That's the title of a special report I did with photographer Kurt Austin that is airing tonight May 11th at 11pm. The title and the short promotional ad for it have been enough to bring in complaints already.
People are offended by the implication that gay's somehow need fixing. But the title is actually appropriate. Because that is exactly what the story is about. A Portland ministry that believes homosexuality is a sin and that they can help people choose a different lifestyle. It's called the Portland Fellowship.
I located Portland Fellowship through a national organization called Exodus International. A very controversial group that operates as a clearinghouse for these kinds of programs.
I was somewhat surprised when Jason Thompson, the Executive Director of Portland Fellowship immediately said yes to my request for an interview. But after I found out he had been grilled on some national shows like Geraldo Rivera , doing an interview with me probably sounded easy.
He was very open about his past homosexual experimentation and that it conflicted with his spiritual beliefs. That's what brought him to Portland Fellowship 17 years ago as a young man looking for help.
Now as the director, Jason repeatedly told me that they were only interested in working with people who like him, did not want to be gay or lesbian.
He explained his belief that homosexuality is not part of God's plan and that Portland Fellowship considers it a sin that needs to be stopped, just like any other sin. Jason says the focus of the program is to help people control their behavior with the hope that in time God will eliminate their desires for a same sex relationship. Jason says it worked for him ,that he is a happily married man ( 9 years ) with a young son.
I was also very lucky to find another man who had been through a similar program in Texas, Kurt Granzow. Kurt says he was part of the ex-gay movement for ten years. He got married and worked as a youth minister in Brazil. But Kurt said his feelings of wanting a same sex partner never went away and eventually he felt he was living a lie. Kurt eventually lost his job , his marriage and moved to Oregon.
What Kurt found here was a church that not only accepted him for who is he ( The United Chruch of Christ ) but recently hired him as a youth minister at a Beaverton congregation. He has a partner he loves and says his life in now in balance .
I found both men very sincere and well spoken. Jason Thompson just got his masters degree in counseling . Kurt Granzow is getting his masters in Divinity.
Why do the story at all ? I was interested because in a County that witnessed gay marriages and a city that hosts an impressive gay pride parade it's clear the debate continues. Portland Fellowship may not be in the news as much, but it is there. Hundreds of people are said to have gone through the program. Since it doesn't track participants when they leave there is no way to determine what happens. Exodus International
thinks the "success" rate is between 30 to 50 percent.
I certainly can't settle the debate in a television news story. In fact as it turned out the hardest thing about doing the story was trying to make it short enough to air in one of our newscasts. Even at 3 minutes and 45 seconds ( a generous allotment in a 30 minutes newscast) it is still superficial.
I don't even touch the controversy over the kind of help provided. Should lay people be providing this kind of therapy ? Portland Fellowship says it is not providing counseling only a Christ centered support group, with people who have been through it. But National Gay and Lesbian groups have sounded the alarm saying only trained professionals should be dealing with people, especially teens, who are so vulnerable. As for the professionals, the American Phychiatric Association, the American Medical Association and others have come out against this kind of therapy.
Anyway, I'll be interested in the response. It seems to be true that most of us support free speech until someone's opinion disagrees with ours :)
Hopefully you'll find it interesting. And as always... thanks for watching.