Christian Right Mounts Defense as Rent Boy Scandal Grows

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday May 6, 2010

As the story of Family Research Council co-founder George Alan Rekers has grown in the media, the Christian right has cast about for ways to explain away or excuse the European trip that Rekers took with a 20-year-old male escort that Rekers reportedly hired off RentBoy.com. The young traveling companion in question has since told the press that during the week and a half long trip, he gave Rekers daily massages that included contact with the anti-gay leader's genitals and anus.

The new revelations were reported by the Miami New Times in a May 6 article. The escort, dubbed "Lucien" by the Miami New Times, reportedly told the press that Rekers favored a technique called the "long stroke," which the young man said involved contact "across his penis, thigh... and his anus over the butt cheeks." Added Lucien, "Rekers liked to be rubbed down there."

It was also the Miami New Times that broke the story originally on May 5, running a photo of Rekers, a stack of luggage, and a young man whose face was obscured. Rekers, the original story noted, has worked behind the scenes for decades to obstruct legal equality for GLBT individuals and their families.

In one instance, Rekers served as an "expert witness" in a court case over a ban on adoption by gay and lesbian prospective parents in Florida, for which he and a colleague were paid $87,000 by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. His influence as co-founder, in 1983, of the anti-gay Family Research Council, together with James Dobson, another highly prominent anti-gay activist, has meant that Rekers has had an even broader impact on GLBT equality in American law and culture.

Moreover, Rekers is a board member for the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), a group that claims that gays can be "cured" and "converted" to heterosexuality, in contradiction to the findings of ethical mental health professionals, who confirm that sexual orientation is innate and warn that so-called "reparative therapies" may well do more harm than good.

"While he keeps a low public profile, his fingerprints are on almost every anti-gay effort to demean and dehumanize LGBT people," said Wayne Besen, the founder of Truth Wins Out, in a news release. "His work is ubiquitously cited by lobby groups that work to deny equality to LGBT Americans," Besen added. "Rekers has caused a great deal of harm to gay and lesbian individuals."

The Miami New Times dubbed Rekers' travel companion "Lucien," and noted that Rekers claimed that due to recent surgery he needed an assistant to help him with his luggage during the trip. Unzipped.net claimed in a May 4 posting that "Lucien" and a 20-year-old RentBoy.com advertiser who goes on the site by the designation BoyNextDoor/Geo were one and the same.

"Lucien" Revealed

A May 5 Advocate.com article said that "Lucien" is known at Facebook and MySpace as Jo-vanni Roman. When he was contacted by the Advocate, Roman would only say that he didn't wish to discuss his trip to Europe with Rekers because he privacy had not been respected by the press.

Anti-gay bloggers at conservative chat site FreeRepublic.com, where GLBT news of all sorts is routinely discussed at length, were less circumspect, with some posts accusing the "liberals" of trying to set Rekers up for a smear campaign and others alleging that Rekers, as an "ex-gay," might be relapsing.

The comments also illustrated how successfully Rekers had stayed out of the limelight. Wrote one chat participant, "I've been a fundamentalist Christian for over 50 years (currently a Deacon in my church) and I've never heard of George Rekers. However, as you stated, this can't be good. At best, it gives the appearance of impropriety. At worst, it's an embarrassment for The Family Research Council and by association, Dr. James Dobson."

Continued the posting, "If Rekers really was 'renting' a 'boy' for homosexual sex, this will give the secular media and the Christian-haters an opportunity to point fingers and scream 'hypocrite!' at the top of their lungs as they try to smear every Christian that follows scripture and opposes homosexual behavior as a 'closeted homosexual'."

Another posting made the bitter accusation that, "The dip-wads who were saddened to learn a Tea Partier wasn't behind the Times Square bombing will be wetting themselves with delight to learn a Christian has a 'Rentboy'."

Another attempted to pass off closeted conservatives as not being "true" conservatives. "Whenever a homosexual gets caught masquerading as a Christian conservative," the posting read, "the leftists trumpet this as a lesson about Christian conservatives. What it really is is a lesson about homosexuals."

Rekers has said that he was attempting to follow the model established by Jesus by ministering to a "sinner." Rekers also said that he needed a travel assistant because surgery he had undergone left him unable to hoist his own luggage. Chat participants took note of these explanations, but opined that even if they were true, Rekers' actions were ill considered.

"Maybe in some bizarre way he was trying to minister to the young man," wrote one chat participant, "but the more probable explanation is the most obvious one." Added the posting, "This is probably what it looks like and, if so, the guy is a hypocrite deserving of criticism."


Liberal Lies? Or Uncomfortable Truth?

At a second Free Republic thread on the same gay topic, one commentator wrote, "Typical liberal media lies. From what I've heard, Rekers hired the guy specifically so he could counsel him *against* the lifestyle choice. The homosexual community goes nuts every time someone successfully leaves the lifestyle so they are targeting Rekers. The fact that Rekers used to be a homosexual only lends credence to his expertise--because who would know better the dangers of those people than someone who experienced their degeneracy."

Rebutted a respondent to this, "Hired a male sexual 'escort' to travel with him so he could witness to him? So, you feel you're lowing the charges from homosexuality and hypocrisy to Felony Stupid? And you feel that's a gain?"

Others accused the political left and the media of hypocrisy in their turn. "How about outing all of the gay anchors in the news who use derisive homo-slurs like 'teabagger' and tell us that 'don't ask don't tell' is one of the pressing issues of the day," wrote one individual at the first thread. "We should all KNOW as viewers why these issues are of utmost concern to them. Why doesn't the media 'tell'?"

Another took aim at openly gay Congressman Barney Frank, writing, "And yet the Left still believes that Barney Frank is credible and deny that his rentboy executive at Fannie's sexual favors played any role in his handling of the banking crisis," a reference to Frank's relationship with Herb Moses, who was an executive at Fannie Mae throughout much of the 1990s, when Frank was championing deregulation of the banking industry. Fannie Mae eventually became a prominent part of the financial crisis that began in 2008. "Some rentboys are more equal than others," the posting added.

Some who posted comments were inclined to give Rekers the benefit of the doubt. "Dr. Rekers has some pretty heavy credentials," wrote one. "I think we should reserve judgement until all the details come out. He could have just hired the guy as a legitimate assistant and not known of his sexual lifestyle choice."

Others, however, took a harder stance. Wrote one, "They have him admitting that he hired this guy off 'Rentboy' which is a gay prostitute website. If he did, in fact, admit that, there is no more question about it. Its beyond belief that he would hire anyone from a site called 'Rentboy' for any purpose other than, well, you know.

"And this is different from other closeted actors or news reporters because Rekers is a prominent anti-gay Christian leader," the posting continued. "If this is true, he and his organization deserve all the criticism they get."

Another chimed in, "One thing is certain: this isn't going away because it exactly the type of story the Left loves. Reckers [sic] actions were stupid for that reason alone even if he didn't do anything sexual with the prostitute."

The source of the story was also held up as a reason to doubt its veracity, with some bloggers pointing to the Miami New Times as an "alternative" publication that lacked credibility. One posting took the view that the term " 'alternative paper'... is industry code for hippie liberal entertainment rags that get 30% of their ad budget from strip joints and escort ads."

Wrote another, "I've never even heard of this George Rekers.

"But, being what he apparently is, 'ex-gay,' and doing what he apparently does, which is counsel homosexual males on coming out of homosexuality, I'd think he would have been targeted with some sort of effort to entrap and discredit him before now."

Added the posting, "This story sounds a little too tailor-made for leftist media and militant gay activists on the one hand. On the other, maybe Reker [sic] actually is a fraud.

"Hard to tell right now, but it does sound like a script right out of leftist bogeyman central casting. That makes me think we're hearing a story that is at least in part a concoction."

Another sounded a similar note, writing, "I am skeptical about whether this is true or not. The homo lobby has tried in the past to manufacture 'scandals' against their most public critics."


Man on a Mission?

Gay blog JoeMyGod.com reported that following an enquiry to Rekers, the site received a reply from the Family Research Council co-founder saying that media reports about is trip abroad with the young escort were "a mixture of truth and falsehood." Added Rekers, "I have spent much time as a mental health professional and as a Christian minister helping and lovingly caring for people identifying themselves as 'gay.' My hero is Jesus Christ who loves even the culturally despised people, including sexual sinners and prostitutes. Like Jesus Christ, I deliberately spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them."

Rekers went on to tell JoeMyGod.com that, "Contrary to false gossip, innuendo, and slander about me, I do not in any way 'hate' homosexuals, but I seek to lovingly share two types of messages to them, as I did with the young man called "Lucien" in the news story: [1] It is possible to cease homosexual practices to avoid the unacceptable health risks associated with that behavior, and [2] the most important decision one can make is to establish a relationship with God for all eternity by trusting in Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins, including homosexual sins."

Rekers added, "If you talk with my travel assistant that the story called 'Lucien,' you will find I spent a great deal of time sharing scientific information on the desirability of abandoning homosexual intercourse, and I shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with him in great detail."

The story has broken out of the GLBT press and the ranks of "alternative" news sources and gone mainstream--and international. British newspaper The Times reported on the story in a May 6 article that also offered a rundown of other notable instances in which anti-gay religious and civic leaders had been caught in compromising situations that bespoke a closeted gay orientation, such as megachurch pastor Ted Haggard's involvement with a male prostitute, and the recent drunk driving charges against California lawmaker Ray Ashburn after he and a male companion left a gay bar, In 2006 Ted Haggard resigned as a leader of the National Association of Evangelicals after a male prostitute claimed to have had sex with him for three years.

The article also listed heterosexual scandals involving ministers such a Matt Baker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Jim Bakker.

The current burgeoning scandal was set to intensify with Lucien's alleged comments to the Miami New Times. Lucien denied that his role was to serve as a luggage porter, and he said that Rekers was not seeking to counsel a lost soul. "It's a situation where he's going against homosexuality when he is a homosexual," was Lucien's blunt assessment.

The article said that Lucien decided to speak with the press after he was filled in by a friend on Rekers' anti-gay record. "In all honesty," Lucien told the New Miami New Times, "he should disassociate himself from these [anti-gay] groups."

The article promised that a more in-depth story from Lucien's perspective would be forthcoming.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.