Americans United for Separation of Church and State today called on a House of Representatives subcommittee to drop an anti-gay religious activist from a list of witnesses scheduled to testify during an upcoming field hearing in Colorado Springs on the "faith-based" initiative.
The House Committee on Government Reform's Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources is scheduled to hold the hearing on Friday, Jan. 23. Five of the 10 Republican witnesses are affiliated with Focus on the Family, a large fundamentalist Christian ministry headquartered in Colorado Springs.
Among the witnesses is Mike Haley, identified as Focus on the Family's "Manager of Gender Issues." In fact, says Americans United, Haley oversees the group's effort to "cure" gays by converting them to fundamentalist Christianity.
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, charged that Haley's presence on the panel suggests that some in Congress and the Bush administration may be interested in steering tax money to so-called "ex-gay" ministries under the "faith-based" initiative.
Lynn noted that Subcommittee Chairman Mark E. Souder (R-Ind.), is a close ally of the Religious Right and also serves as the Bush administration's point man on the "faith-based" initiative in the House.
"The so-called 'ex-gay' groups are nothing more than covers for fundamentalist indoctrination programs," said Lynn. "They don't deserve one dime of taxpayer support. It would be outrageous if the Bush administration and Rep. Souder are seriously considering giving public funds to this sort of program."
On FOF's website (www.family.org), Haley claims that homosexuals can overcome their sexual orientation. One recent press release quotes him as saying, "Our culture continues to tell us that homosexuality is genetic and can't be changed and even that it is blessed by God. But I and thousands of others know that this is simply not true, and we encourage the public to come hear our side of this controversial topic."
FOF publications insist, contrary to the claims of modern psychology, that homosexuality is a chosen behavior, and some group materials have even implied that being gay is satanic in nature.
In one column for teenagers, FOF staffer Michael Ross counseled a young man wrestling with homosexual feelings, "Because homosexuality is a choice your Creator doesn't want you to make, He will help you overcome it even during those moments when Satan tries to trip you up. Jesus Christ loves you and cares deeply about your struggles. (He understands them better than you do.) He will help you. Tell Him everything you're feeling and ask Him for guidance. Pray anytime, anywhere. Jesus forgives and heals and delivers."
"This field hearing appears to be little more than a showcase for the extreme views of Focus on the Family," said Lynn. "That's bad enough. But for Congress to provide a forum for the views of 'ex-gay' ministries is beyond the pale and an insult to millions of Americans."
Concluded Lynn, "If members of Congress see this hearing as an opening move toward funding religious conversion, they had better think again. Resistance to such a move will be swift and strong."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.