‘Ex-gay’ conference headed to St. Paul in 2012


Amid news that Rep. Michele Bachmann’s Christian counseling clinic performs therapy aimed at “curing” gays and lesbians of homosexuality, the nation’s largest “ex-gay” organization, Exodus International, announced it will hold its annual conference, “Exodus Freedom,” in St. Paul next year. The last time an Exodus conference came to Minnesota, Bachmann gave it a glowing endorsement.

According to Exodus International, the conference will be held the last weekend of July 2012 at Northwestern College.

Northwestern is a private Christian college with deep connections to Minnesota’s most conservative Christians. Minnesota Family Council CEO John Helmberger was a member of the college’s board of trustees until 2008, and current MFC associate Megan Doyle sits on the board.

Bachmann’s been a speaker at the college, and the school has placed interns with her office.

Janet Boynes, who describes herself as a “former lesbian” and is close friends with Bachmann and MFC, has also presented at the school.

The college seems an apt setting for Exodus’ ex-gay conference. Its student handbook forbids homosexuality, and students who are in same-sex relationships can be expelled.

In 2007, the LGBT equality group Soulforce visited the school to convince it to relax its position on LGBT students. The college administration greeted Soulforce with three students who said they were formerly gay or lesbian.

Soulforce member Emil Pohlig recalled one speaker named Nate. “As a homosexual, he said, he had been broken in his ability to love, but Jesus fixed all of that for him. After all, ‘the opposite of homosexuality isn’t heterosexuality,’ he said, ‘the opposite of homosexuality is holiness.’”

Exodus’ conference is being hosted by Outpost Ministries, a Twin Cities–based chapter of Exodus International.

In an email announcing the conference, the group wrote, “We need prayer for protection, strength and perseverence [sic] at the conference site, at the Outpost office location and wherever staff and conference personnel may be during that time. We believe that this will be a critical event in the history of Outpost Ministries, and will catapult us into a new realm of kingdom reality and spiritual warfare.”

Exodus has brought its ex-gay conference to Minneapolis at least twice before — in 2000 and 2004 under the name Love Won Out and in partnership with Focus on the Family (Focus on the Family handed the conference over to Exodus competely in 2009). Before the 2004 conference, then-Sen. Michele Bachmann gave a glowing endorsement of the event.

“I know that Love Won Out will present the truth about homosexuality,” Bachmann said, “and present it in a compassionate and loving manner. Those of us working to safeguard marriage from redefinition by radical judges must inform our efforts with an understanding of the deep emotional wounds that many in the homosexual community carry. I look forward to welcoming Minnesotans and residents of surrounding states to hear the message of healing that is possible.”

Bachmann and her husband Marcus made headlines last week when an undercover investigation revealed that their Christian counseling clinic performed therapy aimed at “curing” gays of homosexuality.

There’s no indication that Bachmann will be part of the June 27-30, 2012, conference.