The Preacher Lied



"I just never understood what the foundation really was for," comments Emily Webster, who met Mann through Garvey, a friend of hers. She recalls a discussion in which Marin was cheering on George W. Bush. She pointed out to him that Bush was certainly not a good force for gays. "All I can tell you is, Bush is going to help me get my foundation going," she remembers him saying, apparently referring to Bush's backing of faith-based initiatives.

Christina Wiesmore, former senior convention service manager at the Drake Hotel in Chicago, was Marin's supervisor when he worked at the hotel in sales in 2004. She says that several concerned gay and lesbian coworkers came to her about statements he'd made. "He would just say it's wrong to live 'that lifestyle,'" she recalls. "He didn't agree morally, even though he offered his support."

Garvey, a lesbian, says she befriended Marin in college because both had an interest in sports and had several friends in common. Though she assumed he knew about her through the grapevine, she'd never told him she was a lesbian — never "came out to him" nor discussed the issue — precisely because of his evangelical beliefs. That's why she was shocked when, at a friend's urging, she went to the Web site for Marin's new foundation and saw photos of herself on it (ones he'd taken at social gatherings), which he used without her permission. Garvey became concerned particularly because she was not completely out at work and was trying to join the Rotary Club in the conservative suburb where she managed a restaurant at the time. Marin, she charges, publicly outed her for his own purposes.

Emily Webster, also a lesbian, agrees with that assessment. She says her photos were on the site as well, as were another lesbian friend's photos, also without permission.

Garvey and Webster told Marin to take their pictures off his site and severed ties with him. He did, but what remained on the site was a story about his friends "Emily" and "Melissa," whom he described as having "come out" to him, one after the other, shocking his sensibilities and putting him on the path to his current mission. The story is quite detailed, describing where they were when each woman told Marin she was gay. But both women — and others who know them — say none of it ever happened.

About the same time, Marin began to gain access to gay groups and gay-affirming churches.

"He approached us about a year ago [August 2005], and one of his strategies was to take folks who were going to his programs and place them in churches," explains Steve Forst, of the Chicago chapter of Dignity, the gay Catholic group. Forst says Marin told the group that "about 60%" of his "students" were Catholic and could be driven to Dignity. But no one from Dignity actually went to the seminars to check them out.

"We were impressed by the idea [of a bridge]," Forst says. "He was a likable guy." Dignity made a $200 donation to Marin — though in the year since the meeting the avalanche of referrals to Dignity never materialized.

Next stop for Marin appears to have been New York's largest gay group, the Empire State Pride Agenda. As officials there describe it, Marin was brought in by a member of the group's Pride in the Pulpit program, and he impressed the steering committee. He was eventually given a slot to speak at the Pride in the Pulpit conference in Albany, N.Y. But no Pride Agenda official researched Marin's foundation beyond looking at the Web site.

Marin's presentation at the conference was on how Scripture was wrongly used to condemn gays; it was nothing earth-shattering, but it was well-received and certainly didn't betray any of the beliefs he'd previously voiced to others. With the accolades in hand, Marin contacted Gay Men's Health Crisis, the nation's oldest and largest AIDS service organization, which gave him some technical assistance. He called Harry Knox at HRC, who invited him to be among the cohosts of the Faith and Fairness program HRC organized at Gay Games VII, where Knox would tout Marin's work. Knox says he did "due diligence" by looking at Marin's "materials" and his course work. But he also did not attend any of the seminars or speak with the people who went through them.

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