Asheville summit to challenge Exodus conference

Three-day conference features national, local speakers on harm of 'ex-gay' ministries

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Two conferences confronting the issues of homosexuality, “ex-gay” reparative therapies and religion will be held simultaneously this week. Exodus International will hold their “Reality of Grace” conference June 8-11 near Black Mountain. In Asheville, organizers with the No Exodus Project have geared up to host national and local speakers to discuss the harm of religion-based discrimination, the “ex-gay” industry and more.

Asheville’s “The Reality of Will and Grace: a Refutation of the Exgay Movement,” is also slated for June 8-11 and will include panel discussions, special guest speakers, and exhibits at a downtown jazz and blues bar and at First Congregational United Church of Christ.

“It is ironic that Exodus International takes its name from that book of the Bible that famously warns against bearing false witness,” James Dye, coordinator of the No Exodus Project said in a release. “The group is predicated on distortion and misdirection; it shows contempt for science, and its theology is of the militantly unexamined variety. And the injury it does is real, both to society and to the individual.”

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Speakers at the events include keynote speaker Dr. Mel White, founder of Soulforce, and Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out.

Soulforce is an LGBT organization seeking nonviolent dialogue with Christian leaders. Before coming out, Dr. White was a ghostwriter for Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson. Dr. White’s journey is recounted in his autobiography, “Stranger at the Gate.” His most recent book, “Religion Gone Bad,” is an exposé of the Christian Right. During the past twenty-five years, Dr. White and his partner, Gary Nixon, have traveled across the country, speaking on university campuses, teaching the “soul force” principles of Gandhi and King, organizing people of faith to do justice, and confronting religious leaders whose antigay rhetoric, White maintains, “leads to the suffering and death of God’s lesbian and gay children.”

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Besen founded the nonprofit Truth Wins Out (TWO) in 2006, which was instrumental in convincing Apple Computers to drop its ‘gay cure’ iPhone app. He has written two books on the exgay movement, “Anything but Straight” and “Bashing Back”, and has appeared on The NBC Nightly News, Fox’s O’Reilly Factor and Hannity and Colmes, MSNBC News, PAX’s Faith Under Fire, and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In 2006 Besen was recognized in The Advocate Magazine’s “People of the Year” issue. In 2010 Besen was awarded the “Visionary Award” at the Out Music Awards for organizing The American Prayer Hour, an event which shined a spotlight on the rôle American evangelicals played in the introduction of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Other speakers include Asheville City Councilmember Cecil Bothwell, Rev. Linda Veltheim, Rabbi Philip J.Bentley, Angel Chandler of GetEqual North Carolina, Rev. Joe Hoffman, ex-gay survivor Jessica Carter and Rev. Victor Mansfield.

The conference’s opening night gala starts on Wednesday, June 8, 5:30 p.m. at Tressa’s Downtown Jazz and Blues, 28 Broadway, Asheville, NC, 28801, with a presentation by Cecil Bothwell on the Religious Right’s campaign against the LGBT community.

For more information on the events, visit therealityofwillandgrace.wordpress.com.

compiled from release

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