Today, Exodus International issued a statement denouncing the criminalization of homosexuality worldwide. The statement on the organization’s website reads:
Exodus International believes that every human life, regardless of sexual orientation, is of inestimable and equal worth to God and that defending this principle is foundational in offering a Christian response to any issue. As such, Exodus International has not supported and will not support any legislation that deprives others of life and dignity based on their sexual orientation or the expression of such within the confines of a consensual adult relationship. We stand with all who are defending this basic, biblical tenet and remain committed to sharing the compassion, hope and life-giving grace and truth of Jesus Christ.
Finally, we stand with the LGBT community both in spirit, and when necessary, legally and physically, when violence rears its head in Uganda, Jamaica or anywhere else in the world.
The statement is in response to reports that the board Vice-Chair of the Exodus board of directors, Dennis Jernigan, traveled to Jamaica in May to speak about his sexual reorientation. While there he spoke to several groups and appeared to support Jamaica’s laws which make homosexual conduct illegal. Jernigan’s trip and rhetoric are surprising given the fall-out over a similar situation 3 years ago.
In 2009, Exodus Board member Don Schmeirer spoke at an anti-gay conference in Uganda which was then used by local organizers to stir up support for increasing the severity of laws against homosexual conduct. Later that same year, legislation was introduced by MP David Bahati which, if passed, would toughen current laws against homosexuality in Uganda by adding life in prison for gays who do not have HIV and the death penalty for those who do. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill is still pending in Uganda’s Parliament.
At that time, Exodus came under sharp criticism for its slow reaction to the conference, though the organization did later come out with a strong statement condemning the bill and sent a letter to the Ugandan President and Parliament opposing it.
Currently in Jamaica, policy regarding homosexuality is being debated in the public square and among law makers. Currently illegal in the island nation with penalties of up to 10 years in jail, some religious leaders are calling on Parliament to resist calls to de-criminalize homosexuality. In late May, Jernigan visited Jamaica on behalf of a group who want to keep the nation’s laws against homosexuality intact. While there, he also spoke to a group of journalists, and in response to a question about whether Jamaica should change laws against homosexual conduct, Jernigan seemed to support keeping homosexuality illegal. In his blog post on the meeting, Jernigan wrote:
In a boardroom with about 30 editorial staff members and reporters, I discovered that the Prime Minister of Jamaica was receiving pressure from our president and the prime minister of Great Britain to change the anti-sodomy laws of Jamaica…or risk losing financial support. That is when I knew why I was there.
I shared my entire story and then fielded questions – for almost two hours! When asked about what I thought about President Obama’s recent remarks concerning homosexuality, I told them I love my president but I believe he is greatly deceived and risks undermining the very foundation of our nation…the family.
According to the Jamaican Observer, Jernigan offered support for one of the religious groups campaigning for the Parliament to keep homosexual conduct a criminal offense.