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JIC Post:Ex-gay" effort aimed at teensBy Janet I. TuSeattle Post-IntelligencerAn "ex-gay" Christian ministry is coming to Seattle later this month with a new agenda — to reach gay teens.Exodus International, an evangelical organization that claims to turn people away from homosexuality and toward heterosexuality, has a new initiative called Groundswell, which aims to help youth pastors and others who work with gay teens to convey the belief that homosexuality is sinful, though God still loves people who struggle with it.Groundswell also hopes to get into public schools its message that gays have a choice and are not compelled to live as homosexuals.Groundswell's local half-day conference is scheduled for Oct. 27 at the offices of Redmond's Antioch Bible Church. The conference has raised concerns among gay-advocacy groups, which believe that telling gay teens homosexuality is wrong and that God wants them to be straight can damage them psychologically and intensify any feelings of isolation.Exodus, an Orlando, Fla.-based network of so-called "ex-gay" ministries nationwide, said it started the Groundswell conferences this year after hearing from many youth pastors who didn't know what to tell kids who said they felt same-sex attractions. The kids "say they don't know what to do, and the youth pastors don't know what to do either," said Scott Davis, director of Exodus Youth, which oversees Groundswell.The conferences teach adults how to respond — "not with shock or horror. But not with telling them to experiment, either, [instead] speaking with those kids very kindly and compassionately about what the Bible says about homosexuality," said Davis.Conservative Christian groups like Focus on the Family and Exodus are paying more attention to high schools because the information now presented in public schools usually promotes acceptance of homosexuality and doesn't say that "people don't have to live homosexually if they don't want to," says Melissa Fryrear, gender-issues analyst for the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Focus.Most mainstream health organizations — including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association — oppose or are critical of efforts by groups such as Exodus to change a person's sexual orientation, saying to do so could be harmful. Such organizations have held for the past 30 years that homosexuality does not need to be changed or "cured."Gay-advocacy groups concur.Beth Reis, co-chairwoman of Safe Schools Coalition, contends that Groundswell saying it wants to offer teens alternatives to being gay "is a smoke screen. They believe and they teach that it's wrong to be gay. We think these conferences can be dangerous."advertisingThe coalition, based in Seattle, aims to make schools safe for students and teachers regardless of sexual orientation.Reis says such conferences reinforce the beliefs and fears of parents and youth pastors that homosexuality is sinful and that gay youths are destined for self-destructive lives.
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