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Petitioning U.S. House of Representatives and 2 others

Stop the Pray Away Gay Syndrome

Seen the video? It's of a "gay exorcism" performed on a 16-year-old boy; he lies writhing on the floor, apparently convulsing as elders of the Manifested Glory Ministries from Bridgeport, Connecticut, attempt to cast out the "homosexual demon" from his body. The Christian Anti Defamation Commission, however, have called this a freedom of religious expression issue. This kind of practice needs to stop, and now.

Impressions while watching this? Well, when a woman in the video yells, "Rip-it from his throat!", or as the minister extols, "Come on, you homosexual demon! You homosexual spirit, we call you out right now! Loose your grip, Lucifer!" and repeatedly calls on the power of "the blood of Jesus" my own blood ran cold.

The ministry originally put this video on YouTube themselves but then removed it, only for it to be copied and capped by various news organizations. The Manifested Glory Ministries told CNN that they allow gay people to come into their church, they "just don't allow them to come in and continue to live that lifestyle".

The young man in question, they say, had approached them wanting to be a pastor himself, but knew that with his homosexual feelings that would not possible at the ministry, and that he underwent this "exorcism" voluntarily. The church stand by their purification ceremony (which they personally do not view as an exorcism but rather as a casting out of spirits) which ends in the youth vomiting up bagfuls of bile to chants of "rise up demon" from the congregation.

Rev. Patricia McKinney of the ministry (which lists itself as belonging to no specific denomination) has repeatedly denied claims that the exorcism in any way harmed the young man. There are conflicting reports, also, that suggest the ministry was under the impression that the boy was 18 rather than his actual age, and reiterates that they did not force the youth in question into the exorcism. Indeed, he underwent the exorcism three times at his own request.

But why did he go through that exorcism? Because he believes that homosexuality is sinful. That it is wicked. Now, that's a religious belief and, as a personal tenet, that's fine. But one does not just arrive at the conclusion that, in order to deal with homosexual feelings, an exorcism is the answer. Not at 16, and certainly not on your own.

The ministry don't think they were doing anything wrong. They certainly, I believe, didn't intend to harm the child in any way. But have they? The experience certainly looks traumatic. The frenetic screams of the pastor, the kid writhing on the floor; at one part it even looks as though the minister is choking the boy and shaking him, something which, if not leaving physical scars, must leave a lasting emotional impression.

Robin McHaelen, executive director of True Colors Inc., a gay youth advocacy group based in Connecticut, even goes on to say that the ministry was actually trying to do the best for the child, "None of the people in this video were intending to hurt this kid... they performed this ritual in an attempt to rid him of feelings that he didn't want to have." She clarifies that this is why the video is so disturbing, saying, "I think it's horrifying."

The real shock here is that this phenomena of gay "exorcisms", although highlighted in this most recent video in a way that few are, is not a new circumstance. "This happens all the time" says McHailin.

Wayne Beson's organisation Truth Wins Out, renowned for campaigning against gay cure therapies, suggests links to the group Exodus International who take a message of being able to cure homosexuals through counseling and reparative techniques throughout America and Europe. If that link were to be proved substantial, the reach of Exodus International would certainly make such exorcism practices even more disturbing, but the group have, to their credit, denounced such practices as this article reports.

The Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, however, have declared that this exorcism is an exercise of "religious liberty", saying "homosexuals" are "defaming the black church" by calling it abuse. They label the ritual as "prayer" and within the rights of any religious institution.

I sincerely never want anyone to pray for me in that manner, ever. To try and insinuate, as the above article does, that this reaction is homosexuals trying to push their agenda and impinge on religious freedoms is nonsense. This isn't even about gay rights. This is about responsibility to impressionable young people. Defending this as a religious freedom of expression is actually offensive to those of Faith because it implies that they too would condone such behavior.

This practice is shocking and it needs to stop. There is very little (if any) success rate in "curing" homosexuality, even with methodical counseling and intensive drug therapies. This pseudo-spiritual practice certainly can't be called a positive or Godly experience.

Shame, embarrassment and self loathing. That is what I imagine this young man is feeling, and what will be indelibly printed upon him for the rest of his life. With lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people proven to be vulnerable in our society, protecting this practice as part of religious freedom is dangerous.

This is not about attacking the positive aspects of religion- they are myriad and should be cherished - but rather about drawing a line and saying no. No to this ignorance that, at its base, reinforces the notion that you can not be gay and be a Christian, which is a fundamental lie, and perhaps in this case this "cleansing" didn't damage the young man in question, but no doubt it will damage others if this practice is allowed to continue, and perhaps it may even cost them their lives.

Urge your elected officials to put an end to such terrible and degrading treatment of LGBT Americans.

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