’Gay Exorcist’ Targets Youths in Alabama
Anti-gay clerics who view homosexuality as a "sin" sometimes declare that gays are "possessed" by "demons." In Africa, as a gay British radio host recently discovered, witch doctors shill a ceremony designed to "cleanse" gays of such evil spirits. What may surprise some is the fact that essentially the same thing goes on in the United States.
The most recent example to hit the gay press is Alabama preacher Damon Thompson, who targets GLBT teens -- and outs them to their community in the process.
A June 21 posting at Ex Gay Watch reports, "Thompson, who heads up fiery youth ministry The Ramp in Hamilton, Alabama, employs every trick in the spiritual abuse playbook to coax his young congregation into outing themselves as gay and then stepping forward to be exorcised of their demons."
The posting includes a YouTube video of teens being coaxed by the preacher, who tells them. "God has not, nor will he ever, coexist in the same house with the Devil. And God's not gonna come live in there with you and your homosexual devil."
"You will not go anywhere at any time and find a harder altar call that the one we're about to give," Thompson tells his audience of teens, going on to invite gay youth to step forward if they are "serious about being free."
Thompson tells his teen onlookers not to worry about what their peers might think if they effectually out themselves by stepping forward, saying that the opinions of others who might later bully or harass them are "deemed irrelevant."
"Nobody's here to judge you," Thomson declares, "just Jesus!"
The preacher coaxes his young charges to come forward, telling them, "come to the ramp and fake it until you make it!" Adds the preacher, "Come on, just stand right here. It's gonna happen for you."
Ashton Elijah, whose description of the meeting was re-posted at Ex Gay Watch, posted the video.
"He and members of The Ramp began to work the crowd into a frenzy as they labored to draw people out of the closet and onto the altar," Elijah wrote. "At first, only a few guys and girls came forth. But, aided by music, the ministry leaders continued to pluck at the heartstrings of every struggling gay kid in the audience, promising that if they would only make themselves known, God would grant them the deliverance they so longed for."
Going on to note that some of the gay teens who stepped forward were disclosing their sexuality for the very first time, Elijah added, "Some fell to their knees in brokenness, rocking back and forth as they prayed for absolution; others stood with their arms spread out as tears spilled from their eyes. By the end of the morning, dozens had approached the altar hoping to lay their burden down."
Proponents of so-called "reparative therapy" tell gays that they are living in sin and that their sexuality is a "choice." They also insist that innate romantic and sexual urges focused on members of the same sex can be surmounted and replaced with sexual attraction toward the opposite gender through prayer and counseling. Often, the model offered is an antiquated Freudian one that blames homosexuality a weak or distant father and a dominating mother.
At one "conversion camp," heterosexual writer Ted Cox wrote in an essay published last year, the "gay cleansing" rituals took on distinctly homoerotic overtones, as in one exercise that entailed men laying back into one another's arms. Cox -- who has never identified as gay -- was nonplussed to realize that the man into whose embrace he had surrendered himself had an erection that dug into Cox's back. Other exercises involved imaginary acts of violence targeting fathers who had "failed" the participants by "allowing" them to become gay.
Cox described his reaction to the camp's narrative that gay men are not naturally predisposed to be sexually attracted to members of their own gender due to physiological reasons, but rather are seeking to heal some deep-seated psychological injury from childhood. Cox declared that at various points throughout the weekend, "I want to stand up and scream, 'Are you fucking kidding?' "
Mental health professionals reject "reparative therapy" as a valid therapeutic avenue and warn that gays who attempt to "convert" to heterosexuality may be overcome by shame and guilt when the promised "cure" does not manifest itself.
For youths from a religious background, the failure of such "cures" and "exorcisms" might be taken as proof of their own weak and sinful nature, increasing their sense of dejection, shame, and isolation to an even greater degree.
The author of the Ex-Gay Watch posting, Dave Rattigan, wrote, "Thompson's display is like a tutorial in spiritual abuse. I experienced a similar religious atmosphere time and again during my days in the charismatic movement."
Rattigan went on to add, "Thompson hardly tries to hide his manipulation, audibly encouraging the worship band to 'pick it up' in order to heighten the atmosphere and get more troubled gay teens to come forward."
The writer went on to recollect, "I wasn't exposed quite like these young people, many of whom appear never to have admitted their sexual orientation until they were manipulated into coming out in front of video cameras and a live audience of hundreds." Rattigan goes on to call the pubic "exorcisms" "Not only terrible but disgusting, shameful and abusive."