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‘Ex-Gay’ Group Cancels Conference Due to Lack of Interest

By Evelyn Schlatter on May 4, 2012 - 4:12 pm, Posted in Anti-LGBT

One of the most prominent ex-gay organizations in the country, Exodus International, has been experiencing an exodus of a different sort, one it surely isn’t pleased to see. The group canceled its next Love Won Out (LWO) conference, which was scheduled for May 19 at Legacy Church in Albuquerque, N.M.

Ex-Gay Watch, a website that monitors ex-gay organizations, posted an E-mail from the senior director of events at Exodus to registrants in which he said that because of the low number of registrations, the group couldn’t justify the expense of bringing the conference to Albuquerque.

This is the first time Exodus has canceled one of its Love Won Out conferences, Ex-Gay Watch noted. Attendance has been steadily declining at LWO events over the past couple of years. Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, another site that monitors ex-gay organizations, noted in September 2011 that attendance at an LWO event in Houston was at a record low 450, while at event in Atlanta this February drew only about 400. That’s down from the nearly 1,000 attendees Exodus has drawn to its events in the past.

Exodus is one of the oldest and largest umbrella groups for ministries offering ex-gay therapy – also known as “reparative” or “conversion” therapy, which is based on the  idea that LGBT people can become straight with the proper counseling. Every major American medical authority has concluded that there is no scientific support for this view, and many have expressed concern that reparative therapy can cause harm to individuals. Further, the American Psychological Association has warned that it can  “create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.”

Exodus has been struggling with financial trouble in recent years. The group had to cut its staff in 2010, and the current president, Alan Chambers, called a meeting in November 2011 with the group’s leadership, religious leaders and lay people to discuss ways to keep the organization financially solvent and socially relevant, something that it’s been having trouble doing the past few years as Americans have grown more accepting of same-sex marriage and the pseudoscience behind ex-gay therapy has come under greater scrutiny.

Some former practitioners, like John Smid, former executive director of the ex-gay ministry Love In Action, are now speaking out against it. Smid admitted he was gay last October and said that changing sexual orientation is not possible. And just last month,  psychiatrist Robert Spitzer repudiated his own 2001 study, which has long been cited by anti-gay groups as “proof” that sexual  orientation can be changed.

Exodus has also had its share of scandals. For example, Gary Cooper (no relation to the actor) and Michael Bussee, who were heavily involved in the group’s early years, fell in love with each other and subsequently left. John Evans, a co-founder of Love In Action (the first incarnation of Exodus), left when his best friend tragically killed himself because conversion therapy didn’t work. John Paulk, the founder of Love Won Out (formerly affiliated with Focus on the Family until Exodus acquired the ministry in 2009), became the poster boy for the ex-gay movement, until he was spotted in a gay bar in Washington, D.C., in 2000, two years after he published a book in which he discussed his “successful” journey out of homosexuality.

Even Chambers, the Exodus president, has conceded that ex-gay therapy is not as  effective as proponents suggest. “The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9 percent of them, have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction,” said at a conference sponsored by the Gay Christian Network in Orlando.

  • Brawny71

    According to a comment on another site, it’s not “due to lack of interest”. There’s a perfectly logical explanation: The event the last week of July conflicted with an LPGA tournament in Vero Beach, so two of the four couldn’t make it.

  • Aron


    The President of the United States is considered the Leader of the Free World.

  • Yewtree

    Great that they have had to cancel their event. So-called ex-gay so-called therapy is evil and destructive and harmful.

    Chris Lines, Obama is not the leader of the free world, he is the president of the USA. I am very pleased that he supports marriage equality, though. It is a very significant culture change.

  • Chris Lines

    The leader of the free world just endorsed same sex marriage. Let’s see how much longer Exodus can survive? LOL! Buh Bye Exodus.

  • Aron

    Oh dear. I just realized how dirty what I wrote might sound. While it is quite funny, I had not intended it to sound like that. Ho ho!

  • Aron


    I’m still waiting and hoping. I’ve developed a siren and lightbar, but my pumps and ladder are really quite depressingly small. I’m hoping as time goes on, they enlarge with age.

  • Reynardine

    Terry, I’m ex-blue-eyed. They changed to hazel when I was maybe six months.

  • Rene

    We recently had a mayoral candidate announce that her platform was fighting the gay agenda. Jobs, infrastructure, nope, fighting the gay agenda! Come to find out she’s a lesbian who went through this quackery, married a man who was into the Quiverfull philosophy and now has 8 kids. She came across as so mentally unstable that even the GOP in our northern Kentucky town told her to fold her tent.

    You have to feel sorry for people who have been so conditioned to hate themselves. She literally was telling people that gays were demon possessed.

  • Reynardine

    Miguel, you have to ask Aron. I only know what didn’t work to turn me into a yellow gas station.

  • Dr. James

    Exodus International (and all of the other lunatics out there) are relatively harmless and meaningless compared to the dangerous cultural icon that young gay men and women believe… that getting married will change everything, that their gay urges are just a passing phase. Literally tens of millions of marriages are racked with misery because of ignorance. Ignorance is always dangerous, no matter its form.

  • Miguel

    I’m more interested in the future fire truck bit, to be honest.

  • Karen, a tired old lesbian

    As a former gay hotline counselor, one of the things we were taught is that people who received psychological “counseling” to change their sexual orientation have an elevated suicide risk.

    Exodus International is nothing but evil quackery.

    Good riddance!

  • Ellen Myers

    If anyone is bored with the subject, then they can skip over it and read something else. Personally, I’m glad the info
    was made available so that I anyone else who’s interested could know about it. Thank you for including it.

  • Terry Washington

    CAN you be an “ex-gay”? Any more than you can be an ex-black?


  • Reynardine

    Actually, Aron, I knew myself that racehorse was out. I’m only fifteen hands two, sort of short-legged, and knockkneed with it.

  • Reynardine

    Aron, in fact, my late jurat brother was a racehorse vet in Ocala in his salad days, and he advised me long ago I’d never make the grade (it was my dad, a mechanical engineer, who told me I couldn’t grow up to be a yellow gas station)

  • Aron


    How’s the equitransmogrification going for you? Because I know that at twenty-five, I’m still waiting to become a firetruck.

    I only mention my age because it’s my understanding that you’re just a tad older than myself. So I am presuming that some folks from Ocala generally come calling by your homestead asking about training you for the races.

    (That was beyond ridiculous and I’ll shut up now. Apologies.)

  • Reynardine

    I have seen that posted twice. He advised beating four-year-old boys like that. At that age, I wanted to grow up to be a yellow gas station. When I found out I couldn’t, I wanted to grow up to be a horse.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Did anyone hear or read about the pastor in Fayetteville, NC who got up in the pulpit and tells the fathers in the congregation to punch their sons if their son are gay and to reign their daughters if they are too butch? I thought I’d bring this to the audience out there.

  • James M. Martin

    Thanks for the laughs. I need to laugh more often. This hit the spot.

  • Reynardine

    I note that Mr. Peterson’s post is the only serious one here, and the rest of us have posted to say how bored we all are with this nonevent (Mr. Peterson, I’m not making light of your post-it’s valuable, but it deserved an article more worthy of it).

  • Sam Molloy

    Oh darn. I wanted to go to that to find a new boyfriend.

  • Gloria Watanabe

    Favorite quote from the article : “Gary Cooper (no relation to the actor) and Michael Bussee, who were heavily involved in the group’s early years, fell in love with each other and subsequently left.”

  • Gregory Peterson

    As I wrote on Box Turtle Bulletin’s report:

    Legacy Church’s legacy is one of anti-gay activism, including co-sponsoring with a couple of Catholic groups, Scott Lively, for an anti-legal pregnancy termination rally. I wonder what Smothermon’s response to the cancellation might be.

    Smothermon has lobbied hard against full citizen equality in Santa Fe. He was on the Police Oversight Commission, and has carefully cultivated a very close relationship with the sheriffs department which has had held some events in his church.

    Smothermon regards conservative Christians as God’s privileged nobility. This reads like a white privilege apologetic to me, though I’m sure that he’s not a “white” supremacist. He is, however, obviously a believer in a religious, self proclaimed privileged nobility. (Come to think of it…wasn’t that a Christian Reconstructionist conceit?)

    “A noble birth is not to be taken lightly. It places an individual above the common man and carries a distinction of honesty and integrity.”

    If memory serves, Legacy’s academy uses the low intellectual integrity curriculum of A Beka Book and Bob Jones University Press.

  • Reynardine

    I note we’re not very interested in it, either.

  • Erika

    I wonder how many “relapses” occured during their “ex-gay” conventions – my guess is several.