Restored Hope Networks annual conference will be held in San Diego, But Lilly Holiday isn't going to let it happen easily.
In case you haven’t heard, in June, The City View Church in San Diego will be the location of a “pray the gay away” Conversion Therapy conference produced by the faith-based Restored Hope Network (RHN).
The anti-LGBT religious group is very excited to come to America’s Finest City, proudly posting the cityscape on their Facebook page which reads “Hope 2017 – San Diego, CA, June 16 & 17.”
But one local activist isn’t excited. In fact, she has already started a social media movement to protest against it.
Performer and eclectic artist Lilly Holiday lives in San Diego. She calls herself a mother at the House of Pink Boombox, a performance theater which brings a modern twist to the art of Burlesque.
When she found out that RHN was bringing its conglomerate to San Diego, she knew it wasn’t a true representation of the spirit of her city and sprang into action via Facebook.
"San Diego will not stand by as these provenly harmful scam artists prey on LGBTQA youths," she writes on the protest social media page. "They are not welcome in this city and will be met with a Big O' Gay Anti-Conversion Therapy Protest."
RHN has opened registration for the weekend conference as of February 15.
Lilly is organizing this mobilization for the LGBT community and allies like herself, mainly for young people who she feels may be badly influenced by RHN's message.
“I feel that these people are attacking the most vulnerable members of that marginalized group: the youth,” Lilly told SDGLN. “Kids have very few legal options if their parents want to put them through something as traumatic as conversion therapy. And it is very traumatic.”
The state of California makes illegal any practices of conversion, reparative or ex-gay therapies to minors. RHN may be getting around that law by calling their event a convention, and not an open call for members.
Actually, they proclaim that they are not a conversion therapy organization at all; they reject that moniker. They are simply accepting of people who feel that they can rid themselves of homosexual thoughts and urges through faith doctrines.
Whatever their claims, RHN has one purpose, and that is to tutor, through scripture, that same-sex feelings can be overcome by the acceptance of God and fundamentalist interpretations of The Bible.
Curious suppliants, especially the younger ones who attend the San Diego event may still be at risk of receiving a coercive message from its leadership.
This is an immediate concern to Lilly who worries about the postulations of such teachings to already vulnerable and confused gay youth. She says LGBTQ kids are more likely to attempt suicide, suffer from depression, use illegal drugs and contract HIV and other STDs.
“So standing up for kids who can't easily stand up for themselves is extremely important to me, as I'm sure it is for the rest of the community, and their supporters.”
The goal of her rally is to shutter the scheduled weekend meetings. She understands that this conference is not a mass therapy session, but she is concerned that it is a recruitment seminar for the indoctrination of young ministers. Her protest will also branch out beyond just the convening she says.
“Shutting down these initial trainings would be even more effective,” she said. “We want to pressure the Hilton and Days Inn hotels to pull the group discounts that they have provided for these meetings.”
Having already amassed a small group interested in attending the rally, Lilly is hopeful that many others will excoriate RHN’s message as she has and gather together for a two-day protest.
“At the very least,” said Lilly, “I want to spread the message that there will always be a light of love and acceptance for these kids--that if they are demonized or rejected by their birth families, that they will always have another one waiting for them. All should participate who they want to be a part of this change. We all need to stand up to these bullies hiding their homophobia behind The Bible. In times like these we must show our strong support for the folks that need it. These kids need to hear our voices.”
You can join the protest by clicking HERE.
Timothy Rawles is Community Editor of SDGLN. He can be reached at [email protected], @reporter66 on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.