BRANDON, Fla. (BP)–About 75 people holding signs protested peacefully on the sidewalk in front of a Southern Baptist church where a conference on homosexual issues facing youth was held Feb. 26, according to a report in the St. Petersburg Times.
The “Love Won Out” conference, sponsored by Focus on the Family, was attended by about 700 people at Bell Shoals Baptist Church, Brandon, Fla.
Conference organizers sent out water and soft drinks to the protesters, who gathered as participants were leaving the conference around 5:30 p.m., the Times reported.
Five uniformed deputies and plainclothes security guards were present, and the protesters were not permitted on church property, the newspaper reported. The protesters initially had gathered in a park at the University of Tampa.
According to the Times, “both sides seemed intent on keeping their interactions quiet and polite.”
Prior to the conference, Seminole Heights and Idlewild Baptist churches in the Tampa Bay area had been vandalized with slogans in pink spray paint by a group calling itself “Coalition to Convert Baptists,” and Idlewild received a bomb scare Feb. 13.
Also, several radio stations and a major advertising firm in Tampa turned down ads for the conference.
Developed for public school administrators, parents and youth workers, the Focus on the Family conference previously has been conducted in five cities, Columbus, Ohio; Seattle; Memphis, Tenn.; Wheaton, Ill.; and Sacramento, Calif.
“Hundreds of thousands of young people, wrestling with their sexuality, are being encouraged to ‘come out’ as a cure for their problems,” John Paulk, a former homosexual who is Focus on the Family’s homosexuality and gender analyst and board chairman of Exodus International, a Seattle-based ministry to homosexuals, said in a statement prior to the conference. “Teens deserve all of the facts and they need responsible guidance from adults. It is reckless to steer adolescents struggling with their sexuality into a potentially dangerous and lonely lifestyle. Through God’s love and healing power, thousands of us have found a better way.”
The St. Petersburg Times article, recapping the issue of “conversion therapy,” quoted two persons involved with the conference as believing that homosexual orientation can be changed, and three conference opponents who contended it need not be changed.