Former head of anti-gay program now sharing new message

(WMC-TV) - John Smid, the former director of Love in Action, started a fire storm in Memphis with his program for gay teens in 2005.  Smid admitted Thursday he had it all wrong.

In June of 2005, a gay teenager posted a blog about being forced into a program to suppress his sexuality.  Days later, protesters gathered outside the offices of Love in Action, an anti-gay group led by Smid.

"Sitting inside the building with megaphones outside screaming, 'Come out here John Smid,'" said Smid.  "I mean, it was just horrific."

"At the time, I was very tunnel-minded," Smid added.  "Well, we're just helping these kids."

Now, Smid is a different man with a different message.

"The old message was God loves you and he doesn't want you to be gay," said Smid.  "The new message today is God loves you with absolute abandon."

Smid, who has never denied his homosexuality, left Love in Action in 2008 guilt-ridden over the program designed to scare kids straight.

"I'm so overwhelmed with regret about the way we were not actually hearing their hearts.  We merely had our standards and our objectives and it's embarrassing," said Smid.

Smid's story is part of a documentary that is about to make its Memphis premiere.  Morgan Fox, who led the 2005 protests, produced the film, "This is What Love in Action Looks Like."

"The documentary has one story, but then there is the other story of mine and John's friendship that developed over time, and in many ways, is kind of like the true story of the documentary," said Fox.

"When I see the film, I feel embarrasses," said Smid.

Smid is not hiding his regrets.  He has started an online gay ministry, and even though he is gay, he remains faithful to his wife of 22 years.

"This is What Love in Action Looks Like" will premiere in Memphis on November 4 as part of the Indie Memphis Film Festival, which runs from November 3 through 6.

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