Janet Folger thought she had seen enough of what she describes as hostility and in-tolerance. The new national director of the Center for Reclaiming America, a ministry founded by D. James Kennedy, had witnessed the public ridicule of notable conservatives—such as Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and football star Reggie White—who dared to call homosexuality a sin.

The final straw came when White House press secretary Mike McCurry derided those who called homosexuality sinful "backward."

So Folger, 35, got on the phone and within two weeks had enlisted support from 14 other Christian organizations for a series of newspaper ads based on the theme that homosexuals can change their orientation.

"People have been intimidated into silence," Folger told CT. "The ads were designed to open discussion on the other side."

Folger coordinated the first phase of the "truth in love" campaign, which spent $206,000 for full-page ads in USA Today, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Groups participating included the Christian Coalition, Concerned Women for America, Family Research Council, and American Family Association.

The most debated ad pictured former lesbian Anne Paulk with the headline "I'm living proof that Truth can set you free." She is married to John Paulk, a former homosexual who is an analyst for Focus on the Family and board chair of Exodus International, a Seattle-based ministry to former homosexuals.

Another ad, containing a photo of some of the 850 former homosexuals who gathered at a recent Exodus conference, declares, "We're standing for the truth that homosexuals can change."

The ads highlight reformed lives through Christ. But the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest homosexual lobby, quickly enlisted financial support from nine other groups to put an ad in USA Today showing a church-going Republican couple who are "proud and happy" of their lesbian daughter.

"The far Right does not have a monopoly on family values and religion," says HRC executive director Elizabeth Birch. "Gay people are no less religious or family-oriented than anyone else."

"I've never felt closer to God," says HRC senior policy advocate Tracey St. Pierre, who says she knows from 15 years of trying that "ex-gay" ministries do not work. "I prayed, I spoke to church counselors," she says. "I begged God to change me."

In addition, an interfaith association of more than a dozen homosexual-rights groups representing mostly mainline denominations criticized the ads for using Scripture in attempting to change sexual orientation. "We will no longer be silent when our sacred texts are misused and manipulated," says Meg Riley of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

But Exodus International director Bob Davies says tens of thousands have successfully made the switch, proving that homosexuality is not innate and irrevocable. "Most of those contacting us are Christians who are in deep conflict with their most deeply held moral and religious beliefs," Davies says. "They know that homosexuality is not God's intent for their lives."

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