Gay bar trip could cost man his job

Colorado Springs Gazette, September 23, 2000
P. O. Box 1779, Colorado Springs, CO, 80901
(Fax 719-636-0202 ) (E-MAIL: gtop@gazette.com )

Gay bar trip could cost man his job
By Eric Gorski/The Gazette
Edited by Jeff Thomas; headline by Tim Chong

Focus on the Family official John Paulk, spotted this week socializing at a Washington, D.C., gay bar, faces an uncertain future as chairman of another Christian organization that tries to "convert" homosexuals.

Bob Davies, director of Exodus International North America, said Friday the board of the Seattle-based group is considering whether Paulk should keep his post. He said board members met by phone this week and decided not to take any immediate action, but likely will make a decision in the next two weeks.

"(Paulk's) actions this week deal a real blow to his credibility as a spokesperson for this whole movement," Davies said.

Paulk, 37, is probably the most recognizable face in a controversial Christian movement that portrays homosexuality as a lifestyle that can be left. Several new ministries dedicated to that belief have been founded in recent years, and Focus stages conferences on the subject, including one scheduled for November in Colorado Springs.

Paulk was pictured in 1998 with his wife, a former lesbian, on the cover of Newsweek and now heads Focus on the Family's homosexual issues department. He worked for Exodus affiliates in the San Francisco area and Portland, Ore., before coming to Focus in 1998. Paulk does not receive a salary as Exodus chairman, Davies said.

On Tuesday night, a gay activist recognized Paulk at a gay bar in Washington, D.C, and summoned a colleague who confronted Paulk and photographed him.

Paulk, who was in the capital on business, said he was looking for a bathroom and didn't know he had walked into a gay bar. He said he stayed and talked to patrons because he was curious about whether gay bars had changed since he frequented them 15 years ago.

A Focus spokeswoman said Paulk was not granting interviews Friday. He told The Gazette Thursday he used poor judgment and should have left when he realized it was a gay bar.

Davies said Paulk didn't break any Exodus guidelines in visiting the bar. Engaging in "overt sexual behavior" with someone of the same sex would be grounds for dismissal, he said.

Still, he said Paulk's actions were damaging. Gay activists have said Paulk's visit to the bar proves he's gay, which Paulk strongly denies. "People are already suspect of our claims," Davies said. "If you're not careful, you can do damage to our credibility by engaging in behavior that opens up public speculation."

Several Exodus affiliates have been shut down because their leaders have returned to homosexuality, according to news reports. Two of the organization's founders left their wives for each other in the late 1970s.


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