Monday, January 11, 2010


Don Schmierer, former board member of “pray away the gay” group Exodus International, was one of three American evangelicals who traveled to Uganda last year to participate in a conference about sexual orientation. Following that visit Uganda proposed legislation that would imprison and execute gays. Needless to say, there’s been a bit of negative fallout from that trip.

So Don Schmierer and the rest have gone into damage-control mode. I heard a short interview with him on today’s Here & Now (give it a listen yourself here, it’s short). Schmierer is trying to distance himself from some of the more hateful messaging at that conference by fellow panelist Scott Lively, who compared homosexuality to beastiality and pedophilia. But Schmierer is in deep denial if he thinks his stance on gays is any less intolerant or hateful than those of folks like Lively.

Schmierer did say he thought the Ugandan anti-gay law was “horrible”:
I can’t believe anybody’s doing that type of thing. Not today. I mean, good night.

Shocking that our patented American fearmongering tying gays to pedophilia and beastiality would, in a Third World country not known for its high democratic standards, result in extreme measures like a gay death penalty. I kept waiting for Schmierer to take some responsibility but he never did, in fact, he denied any responsibility at all and tried to claim he was brought to the conference under false pretenses. He said he “didn’t know what I was walking into.”

That explains why he vociferously objected to Scott Lively’s hate speech at the time, to make sure his Ugandan audience knew where he stood. Oh wait. It doesn’t appear he did. (Furthermore, it’s a lie: Ex-Gay Watch says they warned Exodus International about what they were getting into.)

Here & Now interviewer Robin Young asked Schmierer what he counsels parents whose children have come out and he responded (keep in mind this is my own quickie transcript):

I teach parents how to help connect with their kids. One of the first things I say .. some of the nicest people I’ve ever met on the face of the earth are gay people. We talk about how to listen to each other. The second thing I teach them is how to affirm them for who they are.

“Affirm” is one of those liberal church words which means to accept GLBT folks and their families unconditionally. If you are a gay person looking for a church home, you look for one that advertises itself as “affirming,” or sometimes, “welcoming and affirming.” It’s a type of code word and everyone in the church world knows what it means. And let me add: there are lots of affirming churches out there, even right here in the Bible Belt. I can think of half a dozen here in Nashville right off the top of my head.

So to hear Don Schmierer say he counsels parents to “affirm” their gay children when he in fact meant no such thing struck me as the height of weasledom. I’ve got no doubt in my mind that Schmierer knew exactly what he was saying. I suspect he’s trying to change the definition of “affirming” among church people from “we accept you and your family--your partner, your children--unconditionally, just as you are. Welcome to God’s table,” to “we won’t kill you or throw you in jail.”

And in fact, kudos to Robin Young for asking the follow-up question,

Do you teach parents to affirm their children if they are gay?

to which Schierer responded

I didn’t say that!

Schmierer sounded annoyed that Young even asked the question. Methinks Schmierer got smacked in the face by the reality that his own argument is just as intolerant as Lively’s, just a different shade.

Schmierer and his fellow “pray away the gay” people have this crackpot theory that sexual orientation is connected to a person’s “disconnect” from the same sex parent. In other words, if you’re a gay guy, you are that way because you didn’t connect with your father, and if you’re a lesbian woman, you are that way because you didn’t connect with your mother. That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard, and it’s certainly completely at odds with modern psychiatric beliefs and practice. It sounds like an old wive’s tale, to me.

Schmierer went on in this interview to equate sexual orientation with “other addictions” (!!) and said he’d never met a healthy, happy homosexual person. So that pretty much tells us all we need to know about Don Schmierer. He can say he was “duped” all he wants, but you are deep in denial if you think a life’s work devoted to telling gays that there’s something wrong with them could somehow not lead to an extreme measure like the Ugandan gay death penalty.