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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
September 16, 2005

Health department drops Gallagher from program

A new anti-gay speaker is added, though

Columbus--Citing cost as the primary reason, the Ohio Department of Health passed on anti-gay syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher as the keynote speaker for its Conference on Abstinence Education, but has added a youth pastor with an anti-gay message.

The department�s director, Dr. Nick Baird, rejected a contract proposal from conference organizer Valerie Huber on September 9. Department spokesperson Jay Carey said �cost was the overriding factor.�

The contract called for Gallagher to be paid up to $5,000 for the speech.

�The contract review committee recommended that it be approved 4 to 1, and that one was due to the cost,� said Carey. �Dr. Baird looked at it and decided to reject it due to cost.�

The move to put Gallagher on the program Gallagher caused a stir in the LGBT community because of her anti-gay writings, including her reference to homosexuality as �same-sex attraction disorder� and her calls for the Bush administration to spend money on research to �fix� it.

�The absence of desire for the opposite sex represents at a minimum, a sexual dysfunction as much as impotence and infertility,� according to Gallagher.

Carey said letters and calls of protest had little effect on Baird�s decision.

�We are a government agency,� said Carey, �so any time criticism is levied, we are obligated to consider it. So [the LGBT criticism] was considered, but not the determining factor.�

However, Baird is now considering another speaker likely to draw the ire of the LGBT community, and those who believe in the separation of church and state.

The new speaker for the October 17-18 event is youth pastor Doug Herman of Colorado.

Carey said Herman is not Gallagher�s replacement as keynote speaker, but an additional speaker who is being paid $1,500 including his travel.

�The contract review committee voted 5-0 to accept this contract,� said Carey. �Now all it needs is Baird�s signature.�

Herman�s business, a for-profit enterprise called Pure Revolution Conference, is overtly evangelical, often concluding events with �foot washings� to emulate Jesus and motivate participants to become �true Servant Leaders.�

In the �Beliefs� section of Herman�s web site, it says: �We believe that God created mankind in his image, physically and spiritually perfect. Sex and the sexual union was designed for life. Outside of the marriage context, sex and the sexual union only bring death. Our masculinity and femininity have no purpose or meaning without the opposite sex, therefore by God�s design we reject the concept of �orientations� be it homosexual, bisexual or other. Marriage is clearly meant to be of one man and one woman, therefore we reject upon biblical grounds any unions or marriages that contradict this message and biblical truth.�

Herman�s presentations center around talking about losing his wife and daughter in 1991 to AIDS, which they acquired through transfusions of infected blood.

Herman turns that story into an �abstinence only until marriage� message by saying, �They didn�t have a choice, but you do.�

Carey said, �As long as he sticks to the topic, his background [as an anti-gay evangelist] is not relevant.�

Carey then said he was not sure of any restrictions the department was placing on Herman with regard to the content of his presentation.

If approved, Herman will join other speakers oriented in religion, including U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Deborah Price, who is the former director of the National Prayer Breakfast; U.S. Department of Education abstinence educator Jeff Trimbath, formerly of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services special assistant for marriage education Bill Coffin, who is formerly the marriage preparation coordinator for the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington; and Governor Bob Taft�s faith-based initiative coordinator Christa Sisterher.

Last year�s abstinence conference cost $2,234 in tax dollars to make up the difference between the total cost and what participants paid.

It, too, was heavily criticized for being anti-gay and overtly religious.

AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland director Earl Pike says it doesn�t matter that these conferences require only a relatively small amount of public money to put on.

�What matters,� said Pike, �is that the state of Ohio is sponsoring and endorsing these conferences and the speakers they bring in.�

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