Last year, Hatewatch brought you the story of James Stabile, a 19-year-old gay man who, in a segment aired on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “The 700 Club,” claimed to have been converted to heterosexuality during a church’s “purity siege” outside a Dallas gay bar. The bar was located near Interstate 35, a route that an evangelistic group of churches including Heartland World Ministries wanted to reclaim as a “highway to holiness” by eradicating all manner of sin in its environs.
It’s too bad “The 700 Club” never brought us Part II. On its November segment, Heartland Ministries’ Rev. Joe Oden described how his Las Colinas, Texas, ministry had “saved” Stabile from homosexuality. What Oden didn’t mention is that Stabile had a history of mental illness and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. And what the hosts of “The 700 Club” didn’t tell their audience after the segment aired was what happened in the next four months of Stabile’s life — wherein the young man was shipped off to an unlicensed “ex-gay” live-in center in Kentucky, with barely a phone call to his parents allowed. Financed in part with $2,100 raised by the Rev. Oden’s church, Stabile lived at Pure Life Ministries, where he was told his homosexuality would be “cured,” in a room with 15 other men. Among the center’s many bans: no handshakes, no talking to other men, no exposed skin from the neck down (even while sleeping), and no radio or television.
Oh, and one other thing. No medication, according to Stabile, for bipolar disorder.
All measures failed to convert Stabile, who is now home in Dallas and once again openly gay. Indeed, upon returning and being stabilized, Stabile said, “I’m here to say to people that I want to help prevent other young gay guys from experiencing what I experienced, because I don’t want them to be hurt, and I was hurt really badly.” He went on to tell The Dallas Voice that he spent his days in Kentucky working at a uniform rental company to pay his $150 weekly rent, plus food, laundry and transportation expenses. For his part, Stabile’s father said that he completely accepts his son’s sexuality and believes that being gay “is neither a choice nor sin.” And that’s not because he’s some kind of venomous Christian-basher. Stabile’s father is the reverend who heads the oldest Methodist church in Dallas.
Sadly, Stabile’s story isn’t all that unusual. Last fall, the Intelligence Report revealed that there are over 200 “ex-gay” ministries in operation the U.S. alone. Techniques vary wildly, from weekly prayer and counseling to extreme forms of fasting and exorcism. But nearly all therapies and ministries teach that gays and lesbians are sick individuals.
Kind of like James Stabile, back when the “ex-gay” folks had him in their power.