Gay ’Exorcisms’ Continue--In the U.S.

by Kilian Melloy
Monday Jun 7, 2010

Science has found several provocative indications that homosexuality is a matter of physiology rather than choice--but some religious factions have another theory: evil spirits make people gay. The cure: "deliverance," known also by an older and more terrifying name: exorcism.

It's nothing new for religious groups to claim that homosexuality is a pathology, or to similarly claim that gays can be "changed" or "cured." While there is evidence that some people who have identified in the past as gay have "changed" to become heterosexual, what is not clear is whether people who have "converted" to heterosexuality have really altered their fundamental sexual orientation. It is not uncommon for young heterosexuals to experiment with same-sex relationships; it's also possible that at least some of those who say they were once gay, but no longer are, are predisposed to bisexuality and have simply chosen to ignore same-sex attraction.

Even those who say they have "left homosexuality behind" often acknowledge that their sexual feelings have not shifted to members of the opposite gender; rather, some "ex-gays" suppress their sexual attraction to the point of feeling that they have become "asexual." Many times, "ex-gays" note that dealing with sexual attraction toward individuals of the same gender is an ongoing "daily struggle" with which they contend.

Many religions and even ex-gay groups recognize that homosexuality is a complex issue. But the phenomenon of exorcism--which relies on a belief that evil spirits inhabit a person and drive him or her to same-sex attraction--persists. Gays who have been brought up in religious traditions may seek exorcism as a last resort; but like other forms of so-called "conversion" or "reparative therapy," gay exorcism may do more harm than good to those who undergo it.

The June, 2010 issue of Details Magazine contains an article about gay exorcism that recounts how a young man named Kevin allowed himself to be subjected to a humiliating session of exorcism in a public ritual at a church in Massachusetts. Kevin became so distressed during the exorcism that he wept and passed out; his sexual feelings remained unchanged, but the attempt to drive out evil spirits "causing" him to be gay left the young man traumatized. Nor was this the first time Kevin had attempted to "overcome" homosexuality through exorcism--though the article said that the experience was so traumatic that Kevin finally determined it would be the last time he underwent an attempt to drive out "gay" demons.

GLBT youth seem to be hardest hit by the current wave of anti-gay spirituality and so-called "exorcisms." The Details article noted that, "youth workers say they regularly deal with the aftermath of these rituals." Moreover, GLBT youth growing up in religious environments are targeted with shaming anti-gay messages; Peterson Toscano, a gay Christian who is active in seeking to reign in the damage being inflicted to gay youths, told Details that, "For a young person, being told that you house evil, that you're basically a mobile home for evil spirits-that is a very, very damaging concept," says Added Toscano, "It's one of the most extreme manifestations of the anti-gay rhetoric within the church."

The article reported that religious traditions that promote exorcism promote the discredited theory that being sexually assaulted makes a young person gay; some exorcisms seek to induce vomiting or diarrhea in the belief that oral or anal sex with a man has led to the subject's "possession" by gay demons. L.I.F.E. Ministry's Joanne Highley, who performs gay exorcisms, told Details that her rituals focus on forcing evil spirits "out of genitals, of course out of anal canals, out of intestines, out of throats and mouths if there's been ungodly deposit of semen in those areas," so that vomiting or diarrhea is seen as a physically manifestation of evil; spirits being forced from a subject's body.

The article noted a Connecticut case from a year ago in which a 16-year-old boy fell to the floor of a church with seizures and vomiting during an exorcism; footage of the rite was posted to YouTube, where it created a sensation. The Associated Press reported in a June 25, 2009, article that onlookers and participants cried out for the "gay demon" they believed had possessed him to be forced out.

"Rip it from his throat!" the article quoted a woman who was present at the exorcism crying out. "Come on, you homosexual demon! You homosexual spirit, we call you out right now! Loose your grip, Lucifer!" the woman continued.

The video ran for about 20 minutes, showing the youth writhing and vomiting as the ritual continued. The footage was posted by Manifested Glory Ministries, until being taken down in the wake of the outcry that followed. Reverend Patricia McKinney claimed that the ritual did not reflect anti-gay animus, saying, "We believe a man should be with a woman and a woman should be with a man." Added McKinney, "We have nothing against homosexuals. I just don't agree with their lifestyle."

GLBT youth advocacy group True Coors reported the exorcism to the Connecticut authorities, but the law does not protect gay minors if their parents seek to "de-gay" them for religious reasons. Once case in point cited by Details: a gay teen taken against his will, in handcuffs, to a religious "reparative therapy" facility in Tennessee. Though state authorities looked into the incident, they said they had no legal recourse in the matter. At gay blog, an article on the Details article noted, "As many of these 'exorcism' abuses are inflicted upon children, some have demanded that the government intervene. But child welfare agencies and prosecutors have cited freedom of religion protections and have done nothing."

The AP article cited Robin McHaelin, the executive director of GLBT youth advocacy organization True Colors, as saying that she knew of numerous instances of gay exorcism. "What saddens me is the people that are doing this think they are doing something in the kid's best interests, when in fact they're murdering his spirit," she told the media.

Next: "Exorcisms" in the First World: Not Uncommon


  • , 2010-06-07 12:07:08

    An article like this makes it crystal clear that God made a HUGE ’oops’ in leaving ANYTHING to the heterosexual to ’protect.’ ESPECIALLY his children. Morality indeed, heterosexuals. Morality. Indeed.

  • Jason Vincik, 2010-06-07 13:05:07

    Years of brainwashing is still being handed down generation by generation. Why these people feel it’s their responsibility to "fix" homosexuals will always be a mystery to me. It’s these kinds of things that prevent me from having any kind of religious faith at all.

  • , 2010-06-07 14:47:47

    only nice thing i have to say to this is this is 2010 so you gay bashers need to GROW UP AND GET A LIFE SOON

  • GreggySF, 2010-06-07 18:28:18

    This article is the first I’ve seen that addresses the bisexual part. Some people who have been "cured" are actually bisexuals who are suppressing one side of their nature. These then lead to the (wrong) assumption: "If I can ’cure’ HIM, then I can ’cure’ ANYBODY."

  • , 2010-06-07 19:32:59

    More stupidity has been committed in the name of religion than any other cause. As Max von Sydow said in Hannah and her Sisters, if Jesus came down and saw what people did in his name, he wouldn’t be able to stop vomiting.

  • Anon, 2010-06-07 22:55:51

    Victims of domestc violence or child abuse often believe what happened to them was out of love. Abuse is abuse.

  • , 2010-06-08 15:07:37

    Who are you to tell me who I have to don’t have a problem with "homsexuals" you just don’t agree with our you people really need to wake up.we love who we love becuse it’s our choice the choice that "god"gave’s not because we were molested or raped that we’re gay.if you know so much abot the bible then you would know that the lord also says"come as you are"ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you’s your type of love that will land You not Us in hell.only god can judge me.

  • , 2010-06-09 08:10:04

    I am an openly-gay minister and believe we must replace superstition with reason. We must replace hate with love. These exorcisms are not only abusive, oppressive and shaming but just as harmful to the victims as it is to those who are taught to hate. We must harness the power of love to stop oppression, exclusion, and violence by Standing on the Side of Love. Click here for a sermon on how to heal from shame-based religious practices: Peace, Rev. Nate Walker, Philadelphia

  • PastorCurtiss, 2010-06-11 02:05:15

    I am the gay pastor of a Gay-Lesbian (GLBT) Affirming and Inclusive Pentecostal church. This type of aproach is terribly harmful to the long-term spiritual and psychological wellbeing of the young person being assaulted (and that is what this is, assault). So sad that folks don’t have greater discernment and a deeper spirituality, for if they did, they would know that this is barbaric and ignorant.

  • Sheila Putang, 2010-06-24 00:36:06

    These kind of practices really need to be in the forefront if we ever plan on getting these kind of therapies regulated by the federal Goverment. They do not work and have proven to do more harm, but unfortunatley we must face the facts its not going to go away. However the federal goverment needs to regulate this kind of therapy as they do every other one. Some of the practices are un heard of, and just disgusting! So many people are being taking advantage of due to their low self esteem.

  • , 2010-08-21 21:12:22

    Religious persecution of gay youth is indeed horrible, but no worse than the myriad other types of persecution of children, gay or straight, that occur every day. Children are beaten, tied up, isolated, or (worst of all) sent off to unregulated treatment centers for any reason their parent(s) may have. A tiny improvement was introduced by U.S. Rep. George Miller: the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act, which would merely require such programs to "provide children with adequate food, water, rest, and medical care." In other words, keep them from dying (as many have). This minimal requirement passed the U.S. House in February 2009 with a whopping majority of 295 to 102. The Senate has not yet considered the bill.

  • , 2010-09-24 02:01:20

    I’m not trying to start anything, but everyone does have the choice to agree or disagree with something as long as they are not causing harm to an individual. So if someone doesn’t agree with homosexuality, but doesn’t protest against it, it is their right to have those beliefs. But these practices are a little extreme. But I think that with one’s full consent, such practices should be allowed to happen.

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