative to say about the "ex-gays", or about their "ex-gay" experience" now? Feel free to take your foot out of your mouth at any time. Otherwise I wouldn't take part in the beyond-ex-gay conversation taking place. Why would you say such a thing? Maybe because I don't buy everything negative that is said about exgay people. Because I actually think critically about the mattters. I bring critisim (of both sides) when I think it is due. I don't see exgay people as enemies. and thats why I'm willing to critsize those who unfairly characterize them. But saying things like "harass" and "everyone" is overdone, boring, and sadly typical. Oh and guess what, I'm not Democrat either ::gasp::

DICK - You're right, I'm thankful that I've finally come out of the closet and am no longer living my life in a dishonest way. That means I'm on your side. But it doesn't mean that I hvae to agree with everything our side does or says. If we were so convincing and had such great arguments, most of the country would actually like and support us. But that is not the case. So instead of saying the same things over and over again only to make ourselves feel better and not actually change any minds, we need a new paradigm and to address issues that those in the middle may actually care about.

I don't even like the term exgay. Those in that movement who are honest will say they are still attracted to the same sex. They've just developed attractions to the opposite sex as well. And thats their perogative. People have a right to live their lives as they please. Where I will jump all over them is when they claim Jesus "heals" everyone and that we somehow need to be healed.

Posted by: Pomo | Feb 19, 2009 3:59:03 PM

Pomo, the biggest problem that we have with the lying liars who promote "ex-gay" is that it is inherently dangerous. It reinforces the notion that it is wrong to be gay, and further marginalizes some of those who are susceptible to that form of abuse. Offering someone a lie rather than an alternative is dangerous. They are preying on the most vulnerable and giving them no hope other than that they must hate who they are.

And, that their pitch to potential marks is laced with lies to begin with, just speaks volumes to the moral fiber of those involved. There is no reason why they need to lie about who they are, and if what they offer were truly viable, then there is every reason why they shouldn't lie about who they are.

Posted by: Dick Mills | Feb 19, 2009 5:23:09 PM

"I don't see exgay people as enemies. and thats why I'm willing to critsize those who unfairly characterize them."

Betcha never have anything to say about Alan Chambers or Randy Thomas "unfairly criticizing gay people", or their not-so-swift rewording of nazi anti-Jew propaganda, filling in the blanks with gay people instead. Or the fact that Exodus International continues to link to Scott Lively's holocaust revisionist book, which blames gay people for the WWII holocaust.

You're free to be all buddy-buddy with the nutballs all you want. But don't try to march the rest of us into the loony clutches of "ex-gays" and evangelicals.


"Oh and guess what, I'm not Democrat either ::gasp::"

ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Neither am I. But I voted for Obama, anyway.

Posted by: Scott | Feb 21, 2009 3:56:16 PM

If an organization for homosexuals can be led by a homosexual, can't an organization for ex-gays be led by an ex-gay? If those organizations choose to pay their leaders, why should it matter? If those organizations advertise or produce videos to promote their agenda, why should it matter so long as it is true? If you believe that heterosexuals or homosexuals can't change, but there are people who claim to have changed, how can you dispute with them? You don't know what they've been through.

Posted by: barka | Feb 26, 2009 8:30:52 AM

Barka: Well again, that's not the problem here. Of course an "ex-gay" org can be led by "ex-gays." In fact, they probably should be. But the issue here is transparency. The problem is how they have presented Jeff to the public, making him sound as if he is an everyday Joe (or Jeff, as it were), when in fact he is on their payroll. That very much matters. People have a right to know that he is a paid advocate for LWO, not a layman who is simply choosing to share his story in this ad. And that's the point of this post.

But since you did raise the issue of "ex-gay"ness in general, we also need to address this comment:

"If you believe that heterosexuals or homosexuals can't change, but there are people who claim to have changed, how can you dispute with them?"

The answer? Because anyone can CLAIM anything. What we are after is the truth. And when they are foisting their personal claims (which hold no credible scientific backing) onto the public in a way that seeks to undermine gays' personal lives and socio-political goals, we in the LGBT community not only CAN challenge the movement -- we MUST do so.

It is not about individual "ex-gays," who we totally think should be free to live and love in any way they wish. It's about the organized movement and what they are trying to do in order to undermine gay rights.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Feb 26, 2009 9:42:51 AM

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