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Groups to rally against "conversion therapy" outside Mississippi church

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Starting tonight, GetEQUAL Mississippi, OMEGA Mississippi and Walk Fellowship Church of Hattiesburg will hold a rally of “Love and Acceptance” to protest outside Lakeside Baptist Church at 205 South Lake Drive in Hattiesburg.

The rally is a counter message to the church’s three-day conference titled, "Coming Out: A Gospel Response to Same-Sex Attraction," promoting "conversion therapy" -- otherwise known as "ex-gay therapy." This form of "therapy" has been widely denounced by the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, and both California and New Jersey have recently banned the harmful practice.

The church’s main event speakers and "conversion therapy" proponents will be Hal and Lisa Selby of Refuge 461 in Ocean Springs, Miss. The Selbys' ministry claims to have "God bring freedom into the lives of those struggling with homosexuality through prayer." Refuge 461 has ties to Exodus International, an organization that once embraced gay conversion therapy but disbanded in June 2013. Exodus officially apologized to the national gay community for years of undue suffering and judgment caused by the hands of their organization and its church.

The rally will be a peaceful demonstration comprised of the LGBT community, their families, allies and Christians who seek to spread the message of love and acceptance of all God’s children.

The states of California and New Jersey have recently passed legislation making it illegal to use gay conversion therapy on minors due to the psychological harm it causes. Pennsylvania is presently in the process of doing the same, stating that conversion therapy amounts to medical and parental bullying that can lead to low self-esteem and even suicide.

The rally will take place from 6:30 to 9:30 pm Sept. 23-25 in the 200 block of South Lake Drive in Hattiesburg.