"They're telling you to hate your child unless he lives the way you tell him to live," said Johnathan Quinn, president of Central Alabama Pride, one of the protesting organizations. "Their literature tells the parents to abandon their children unless they go this route: forcing them to be straight."
Quinn said a peaceful protest is planned on public right of way near the entrance of the church. Equality Alabama, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of Birmingham, and Covenant Community Church are among those taking part in the protest.
The conference teaches that those with same-sex attractions can change, said Melissa Fryrear, director of gender issues for Focus on the Family and one of the speakers.
"We're offering a Christian perspective on the many issues surrounding homosexuality," Fryrear said. "The majority attending are moms and dads who have a son or daughter living in homosexuality. We're here to help parents who don't condone their child's behavior but still love them."
Other speakers include Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International, and Nancy Heche, mother of actress Anne Heche.
Nancy Heche talks about her daughter's highly publicized relationship with comedian and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres. Nancy also talks about her husband's secret homosexual life. "For years in her marriage she didn't know that her husband was involved with men outside the marriage, and he died of complications from AIDS," Fryrear said.
Focus on the Family spokeswoman Monica Schleicher said the conferences often attract controversy.
"We've had a lot of protesters," she said. "We do have security. It's an event in a church. We want that to be peaceful and respectful."
Fryrear said Focus on the Family does not want parents to shun homosexual children.
"One of our messages is helping parents stay in a relationship with their gay-identified child," Fryrear said. "Moms and dads shouldn't have to relinquish their religious convictions."
Source: Greg Garrison, Religion News Service, AP
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