Protest Planned Against ’Americans for Truth’ Anti-Gay Workshop

by Kilian Melloy
Thursday Jul 22, 2010

An anti-gay Illinois-based blog has set up what it calls a "Truth Academy" for children as young as 14, purportedly to "train young people (as well as older pro-family advocates) how to answer 'gay' activist misinformation and fight the homosexual-bisexual-transsexual agenda."

The "Truth Academy" is the work of anti-gay blog Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH), which is run by Pete LaBarbera. The event is slated to include speakers from an array of anti-gay and religious organizations, including the Illinois Family Institute, Coral Ministry, and Liberty University.

"AFTAH has a long history of telling lies about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people," a posting at the website for the Chicago Independent Media Center said. The posting noted that the Southern Poverty Law Center had recently identified AFTAH as a "hate group," and went on to express concern about young people being exposed to such influences.

"Youth should not be taught to hate their peers and thus fuel the cycle of self-loathing, depression and suicide which too many LGBTQ youth experience," the site's text read. "Bigotry must be vocally and publicly opposed, especially when haters try to recruit young people."

Scheduled speaker Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute--which LaBarbera formerly headed--denied that the "Truth Academy" was an event designed to promote hatred or prejudice. In an article reposted at AFTAH, Higgins excoriated a math teacher and blogger who writes under the rubric of The Friendly Atheist, and who blasted the "Truth Academy."

"Aww... isn't this cute?" wrote Friendly Atheist blogger Hemant Mehta. "Peter LaBarbera, president of the group Americans for Truth about Homosexuality--a group that spreads lies about homosexuality--is announcing a seminar for young people who want to become little homophobes like him." Mehta went on to write, "I was all set to pay the registration fee and sign up myself until I read this..."

Mehta then posted text from another source outlining exactly who would be welcome to the "Truth Academy." "Prospective attendees will need to be approved with references," the text read, adding, "this is not open to pro-homosexual activists but only to those who share AFTAH's belief that homosexuality is immoral and that the GLBT movement is destructive to America and a direct threat to our religious freedom."

"Hmph. They're onto me," wrote Mehta, who then went on to offer to cover the event's registration fee for anyone who wished to infiltrate the event and report on the goings on. Youths will be charged $99 and adults $149 to attend the full three days of the event, with single days costing $50. An AFTAH posting promised "scholarships" for younger attendees between the ages of 14-25.

Such infiltration is a commonplace technique among anti-gay and religiously conservative groups. In 2000, an infiltrator associated with an anti-gay Massachusetts group secretly recorded the discussion at what was supposed to be a confidential forum for GLBT youth seeking to have concerns addressed and questions answered about sexuality in a factual manner. The clandestinely made recording was then broadcast on a local radio station, and became what is now celebrated among the anti-gay right wing as "Fistgate," due to a brief discussion of fisting. Despite state laws regarding wiretapping (which includes the making of audio recordings without the knowledge or consent of all parties being recorded), the anti-gay infiltrator never faced charges.

Higgins, however, attacked Mehta for his suggestion that the anti-gay event should similarly be infiltrated, writing, "I wonder what Neuqua Valley High School [where Mehta is employed] parents, administrators, and school board members think about a teacher encouraging teens to, in effect, lie.

"As I wrote a year ago, parents should think carefully about the kind of people who become role models for their children," continued Higgins. "Decades ago, parents could rely on teachers serving as good role models for their kids. We can't count on that any more."

Higgins went on to defend the role models and lessons the "Truth Academy" is slated to provide. "Despite the familiar and false accusations made by homosexual activists, the Truth Academy is decidedly not about promoting hatred," Higgins claimed. "The goal of the Truth Academy is to undo the damage done to individuals and the culture through the widespread dissemination and acceptance of deceitful and destructive fictions about homosexuality."

Higgins went on to assert that the "Truth Academy" was an answer to "the absolute censorship in public education of traditional views of the nature and morality of homosexuality." Added Higgins, "It is a fact that public schools, particularly high schools, expose students to numerous resources and activities that espouse, either implicitly or explicitly, unproven and controversial 'progressive' theories on the nature and morality of homosexuality, while at the same time censoring all resources that espouse dissenting views. This ideological monopoly transmogrifies education into indoctrination."

Higgins continued, "If public school teachers were compelled to fulfill their now empty verbal commitments to 'honoring all voices,' 'fostering diversity,' and 'developing critical thinking skills,' there would be no need for a Truth Academy."

A separate posting at AFTAH outlined the event's talks, which included addresses with titles such as "From gay pride to gay tyranny" and "Masculine Christianity: a non-defensive approach to the Culture War over homosexuality."

Surveying the list of speakers, GLBT blog JoeMyGod posted commentary regarding the lineup. "The list is a who's who of assholery and includes Arthur Goldberg from JONAH, the Jewish 'ex-gay' group whose 'therapy' includes nude self-groping in the presence of creepy older 'ex-gay' dudes," the JoeMyGod posting read.

The Chicago Independent Media Center posting related details about a local response to the "Truth Academy." "Please join us in a protest against the opening 'lecture-banquet' of the AFTAH event at 5:30 PM, Wednesday, August 4 at the AFTAH headquarters, 25W560 Geneva Road, Carol Stream, IL," the posting read.

"For those traveling from Chicago, we will be meeting in front of the Ogilvie Transportation Center, 500 W. Madison Street at 3:45 PM sharp." The posting also provided an email' target='new'|email contact> for more information, and invited readers to visit the event's Facebook page.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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