Passport

Why 'Ex-Gay' Group Exodus International Should Take Its Apology Overseas

Exodus International, the controversial evangelical Christian organization that since the 1970s has promoted "reparative therapy" as a cure for homosexuality, announced Wednesday that it is shutting down, with president Alan Chambers disavowing the group's mission and offering an apology to the LGBT community on the organization's website. It's a major story for the U.S. gay rights movement, obviously, but there are global implications as well.

This isn't the first time Chambers has offered a major public apology. In 2010, he put out a contrite statement following reports that one of the group's board members had participated, along with other prominent U.S. evangelicals, in a conference on homosexuality in Uganda, one month before the country's legislature proposed legislation that would have made being gay a criminal offense, punishable by death. While the board member, Don Schmierer, said he had no knowledge of the bill, didn't support it, and felt "duped," the New York Times reported that the American visitors had "discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how 'the gay movement is an evil institution' whose goal is 'to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.'" Some of the Ugandan organizers of the conference were involved in drafting the bill.

Despite yesterday's announcement, vestiges of Exodus may survive internationally. As Box Turtle Bulletin explains, "Despite having 'International' in its name, Exodus International has mainly confined its organizational activities to North America, although several Exodus officers, board members and member ministries have traveled throughout the world to participate in conferences, church missions, and other activities to spread the ex-gay message."

Since 1995, Exodus International has been part of a worldwide umbrella organization called the Exodus Global Alliance, which has ministries throughout East Asia, the Pacific, and Latin America. The North American group actually announced it was withdrawing from Exodus Global Alliance last week, in what turned out to be a sign of bigger things to come. In a statement, the Global Alliance said that "This change in relationship ... releases both ministries to serve the Lord, the church and the people impacted by homosexuality according to each ministry's specific calling." The non-American branches will presumably keep operating for the time being.

Like former gay marriage opponent David Blankenhorn last year, Chambers and co. will likely now make the talk show rounds to discuss their conversion. Clearly this will start in North America, where they've been most active, but hopefully they will be just as enthusiastic about taking their new message to an international audience as they used to be in accepting the invitations of anti-gay groups from around the world. At a moment of enormous progress on gay rights in many countries, and disturbing setbacks in others, this can't just be treated as an American issue.

There's some evidence from Chambers's statement that all the traveling he's been doing was a factor in changing his point of view. He discusses recently meeting with Elias Chacour, the Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Israel. "He is an Arab Christian, Palestinian by birth, and a citizen of Israel. Talk about a walking contradiction. When I think of the tension of my situation I am comforted by the thought of him and his," he writes.

Maybe travel broadens the mind after all.

Exodus International

National Security

Assange Struggles to Remain Relevant in Snowden Affair

A year after entering the Ecuadorean embassy seeking asylum, Julian Assange is still on the run. Every day he gets on the treadmill given to him by the left-wing filmmaker Ken Loach and runs and runs, logging 744 miles (over 28 marathons), but never getting anywhere. Every day he wakes and goes to work with the police outside his windows. Negotiations between the Ecuadorean government and the British foreign ministry have broken down, so for now he is stuck living out the same day over and over again, the real-life equivalent of Groundhog Day

On Wednesday, the WikiLeaks founder surfaced for a conference call with reporters, lobbing his usual fireballs. Leak investigations threaten to criminalize the act of doing journalism, he argued in his soft-spoken Aussie accent. Once more he rushed to the defense of Bradley Manning, the Army private alleged to have provided WikiLeaks with thousands of diplomatic cables. His prosecution is immoral, threatens all media outlets, and "may spell the end of national security journalism in the United States," Assange said. As for Edward Snowden, the man behind recent revelations about the National Security Agency's intelligence-gathering activities, Assange said that he feels "a great deal of personal sympathy" for him. Assange also suggested that his legal team has sought to broker Snowden's asylum to Iceland, though Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald cast doubt on that claim in an email to BuzzFeed. 

Where once Assange could be fiery and combative, now he just sounds tired. Several times he asked reporters on the call to repeat their questions, and often his words were difficult to make out. When asked directly about why he sounded so tired when it was only seven in the evening in London, he mumbled incoherently about the "exciting, demanding work" he is currently engaged in, suggesting that he had spent the last two weeks defending Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, two of the journalists at the center of the leaks provided by Snowden, and that it had drained him. Assange briefly came to life when a reporter implied in a question that Swedish authorities had charged him with sexual assault -- technically, they haven't. "It is an example of extremely poor journalism that we see that sort of reportage," he snapped. 

When asked if his work had been negatively impacted by his stay in the embassy, he said that not being able to meet with potential sources had made running WikiLeaks more difficult -- but also deadpanned that he didn't have much else to do but work. All in all, things are about the same, he maintained. Still, since Assange entered the embassy WikiLeaks hasn't uncovered the kind of blockbuster revelations that made the organization famous. Asked if WikiLeaks had any big scoops in the pipeline, he demurred, saying it was policy not to discuss specific projects ahead of publication and that "WikiLeaks is always in the process of preparing its next publication."

After a year inside the Ecuadorean embassy, Assange appears somewhat crippled. The media organizations he once worked hand-in-glove with have shunned him, and financial support has largely dried up. Separated from his sources and stripped of his money, he isn't quite the force to be reckoned with that he once was. The fact that Snowden took his documents to the Guardian and the Washington Post -- and not WikiLeaks -- speaks for itself. 

But Assange still knows how to create a media spectacle. The whistleblowers Thomas Drake and Daniel Ellsberg joined the WikiLeaks chief on the call, and railed against the NSA programs revealed by Snowden, with ample references to the Nixon administration sprinkled in. "Thomas Jefferson once said that he would prefer newspapers without government if he had to choose [between that and] a government without newspapers. President Obama clearly disagrees with that," Ellsberg said. "What we are seeing is the largest systemic industrial-scale suspicionless surveillance system of all time," Drake added. The New York Times, the Associated Press, and Vanity Fair all had reporters on the line for the conference call.

Even if Assange isn't setting the agenda with scoops, he clearly wants the world to know that WikiLeaks has changed the rules of the game. Addressing governments uncomfortable with an Internet culture premised on radical openness, Assange posed some questions he'd like answered. "The revelations of Edward Snowden this week lead us to ask the question: Will Glenn Greenwald be granted asylum by Brazil this time next year? Will Laura Poitras find herself in an embassy seeking asylum? Will Edward Snowden be in the same position as Bradley Manning a year's time from now?" Assange wondered. "Is the United States the type of country from which journalists must seek asylum in relation to their work?" 

Here's another question: Will Assange ever stage a real comeback?

LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images