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San Diegans protest "ex-gay" training event held in La Mesa

(SAN DIEGO) This morning a group of demonstrators stood tall outside the Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa to greet attendees of a training session sponsored by Exodus International. The demonstrators, who did not represent any particular organization, were brought together to protest the intended purpose of the training session: to teach pastors, ministers, educators and counselors how to deal with "unwanted homosexuality."

Exodus International is an interdenominational Christian, non-profit organization, whose sole purpose is to spread the message that “freedom from homosexuality [exists] through the power of Jesus Christ.” Since their inception in 1976, they have grown to include over 230 local ministries in the U.S. and Canada and have also created a global alliance with other regions outside of North America.

Although the organization has condemned the now-infamous bill before Uganda’s Parliament that aims to criminalize homosexuality (in some cases by inflicting death by hanging), Exodus International board member Don Schmierer was among one of the three Americans who visited the country in March 2009.

Schmierer, along with his colleagues, traveled to Uganda to preach at an anti-gay stadium rally and advocated the so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy, which is seen by many as the motivating factor behind the proposed Uganda law.

Conversion or reparative therapy in most cases inflicts more harm than good. In August of 2009, the American Psychological Association (APA), the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the U.S. and the world's largest association of psychologists, released a report stating there is “insufficient evidence” that such therapy works.

Their report resulted in a resolution which “advises that parents, guardians, young people and their families avoid sexual orientation treatments that portray homosexuality as a mental illness or developmental disorder and instead seek psychotherapy, social support and educational services that provide accurate information on sexual orientation and sexuality, increase family and school support and reduce rejection of sexual minority youth.”

Regardless, organizations like Exodus International persist that homosexuality can be cured, in this case through discovering Jesus Christ.

Attendees of today’s conference, which was scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., will listen to three key-note speakers, one of whom, Melissa Fryrear – a representative of Focus on the Family – claims to have been cured from her previous homosexual lifestyle.

Today’s event is by all means a small gathering that attracted no media coverage. However, Exodus International will be visiting Southern California again in June for their International Freedom Conference.

The Freedom Conference is the organization’s largest annual gathering and over 900 individuals are expected to attend. Unlike their training sessions, this conference last for four days and its purpose is to provide training and prayer for those “who personally struggle with homosexuality, and ministry support for those who have a loved one who struggles with or embraces homosexuality.”

Individuals and/or pro-LGBT groups who missed this morning’s demonstration will have the opportunity to join other concerned citizens who oppose the organization’s message in Irvine, when Exodus International visits from June 23 – 26.