The Preacher Lied



During that time Marin attended a GLAAD function in Chicago and met that group's president, Neil Giuliano. Soon he was sitting down in New York with Cindi Creager, GLAAD's director of national news, to talk about media strategies. According to Chicago Reader writer Kate Hawley, who profiled Marin in August, both Marin and Creager confirmed that Creager began promoting Marin to producers of Larry King Live as a possible guest. (Creager downplays this, saying it was a "misunderstanding" on the reporter's part, though Hawley stands by her story.)

It was after the appearance of the Reader article — perhaps the first public exposure Marin received beyond Christian radio — that alarm bells began to ring. Marin said in the article, "It's theologically sloppy to say [homosexuality is] not a sin."

Both Knox and Creager say they had not previously heard this from Marin. But a quick review of the foundation's Web site shows that Mann had articulated this position several times before on Christian radio programs. (Both Creager and ESPA's spokesperson say that the interviews were newly added to the site and weren't there when they'd inspected the Web site. Knox says he hadn't seen them either.)

Listening to the interviews, it becomes clear that when Marin spoke to gay people he told them what they wanted to hear, but when he spoke to evangelicals he told them what they wanted to hear as well. In several of the interviews Marin even telegraphs to evangelicals that though he doesn't believe "ex-gay" programs are particularly "helpful," since "it's hard to get a foot in the door if you go in talking about hate," he believes that churches should "have [gays] come in and then let the Holy Spirit guide them." It sort of sounds like Reparative Therapy Lite. To one Christian interviewer who challenged Marin on his seeming acceptance of LGBT people, he made his position clear: "There is a difference between affirming and welcoming."

After Melissa Garvey alerted me to the Reader article, I invited Marin to be on my program on Sirius Satellite Radio, where he would not answer a simple question I asked four times: "Do you affirm homosexuality as normal, natural, and healthy?" Marin claimed that as a "bridge" he had to be circumspect and also denied ever saying the foundation would make him rich. He also said that he had the full support of HRC, GLAAD, and GMHC, which he had linked to and listed on his Web site as "sponsors and donors," even though he admitted they had not given him any money.

Both the Reader story and my interview with Marin seemed to send the gay groups spinning into damage control. Several gay Chicagoans I spoke with were outraged to read about HRC giving accolades to a man who was described in the very same story as also giving training sessions to the antigay groups that were organizing to protest at the Gay Games. While Marin signed on to the HRC-sponsored event on gays and religion, he was also signed on to something called the Love and Truth campaign, which was heavily promoted by staunchly antigay organizer Peter LaBarbera and the Illinois Family Institute. Marin had given a training to the groups organizing the action shortly after Chicago evangelical pastor Michael Allen announced it. Knox says he told Marin he shouldn't have sponsored the event, and at Knox's suggestion, Marin didn't go to the Love and Truth campaign press conference — though he didn't renounce the event.

Marin spent much time himself at the Gay Games events asking LGBT people to participate in a study that he said HRC had sponsored with the Marin Foundation: a survey on gays and faith — which Knox says HRC was not sponsoring. Marin is not a social scientist, and on my radio program he couldn't name one Ph.D. who had worked on his survey.

Officials at HRC, GLAAD, and GMHC all confirm they'd never given any official endorsement to the Marin Foundation (though Knox said he did allow Marin to link to the group from his Web site), and each group has now contacted Marin to demand he remove them from his list of sponsors. (Pride Agenda also released a statement expressing the group's "distress" at learning more about Marin and broke off any links with him.) Within days the Marin Foundation home page disappeared entirely, replaced with a page stating "this site is temporarily unavailable."

Knox acknowledged to colleagues in a mass e-mail that "the responsibility is mine for this and I accept it with apologies to all concerned." But he maintains that dialogue with evangelicals is "so important" and is worth taking "risks" for.

But this isn't about taking or not taking "risks." It's about doing basic checking and having a hit more skepticism--and a bit less of a will to believe.

Tags: Commentary