Monday, April 13, 2009

Exodus International Coming to Boston, Wayne Besen Called to Counter

Wayne Besen is the founder of, a website he created to help counter the misinformation campaigns being waged against GLBT people. Besen is known by many as a former spokesman of the HRC and is better known for his book Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth. From we find the following:

On September 19, 2000 while on a speaking tour, John Paulk was spotted at Mr. P's, a Washington, D.C. gay bar. A patron recognized him and contacted Wayne Besen of the Human Rights Campaign, Truth Wins Out, and other gay political action organizations. When Besen arrived at the bar forty minutes later and confronted Paulk, he denied that he was in fact John Paulk. Upon exiting the bar, Paulk's picture was taken as documentation that he had been in the bar. When confronted by Besen about the incident and the photographs, Paulk admitted being in the bar, but stated that he didn’t know it was a gay bar and had simply stopped in for a moment to use the restroom. However, eyewitnesses reported that Paulk stayed for more than an hour, flirted with other men, and when questioned about his sexuality, said he was gay.

Paulk was called back to Focus on the Family headquarters and was questioned by James Dobson. At first Paulk reportedly evaded a direct answer about the incident; however he later confessed that he had been in the bar for the purpose of flirting. Paulk was placed on probation, and was chaperoned on future speaking engagements to ensure that he had "support" in the event that he needed it. Dobson also removed Paulk from the Board Chair position of Exodus International. He remained on the board under probationary status only and was not allowed to attend meetings or vote.

An Exodus press release soon followed:

"John's actions represent a serious lapse in sound judgment. His decision to enter a gay establishment for any reason opens him up to all kinds of speculation by both other Exodus leaders and also the gay community."

In a September 2001 interview with the Charlotte World newspaper, Paulk stated:

"People wanted me to speak everywhere. I felt like a doll that someone would wind-up and say come give your testimony, come speak here, come fly here, come fly there. ... I started squeezing God out of my life. ... So a year ago I wanted to escape. I wanted to escape my life. I wanted to escape everything. My reputation. I wanted off the treadmill and I thought I wanted to go back to a gay bar. Well, of course, because God loves me he is not going to let me go out on a leash too long and I was discovered in there."

The incident received national headlines in newspapers and news magazines. Paulk remained in his position as manager of the Homosexuality and Gender Department until choosing to leave that position in 2003.

We are in the process of securing a location for Besen to give an informative speech prior to the arrival of Exodus International in Boston; we will keep you updated through Join the Impact MA.

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