'Pray Away Gay' speaker causes controversy at Bronx high school

Art McFarland has the story.
November 18, 2013 3:11:51 PM PST
There is controversy and some outrage over a speaker at a prestigious high school in the Bronx.

A retired priest is invited, and he advocates gays avoid homosexuality through prayer and a 12-step program.

It is a controversy some members of the Cardinal Spellman High School community could do without.

A parent group is scheduled to host the speech by the Reverend Donald Timone, who represents two Roman Catholic groups, aimed at changing the lives of homosexuals through abstinence and a 12-step program.

"It's a Catholic priest speaking at a Catholic school. It's touchy," said Tym Moss of the Bronx LGBTQ Center.

The mission or purpose of the group is often characterized by the phrase, "Pray the gay away."

Tym Moss calls it conversion therapy, saying "It's proven that it doesn't work, and it's been proven across the globe."

There is an online petition drive protesting Rev. Timone's speech. We spoke to Spellman students and parents.

"He may be doing something right because he's going with the Catholic community, but it's somewhat disrespectful to the gay community," said student Christian Lopez.

"I think God made everyone and everyone deserves to be who they are and there's no person that can change that," said parent Leanne Arena.

We were not able to reach Father Timone for comment. In a statement, Cardinal Spellman's president, the Reverend Trevor Nicolls said the speech is for parents only, to support their roles of raising children, with Reverend Timone's point of view to consider.

"Some people it may offend and some it doesn't and some don't even care. At the end of the day, it's his own belief and your own belief and you don't have to take it," said student body president Jamie Crowther.

The speech is scheduled for Tuesday evening.