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Focus on Family tries soft sell on anti-gay tactics in Maine

Professional heterosexual Melissa Fryrear of Focus on the Family: “No one has ever walked out of homosexuality without a hand extended.”

Dobson’s bigoted outfit is trying a new spin cycle to “inform” people about the “dangers” of homosexuality, since it’s hard to make inroads in more independent states like Maine. They need a better tactic than hellfire and brimstone.

Daddy Dobson is trotting out some of his “ex-gays” to make the case. The unfortunately-named “former lesbian” Melissa Fryrear, gender issues analyst at Focus on the Family is one of the folks pushing the new line of bull. (Portland Press Herald):

Mike Haley encouraged pastors in Maine who condemn homosexuality to put away signs quoting Leviticus and stop using sayings like, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”

“We as Christians have to throw out that phrase. It does not translate,” said Haley, a microphone clipped to his bright green shirt as a Power Point presentation glowed behind him.

James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family and supporter of “ex-gay” ministries like Exodus International. Mike Haley, right, is chair of the Exodus board and manages the “Homosexuality and Gender” department for Focus on the Family’s Public Policy division, and also speaks at Love Won Out conferences.

Haley and Melissa Fryrear of the national conservative group Focus on the Family met with about 200 religious leaders from Maine’s evangelical community last week. Their message on the issue of homosexuality was to focus on love and support as much as sin and scripture. They encouraged balance in churches, communities and public policy debates. That mix could be key for Maine’s Christian conservatives trying to win support for a November ballot question. They hope to overturn a pending state law that would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation.

A righteous or hateful tone could steer undecided voters away, while one of kindness and compassion could help win supporters, said Mark Brewer, assistant professor of political science at the University of Maine. “You have to avoid coming off in any way as hateful. If they can’t do that, they won’t succeed,” Brewer said.

But gay-rights advocates question how much love and support conservative Christians can muster while they condemn same-sex relationships as morally wrong.

The seminar that Focus on the Family held at First Baptist Church in Portland promoted its program “Love Won Out,” which paints homosexuality as a struggle like drug addiction – a struggle that people can overcome.

…Christian conservatives in Maine have been successful in the past by walking what Brewer described as a fine line between advocating a point and coming off as uncaring. They’ve swayed voters on the anti-discrimination measure before. Mainers in 1998 sided with conservative Christians and repealed a law that would have outlawed discrimination against gays and lesbians. Two years later, lawmakers did not pass the measure, but asked voters to decide. Mainers rejected it in a close vote.

…Fryrear, of Focus on the Family, described at the seminar what she called the “Jonah syndrome,” in which conservative Christians focus more on vilifying gays and lesbians and defeating them politically than drawing them to conservative churches. She talked of her own experience as a lesbian and how a church welcomed her and helped lead her away from “living homosexually.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding