A group of about 60 “ex-gays” and their supporters gathered in Washington, D.C., on Saturday for what they called the “Freedom March.” The biggest name on the agenda was Elizabeth Johnston, aka “Activist Mommy,” the online personality whose has built an audience among social conservatives with her attacks on the LGBTQ movement and sex education. (She’s said that sex ed classes are “pornographic” and “rape the minds of our children.”)
When one of the event’s emcees introduced Johnston, he seemed to recognize that the choice to partner with her may not have been welcomed by everyone. “A lot of people have a lot of opinions about her,” he said, “but without her this would not be able to have been done.” He thanked her for helping with media, photography and the event’s website. “I honor my sister Elizabeth Johnston,” he said.
A number of other individuals had told their stories before Johnston took the microphone. “I am honestly here for one reason,” she said, “and that is to say ‘Amen.’ Amen and amen to these brave brothers and sisters who are misunderstood and hated like no other.”
“We don’t want to silence or discriminate against homosexuals,” she declared, a claim that’s a bit hard to take given her rhetoric and her support for failed Senate candidate Roy Moore, who supported the criminalization of homosexuality. She once stood outside the former church of gay Christian Matthew Vines to interrogate attendees about their views, read Bible verses about sexual immorality, and declare that “nature and biology teach us that homosexuality is against everything that we know to be natural and true.”
From the stage at Saturday’s event, Johnston said it was the LGBTQ community that wanted to silence the people telling their stories, because “the stories of these overcomers are the death blow to the lie that homosexuals were born that way and they cannot change.”
Johnston railed against proposed legislation in California that would ban so-called “conversion therapy,” which has been deemed harmful and ineffective by major medical organizations. Religious Right activists have falsely claimed the bill would make it illegal to sell the Bible or teach conservative beliefs about sexuality. Calling it California’s “most bigoted and intolerant piece of legislation to date,” Johnston said, “making it a crime to sell books, conferences, counseling services to individuals seeking help with unwanted same-sex attraction.” Said Johnson:
Now, if California wants to be a communist state, I’m sure that we’d all be happy to help them secede from the union, right, and enjoy their totalitarian future. But last time I checked, this is America. We have something called the First Amendment, and this law in California is so un-American and none of us should sit by idly and allow this to take place.
Johnston said that it was possible to “overcome Satan’s plan for us, individually and as a culture” by turning to Jesus, sharing testimony like the stories being told on Saturday, and not being afraid to stand up to what she framed to be an intolerant LGBTQ rights movement.
“They market themselves with rainbows and glitter,” she said, “Who doesn’t love rainbow and glitter and hearts?” But that is hiding something darker, she said.
“We warned that once the institution of marriage is redefined, it would open a Pandora’s box of immorality and confusion and judgment on this land, like we had never dreamed” she said, complaining that activists who had fought for marriage equality moved on to working on the right of gay couples to adopt children and “to allow grown men to share the locker rooms and dressing rooms of our little girls.”
“If you think this Freedom March is just for the ex-gays amongst us, and doesn’t affect the rest of us, you have buried your head in the sand, my friend” she said, citing business owners who have run afoul of nondiscrimination laws for refusing to serve same-sex couples.
Are we awake? Do we really see what’s going on behind the rainbow and the glitter? There is a war on the natural man-woman family. There is a war on our children. There is a war on all things decent and on the image of God himself.
Johnston said we have come to the point where we don’t recognize our country because too many Christians “got bullied into silence” during the past 50 years. “We need to harden up, soldiers” she said.
“It’s time for us to harden ourselves,” she added. “We’re too soft. We’re not warriors ready for the battle, ready to take on the vile threats.”
Johnston was part of a program of worship and speakers that lasted for more than three hours before participants took the short walk from the outdoor stage near the Washington Monument to the White House. Many of them had participated in a documentary called “Here’s My Heart,” in which they describe being “set free” from homosexuality or “gender confusion.” Many of their stories had a familiar ring to anyone who has followed the “ex-gay” movement; they described their time in the “homosexual lifestyle” as a litany of misery involving alcohol and drug addiction, pornography, sexual compulsion and suicidal thoughts. One woman who spoke at the rally described 30 years of “demonic entrapment” as a lesbian.
Not all the speakers were “ex-gays.” One woman who lost a child to suicide talked about her anti-bullying ministry. Several told stories of being victimized by sexual, physical and emotional abuse as children.
Luis Javier Ruiz, a survivor of the 2016 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, described himself as a pastor’s son. He knelt on the stage and asked the LGBTQ community to forgive the church for not having welcomed gay people. To LGBTQ people he said, “come and fall in love with Jesus, and He’ll do the rest.” He prayed that God would bring revival and “raise up a mighty generation” of men and women “who will not compromise the Word.”