Soulforce Releases Video of Visit to New Life Church

Survivors of Ex-gay Ministries Visit Ted Haggard’s Former Church to Tell of the Harm Caused by Message that Gays Should Must Change

For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Director of Public Relations and Media
Cell: 512-659-1771

(Colorado Springs, CO) — Today Soulforce released video of an action outside New Life Church. To view the video, go to:

On Sunday, July 8, three survivors of "ex-gay" ministries and counseling — Christine Bakke, Daniel Gonzales, and Peterson Toscano — traveled to New Life Church to speak out about the emotional, financial, and spiritual harm caused by the message that lesbians and gays can and should change their sexual orientation. They told their stories just outside the west entrance of the church and then walked to the church’s World Prayer Center to present framed collages depicting their experiences.

Once inside the World Prayer Center, the three former ex-gays spoke with two New Life pastors who greeted them cordially, listened to their concerns, and indicated a willingness to engage in further discussions.

"I think that things really shifted when we explained that this is not about politics, this is about pastoral care," said Toscano.

In November 2006, former New Life pastor Ted Haggard was dismissed from church leadership after allegations that he purchased drugs and engaged the services of a male escort. At that time, the church’s board of overseers recommended that Haggard submit to Dr. James Dobson, and megachurch pastors Tommy Barnett and Jack Hayford for a program of "healing and restoration." Dobson demurred and was replaced by H.B. London, Assistant Vice President at Focus on the Family.

The New Life board’s prescribed treatment reinforced the message that gays and lesbians can and must change their sexual orientation.

In her Sunday statement, Bakke, a Colorado resident, explained how similar messages motivated her to try to change her sexual orientation.

"I believed I had to change my orientation so that I could be considered holy and acceptable by God and those in church communities just like the one here," she said.

For seven years, Bakke single-mindedly pursued change. She tried prayer, support groups, reparative therapy, and pastoral counseling. She even attended a weekend seminar at New Life Church and met with two women in Colorado Springs who attempted to heal her by casting out demons.

In the end, Bakke "felt betrayed by the knowledge that many of the people who had talked about change actually meant a change in behavior but not in orientation….I walked away feeling damaged and broken."

As part of her healing process, Bakke co-founded with Toscano. The site, which went live this April, provides a space for ex-gay survivors to connect and share their experiences.

Twenty-six year old Gonzales spoke about his experiences with secular "conversion therapy." His experiences underscore the position of the American Psychological Association, which warned in 1998 that reparative therapy puts patients at risk for "depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior," because "therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient."

Sunday’s press conference was organized by Soulforce and is part of a national campaign to highlight the stories of "ex-gay survivors" — men and women who believe that attempts to change sexual orientation did more harm than good.

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

Video from the Press Conference Outside New Life Church

The Ex-Gay Survivor’s Conference took place June 29 – July 1 in Irvine, California.

Survivor’s Initiative – New Life Church Action – Part 1 of 2


Survivor’s Initiative – New Life Church Action – Part 2 of 2


Survivor’s Initiative Explained


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"Survivor’s Initiative – New Life Church Action" video by Daniel Gonzales.

Soulforce Launches Letter-writing Campaign to Ted Haggard

For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771

(Austin, TX) — The social justice organization Soulforce has launched a campaign urging LGBT people and straight allies to write letters of concern and compassion to Rev. Ted Haggard, the deposed Pastor of New Life Church and former President of the National Association of Evangelicals.

"This is obviously a moment of personal, familial, and professional crisis for Rev. Haggard," said Paige Schilt, Soulforce Media Director. "We want to make sure that the voices of intolerance and homophobia are not the only voices that he hears during this difficult time. Through the Soulforce web site, members of our community can share their own experiences and affirm that LGBT people can and do live lives filled with faith, love, and happiness."

Haggard was dismissed as Senior Pastor of New Life Church on November 4, amid allegations of homosexual conduct. In a letter to his congregation, Haggard confessed to "sexual immorality" and indicated that the church’s board of overseers had directed him to James Dobson, Jack Hayford, and Tommy Barnett for "healing and restoration." Dobson has since bowed out of the team, but a spokesperson for Focus on the Family has continued to affirm the efficacy of counseling and prayer to change sexual orientation.

In fact, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association have all issued statements warning of the mental health dangers of so-called "reparative therapies." According to Dr. Jack Drescher, Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, "The American Psychiatric Association does not consider homosexuality to be an illness, nor should people be pressured to change their sexual orientation. Furthermore, even in the most optimistic studies, the majority of people who try to change their sexual orientation are unsuccessful. In cases where this "therapy" does not work, many patients have ended up feeling worse than when they started. This is one reason why the American Psychiatric Association, in opposing sexual conversion therapies, reminds therapists of their most important duty to patients: ‘First, do no harm.’"

"Haggard has now been referred to the same ‘reparative’ therapy that has threatened the mental and spiritual wellbeing of so many gay men and lesbians," says Schilt. "While we recognize that many in the gay community feel legitimate anger toward Haggard for his history of religion-based bigotry, we hope that many will see this as an opportunity to reach out in empathy."

For more information about the letter-writing campaign, please visit

Soulforce’s purpose is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to

Soulforce Urges Compassion for Haggard and Accountability for the National Association of Evangelicals

For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771

(Austin, TX) — In response to the news that Rev. Ted Haggard has been dismissed by New Life Church and resigned as President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes urged the gay community to be compassionate and simultaneously called on the leaders of the NAE to claim responsibility for their role in the crisis.

"Rev. Haggard is just one more tragic example of how lives are destroyed by the lies about gay and lesbian people perpetuated by the NAE, the Religious Right, and both the Protestant and Roman Catholic Church. Taught by the church to hate himself, the only option from his point of view was to lead a psychologically and spiritually damaging double life marked by denial and self-destructive behavior. Rev. Haggard is a victim of religion-based bigotry that regularly demeans and demoralizes gay and lesbian people and refuses to acknowledge that we are part of the American fabric, and that many of us form loving families and practice a deep faith in God."

The NAE holds that "homosexuality is a deviation from the Creator’s plan for human sexuality." In a 2004 policy statement, the organization opposes legislation that would protect gays and lesbians from hate crimes or employment discrimination on the grounds that "such legislation inevitably is perceived as legitimatizing [sic] the practice of homosexuality and elevates that practice to a level of an accepted moral standard."

Haggard submitted his resignation as President of the NAE on Thursday, shortly after allegations of homosexual activity were aired on Denver talk radio. On Saturday, Haggard was removed as pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs. In a letter to his congregation, Haggard wrote "there’s a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all my adult life." He also wrote that the church’s overseers have required him to "submit to the oversight of Dr. James Dobson, Pastor Jack Hayford, and Pastor Tommy Barnett. Those men will perform a thorough analysis of my mental, spiritual, emotional and physical life. They will guide me through a program with the goal of healing and restoration for my life, my marriage, and my family."

In reaction to the unfolding events, Lutes said "Our community’s anger at Rev. Haggard’s hypocrisy is completely understandable. However, my hope is that our community will take the high road and extend an olive branch of friendship and support when he is ready to fully come out as a gay man. Dobson and the others will counsel him to bury, deny, and repress his sexuality even deeper than before. They will wound his spirit, and he is going to need our prayers and our compassionate message that God loves him, affirms him, and calls him to live his life openly with honesty and integrity."

Soulforce’s purpose is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to