Several weeks ago, Rich Scherber from MN Teen Challenge called me to correct the record on several stories I'd written about MN Teen Challenge. He stated that the organization was Christian, but not anti-gay (many Christian Churches are open and affirming, and so are the non-profit organizations affiliated with them), however I remain skeptical about MN Teen Challenge. I asked why MN Teen Challenge invited Janet "between 80 and 85% of lesbians were raped" Boynes to speak. In his first conversation with me he stated that Janet Boynes had never spoken at MN Teen Challenge. After I reconfirmed that Janet Boynes stated she had spoken at MN Teen Challenge in her press kit (pdf), the story changed to state she had spoken at one of their women's groups. Rich Scherber sent a note to his staff letting them know that Boynes should not receive a repeat invitation. Scherber forwarded me a copy of that note. Scherber also insisted that he could link me up with a number of gay people who were supportive of his program.
I also told him that having Michele Bachmann listed as giving a testimonial to the program was a red flag to gays that suggested the program was anti-gay. He claimed to be unaware of her legislative history on the single issue politics of the Bachmann amendment. I told him about the 2004 State Capital rally, which she headlined and organized including signs such as "Death Penalty for Homosexuals as prescibed [sic] in the Bible" and "No Homos as Leaders". The rally clearly was all about hate and nothing about defending "traditional marriage." He asked me whether I would advise him to take it down. I said he'd have to make his own decision on his site.
Dump Bachmann reported on Michele Bachmann speaking at a MN Teen Challenge sponsored recovery day celebration in October of 2008. At that time, Avidor, post author, linked to this page and quoted Michele Bachmann's testimonial.
MN Teen Challenge provides an environment that truly fosters spiritual growth and positive change. I had the opportunity to listen to the Teen Challenge choir and speak to the group, the whole experience was moving. Teen Challenge fills a great need in the community.
Now the Michele Bachmann testimonial has been scrubbed from the page as has President George Bush's. However Bachmann's testimonial remains on the adult section of the website.
Rick Scherber told me that MN Teen Challenge had been awarded $400,000 of the $500,000 requested by Amy Klobuchar. Scherber told me that he had been informed by his lobbyists that typically a group can expect 20% of what they request. Andy Birkey from Minnesota Independent had told me that he had heard from both Klobuchar and Scherber that Rep. Keith Ellison had supported this earmark - and that this came from Scherber's letter to Minnesota Independent disputing the accuracy of Birkey's piece about the Klobuchar earmark. From the letter:
It is important to note that the federal earmark sponsored by Congressman Ramstad – approved with bipartisan support by many other lawmakers, including Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) and Congressman Keith Ellison (D) – was designated for Minnesota Teen Challenge’s Know the Truth drug and alcohol abuse prevention program.
At a recent town meeting in Fridley, Congressman Ellison told me he had no recollection of supporting the earmark, but left some weasle room saying he was not 100% sure. When I talked with Rick Scherber about this, he said he didn't remember whether or not Keith Ellison had supported the earmark, but Congressman Jim Ramstad had been involved.
I also asked Scherber about the articles in the MN Teen Challenge October 2001 and October 2002 newsletters [accessed April 18, 2009] that suggested that Harry Potter and Pokemon are gateways into drug abuse. Scherber insisted that he had fired the staffers involved. The problem is that Scherber himself wrote a "letter from the Executive Director" on this topic (see below for screen shot). I will be following up with him for additional comments.