The Age gives ex-gay ministries a fair hearing

There was a man bites dog story in the Australian press that caught my eye this week. It was not this story from the Sydney Morning Herald entitled “Man bites dog, goes to hospital” but an article in The Age reporting on reactions to the closure of the US-based ministry Exodus International.

The cynic in me was not expecting much from an article entitled “‘Gay cure‘ therapy will continue”. As my colleagues at GetReligion have pointed out the media has not distinguish itself in its reporting on the Exodus International story. Yet The Age published a story sympathetic to the ex-gay ministries movement and, dare I say it, was perhaps unbalanced in their favor?

Under a photo of the silhouette of two men kissing behind a rainbow flag, the story begins:

Australian religious organisations will continue using homosexual reorientation therapy, despite the closure of a leading US proponent, Exodus International, which has apologised for the “pain and hurt” it caused.

Surprise one — a non-pejorative description “reorientation therapy.” Surprise two follows — a ministry spokesman describes what they do and don’t do.

The Reverend Ron Brookman, the Australian director of Living Waters Ministries and a member of Exodus Global, said the organization had acknowledged damage caused by treating homosexuality as something that could be “cured”.  “We don’t like to call it healing, we call it transformation,” he said. “I minister to a lot of people struggling with same-sex attraction who never budge but we don’t condemn them, we don’t shame them. We stand with them and support them.”

A third surprise follows — The Age gives space to critics of Alan Chambers.

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‘Gaying the pray away,’ via the Washington Post

The best journalists strive to present facts without bias or editorial comment.

Then there’s the Washington Post Twitter page.

In reporting on Exodus International’s decision to shut down, whoever tweets for the Post chose op-ed cutesy over straight-news accuracy.

The Post’s tweet, sent to 1.7 million of the newspaper’s followers:

Gaying the pray away

Huh?

What does that even mean?

Did the Post’s social-media gurus fear that a less-biased tweet wouldn’t draw as many clicks? This was the headline on the actual story to which the tweet linked:

Exodus International, criticized for ‘reparative therapies’ for gay Christians, to shut down

Now, that headline’s not perfect. I’d prefer one without scare quotes that describes what Exodus did in a less tilted manner. But it’s better than the tweet.

As we discussed in our previous post on Exodus last week, the media’s frequently referenced “pray the gay away” quote lacks a named source.

As our esteemed head GetReligionista — tmatt — has noted, “In all of my years covering ex-gays, I’ve never met anyone who actually claimed they could pray the gay away.”

Like the Associated Press and Religion News Service stories covered in the previous post, the Post article notes Exodus head Alan Chambers’ comments on theology and changing position on how to relate to the gay community:

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‘Pray the gay away’ quote still lacks a named source

Nearly a year ago, GetReligion highlighted an Associated Press story reporting that Exodus International was no longer trying to “pray the gay away.”

That story prompted our esteemed head GetReligionista — tmatt — to note, “In all of my years covering ex-gays, I’ve never met anyone who actually claimed they could pray the gay away.”

Alas, easy headlines die hard.

Alan Chambers and Exodus International are back in the news, and so is that convenient catchphrase, albeit with the preposition in a slightly different location. In a “Perspectives” piece on its breaking news blog, The Los Angeles Times suggests:

It’s really worth watching the heartfelt speech that Alan Manning Chambers gave Wednesday as he announced the demise of Exodus International, the controversial Christian ministry founded 38 years ago in Anaheim to —  as one often hears — “pray away the gay.”

Chambers, who has led the Orlando, Fla.-based group for 11 years, said he thinks the church is becoming a more welcoming place for gays, and that Exodus, founded as a refuge for Christians battling their same-sex attractions, has simply done more harm than good.

“While there has been so much good at Exodus,” said Chambers, who credited the ministry for saving his life at 19 when he was a suicidal because he could not reconcile his sexuality with church teachings, “there have been people that we’ve hurt. There are horror stories.”

Still, he opened the Irvine conference by reminding people of whom Exodus International serves: “Most of us … are here as Christians with same-sex attractions. We’re believers, like me, who believe sexual expression is reserved for one man and one woman in marriage. Or we’re here as Christians with gay and lesbian loved ones who desperately want to love without conditions.”

I realize that the piece referenced is clearly marked as an opinion item. But again, it’s worth noting that no actual source is given for the  “pray away the gay” quote. Is that good journalism?

The Associated Press and Religion News Service provide more straightforward coverage. There’s quite a bit of interesting reaction material in the Baptist Press story, as well.

Reading Chambers’ statement posted online, I feel for reporters faced with boiling down exactly what he believes — and how his beliefs have changed or evolved — in relatively short news stories.

Beyond the meat of his apology, for example, this paragraph of his statement stood out to me:

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