WANT TO STOP BEING GAY? ASK ME HOW
By Alex Easton
A LISMORE religious leader has rejected claims he runs an Alcoholics Anonymous-style group aimed at turning young gays heterosexual.
However, Baptist Minister Jim Gallagher confirmed he did head a group focused on issues of sexuality made up of representatives from most of the region's Christian churches.
Rev Gallagher said he and other members of the group, called Regeneration, delivered talks on homosexuality, worked with people with 'unwanted same-sex attractions' and tried to 'help' them towards heterosexuality.
However, he said the Regeneration members had done nothing for at least two years and the board had not met for at least two months.
His comments follow claims from Lismore Activists for Same Sex Equality founder Ben Cooper that Rev Gallagher was running a group aimed at 'cleansing' gay people.
Mr Cooper claimed the group ran Alcoholics Anonymous-style meetings and recruited young gay men and women from church groups, and from Southern Cross University's student body.
He also accused Rev Gallagher of using the Internet to recruit gay men and women for the group, through a US 'anti-gay' website, www.pfox.org.
Rev Gallagher said his work with gay men and women had previously been done in both individual and group settings, but said it did not follow any formalised program.
"We help people who want to come out of homosexuality. We stand alongside them and help and that could be in a group or individual situation," Rev Gallagher said.
He also denied the group did any 'recruiting' of gay men and women, saying they tended to seek him out after hearing about him through their church groups.
"We have spoken in churches and conferences and if people want to come and talk to us, that's fine. But we're not going out and chasing people in that sense," he said.
Rev Gallagher said he disagreed with the common belief that sexual preference was innate, but believed it was often the result of the physical and/or emotional absence of a same-sex parent during childhood and/or some form of childhood abuse.
Mr Cooper rejected the idea a gay person could become heterosexual. To try would be faking it, he said.