Survivors of Ex-gay Ministries Visit Ted Haggard’s Former Church to Tell of the Harm Caused by Message that Gays Should Must Change
SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: July 9, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
(Colorado Springs, CO) — Today Soulforce released video of an action outside New Life Church. To view the video, go to: www.soulforce.org/article/1281
On Sunday, July 8, three survivors of "ex-gay" ministries and counseling — Christine Bakke, Daniel Gonzales, and Peterson Toscano — traveled to New Life Church to speak out about the emotional, financial, and spiritual harm caused by the message that lesbians and gays can and should change their sexual orientation. They told their stories just outside the west entrance of the church and then walked to the church’s World Prayer Center to present framed collages depicting their experiences.
Once inside the World Prayer Center, the three former ex-gays spoke with two New Life pastors who greeted them cordially, listened to their concerns, and indicated a willingness to engage in further discussions.
"I think that things really shifted when we explained that this is not about politics, this is about pastoral care," said Toscano.
In November 2006, former New Life pastor Ted Haggard was dismissed from church leadership after allegations that he purchased drugs and engaged the services of a male escort. At that time, the church’s board of overseers recommended that Haggard submit to Dr. James Dobson, and megachurch pastors Tommy Barnett and Jack Hayford for a program of "healing and restoration." Dobson demurred and was replaced by H.B. London, Assistant Vice President at Focus on the Family.
The New Life board’s prescribed treatment reinforced the message that gays and lesbians can and must change their sexual orientation.
In her Sunday statement, Bakke, a Colorado resident, explained how similar messages motivated her to try to change her sexual orientation.
"I believed I had to change my orientation so that I could be considered holy and acceptable by God and those in church communities just like the one here," she said.
For seven years, Bakke single-mindedly pursued change. She tried prayer, support groups, reparative therapy, and pastoral counseling. She even attended a weekend seminar at New Life Church and met with two women in Colorado Springs who attempted to heal her by casting out demons.
In the end, Bakke "felt betrayed by the knowledge that many of the people who had talked about change actually meant a change in behavior but not in orientation….I walked away feeling damaged and broken."
As part of her healing process, Bakke co-founded beyondexgay.com with Toscano. The site, which went live this April, provides a space for ex-gay survivors to connect and share their experiences.
Twenty-six year old Gonzales spoke about his experiences with secular "conversion therapy." His experiences underscore the position of the American Psychological Association, which warned in 1998 that reparative therapy puts patients at risk for "depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior," because "therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient."
Sunday’s press conference was organized by Soulforce and is part of a national campaign to highlight the stories of "ex-gay survivors" — men and women who believe that attempts to change sexual orientation did more harm than good.
Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.