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Call to Kiss 108 show angers gay rights activists

Station’s national broadcast tied to religious group

By Peter Schworm
Globe Staff / April 14, 2010

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Gay activists are denouncing a nationally syndicated advice show broadcast on a popular Boston radio station for a gay student’s complaint that off-air counselors are condemning homosexuality and steering callers to an evangelical Christian group.

Activists rushed to criticize the show after the student said he was told off the air that homosexuality was a sin on par with murder. Several said that the “Dawson McAllister Live’’ program was masquerading as a mainstream advice show and concealing an agenda to “cure’’ gays.

They called on Kiss 108, which broadcasts the show locally, and the station’s owner, Clear Channel Communications, to cancel the show, which is carried on more than 160 stations nationally.

“This is a set-up for kids,’’ said Arline Isaacson, cochairwoman of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus. “They are preying on unsuspecting youth who are very vulnerable.’’

In a statement, Clear Channel said it is not directly involved in off-air discussions through the program’s “HopeLine’’ and does not “exercise any control over it.’’ The company said the host “does not make comments regarding homosexuality on air, on his website, or on his blog.’’ Kiss 108 and “Dawson McAllister Live’’ did not return phone calls.

The controversy rippled across the blogosphere yesterday after Greg Kimball, 22, a student at Marian Court College in Swampscott, wrote online about his experience calling the program. The show features live calls about personal issues such as relationships, depression, and addiction and steers callers to trained staff advisers for one-on-one talks.

Kimball, who is gay, said he called the show Sunday night to see how they handled a call from someone questioning his sexual identity. Pretending to be a teenager who thought he might be gay, Kimball asked to speak to a representative off the air. He said the person who took his call asked him whether he had been raised religiously. When Kimball said he had not, he said the adviser told him it is “quite common for teenagers raised without church to question their sexuality.’’

Over the next 20 minutes, the adviser compared homosexuality to alcoholism and pornography or drug addiction, saying it was unnatural and as grave a sin as adultery or murder, Kimball said.

“I was disgusted, really appalled,’’ Kimball said. “I said, ‘Is there anything I can do?’ He said I needed to get in touch with God and pray.’’

Kimball said he had listened to the show many times but never suspected those associated with the show held such views.

“I had enjoyed listening to it,’’ he said. “I had absolutely no sense there was this hidden agenda.’’

Angry over the first call, Kimball called back a few minutes later. He told a second representative about the first conversation, and said he was scared about potentially going to hell. The staff member referred him to Exodus International, a Christian organization that believes God wants to heal homosexuals.

Kimball said the show should be canceled and criticized its staff for frightening gay callers and vilifying their sexual orientation.

“He’s reaching out across the country and hurting gay and gay-questioning youth under the guise of being a helpful, good Samaritan,’’ he said. “These poor kids are calling up and being told being gay is as bad as murder? You have to wonder what it does to their mental stability.’’

Michael Jones — an editor at change.org, a left-leaning website devoted to social causes — said the McAllister program clearly spells out its ties to Christian groups on its website, where a list of partners includes Exodus International. Jones and others said the show is being deceptive by not disclosing its affiliations on the air.

“I’m scared to death for any of the young people who called in,’’ said Tom Lang, a gay rights activist. “It’s mind-boggling.’’

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