Yesterday, the alt-weekly newspaper the Miami New Times ran a much-discussed story about a man named George Alan Rekers.
You might not know Rekers, but he has long played a prominent role behind the scenes in the social conservative movement: A member of the founding board of the conservative Family Research Council, Rekers has authored books on how to ensure that children grow up straight.
A Baptist minister and former research fellow at Harvard University, Rekers has testified against gay adoptions and is on the board of National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, which is focused on helping gay people turn straight.
According to the New Times story, by Penn Bullock and Brandon K. Thorp, Rekers was spotted returning from a ten-day trip to Europe with a young man identified as Lucien, who he allegedly met on a gay website called Rentboy.com. On that site, Lucien appeared shirtless, and his physical attributes were described in detail; he was identified as "HIV and Disease FREE," offered "a sensual meet or companionship" and said he will "do anything you say as long as you ask."
The New Times posted a photograph of Rekers with a young man said to be Lucien at the Miami airport; it also spoke to Lucien, who indicated he had met Rekers on Rentboy.com. The story says Rekers himself did not deny that he met Lucien on the site, though he said he did not know he was a prostitute until midway through the vacation. Rekers insisted in the story that he hired Lucien because he "can't lift luggage" and needed a companion.
Now Rekers is publicly responding to the story: In a statement posted on his website, Rekers calls the piece "misleading" and says it "cleverly gave false impressions of inappropriate behavior." The implication that he had hired a prostitute, he said, was incorrect.
"Contrary to Internet stories based on this slanderous article, following medical advice Professor George Rekers requires an assistant to lift his luggage in his travels because of an ongoing condition following surgery," said Rekers. "His family, local friends, and even another university professor colleague have offered to accompany him on trips to lift luggage. Professor Rekers was not involved in any illegal or sexual behavior with his travel assistant."
Rekers also apparently replied to a Facebook message from the blog "Joe.My.God." In his message, Rekers denies that he is gay. He writes, "My hero is Jesus Christ who loves even the culturally despised people, including sexual sinners and prostitutes. Like Jesus Christ, I deliberately spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them."
"Contrary to false gossip, innuendo, and slander about me, I do not in any way 'hate' homosexuals, but I seek to lovingly share two types of messages to them, as I did with the young man called 'Lucien' in the news story:  It is possible to cease homosexual practices to avoid the unacceptable health risks associated with that behavior, and  the most important decision one can make is to establish a relationship with God for all eternity by trusting in Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins, including homosexual sins. If you talk with my travel assistant that the story called 'Lucien,' you will find I spent a great deal of time sharing scientific information on the desirability of abandoning homosexual intercourse, and I shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with him in great detail."
Contacted for comment, the Family Research Council confirmed that Rekers was a member of its founding board.
"Reports have been circulating regarding Dr. Rekers relationship with a male prostitute," said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. "FRC has had no contact with Dr. Rekers or knowledge of his activities in over a decade so FRC can provide no further insight into these allegations."
"While we are extremely disappointed when any Christian leader engages in the very activities that they 'preach' against, it is not surprising," he continued. "The Scriptures clearly teach the fallen nature of all people. We each have a choice to act upon that nature or accept the forgiveness offered by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and do our best to ensure our actions, both public and private match our professed positions."