Kanavel is Union University's director of news and information.

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)-New Mexico and Glorieta Baptist Conference Center officials have expressed strong displeasure with the content of a recent state-sponsored conference held at the conference center and have committed themselves to intensify efforts to avoid similar incidents in the future.

At issue is the content of and comments made during a "Project Respect" conference March 5-7 at the Southern Baptist conference center east of Santa Fe.

KFLQ "Family Life" radio's Santa Fe correspondent, K.C. Mason, reported March 12 that a group of Socorro teenagers and their parents "complained the conference, which was advertised as a discussion of oppression and discrimination, became a forum for homosexual propaganda" when a conference leader said that Jesus was a homosexual.

"We were just as shocked," Glorieta's director, Larry Haslam, told the Baptist New Mexican March 12.

Both of the Sunday School Board-owned conference centers -- at Glorieta and at Ridgecrest, N.C. -- require non-Southern Baptist groups submit information and material about their organizations and proposed conferences to ensure their "compatibility with our Christian purposes and objectives," Haslam explained.

The procedure was followed before the conference in question was allowed, Haslam said. The center has hosted "numerous" conferences with the New Mexico Department of Health and other state agencies in the past, he said.

The Department of Health, the primary sponsor of the conference, told Glorieta the conference would focus on discrimination: racism, sexism and disabilities, Haslam said. Further dialogue with conference organizers revealed nothing that caused Glorieta officials concern about booking the event.

According to several sources, when the conference leader -- enlisted by conference organizers, not Glorieta -- made his comments promoting homosexuality to a group of 17 youths and three adults during a breakout conference Friday morning, March 6, one of the leaders of the Socorro group went to another conference to ask a pastor to talk to her young people. She enlisted Doug Brown, pastor of First Baptist Church, Quemado, N.M., who was attending the state Vacation Bible School ASSISTeam training being held nearby.

KFLQ also reported that sponsors of the Project Respect conference were not only the health department's youth development program and the infectious disease bureau, but also the Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Rights and the New Mexico Faith Communities Against Hate Crimes. Also, the registration brochure warns that potentially controversial issues would be discussed.

Haslam did not disagree with the KFLQ report but said Glorieta was not told about the other sponsors and it did not receive the registration brochure when it requested material for review.

In the future, Haslam said, Glorieta will question the Department of Health more thoroughly when it requests use of the conference center, and Glorieta will not book conferences led by the person contracted by the department to lead the Project Respect conference. The conference center also will be more careful to ensure that it receives all the information it requests from non-Southern Baptist groups.

Meanwhile, Health Department Secretary Alex Valdez met with the Socorro group and parents March 12. Haslam said Valdez too said he was "appalled" by what happened and he affirmed the Socorro youths for their stance on abstinence.

Of concern to the state, KFLQ reported, is that federal funds earmarked for abstinence-only education were used for student scholarships to attend the conference, which, Haslam said, included very little discussion about abstinence.

The Socorro group was invited to the conference "for their involvement in abstinence-only sex-education programs at their schools" reported KFLQ.

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