Friday, June 3, 2011

Hope Over Hate in Springfield, MA

"Out In The Silence" Screening to Shine Light on Springfield Hate Group

A special screening of OUT IN THE SILENCE, the acclaimed documentary about courageous Venango County residents fighting against homophobia and the forces behind the anti-gay bigotry and discrimination that continue to plague conservative small town America, is the Kick-Off event for a Week of Pride celebrations in Springfield, MA.

The free community event takes place on Wed., June 8 at 6:00 pm at Springfield Technical Community College's Scibelli Hall Theater. The screening will be followed by a dynamic town hall-style dialogue featuring members of the Springfield Pride Committee and filmmaker Joe Wilson.

While Wilson is thrilled to be a part of the Pride celebrations, the event has additional significance to him because Springfield is home to Abiding Truth Ministries, an anti-gay “hate group” much like the American Family Association of Pennsylvania (AFA), the organization at the heart of the challenges he documented in OUT IN THE SILENCE.

“Time and time again I've seen how these extremist groups stoke the fires of hatred and bigotry in small towns and rural communities, and I understand the importance of challenging them on their own turf,” said Wilson. “This event in Springfield will help to shine light on, and counter the dirty deeds of, one of the worst of the worst.”

Springfield's Abiding Truth Ministries was founded by Scott Lively, a notorious religious right activist known for his provocative anti-gay activities, including the discredited claim that “the Nazi Party was entirely controlled by militaristic homosexuals,” work on an Oregon ballot measure to have homosexuality codified as “abnormal behavior,” and travels in Eastern Europe and Uganda to assert that “homosexuality is a personality disorder and an evil institution” worthy of the death penalty. In 2008, Lively launched an effort to “re-Christianize” Springfield. Shortly thereafter, his Abiding Truth Ministries, like the American Family Association, was put on the Southern Poverty Law Center's official “hate group” watch list.

OUT IN THE SILENCE shows Wilson being drawn back to his small Pennsylvania hometown to share the story of a teenager tormented at school because he is gay, and the struggle the teen's mother goes through to get school authorities to do something about it. In the film, Wilson also strikes up an unexpected friendship with a conservative evangelical pastor, and follows the trials and tribulations of a local lesbian couple who can catalyze the rust-belt town’s economic revitalization if they find community acceptance. Intertwined with these heartfelt stories is Wilson's exploration of the role that the Venango County-based chapter of the American Family Association plays in stoking anti-gay bigotry in the town. At once wrenching, entertaining, and inspiring, the film ultimately shows the individual and community transformations that are possible when people, on all sides of these challenging issues, speak out and take the time to get to know one another.

OUT IN THE SILENCE was produced in association with the Sundance Institute and Penn State Public Broadcasting, premiered at the 2010 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York, and won an Emmy Award for Achievement in Documentary.

A press kit and more information about OUT IN THE SILENCE are available on the film's website:

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