Focus on the Family, a Christian ministry that tries to "convert" gays and lesbians to heterosexuality through its Love Won Out program, will not take federal money used for faith-based programs because the funds come with "strings," its officials say, according to The Denver Post. "Our donations
come in small amounts from a whole lot of people, and as long as we serve those people we'll be in existence, and if we stop serving those people, we don't deserve to be in existence," said Tom Minnery, vice president of public policy for Focus.
Minnery and four other Focus representatives--including Mike Haley, who tries to convert gays from homosexuality--and eight other faith-based social services providers met in Colorado Springs, Colo., this weekend to talk about President Bush's faith-based initiatives, which funnel federal dollars to religious group-sponsored social services. Three of the panelists expressed concern that faith-based organizations would not provide services if the recipient did not listen to a sermon or gospel, the Post reported.
Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), a close ally of Bush and chairman of the House Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources, has held several public-policy debates across the nation to talk about the issue. Minnery said Focus supports the president's faith-based initiative and believes it will work the way the president has proposed.
Bush's faith-based initiative has been controversial since he introduced it early in his presidency, especially among groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Friday's appearance by Haley sparked outrage from gay rights groups. "We're appalled that this discredited approach [ex-gay ministry] would be legitimized by our United States Congress," said David Tseng, executive director of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, which has more than 250,000 members nationally. "We have Democratic and Republican families. This is not a partisan issue."
Haley said one reason Focus on the Family's conversion program, Love Won Out, would not accept any federal dollars is because it cannot separate its mission from its message. "Our ministry and the hope it offers would not be possible without the power of Christ. I would not have overcome my homosexuality and now have a message of redemption and new life without Christ," Haley said.