Presentation at Winston-Salem
By Joanne Highley
Published September 2003
There has been one man who lived in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who for years has wanted us to come to that city and present the truth in regard to homosexuality. That man, Steve Whiton and his wife, Francine, worked for weeks and prayed with a group of prayer warriors to arrange for our presentation on July 11, 2003, at the First Presbyterian Church. The pastor of that church, Pastor Russell Ritchel, is a very courageous man who has stood for the truth of the Word of God in regard to homosexuality and invited us to give the presentation in his church. Since Steve Whiton had been an alderman on the city council, he knew many of the civic leaders and invited them to the event. He also extended invitations to many pastors and counselors in the city as well as to the superintendent of schools, the fire chief and members of the school board. This was an invited event, not open to the public and he did not want the press present as some state senators had expressed interest in coming and they did not want to be labeled as part of this position.
Dick and I flew down the day before and on the day of the presentation the lead article of the Winston-Salem Journal, the daily newspaper, was headlined with “Educators Urged to Attend Gay-Therapy Talk”. This was because the superintendent of Schools, Don Martin, had asked his school officials to attend our presentation. In the article they said our therapy was meant to convert homosexuals into heterosexuals. Hardly the way we see it. We believe that we work to uncover the created heterosexuality that has been covered by the ungodly reactions to pain which result in homosexuality, a dysfunction and not an actual aspect of true sexuality. The article went on to state that I had been a lesbian for ten years before I “turned to religion and married a man.” This was not a true statement about me as I had been baptized when I was nine years old.
The superintendent of schools said that the presentation would offer the school officials a different view from the one advocated by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). GLSEN has been lobbying the school board for two years to include language protecting gay students in the system’s anti-discrimination policy. Martin, the superintendent, also suggested that guidance counselors could benefit from the talk. He told them,”She has worked with a number of practicing homosexuals about returning to a heterosexual lifestyle and I would like to encourage you to come hear about her program and her views on a subject that we will be discussing more this year.”
The leader of GLSEN, Susan Parker, said, “The superintendent is telling guidance
Counselors that curing gay and lesbian people may be appropriate. How chilling must it be to read an e-mail from quote, unquote your boss that homosexuality can be cured.” She went on to say that she was concerned about the religious underpinings of L.I.F.E.’s message. One other psychiatrist was quoted in the article as saying that she does not think there is any evidence that what we do here at L.I.F.E. works. She stated that she believes most of the evidence today suggests that sexual orientation is something that we’re born with. In addition to all of this, they said that my approach to counseling homosexuals was called reparative therapy. I do not subscribe to that therapy and in fact, I state in our material that I do not. I felt that this was serious misrepresentation on the part of the newspaper.
Since all of this was written without any input from me, I insisted when I arrived at the church and met with reporters and a photographer from the Winston-Salem Journal that I speak with their editor so that I could tell him that what he had done was not ethical. I did speak to the editor after the presentation and he agreed to write another article after I had been interviewed by a reporter and been photographed by their photographer.
There were about 65 people in attendance and they were very interested in what I had to say and asked many excellent questions after my presentation. A number of people expressed interest in having us come to their church to speak or to do a seminar.
In addition to the reporters from the Winston-Salem Journal, the television crew from FOX-News was there with two camera and two interviewers. I gave them a brief interview and was off to a luncheon engagement with a Christian counselor from the city. That evening at five p.m. I was interviewed on a call-in show at a Christian radio station called Truth Network. We were able to put forth more of the message of hope and freedom on that program.
The next morning we got the Winston-Salem Journal and found to our great delight that they had given us another lead article with many of my statements from the interview included and my picture on the front page. They printed that “homosexuals can become heterosexuals”, that we believe homosexuality is bondage and that it is a satanic counterfeit for God’s created design. They included my statement that “we find that homosexuality always involves pain or some trauma in childhood. It could be sexual abuse, demonic possession or an athletic family that never validates an artistic boy’s manhood. These situations cause ungodly reactions to pain—emotions such as self-pity, guilt, rejection and anger. When people dwell on these reactions, they become susceptible to homosexuality. These ungodly reactions take root and are the driving force behind homosexuality. A homosexual must work with God to examine the roots of his or her pain and return to the true way of living. If one does not do this, there’s a constant pull to go back to the old way.”
In this article the school superintendent said that L.I.F.E.’s materials had been on the school system’s resource list for several years. The superintendent stated that he was not trying to start a battle over whether GLSEN’s methods or L.I.F.E.’s methods are better. At the end of the article I was quoted as saying, “There is no question that people can change.”
We were thrilled about the outcome of this visit to Winston-Salem and we thank God for our lovely friends there. Not only are we grateful for the Whitons who did the greatest share of the work, but also for many of the supporters who gave money to pay for our flight and other expenses. It was a great time of sharing with the people of this lovely city and we expect to return in October to do a seminar there.
P.S. Since writing this article, we received an e-mail from Steve Whiton with copies of the 14 letters to the editor, all of which were critical of our presentation and stance on homosexuality and believe any attempt to set people free is an insult and a false view. They all stated that they believe homosexuality is an inborn condition and therefore should not and could not be changed.
There was also an editorial written in the Winston-Salem Journal, July 15, 2003, which stated, “the preponderance of evidence suggests that homosexuality is something a person acquires at birth.” We have done extensive study on this subject and we not only do not find a preponderance of evidence –we find no evidence. If evidence existed, there would be headlines and major articles to reveal that fact. But no studies have found any conclusive evidence, and this is the testimony of the people doing the studies.