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Lavender 'outs' Lutheran pastor -- by crashing confidential support group

Lavender magazine

Pastor Tom Brock isn’t the first clergyman to be outed as gay after condemning gay behavior. But Brock may be the first outed by a reporter who faked his way into a confidential 12-step program.

In a cover story published Friday that’s rocketing through the national gay press, Minneapolis-based Lavender magazine exposed the Minneapolis-based pastor’s struggles and desires as recounted to a support group for gay men “struggling with chastity.”

Lavender reporter John Townsend wrote that he was referred to the program, which met at a St. Anthony church, via a Catholic priest, James Livingston. Livingston, North Memorial Hospital’s chaplain, says Townsend — a veteran Lavender writer who has also freelanced for the Star Tribune — did not identify himself as a reporter.

“He looked me in the eye, we had a conversation about the importance of confidentiality, and we shook on it,” Livingston recalls.

Reporter sent to program 'undercover'
Lavender Media president and CEO Stephen Rocheford confirms Townsend was sent into the program “undercover.”

Brock — who appears six days a week on Christian radio station KKMS-AM — is a major “get” for the gay publication. Last year, Brock notoriously linked a tornado that struck the Minneapolis Convention Center and a nearby church to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)’s decision to accept homosexual relationships and ordain gay ministers in monogamous relationships. As the gay-oriented website Queerty put it, “Lutheran Pastor Tom Brock Blamed ELCA's Tornado on Homosexuality. Which, Uh, He Suffers From.”

But not everyone in the gay community thinks the ends justified Lavender’s means.

A blogger for the National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association called the publication’s ethics “suspect.” Karl Reichert, a local publicist and former journalist, fears a far more widespread chilling effect on fellow gays who go to 12-step programs for chemical and other dependencies.

“In Minneapolis-St. Paul, we’re the land of 10,000 treatment programs; people go to these programs and trust they are truly anonymous,” Reichert says. “As someone who’s participated in a support group, it’s not fair to anyone in the group.”

Ironically, Rocheford is a recovering alcoholic of 27 years who attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings weekly. I asked the Lavender publisher: would he have printed Brock’s statements had the pastor confessed to sexuality struggles at Rocheford’s A.A. meeting? Presumably, the publisher’s fellow alcoholics would look dimly on anyone violating the sanctity of anonymity for any reason.

After a long pause, Rocheford says, “I’d have to think about it.”

The publisher’s get-out-hypocrisy-free card? That the gay-chastity program, sponsored by Courage, a Catholic organization, “doesn’t come anywhere near” to classic 12-step programs. “They’re mimicking on 12-step programs,” he declares.

Programs such as Courage’s are hugely controversial; gays and allies assert they only deepen shame over natural tendencies, prolonging and amplifying psychological distress, sometimes to the point of suicide. For his part, Livingston says the programs are voluntary and “there for guys who believe in [the church’s] values and want support holding onto those values.”

As to Lavender's chilling effect on anyone seeking confidential help from peers, Rocheford says folks like Reichert have “nothing to fear.”

'There's one exception'
He declares, “I personally, and Lavender Magazine as a matter of policy, do not believe in outing anyone. People are allowed to be crazy and dysfunctional in their lives. There’s one exception: a public figure who says one thing and does another. This is not the first homosexual minister who denounces homosexuality in public and engages in it in private.”

Reichert isn’t buying it. “My feeling is, it’s one thing if someone was placed under arrest or it occurred in a public setting. Gay Pride Week’s coming up, and it’s important to be out and honest — and with integrity. I don’t like to see hypocrisy in a public figure, but it matters how you get that information. Being in a support group is very personal. There has to be some arena for people to get support, to get help, and deal with issues.”

Brock has not made himself available for comment. However, Pastor Tom Parrish, Brock’s supervisor at Hope Lutheran Church, says Brock has been placed on leave during an investigation, expected to last about two weeks.

Parrish acknowledges that Hope Lutheran has pulled down all of Brock’s videos “as a part of our policy” during the investigation.

(Rochefort says this is yet another example of Brock having something to hide; the publisher says he downloaded the pastor's oeuvre, and may publish them on Lavender’s website, as Queerty has already done that with the tornado video.)

Parrish does not dispute Brock’s struggles with homosexuality. He says that while Brock has not been public with his struggles in the three years they have worked together, “Tom has been very open about his own personal struggles” with church confidants such as himself.

Still, he adds, “For the congregation, the actual personal struggle is probably new.”

Parrish says Brock is not a hypocrite for condemning homosexual behavior while loathing it in himself. “He always held out the hope of redemption and change, but our church teaches you to struggle with it and the lord still loves you. You have to keep from giving in to it.”

As for Lavender Magazine, Parrish says, “There are no ethics for them. They certainly violate everything I was ever taught about 12-step programs. To take on a public figure publicly, we expect that — Tom and I have gone through that before. But they’re killing a process” — the 12-step method — “that has worked for 100 years. I think it’s criminal, and I can’t rationalize it in my mind.”

Father Livingston, who referred Townsend to the program, says Lavender’s decision, “wasn’t so much an ethical decision as a hate crime. They didn’t like [Brock’s] values and belief system and went after him personally.”

He adds, “I think anybody who has enjoyed a confidential conversation with friends over an important life issue would feel ashamed. Men in the group are stunned. I just feel very violated and betrayed.”

Rocheford, who says the Brock story has already received “tens of thousands of hits,” says he isn't losing any sleep. “I live my life by what Voltaire said: ‘I don’t want everybody to like me, for I would think less of me if I did.' "

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Comments (47)

I am anti-hypocrisy, especially when it comes to closeted GLB people who advocate against the rights of people like them. However, I am deeply troubled by the methods used by this reporter, and endorsed by Lavender magazine.

P.S. It is interesting to note that while the story was published on 6/18 there are no comments on the web site. Too heated, perhaps?

It was John Piper who got all the attention for the tornado in Minneapolis being a sign from God.

Good grief re: Father Livingston. Of all things, this is not a "hate crime."

Unbelievable. As much as I detest the hypocrisy of people like Brock, Stephen Rocheford has debased himself even more. Somehow the ends justify the means? Not exactly the standard bearer for ethical behaviors.

Since there is nothing wrong with being gay, there is no controversy. What have here is the hate and bile and lies of a religious figure. End of story, move on, it's the 21st century people.

A reporter writing for a publication serving the interests of a group of people who are dedicated to setting new lows for socially acceptable moral standards and decency, lies and backstabs to smear and humiliate someone working towards a better life.

His publisher announces that this behavior meets his standard of long as it isn't applied to his own detriment.

Dog bites man.

What really gets me is this pastor Tom Parrish lecturing ANYONE about ethics. He knows Brock was gay, but condones (as his supervisor) Brock's public gay-bashing? When it comes to Brock being gay, Parrish's message is "the lord still loves you" but for anyone else god is sending a tornado your way?

Lavender and its reporter have stepped into a real gray area, but their ethical lapses don't begin to reach the level of what Brock and Parrish have stooped to.

"Lavender and its reporter have stepped into a real gray area, but..."

The definitive answer we expected from the left.

You all seem incapable of, or unwilling to comprehend the fact that the guy was attempting to control a behavior he knew to be unwholesome, immoral, unhealthy and deeply, spiritually damaging.

When he speaks out against it, he knows what he is talking about; there is no hypocrisy.

Brock needed to be outed, but not more than Lavender, and reporters everywhere, need to be ethical.

If people can't trust the members of their own support group, who can they trust? We all need to be able to trust someone, now and then. I can only hope that karma pays Rocheford and Townsend back in some excruciating, familiar fashion some day -- and that they then feel very sorry what they did to make this story.

I despise people like Brock and Parrish. But for this short period in their lives, Rocheford and Townsend have managed to stoop even lower.

"You all seem incapable of, or unwilling to comprehend the fact that the guy was attempting to control a behavior he knew to be unwholesome, immoral, unhealthy and deeply, spiritually damaging."

And you seem incapable of, or unwilling to comprehend that the idea that the belief that this "behavior" was "unwholesome, immoral, unhealthy and deeply, spiritually damaging" isn't based on anything other than your own prejudices.

The only thing he was doing that was "unwholesome, immoral, unhealthy and deeply, spiritually damaging" was lying to himself and not allowing himself to feel love.

So where is the law that says reporters can go to confidential sessions and report on what they find? Reporters go to sessions of Alcoholics Anonymous all the time, and if people want to identify themselves, why should the reporter feel constrained. If this is such a horror, why has our legislature not addressed it? I am not a lawyer, but I believe the only legal constraint on reporters involves confidential exchanges overheard involving a patient and his/her doctor or a client and his/her lawyer.

To me, it's not about homosexuality or religion or hypocrisy. This is about journalistic ethics. If they tried to justify the undercover investigation by saying all other options had been exhausted, I might change my tune, but that's not the argument being made.

A reporter is supposed to identify himself as such. Townshend did not. "Suspect" barely begins to describe the ethical decisions made in this case.

"So where is the law that says.."

...or "If no one says you shouldn't, it's OK. And if anyone does say you shouldn't tell them to keep their prejudiced opinions to themselves."

Such bon mots from moral relativism are always so enlightening.

Thomas Swift, your joking right? What you said is either very funny or we are all dummer for having read it. It is like the former CEO's of Blackwater, all conservative zealots, condemning the practice of human trafficking, and then engaging in that very practice to beef up its security forces with unsuspecting foreign nationals. There is also nothing more disgusting and hypocritical than powerful religious figures using their postion to engage in sexual abuse while condemning the very practice week after week or simply practicing homosexuality while demonizing gays to adoring followers. As far as I am concerned the "outing" is worth the moral transgression. Brock has not been honest with anyone, least of all himself, so why should we be shocked to find the evil he spreads has come back on himself. You reap what you sow.

Let us not forget that the main prohibition against male homosexuality (lesbians are mentioned nowhere in the Bible) is contained in the same section of the Levitical Code that makes it an EQUAL abomination to eat pork, cheeseburgers, (meat cooked with dairy), and shelfish.

These codes were invalidated by Jesus, himself in his sermon on the mount when he said, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (referring to the Levitical code).'
But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;... [Matthew 5:38-39]

Jesus only preserved the original Ten Commandments as "God's law."

The Apostle Paul, though powerfully inspired in much of his writing, occasionally fell back on a more-or-less standard Jewish list of reasons why Gentiles would never have been accepted into the Jewish faith, but used this list only to remind the Gentile followers whom he had brought to faith in the Way of Jesus where they might be headed if they did not hold to the the faith he tried to teach them (and what they were being accused of by the truth squads who followed Paul around and tried to convince those he had converted that they couldn't follow Jesus because they weren't already Jews).

Jesus condemned, very clearly, many practices common in the human society of his day, including divorce. Nowhere did he bother to mention, let alone condemn, homosexuality. Although it's hard to argue from silence, it seems clear that, if he had regarded homosexuality as the great evil some among our friends and neighbors, including Rev. Brock, now regard it to be, he would have at least mentioned it in passing. The fact that he did not speaks volumes.

We can only hope that this difficult experience will assist Rev. Brock in coming to accept himself as God created him, thereby allowing him to develop a deeper, more open, more honest relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Perhaps if this becomes the case, he can open himself to doing the work God would have him do in the world rather than using so much of his time and energy and prayer asking God to make him someone that God would have made him in the first place if that's what God had had in mind.

"For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb." [Psalm 139:13]

William, I was on the same page with you until you started making it up.

Brock was in a group treatment program to help him to transform his life. He acknowledged his homosexual urges were wrong in every way.

He was upfront with his superiors and nowhere is is stated that he was actively participating in the deviant behaviors he counseled others against.

His actions, far from hypocritical are honorable.

Your (and others) approval of Townsend's dishonesty is shocking.

Although I can understand there are reasonable objections to the good pastor's outing, I support his "outing" here. It's different if you admit you are homosexual publicly while stating you think it's wrong and needs therapy; but to keep this fact about yourself hidden while railing about homosexuality in society is hypocritical and deserves exposure. Groups like "Courage" need to be investigated and assessed as to the harm they may cause to individuals. There's no other way to do this effectively except as an undercover.

Mr. Kapphahn, I think you could have made your point without your ill-informed characterization of the Book of Leviticus and its interpretation by my co-religionists over the past centuries.

Pretending to be something you're not - because you fear being condemned by society for what you are - is a great burden to go through life with. Now that his secret is out Brock can deal with life honestly now. Right or wrong, the outing of Brock has taken a great weight off his shoulders.

Would it be considered an ethical lapse if a journalist went to a "12 step program" for left-handed people and 'outed' a member who was left-handed but said lefties should be reviled for who they are?

Didn't think so.

So why is this any different?

This particular "12-step program" is a joke (a mockery of real programs), and no one there deserves privacy if, in the public arena, they are saying the kind of person that they themselves are should be shamed and discriminated against.

It's hard to defend Lavender for this except in the sense that this is a cultural war. As long as there are bigots like Thomas Swift and Brock and those people in Kansas and all the other radically conservative so-called Christians then I can see where the gays feel a special need to defend themselves. I want to see Mr Swift condemn the so-called minister from Kansas who yells obscenities at funerals. If you are as even handed as your self deluded conscience tells you, you'd make more of an effort to hide your bigotry which masquerades as Bible-based righteousness.

Now for Mr Brock. He as been a reqular on local access cable for years with his Pastor's Corner show. How many of you have seen that. He regularly takes extreme, literalist positions on a variety of topics using short pieces of the Book to justify his positions. Only for Mr Swift and Mr Brock and their ilk is the Bible to be read in this narrowly particulate manner.

I remember one episode where Mr Brock was telling how he went to a parishoner's death bed to tell them they were going to hell if they didn't repent some "sin" like homosexuality or something. I can't remember specifically if that was the "sin" but it was something along those lines. As he told the story he congratulated himself on his sincerity and compassion try to help this person on the edge of death. It was mind boggling and disgusting. His blindness to his own hypocrasy and his own motives was amazing. I am always amazed by people like Swift and Brock who hide there hatred and prejudice behind biblical phrases. Anyway, I always thought Brock was maybe less than the fully heterosexual male that he wanted us to see.

I'm glad he's been dragged into the open. Maybe he's in some "support" group getting some strong hetero reindoctrination, but I think to be honest he should have disclosed his own struggles during his rants on his show, which I never heard. Now I just feel sorry for him that he can't love himself as God made him, that his twisted view of God has given him a twisted view of himself.

How easy it is to accuse others of being ill informed when you do not demonstrate the courage to open yourself up to the same criticism by stating your own perspectives and/or beliefs. To do so implies an inability to consider whether your own perspectives and beliefs may be ill considered and/or ill informed, themselves, and demonstrates the tendency to reject any other beliefs and/or perspectives without giving them even the slightest consideration.

When any of us are locked into particular attitudes and perspectives, regarding all other points of view as defective, we close ourselves off from God's inspirations, since God is always calling us to grow from our current, incomplete, inadequate understandings toward better, more adequate understandings which more accurately reflect the mind of Christ.

When we think we have it all nailed down, we have closed ourselves off from the God who is still involved, still active, still seeking to influence and inspire human society and each of us (and may even regard God's inspirations to change and grow as the temptations of an evil one).

There is no defending the actions of Lavender, but it worth noting that Brock wouldn't likely have been a target of such an article if he showed a fraction of the compassion toward gays and lesbians that he expected to find in his support group.

Since it appears no journalists have chimed in, I will. We'll set aside the subject matter of the Lavender article; for a discussion of the journalistic aspects, the subject matter is really neither here nor there. But there are some serious and even fatal journalistic problems with the way the story was reported, written and published, and it failed to live up to some fairly fundamental standards of professional journalism. Put another way, if I worked with colleagues who did the things that happened here, I'd expect them to be severely punished, if not fired. It's that bad.

First, there's a reporter crashing a meeting he considers "confidential." ("My first encounter with Brock was at a confidential meeting....") If the reporter knows it is confidential, he knows people going there have a reasonable expectation of privacy. So he knows (or should know) that if he's going there as a reporter, he is invading that privacy.

Sometimes, circumstances may require journalists to do things that could be considered invasions of privacy. In those instances -- and in every other instance when a reporter is doing his or her job -- the reporter has a professional obligation to identify himself as a reporter. The exceptions to this are rare (i.e. the Chicago Sun-Times' Mirage Tavern investigation) and you have to weigh your failure to identify yourself against the importance and news value of the information you're seeking to get.

In the Sun-Times' example, they got articles, photos and recordings of public servants soliciting and accepting bribes and kickbacks. Those articles led to firings and criminal charges and much-needed reforms in the way a city did its business. Pretty impressive. What did Lavender get?

-- Brock saying he'd had "a good week" because he'd kept his mind off men;
-- Brock saying he sometimes feels "effeminate" and likes opera and classical music but doesn't like sports;
-- Brock standing up for heterosexual marriage;
-- Brock saying he "fell into temptation" during a trip to Slovakia. (Although we're never told where that temptation led, the writer still tells us it was a "Slovakian sexual breakdown");
-- Brock expressing a distaste for gypsies;
-- Brock relating that German food is heavy on meat and potatoes.
-- Brock saying he isn't big on women in the ministry.

When you boil away the peripheral stuff, that's it. That's what we learn about the guy. Are these "revelations" worth ditching time-honored journalistic ethics? I don't think so.

But thirdly -- and seriously -- the story fails to reflect that any attempt was made to get a comment from the subject of the story. It is a simple question you pose to him: "Why do you say one thing in public and another thing in private?" Getting (or even attempting to get) a comment from the subject of the story is a standard of journalistic professionalism, decency and propriety. It is how things are done. If the guy doesn't want to comment, fine. You stick in there that he was asked for comment and declined. But we don't even get that, which leads me to believe he wasn't even approached. Which further leads me to believe that the writer and editor knew what they were doing was a stinky exercise as far as the tenets of professional journalism go. Even Larry Craig and George Rekers -- both referred to in the story -- were given a chance to comment on the original articles that were written about their hypocrisy.

The bottom line is, as bad as the story subject's alleged hypocrisy may have been, it isn't worth giving up our journalistic integrity to report in the manner that Lavender reported it. That integrity was abandoned in some significant and unforgivable ways.

I agree that Brock is a hypocrite. I also agree with Karl Reichert that the undercover reporter and Lavender breached a code of ethics. It's not an issue of whether or not it's technically "legal". 12 Step Groups (regardless of whether you agree with a particular group or not) are based on confidentiality. Although the analogy is not perfect, I analyze it as an issue of medical ethics, i.e. doctor-patient medical privilege. Since people attend 12 Step (and other) Groups for purposes of treatment and therapy, this seems to me the most apt analogy. I'm always uncomfortable with justifying something with "the ends justify the means".

Mr. Kapphahn, I think I was pretty clear to most people reading these posts. Let me spell it out for you. I'm Jewish. While I'm not a member of the clergy, I read Leviticus yearly and am confident that and most Jews would agree with me that your characterization of its religious meaning to us is ill-informed.

If Brock said that a tornado was caused by the acceptance of gay clergy, then he is without a doubt one of the worst kinds of hate-mongerers out there. A comment like that says to the world that his idea of divine justice involves a perfectly fair, loving God killing people just because they support equal treatment of gays and lesbians.

It's possible, however, to consider Brock a vile person while also opposing Lavender's tactics. (For the record, it's also possible to agree with most Baptists that homosexuality is a sin, while still decrying the extremism seen in the tornado comment.)

I think it's extremely important for journalists to be able to "out" anti-gay closet cases - IF the closet case in question condemns gays and lesbians, while doing things in the public square that make them hypocrites (like going to gay bars to find dates.) It will be a sad day if things like privacy laws, or pressure placed on publishers and editors, can prevent wide publication of legitimate outing stories.

That sad day will be here sooner rather than later if all publications that legitimately out people are painted with the same brush as Lavender. It says a lot about Lavender that it's operated according to the philosophy that a support group's confidentiality agreement can be ignored, so long as one has an excuse like, "It doesn't meet my standard of what a 12-step-group should be like."

What's especially troubling about all of this is that it looks as though Lavender has failed to meet its own definition of what a justified outing is - because while Brock may be nuts, it's not clear that he's a hypocrite. Even after I clicked on the link to the Lavender article and read it, I still haven't seen ANY evidence that Brock ever actually did anything with another man. He's still gay, of course, whether he's celibate or not - but there's also no evidence shown that he's ever condemned celibate gays. It sounds like his personal life is consistent with his own appalling philosophy.

This would be a great time for a gay Christian group to reach out to Brock. No matter how much I dislike him, I imagine he could probably use the support.

David Hanners, I guess I agree with most of your comments, however, you don't address the fundamental point of the Lavender article, which I haven't read. Do you agree or disagree with the idea of "outing" this guy. I think it was newsworthy that this bible thumping, opinionated guy with his own media forum is a closeted gay (or maybe he's hetero but the devil is bombarding him with gay impulses) and hypocrite. I'm glad he was exposed because if he ever gets back on local cable access, maybe he'll be a little gentler in his opinions.

I thought the comment about gypsies was made because he was blaming them for his temptation. It is funny to me what he will go through to blame is "temptation" on things outside himself rather than accept what God made, his own desires. It was also helpful to learn that liking opera was a sign you may be gay, according to the pastor. How ironic that liking the group AC/DC makes me just the opposite, inspite of their questionable name. He can pump all the weights he wants and buy season tickets to the Vikes, but he will still be sort of effeminate. Too bad he puts such a negative value judgement on that because he's never going to shake it.

So, David, back to my question to you, should that knowledge have been kept from the public?

The question of whether he should or should not have been "outed" is not one I have any desire to address. I'm just looking at the journalistic aspects of what was published and how that story was reported.

I agree with Thomas Swift. No hypocrisy here. I am more concerned that as a Lutheran pastor he is going to a Catholic organization for help. That is, if indeed he is going for help, and not some other reason, such as researching the Catholic approach to homosexual support. Anyone who understands what is going on in the ELCA knows that the big problem is the ELCA is becoming more and more Catholic in their theology. I can definitely see how this might be a research angle. But I don't know. The idea that his church did not know about it seems to undermine this idea of mine as well.

Hypocrisy does not mean you don't struggle with sin. It is to tell others that their behavior is sin but your identical behavior is not. If he is seeking help, Brock is clearly not permitting himself to do this and is trying to stop, and considers it wrong, even in himself.

All of us, no matter what expression of faith we've attached ourselves to (even no expression) come to the foundational documents of that faith from particular perspectives (to deny this is to deny our very human nature).

It should not be a surprise that the Levitical code has a markedly different meaning to a Christian than to a Jew. Among Christian denominations, many different approaches are taken to the Hebrew Scriptures, including benign neglect if not outright rejection of them all. I can only assume that different approaches are taken among Jews: the Orthodox as opposed to Conservative and Reformed, as well.

I believe each person is entitled to relate to their higher power (in my case the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus) and to interpret the foundational documents upon which their faith is based in terms of whom they take God to be: in terms of how they experience God's presence, guidance and action in the world (or to have absolute faith in the idea that there is no God at all).

Each person is entitled to share that faith with others, but since we're all human in this life, NONE of us is capable of understanding, let alone reaching one perfect faith and ideology, nor of living a perfect life based on those ideas and beliefs.

To repeat what I said earlier, to believe we have reached that point of unassailable perfection in belief, ideology, and/or behavior is to cut ourselves off from God who is always calling us forward into better living and calling us to create a better future for ourselves and all those with whom we share God's world.

In the end. Rev. Brock seems to have reached that point, where he takes his own beliefs and ideology to be so perfect that he is willing to sacrifice God's own creation of him as a gay man and enter into a lifelong battle not to be whom God created him to be.

What he fails to realize, it seems to me, is that he is not battling his own nature, but rather, battling with the God who created him, seeking to tell God that God made a mistake in creating him this way and seeking to command God to re-create him so that he will now be the person HE wants himself to be rather than the person God had in mind.

"I want to see Mr. Swift condemn the so-called minister from Kansas who yells obscenities at funerals."

I unreservedly condemn the so-called minister from Kansas who yells obscenities at funerals, and question the mental stability of anyone that agrees with him.

"If you are as even handed as yourself deluded conscience tells you, you'd make more of an effort to hide your bigotry which masquerades as Bible-based righteousness."

Mr. Schletzer, I believe you have me confused with Mr. Kapphahn. I am not qualified to preach the bible to anyone, and eschew the opportunity to put ignorant hubris on public display in such a fashion.

My objections are strictly based upon science, biology and the history of human civilization.

It appears, that in your zeal to toss out the word you have neglected to learn the definition of "bigotry", since you in fact are exhibiting the traits that identify the bigot.

David Hanners makes good points in his comment. It's just plain bad/cheap journalism. There appears to be enough time to invest to get the story right. Go to the meeting. Meet the Rev. Flirt, date, find others he has dated, maybe have sex, take pictures, then report a meaty story. It was not that informational to report on the support group, but he's a fair target if he's a public figure telling lies about himself by omission.

Ah, Mr Swift, now I understand. When you said:

"A reporter writing for a publication serving the interests of a group of people who are dedicated to setting new lows for socially acceptable moral standards and decency"

your objections were based on science and biology and history. I think as science slowly unlocks the genetic motivation of much of our behavior it becomes more clear that at least for many gay people the attraction to members of their own sex is predetermined before birth. That's why for many of us, and based on the testimony of many gay people, bible thumpers and people who agree with some of your statements are considered to be bigots. The "socially acceptable moral standards" are your own, not mine and not many others. I don't have to be gay or even attracted to gay images in order to say that it is reasonable that each person should be entitled to love whoever they wish as long as they are consenting adults and humans (I put that last part in there because people like you (excuse me if I overgeneralize) like to lump gays in with child molesters and beastiality). If you read history, if you study biology, you will see "gay" behavior in other times, cultures and species. Maybe you find that unpleasant but that doesn't make someone living that way less moral than you. What I think is that a man who cheats on his wife is less moral than a man who lives outside of marriage with another man because his society won't allow him to marry.

I think your "ignorant hubris" is on display for all to see. What do you think?

PS, thanks for at least condemning the guy from Kansas.

"your objections were based on science and biology and history."

Not quite. Science, biology and the history of human civilization is what I wrote. There is a difference, as I'm sure you were aware.

"I think as science slowly unlocks the genetic motivation of much of our behavior it becomes more clear that at least for many gay people the attraction to members of their own sex is predetermined before birth."

That may well be true, just as it is believed to be true for many people that exhibit other anti-social, unhealthy or even behaviors we now classify as criminal.

A pre-disposition to act out a particular behavior does not in any way preclude society from dertemining it must accept the behavior.

Alcoholism is thought to be genetically transferred; are we being too harsh on drunken drivers?

"That's why for many of us, and based on the testimony of many gay people, bible thumpers and people who agree with some of your statements are considered to be bigots."

Again, I suggest you study the meaning of the word. Your explanation, again, actually displays the trait.

"The "socially acceptable moral standards" are your own, not mine and not many others."

But they are those of the vast majority of our national, and global society. You and your ilk are of course entitled to your opinions, but society is under no obligation to act upon them.

"If you read history, if you study biology, you will see "gay" behavior in other times, cultures and species."

Giving itself over to hedonism has been cited by many scholars as one of the causes of the downfall of Roman sure you want to go there?

And personally, I do not find the behaviors of other species relevant to my situation; since I'm a human being and all.

But by all means, feel free...

As awkward as it feels to be on the same side of any issue with Swiftee, Lavender is completely in the wrong here.

Sorry, Mr. Swift, but you don't get to claim "science and biology" in support of your position. Your response to the point that sexual orientation may be determined before birth is to point out that the same may be true for other anti-social, unhealthy and criminal behavior. But it isn't "science and biology" that put homosexuality in the same category as other anti-social, unhealthy and criminal behavior. Rather, its just your own bigotry that puts it there. The American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association stopped considering homosexuality a disorder decades ago. According to "science and biology" there is nothing wrong or unnatural about being gay.

There’s a big difference between struggling with temptation and openly reveling in sin. Let's not confuse the two. Anyone who doesn't understand the difference has never tried very hard to resist their temptations (whatever they may be).

Pastor Brock was doing the honorable thing by seeking help for his issues, which I'm sure took a great deal of humility and courage. What the reporter did on the other hand--lying and violating the trust of a confidential support group--was disgraceful and wrong.

Karl Juhnke is exactly right in #40; the word "hypocrite" doesn't apply to Brock's situation and it sounds silly when people keep using it.

I read the Lavender article (and the accompanying description of the support group). Given that the group he attended would include "lust" and physical self-gratification in the category of inappropriate activity, Brock's Slovakian temptation could have been very innocent by most standards -- looking at a bratwurst the wrong way would probably count as something that ought to be "confessed" there.

(Believe me, if Brock were talking about anything more damning than that, Lavender would have published it; it's not like they left out the details of the orgy confession because the story was running long. They get credit for having the integrity to refrain from fabricating a better story.)

So go ahead and call Brock mean or "a poor witness for Jesus" or "an overly conservative interpreter of the Bible" or an obnoxious jerk or whatever you want to; you're entitled to your opinion. But saying that he's a hypocrite is the same as saying that he's a 14-pound blueberry muffin: it gets attention, but it's not true and doesn't help to advance the conversation.

This is slightly off-topic but I do have to say that this is one of the most thoughtful comments sections I have ever seen. In this post I have actually read varied opinions, arguments, disagreements and so on, and with few exceptions they were articulate and informed. I've read comments with which I completely disagree all without feeling angry or annoyed. Is this a Minnesota thing? In any case, I actually feel better for reading a comments section for once. I came here to read more on the topic (linked elsewhere -- I'd never heard of MinnPost) with a specific viewpoint which I now feel is somewhat altered (thanks specifically to David Hanners #26).

Strangely strange comments going on here.

I'll say this one thing.

The first time that Lavender actually attempted investigative journalism or journalism of a professional nature, it failed at even the most basic ethical tenets.

Let me just whip out the SPJ:

— Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.

—Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.

— Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.

— Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

John Townsend should stay to his roots as a very good entertainment reporter. Seriously.

I'm all for nailing hypocrites of any stripe; in fact, it's one of my favorite things to do.
And the Rev. Brock seems like a worthy target.

Lavender's piece, however, is nothing other than an amateurish attempt at hard-hitting, investigative journalism, ending up with both the subject and the magazine looking, well, pathetic.

The always excitable gas-bag and bloviator classes are having a field day, of course, and will continue to for a couple weeks. And Lavender will get some ink beyond it's teeny sphere. To my mind, the piece is just a sad example of form over content. Bad is bad, regardless of where it comes from.

I am surprised that so many commenters think that Townsend somehow violated journalistic ethics by infiltrating this group in order to out Brock. Perhaps this is due to the assumption that reparative therapy groups are legitimate 12-step programs (they are not: the American Psychological Association has concluded that reparative therapy is not only ineffective but harmful, often leading to depression and sometimes to suicide), and perhaps to a failure to appreciate the damage down by Brock and others to the most vulnerable people in our community, young people struggling with their sexual orientation. His self-loathing is sad, but when he imposes it on others by making a career out of attacking and demeaning gay men and lesbians, he becomes not merely sad but dangerous. I wonder if those of you who think Townsend committed a breach of ethics by exposing Brock by failing to respect the confidentiality demands of Courage would say the same if he had infiltrated a cult of child molesters, for example? In any case, I don't think he violated any journalistic ethics. I am impressed that he did not reveal the identities of the private figures who attended the meetings, only the disclosures of a public figure who has gained fame and presumably fortune by attacking gay people. Of course, he is a hypocrite not because he is trying to be celibate, but because he tells other people how to live their lives, yet is unable to follow his own prescriptions. The people I feel sympathy for are the ones who may need real psychological help and support, but who find themselves seeking help from the priests of Courage, who are not qualified to help them, and who are likely to reinforce their feelings of self-hatred and may well lead them to suicide.

Just for the record, 12-Step programs are not protected by confidentiality statutes. They are, indeed, private, but not confidential.

We are at war for our civil rights. All bets are off. This is no time to be polite to haters or try to play fair with those that break all the rules.