Soulforce Recognizes Service of Jeff Lutes

Soulforce Board Chair Chuck Phelan and Interim Executive Director Bill Carpenter presented retired Executive Director Jeff Lutes with a recognition award on January 10 at Metropolitan Community Church-Austin, where Jeff is a member. The award recognized Jeff’s leadership over the past four years and his program achievements, including:

  • Nonviolent Direct Actions at Focus on the Family, 2005 and 2006.
  • The Ex-Gay Survivors Conference, 2007.
  • Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights, 2007 and 2008.
  • The American Family Outing, 2008.
  • The Anti-Heterosexism Conference, 2009
  • Writing “What the Science Says-And Doesn’t Say-About Homosexuality”
  • Helping birth Soulforce Q and their first three Equality Rides

Chuck also pointed out that "behind every great man in our community is a great man" and recognized Jeff’s husband, Gary Stein, and their three children, who were also in attendance. The presentation took place during the training for the 2010 Equality Riders and Soulforce staffers Andi Gentile, Caitlin MacIntyre, and a number of Equality Riders were present as Jeff was honored.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Soulforce Executive Director Search

Soulforce, Inc. is an 11-year old national civil rights organization. Our mission is to end religionbased discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people. Our method is persistent, non-violent resistance, with a commitment to the strategies and principles employed by Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. (for more details please visit our web site at: www.soulforce.org)

Our core values are strong and we are welcoming to people of all colors, faiths, orientations and identities. The organization has just completed a process of identifying its Strategic Plan Objectives. Programs implementing the objectives are underway. The most prominent of which is the Equality Ride, led by a strong group of young adult staff members. The ride will take off for the fourth time in March 2010.

The organization was founded by the Rev. Dr. Mel White in 1998. The organization grew under his leadership until 2006, when Mel retired from fulltime leadership and moved into a role as “founder”. A new, part-time Executive Director position was approved. Jeff Lutes was hired for that role and served Soulforce well for nearly four years. In June 2009 the Board of Directors authorized the Executive Director position to expand to full time. Jeff has stepped back to have more time to pursue his private counseling practice and to spend more time with his family. In the interim, Bill Carpenter, the Soulforce Director of National Actions, has agreed to lead the organization. Bill remains heavily involved in the Equality Ride as well.

The Interim Executive Director will serve until May 2010. The full-time Executive Director position will be officially posted and applications accepted by the Board of Directors on the schedule shown below. Please watch for more details and share this announcement with people who may have a sincere interest in serving as Soulforce’s Executive Director.

ANTICIPATED SCHEDULE:

  • Formal request for submission of Executive Director Applications will be posted January 2010
  • Applications will be accepted through mid-February 2010
  • Reviews, interviews, vetting and selection throughout March 2010
  • New Executive Director to begin April 15, 2010

McCormack & Associates, well-known diversity search consultants, have been selected to manage the recruitment process for the new Soulforce Executive Director. McCormack is the nation’s first gay-owned retained search practice, and is a Certified LGBT Business Enterprise by the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. The firm is based in Los Angeles, California. Since 1993, McCormack has filled over 200 CEO, COO and board level searches for LGBT, HIV/AIDS, health care, education and social justice organizations nationally. The firm was named one of the Top 50 executive recruiting firms by independent industry publication Executive Recruiter News.

All correspondence about this position should be addressed to search@mccormackassociates.com.

 


Soulforce is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, or any other basis of discrimination prohibited by law.

2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference Deemed Ground-Breaking

The 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference, held November 20-22, 2009 in West Palm Beach, Florida, was deemed a huge success according to the evaluations of those in attendance. On November 22, 2009, Ex-Gay Survivors from all over the world came together to share their stories and discuss ways in which they can continue to warn others about the harm caused by heterosexism, reparative therapy and ex-gay ministries. A press conference facilitated by Jeff Lutes on Friday was covered by a local television channel and the report ended with survivor Daniel Gonzales warning viewers about the depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems related to sexual orientation change efforts.

That evening, Ex-Gay Survivors Christine Bakke, Jallen Rix, Anthony Venn-Brown (Australia), Darlene Bogle, Mark Orozko (Barcelona) Daniel Gonzales, and Jacob Wilson told their stories to the conference participants – demonstrating great courage and strength in the process. They shared the many ways in which heterosexism encourages reparative therapy. After a brief welcoming reception, conference goers attended a special Transgender Day of Remembrance event by viewing two films and the names of the more than one hundred transgender people who have been murdered in the past year. Friday night was a sobering reminder of the damage and destruction caused by heterosexism, religion-based bigotry, and societal prejudice. Conference participants went to bed eager to begin collaborating over the next two days on ways they can make the world a safer place for LGBTQ people.

Saturday morning began with a keynote from Dr. Sylvia Rhue of the National Black Justice Coalition. Mixing facts and humor, Dr. Rhue set the tone for the day and whet appetites for more learning. Workshops throughout the day covered detailed information about sexual orientation change efforts, public policy and the ex-gay movement, media training, youth activism, and the psychological impact of childhood homophobia on adult development. Dr. Jack Drescher closed the afternoon with a history lesson on how homosexuality was removed from the DSM list of mental disorders in 1973 and the evolution of reparative therapy and ex-gay movements. His academic presentation was well received by all those in attendance. After dinner, the day closed with a powerful and moving dance performance by Ollum Movement Art which symbolically expressed the journey from self-hatred to self-acceptance and love.

Sunday morning was a treat. The Rev. Deborah Johnson talked about the importance of developing a vision within the LGBTQ movement and carefully unpacked the complexities of gender in our culture as she called on the crowd to demand equality in bold and unapologetic ways. After a series of workshops on faith, gender, and sexual orientation, Dr. Marsha McDonough and Dr. Paul Dodd led participants in an analysis of the weekend and helped everyone think about ways they could continue to affect change within the communities where they live, work, go to school, and worship.

Throughout this dynamic weekend, conference participants wrote thoughts, feelings, and ideas on a 40-foot piece of paper hung in the plenary room. Long after the end of the conference, participants were still writing on this paper – indicating their passion for the justice, their commitment to love, and their dedication to being agents of change in the world.

Click here to view conference photos.

Jeff Lutes resigns as Soulforce Executive Director

Soulforce Regrets to Announce the Resignation of Our Executive Director

Brief Video of Jeff Lutes

A Message from Soulforce Co-Founder Mel White:
Soulforce regrets to announce the resignation of our Executive Director, Jeff Lutes, after nearly four years of dedicated service. Jeff has chosen at this time to return to his family counseling practice in Austin, Texas, and to spend more quality time with his husband, Gary Stein, and their three young children, Niko, Trei, and Jole’. You may stay in touch with Jeff at www.jefflutespsychotherapy.com.

The Soulforce board of directors has appointed Bill Carpenter, who has served as Director of National Actions for many years, as Interim Executive Director. Bill will work with Soulforce staff to continue operations of the organization, including the upcoming Equality Ride in early 2010. Bill has a long history of service to Soulforce, since our very first action in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1999, and I’m grateful to him for taking this role at an important time in Soulforce history. I believe he is uniquely qualified to serve as Interim Executive Director while we undertake a nationwide search for the next Executive Director of Soulforce.

In January 2006, Jeff succeeded me as Executive Director of Soulforce. We are grateful for all he has accomplished in his time as Soulforce Executive Director. Here are a few examples:

  • Organized nonviolent direct actions in 2005 and 2006 outside the world headquarters of Focus on the Family. Those protests clearly demonstrated the tragic consequences of James Dobson and his antigay rhetoric and are featured in the films For The Bible Tells Me So and SoleJourney, both distributed by First Run Features.
  • Originated the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference in 2007 which exposed the misinformation campaign of Exodus International and spoke clearly to the damage being done by its ex-gay ministries across the country. The conference brought 200 survivors of ex-gay ministries together from all around the world for healing and empowerment. This much needed event received coverage on NPR and media outlets across the country, including CNN’s Paula Zahn.
  • Created The American Family Outing in 2008 which took dozens of LGBT couples and their children to dialogue with mega-church leaders Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Bill Hybels, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Bishop Harry Jackson, and Bishop Eddie Long.
  • Originated Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights which created rallies and vigils in 2007 and 2008 by heterosexual allies in 38 cities in 28 different states across the country.
  • Wrote the popular Soulforce booklets What the Science Says – And Doesn’t Say – About Homosexuality, and A False Focus on My Family.
  • Produced Dear Dr. Dobson: An Open Letter Video , the DVD that challenges the antigay rhetoric of James Dobson and warns of its tragic consequences in the lives of LGBT people, their friends and families.
  • Managed Soulforce during the birth of our young adults program, Soulforce Q, and the first three Equality Rides.
  • Strengthened the reputation of Soulforce through countless print, radio and television interviews and by speaking at dozens of churches, universities and rallies around the country.

Jeff Lutes has led Soulforce through challenging times and we are grateful. Jeff will continue to write and speak powerfully about the role of relentless nonviolent resistance in our struggle against religion-based oppression. Again, we thank Jeff for his role in strengthening Soulforce and for modeling in his own life what it means to be a man of faith committed to doing justice on behalf of all those who suffer religion-based oppression.

– Mel White, Soulforce Co-Founder

                                                                                         

 

Maine Votes To Overturn Marriage Equality For LGBT People

Yesterday, voters in the state of Maine took away the right to marry from same-sex couples.  Soulforce Executive Director, Jeff Lutes, issued the following statement:

"Today our hearts go out to the LGBTQ people of Maine who have suffered a terrible set back.  We feel for them, for their children, and for family members, friends, and allies who are suffering with them.  In time, broken hearts will heal and the sadness will turn to focused outrage and a renewed passion for achieving full marriage equality in Maine, and in every state.  Justice has been delayed for now, but it will not be denied forever.  We must continue to educate people, resist the religion-based prejudice that leads directly to inequality, and hold our heads high.  Ultimately, we will be victorious."
To view a video created by Jeff last year after the Prop 8 decision, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBQyJTXiOYs.  The video is set to the song "Don’t Tell Me Who To Love" by Ray Boltz.

                                                                                                     

Jeff Lutes joins Peggy Campolo and Jay Bakker at Open Door Community Church

During the weekend of October 16-18, 2009, Jeff Lutes joined friends Peggy Campolo and Jay Bakker at the Open Door Community Church Fall Conference in Sherwood, Arkansas.  On the invitation of Pastor Randy McCain, Jeff delivered the Saturday morning message and spoke later that evening during a special service honoring Jay Bakker, son of Jimmy and Tammy Faye Bakker.

Jeff shared his experience of seeing Tammy Faye in a Charlotte, North Carolina shopping mall while he was a graduate student in 1985.  "Little did I know that 20 years later I would lead Soulforce, befriend Jay, and collaborate with him in an effort to create dialogue between LGBT families and Joel Osteen, Bill Hybels, and Rick Warren," Jeff said.  Jeff spoke of his love for Jay and his gratitude for Jay’s willingness to take a stand for the LGBT community despite great personal costs and sacrifices.  Jeff closed his comments by saying "Sorry Jay, but when I think of you, three letters will always come to mind . . . . PTL!"

Jay was this year’s recipient of the Peggy Campolo Carrier Pigeon Award.  Several years ago, Peggy told Pastor McCain that she sees herself as a "carrier pigeon between the misunderstood and the misinformed."  Soon thereafter, Open Door began an annual tradition of honoring those who courageously advance love, understanding, and justice for LGBT people.  Photos of the weekend can be viewed at http://www.flickr.com/photos/revolutionnyc/sets/72157622628371932/.  Information about One Punk Under God, a Sundance documentary about Jay Bakker, can be found at http://www.sundancechannel.com/onepunk/

       

                                                                                                                         

LGBT EQUALITY GROUPS TEAM UP FOR 2009 ANTI-HETEROSEXISM CONFERENCE IN WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: September 24, 2009
For Immediate Release
Contact: Carlos Perez de Alejo, Soulforce Media Director, 321-948-3423
Jeff Lutes, Soulforce Executive Director, 512-419-0600
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(AUSTIN, TX) From November 20-22, advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality will join clergy, educators, mental health professionals and allies at the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida.  The conference offers a range of in-depth workshops and is open to everyone who seeks to challenge the harmful affects of heterosexism, reparative therapy, ex-gay ministries and other efforts to change people’s sexual orientation.

“First off, it’s important to be clear that the title of the conference is the Anti-Heterosexism Conference, not anti-heterosexual,” says Jeff Lutes, Executive Director of Soulforce and one of the organizers of the conference.  “Heterosexism is the widespread assumption that heterosexual relationships are somehow superior to same-sex relationships, which leads to all kinds of abuse and discrimination against LGBT people. We want to highlight where heterosexism seeps into the social, cultural, religious and political fabric of society, and how we can begin to unravel its damaging consequences.”

Through a weekend-long series of workshops and keynote speakers, conference attendees will learn to challenge heterosexist attitudes and practices, speak out against the dangers of reparative therapy and other conversion efforts, and become strong advocates for LGBT equality.  

Keynote speakers for the conference include Dr. Sylvia Rue, Interim Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, Rev. Deborah L. Johnson of Inner Light Ministries, and Dr. Jack Drescher, Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.  Joining Soulforce as co-sponsors of the conference are Truth Wins Out, the National Black Justice Coalition, Beyond Ex-Gay, Box Turtle Bulletin and Equality Florida.

The Anti-Heterosexism Conference also serves as a counterweight to the anti-gay think tank, NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality), which will be hosting its annual conference on the same weekend in West Palm Beach.  For years NARTH has promoted reparative or “sexual orientation conversion” therapy, claiming that LGBT people can and should change their sexual orientation. 

However, after a thorough review of the literature on conversion therapy, the American Psychological Association (APA) concluded that sexual orientation is unlikely to change through therapy and adopted a resolution in August 2009 calling on mental health professionals to avoid telling clients they can change from gay to straight through “therapeutic” efforts or other treatments.  The resolution builds on an APA report from 1998, which warned that reparative therapy can lead patients to “depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior,” because “therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient.” 

In November, individuals and organizations from across the country will come together for the Anti-Heterosexism Conference to work through the process of moving beyond the dangers of heterosexism to a more just and equitable environment for LGBT people.  “It’s time we named the problem,” says Lutes, “and begin walking together through the solution.”

For more information on the conference, visit: https://soulforceactionarchives.org/anti-heterosexism-conference

Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization dedicated to freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.

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Soulforce Issues Statement on Pat Robertson

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: June 10, 2009
For Immediate Release
Contact: Carlos Perez de Alejo, Media Director
Cell: 321-948-3423
carlos@soulforce.org
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(Austin, TX) – Soulforce joins others in condemning the damaging and misguided comments of Pat Robertson, who recently linked homosexuality to sexual abuse by coaches, guidance counselors, and other male authority figures.

On the June 9th episode of The 700 Club, Robertson was asked by a concerned mother “how to handle” her gay son.  In response, Robertson noted, “I am not at all persuaded that so-called homosexuals are homosexuals because of biological problems.  There may be a very few, but there are so many that have made homosexual because of a coach or a guidance counselor or other male figure who has abused them and they think there’s something wrong with their sexuality.”  He went on to add that because homosexuals are “on their way to hell…you’ve got to love them to rescue them.”

Soulforce Executive Director, Jeff Lutes, stated in response, "Soulforce has been monitoring the rhetoric of Pat Robertson for many years.  In fact, in the 90’s we created a short video called The Rhetoric of Intolerance that exposed many of Robertson’s ridiculous claims.  As a therapist, it is hard for me to believe that there are still so many who refuse to even consider the growing body of social science research on this subject. Robertson ought to be deeply ashamed of himself for giving the mother who wrote him, and his television viewers, such misguided, erroneous, and dangerous advice.  I hope this young man’s parents will ignore Robertson and seek more reputable information – his very life just might depend on it."

Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization dedicated to freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.

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LGBT Equality Advocates to Foster Dialogue About Gay Rights in Faith Communities This Summer Through "Sundays of Solidarity" Campaign

Atticus Circle and Soulforce team for seven weeks of action, starting May 17

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: March 27, 2009
For Immediate Release
Contacts: Phil West, Atticus Circle, 512-879-6460, phil.west@luminariamedia.com
Carlos Perez de Alejo, Soulforce, 321-948-3423, carlos@soulforce.org
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(Austin, Texas) — Advocates for LGBT equality, looking to develop dialogue about gay rights with members of faith communities across the nation, will embark on the Sundays of Solidarity campaign — visiting churches, synagogues, and other faith community gatherings across the nation — for seven straight Sundays this coming May and June.

The nationwide action, co-sponsored by Austin-based organizations Atticus Circle and Soulforce, aims to engage members of a wide variety of faith communities in discussions about faith, dignity, and equal rights for LGBT (lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender) individuals and couples.

The actions will start on May 17, which is observed as International Day Against Homophobia by a growing number of international gay rights organizations, and will end on June 28 — the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, considered to be the start of the modern gay rights era.

Participants in the campaign will wear T-shirts and buttons proclaiming "Gay? Fine by Me" and "Gay Marriage? Fine By Me," available via the Atticus Circle website (www.atticuscircle.org), attending worship services and other faith community meetings across the country. Participants will also engage in non-violence training prior to the campaign, provided by organizers.

According to Soulforce executive director Jeff Lutes, "These actions aren’t designed to create tension; rather, they’re designed to expose and reduce the tension that already exists around LGBT rights in this country. Our hope for Sundays of Solidarity is that participants are able to talk to people in their own faith communities, visit other faith communities, and help people understand the fundamental need for LGBT equality."

Atticus Circle executive director Jodie Eldridge notes, "Our organization is made up of straight people who realize that LGBT Americans should enjoy the same rights as straight Americans do. Wearing a shirt or button proclaiming ‘Gay? Fine By Me’ is a simple but effective way to let people know that LGBT equality supporters are real people out in the community, willing to be visible and show their commitment."

"One of these fundamental rights is practicing one’s faith," Eldridge added. "For some LGBT individuals, being recognized and accepted within one’s faith community is a first, crucial step toward achieving equal rights."

This is not the first action Soulforce and Atticus Circle have collaborated on; in 2007 and 2008, the groups came together to sponsor Seven Straight Nights, a series of vigils and awareness-raising events held across the nation to bring LGBT equality supporters together in demonstrations of public support.

Lutes notes, "Seven Straight Nights gave us an opportunity to build awareness and create energy for a number of people who acknowledge the need for LGBT equality in this country. Sundays of Solidarity is a way to engage people who may view LGBT equality differently than we do, or who haven’t given it as much thought as we have. We can’t wait to have these essential conversations with a wider circle of people."

For more information, please visit www.sundaysofsolidarity.org

Statement from Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: November 5, 2008
For Immediate Release

Contact: Paige Schilt, 
Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org

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Statement from Soulforce Executive Director, Jeff Lutes:

Today is a day of blessing seasoned by loss. For even as America’s historic presidential election ushers in a new dawn of fairness and inclusivity, a majority of voters in Arizona, Arkansas, California, and Florida have voted, once again, to exclude some Americans from the fundamental promise of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Ironically, from the very beginning of his campaign, President-elect Obama abjured the politics of division and exclusion that have marred our political process by depicting some groups — immigrants, poor people, people of color, and LGBT people — as dangerous "others" who threaten our national identity. Obama’s own story gives us hope for a more perfect, and more fully inclusive, union. But, as always in our nation’s history, there remains more work to be done in order to make our most cherished ideals a reality.

My heartfelt gratitude goes to all of the dedicated, tireless people who worked to defeat discriminatory ballot measures. Soulforce shares your pain, disappointment, and concern for the many couples and families who are more vulnerable because of this legislation. The extent of the misinformation that we faced in these struggles was daunting, but please know that your work has already borne fruit. And take comfort in knowing that those who voted for discrimination are mere footnotes to larger trends in public opinion — which is shifting in favor of legal recognition of same-sex couples — and to the larger narrative of American history — which is continually refining its promise of liberty and justice for all.

Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization dedicated to freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.

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