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American Family Association marketing ‘ex-gay’ video
Fraudulent misrepresentations prompt legal action in two states

Compiled by Q-Notes Staff

Still a mouthpiece for AFA’s anti-gay message: failed ‘ex-gay’ Michael Johnston
Truth Wins Out, an “ex-gay” watchdog group founded by activist and writer Wayne Besen, announced in late January that it would file a complaint with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood against the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association for selling on its website a misleading video titled, “It’s Not Gay.”

In a letter to Hood, Truth Wins Out urged him to expeditiously pull this fraudulent video from the marketplace, require a written apology from the AFA and that also refunds be offered to dissatisfied consumers.

Earlier in the month Besen and Truth Wins Out filed a complaint with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan against the Naperville, Ill.-based non-profit organization Americans For Truth and its president Peter LaBarbera, for selling the same misleading video.

The primary spokesperson featured in “It’s Not Gay” is Michael Johnston, an HIV-positive so-called “ex-gay” leader who offers testimony claiming he became heterosexual in 1998 “through the power of Jesus Christ.” He went on to collaborate with The American Family Association, Americans For Truth, Coral Ridge Ministries and Rev. Jerry Falwell.

In August 2003, Johnston’s claims at sexual conversion collapsed in an embarrassing scandal. Michael Hamar, a Virginia attorney, called Besen to say he had a client who had been having an affair with Johnston, not realizing at first, Johnston’s true identity as a prominent “ex-gay” figure.

Besen was also introduced to another young man who claimed to have had unprotected sex with the “ex-gay” leader. While in Virginia, Besen was shown a video of a man that looked strikingly similar to Johnston having unprotected sex with several men. Hamar’s client signed an affidavit swearing the man was Michael Johnston.

The news broke in Southern Voice, a gay publication in Atlanta. Johnston resigned his ministry in disgrace and fled to a sex addiction facility in Kentucky, Pure Life Ministries, where he sought counseling. In reaction to Johnston’s fall, AFA spokesman Buddy Smith told Southern Voice, “I don’t think the message is changed at all, though of course the messenger is certainly harmed. I don’t foresee he would ever be back in a place of public ministry, especially in an outreach to homosexuals like the ministry he had.”

Despite publicly admitting that Johnston had failed in his efforts at heterosexuality,The American Family Association continues to sell the specious “It’s Not Gay” video and portrays Johnston to unsuspecting viewers as a “former homosexual.”

“Nowhere does the American Family Association inform potential viewers that Johnston’s ‘cure’ did not endure,” Besen writes in the letter to Hood. “This organization is undeniably peddling false hope to vulnerable and desperate people and bilking them out of their hard earned money. In doing so, the American Family Association is unscrupulously capitalizing on the sincere and heartfelt religious convictions of its followers and exploiting them for the organization’s financial gain.”

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