Ex-Gay Leader Defends Program Used to Support Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law

The leader of an “ex-gay” organization whose books and other material has been used to bolster support for the anti-gay bill now pending before Uganda lawmakers has voiced his opposition to the bill.

Richard Cohen, leader of the International Healing Center, told Rachel Maddow this week:

“We do not believe in this legislation. We had no knowledge of it and we disavow all relationship to it. We are promoting loving people, loving all homosexual people.”

Even given his disavowal of the proposed law, Maddow pointed out that his organization has been active in Uganda, sending “ex-gays” to speak at conferences and promoting his books, including Coming Out Straight, in the country. Cohen saw no problem with this practice, assuring Maddow that anyone from his group would be promoting love and compassion for gays and lesbians — as well as offering “change.”

Maddow, try as she might, though, could not really convince Cohen that while he may see the “thrust” of his books and message as one of love and compassion, his words were being used to stoke the growing fires of homophobia in Uganda and have been used in support of laws that will imprison gays and lesbians, and perhaps lead directly to their deaths.

“You’re telling them exactly what they need to hear in order to justify the ‘kill the gays’ bill. Your book portrays gay people as predators that must be stopped to protect the innocent.

Maddow then read to Cohen a passage from his book that is being used to support the pending law.

“The legislator who sponsored the bill told the Associated Press today that he insists these strict measures, which I know you abhor, including execution, are necessary in their country to stop homosexuals from recruiting school children. Let me just also read from your book, page 49, ‘Homosexuals are at least 12 times more likely to molest children than heterosexuals; homosexual teachers are at least 7 times more likely to molest a pupil; homosexual teachers are estimated to have committed at least 25 percent of pupil molestation; 40 percent of molestation assaults are made by those who engage in homosexuality.’ This is the claim that you make in your book that exactly feeds these folks who want to execute people for being gay what they need in order to justify that.

Knowing how it all looked for him, Cohen, instead of standing by his words, threw his own book under the bus:

“Actually, y’know, that one particular quote when I do republish it, uh, reprint it, we will extract that from it because we don’t want such things to be used against homosexual persons.

Sorry, Mr. Cohen, but the horses have already left the barn, it’s too late to lock the doors now. Far from disavowing his own penchant for using blatant lies to promote his own hateful agenda, Cohen continues his plea that his organization is about “love” for gays and lesbians whether they “choose” to remain gay or seek “change.”

The rest of the interview is worth the time to view as Maddow expertly cuts poor Cohen to shreds for relying on discredited and spurious “research” to prove that homosexuals can become heterosexuals. The sad thing is, Cohen doesn’t seem to get that his words have consequences, and are being used to implement laws that will strip gay and lesbian Ugandans of their freedom, and will cost many others their very lives. If there was ever need for repentance, this would be the time, Mr. Cohen.

One commenter on the Advocate.com’s Web site, Edward from Boston, makes a good point – Cohen had the opportunity, not just to disavow this legislation, but to do more to stop it:

… the obvious question was: would he file a complaint with the Ugandan government for misusing his work to justify the potential killing of gays? Would he make a public statement decrying the proposed law? Would he stand with Gay Activists in protesting because the Ugandans used his work out of context? She didn’t ask, and he didn’t offer. If he had made a statement like this without being asked, it would have helped his credibility.

And credibility is something Cohen is greatly lacking right now.

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