Protest Planned Against ’Americans for Truth’ Anti-Gay Workshop
An anti-gay Illinois-based blog has set up what it calls a "Truth Academy" for children as young as 14, purportedly to "train young people (as well as older pro-family advocates) how to answer ’gay’ activist misinformation and fight the homosexual-bisexual-transsexual agenda."
The "Truth Academy" is the work of anti-gay blog Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH), which is run by Pete LaBarbera. The event is slated to include speakers from an array of anti-gay and religious organizations, including the Illinois Family Institute, Coral Ministry, and Liberty University.
"AFTAH has a long history of telling lies about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people," a posting at the website for the Chicago Independent Media Center said. The posting noted that the Southern Poverty Law Center had recently identified AFTAH as a "hate group," and went on to express concern about young people being exposed to such influences.
"Youth should not be taught to hate their peers and thus fuel the cycle of self-loathing, depression and suicide which too many LGBTQ youth experience," the site’s text read. "Bigotry must be vocally and publicly opposed, especially when haters try to recruit young people."
Scheduled speaker Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute--which LaBarbera formerly headed--denied that the "Truth Academy" was an event designed to promote hatred or prejudice. In an article reposted at AFTAH, Higgins excoriated a math teacher and blogger who writes under the rubric of The Friendly Atheist, and who blasted the "Truth Academy."
"Aww... isn’t this cute?" wrote Friendly Atheist blogger Hemant Mehta. "Peter LaBarbera, president of the group Americans for Truth about Homosexuality--a group that spreads lies about homosexuality--is announcing a seminar for young people who want to become little homophobes like him." Mehta went on to write, "I was all set to pay the registration fee and sign up myself until I read this..."
Mehta then posted text from another source outlining exactly who would be welcome to the "Truth Academy." "Prospective attendees will need to be approved with references," the text read, adding, "this is not open to pro-homosexual activists but only to those who share AFTAH’s belief that homosexuality is immoral and that the GLBT movement is destructive to America and a direct threat to our religious freedom."
"Hmph. They’re onto me," wrote Mehta, who then went on to offer to cover the event’s registration fee for anyone who wished to infiltrate the event and report on the goings on. Youths will be charged $99 and adults $149 to attend the full three days of the event, with single days costing $50. An AFTAH posting promised "scholarships" for younger attendees between the ages of 14-25.
Such infiltration is a commonplace technique among anti-gay and religiously conservative groups. In 2000, an infiltrator associated with an anti-gay Massachusetts group secretly recorded the discussion at what was supposed to be a confidential forum for GLBT youth seeking to have concerns addressed and questions answered about sexuality in a factual manner. The clandestinely made recording was then broadcast on a local radio station, and became what is now celebrated among the anti-gay right wing as "Fistgate," due to a brief discussion of fisting. Despite state laws regarding wiretapping (which includes the making of audio recordings without the knowledge or consent of all parties being recorded), the anti-gay infiltrator never faced charges.