With photos of an adorable kid blowing out birthday candles and soft music, a woman (Frances Johnston) says, "This is my son Michael at 3. I love my son very much, I always have. Even when he told me he was involved in homosexuality and doing drugs..."
We see her sitting with her adult son sitting on the arm of her chair.
"Just because you love your children, it doesn't mean you approve of everything they do. Sometimes they make bad choices. My son Michael found out the truth -- he COULD walk away from homosexuality. But he found out too late -- he has AIDS. If you love your children, love them enough to let them know the truth, that there is hope for change, hope for the future."
Then Michael says, "A decade ago, I walked away from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ. I'm not that 3-year-old boy anymore, a little older, a little taller, but I still love my mom. And I'll be forever grateful that she loved me enough to tell me the truth. The truth that set me free."
The tagline is: "It's not about hate. It's about hope."
Using this line appears to reveal a vulnerability on the part of Coral Ridge Ministries. The religious right has long been criticized by the gay community as spreading hate and the ad attempts to reframe the issue.
This commercial aired in Washington DC and the group tried to show it on Orlando stations during Gay Day at Disneyworld but was ultimately turned down by all but a religious station.
Coral Ridge Ministries is part of the coalition that created quite a stir with "ex-gay" print ads, which ran in major newspapers nationwide and consequently got much media attention.
Michael Johnston is now president of Kerusso Ministries and host of a conservative radio commentary show. He's founder of the National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day Project (promoted with the Mississippi-based American Family Association) and serves on the board of the National Legal Foundation.
In August 2003, Johnston (who is HIV-positive) allegedly experienced a "moral fall" by having relationships and regular unprotected sex with men, but he did not reveal his HIV status to them until months later. The NY Blade News
reported the story, exposed by author/activist Wayne Besen, formerly of the Human Rights Campaign, who also exposed ex-gay leader John Paulk's appearance in a Washington DC gay bar. The Blade
report included confirmation comments from anti-gay leaders Peter LaBarbera and the AFA.
Lorraine , Hurleyville, NY
Yes, we can and often do lay down our greatness, our gifts, to gain the approval of the bully, the fool, the ignorant who wish to harm others as they've harmed themselves. It takes great courage and grace to not only hold onto and nourish our birthright, but to share it freely no matter who tries to kill it. Point of fact - the majority of great beings in this world have been killed, then worshiped in very dysfunctional ways. The mystery is indeed great! And so are we, my dear queers!
T.J. , Osaka, Japan
This ad just makes me furious. I remember the first time I saw it, at first it gave me hope because I was realizing more and more that I am gay, but then I realized the truth, you cant walk away from who you are. You cannot change who you like. The worst part is they don't say you can walk away from drugs, but homosexuality instead as though it's worse than drugs. I realize that that hope I thought I had found was just self hatred. Never try to change what you are.
RS , Washington, DC
This ad is doubly heinous because, besides misleading closeted gay people about their options, it also misleads our loved ones who may otherwise mean well into thinking gay people use drugs, and will eventually contract HIV. After seeing this commercial, my mother renewed her efforts to help me "find God". And while she only did it because she cares about me, our relationship has
become strained. This ad has driven a wedge between us and my mother renewed her efforts.
Greg , Dallas, TX
A bunch of godless people who think love only goes in one direction. I am happier now than ever. I will never go back into the closet and hide.... never again!
Richard Phillips , Hollywood, CA
Can heterosexuals walk away from heterosexuality?
Gavin , Covina, CA
These people are nuts... They're always saying AIDS is God's punishment of gays... If that's true, it would mean His blessing on lesbians because their incidence of AIDS is lower then heterosexuals... That would mean God had a double standard... CRAZY BIBLIANS!
Laura Moody , Fort Mill, SC
As a self-defined "friend of the family" (straight but very vocally pro-gay) I find this ad to be an absolute travesty. What utter ignorance it takes for these people to claim that this is the "truth". Unfortunately there are far too many people in the world today who think like this. I myself prefer to recall something I said to a very Christian aquaintance who was remarking about the "unnatural defiance" of homosexual relationships: "Why do you see a problem? Didn't god make us all in his image? By that same line of thinking, my OWN existence is unnatural and defiant. I'm a girl, and after all, god IS a man, isn't he?"
My heart goes out to family members who have suffered because of ads -- and people -- like these.
Sam , Montreal
This is a very upsetting ad because it depicts AIDS as a direct result of being gay, rather than a result of unsafe sex. Most people around the world who have AIDS are straight. We have the first amendment, but this is blatant lying. I am going to call and complain.
Gen , Newark, NJ
Notice how they don't specify whether he got AIDS from intravenous drug use or unsafe sex, they just say, 'oh he was gay and now he's dying, so one *must* be the cause of the other.' Grrrr! And of course straight people never get AIDS... sigh.
Bobbie Jo , Vancouver, WA
Absolutely deplorable. As someone else mentioned, they never say you can walk away from drugs, as if homosexuality is worse. And what makes me very upset about it is that is feeds the thought that all gays get AIDS and that AIDS is a gay disease -- as if no one else can get it. It angers and frightens me that such a message could get out.
Angela , Providence, RI
This ad makes me SOOOO ANGRY!! I saw a presentation at my college that Mike Wilke put on, and he showed this commercial. I was completely disgusted by it, and furious. I am bisexual, and I know that NOTHING can change that, especially not some hate monger catholics. I can't help who I'm attracted to, it's not something I CHOOSE, it chooses me. Likewise, there is no possible way to successfully become an "EX-gay." Saying that just proves how ignorant some people can be. This reminds me of the film "But I'm A Cheerleader" (starring Natasha Lyonne and an out of drag RuPaul), in which a high school girls family is positive she's a "lesbian" and they hold an intervention and send her to True Directions, a camp for gays to become "ex"-gays. They dress in pink and blue and gender roles are over enforced. In the end we discover that there is no real way to turn away from who you really are, and who you really care for. This ad tries to tell people LIES. I am a Catholic, but I disagree with so much of the teachings of the church. Let me say this, the catholic church is so behind the times it's sickening. To try to tell people being gay is something to change is horrendous. And why does this ad have to add that he got AIDS, because he was "engaging in homosexuality". please. If he was a drug user, perhaps he got it from that. Not to mention that to threaten people with a disease such as AIDS is a pathetic way to try and drive home your point. Not every gay gets AIDS, that is one disease that affects everyone, NOT JUST GAYS!! And why does the mother drop the point that she was upset with his use of drugs, obviously she was more concerned with who her son was having sex with than what her son was putting into his body. It also seemed to me as though this ad were trying to draw a correlation between being and gay and using drugs. Point is, this ad is just showing the pure ignorance of those anti-gays and showing the rest of us how ridiculous they make themselves look. This ad makes me sick.
Rick , Harlingen, TX
This is the kind of advertising and propaganda that's kept the gay community under the heel of the religious groups for the last two decades. The ex-gay movement is the most twisted form of homosexuality. I get so disgusted when I see or hear ads for homosexuals anonymous or Exodus International. All of these organizations are funded by many large Christian groups, to aggressively nullify the gay community out there, to turn us into the cookie-cutter families they want us to be. I think that just because they are unhappy and unfufilled living out a false American dream, why should they drag us down with them as well? By telling us we are unhappy and lost, or lonely, they only seek to make us feel this way, everyone feels lost/lonely/unhappy occasionally, whether you are gay, straight, bisexual, whatever. This sociological and psychological attacks are destructive and hurtful on a subliminal level and even more so dangerous, they are manipulative!
Carrie , Hamilton, Ontario
I could not even watch the whole ad. I felt sick to my stomach with anger when Michael began his little speech.
Paul , Hartford, CT
Oh please, give me a break, first orginized religion with its most important meaning being peace, love etc., etc., only breeds hatred and narrow minded people. In their God's eyes this is wrong, and God does not ask you to save anyone. If he exists, let him judge and all you should mind your own damn business!!!!!!!!!
Jamie Rokovetsky , Vancouver, Canada
This ad would be a perfect SNL parody - complete with the overwrought emotion and music - and the absurd notion that people "walk away" from their gayness. (I bet Michael is in a bathhouse right now! But, of course, feeling really bad about it!!)
Sergio , Montreal
I watch this ad and I have a mix of feelings. I am angry at the high intolerance of these ultra-conservative people. I am devastated by how low this world can sink. I am indifferent about this "I am converting you because I love you" gag because my family tried the same on me, and failed. I am happy to be an atheist. I am delighted to see that there are people who don't take this atrocity for real. I am smiling because this is not the kind of commercial that would air in my city.
Nina , Siegburg, Germany
This ad is so deceitful. Really. As if being gay and taking drugs and getting AIDS would all connect - and being gay would be the *cause* of it. That's just so stupid.
Jacob , Dallas, TX
Nasty ad, I agree with the above comments. It's a sad fact that many parents try to force change on their kids, but there are others who are accepting of their children. We need an advertisement showing a proud mom, simply saying "My son is gay and I love him" so our parents can have some positive role models in the media to look up to. *Loves his mom*
Alyson Moyer , Santa Cruz, CA
This is a horrible commercial. Drugs and homosexuality have nothing to do with each other. Homosexuality is a loving lifestyle that no one should walk away from.
Max Lamb , Victoria, BC, Canada
I actually laughed when I saw this ad. Not just for the concept, but for the way the mother throws in "drugs" just to make homosexuality seem worse. Though most of these comments suggest that the ad is trying to make it seem that homosexuality and drugs go hand in hand, I got the impression that it just threw in drugs to manipulate the masses into thinking a certain way. I sent this ad to all of my friends, and they were shocked. Just stunned. It is shocking. But I laughed at the same time.
S.H. , Milbrook, AL
Not only does this ad make it seem like gay is a choice, but it is also trying to state that AIDS only affects gays "But he found out too late -- he has AIDS."
Spuzz , Vancouver
I saw the Commercial Closet presentation, and this is EASILY my favorite. I just LOVE Christian Hate advertising, so this was a real joy to watch. I'm a sick, sick man.
What I REALLY want to know is, did the guy kick the drug habit?
Hugo Quezel , Montreal, Canada
I actually can't believe they broadcasted THIS! It's revolting. The words they use, "My son got INVOLVED WITH homosexuality!" It almost sounds like gay people are some kind of Mafia or something . Also, they almost say that drugs rhymes with gay. That is disgusting! And of course there's the part about how GOD saved the guy from the terrible fate he had! They almost make it sound like some bad commercial for a social service! What's next ? "Call this toll free number to get your free heterosexual starting kit?" One thing I've mostly seen from this kind of ad is that they REALLY believe gay people hate God.
Steven Romero , Houston, TX
I love this ad. Michael Johnston's testimony truly reveals the awesome love and power of Christ Jesus.
Rayne , Columbus, OH
This is a very real and sad ad for me. In order to "deny" who I was, I chose to "see the truth as I wanted," in the same manner this family did. And now that I know who I am and openly living a gay lifestyle, my family doesn't accept me. They can handle my drugs, my alcoholism, my run-ins with the law (because they love me), but they cannot handle the fact that I am gay. This ad will only give them fuel for their fire for what is true, what is "right", and how great they are for loving me "in spite of". Outrageous and unbelievable! Unconditional love has many definitions it seems.
Perin Rynning , Vallejo, CA
Technically, this ad commits an error called a 'false syllogism', specifically in equating drug abuse (a voluntary act) with homosexuality (a state of being). However, since this logical fallacy is wrapped in emotionally-wringing music, speech and imagery, it tends to slip more easily past people's filters. Remember, the marketing industry makes an appalling amount of money through simply taking advantage of the fact that we feel before we think. The only effective response is to acknowledge this truth, then bring your feelings and logic into alignment with what you know to be true. This is not to say that you can't be wrong about some things (e.g., that the world is flat), but never forget that, despite everything the Catholic Church did back in the day, the earth still revolves around the sun, and the sun still wanders around the edge of the galaxy. In other words, when the fundamentalists start screaming that "The Truth Will Set You Free!", they're swinging a very sharp sword that cuts both ways.
Nelson Blaine Smith , Bonney Lake, WA
This ad will bring false hope and increased depression to those who are gay. One may deny their sexual orientation but you can never change it.