United States: A religious organisation which makes the ridiculous claim that it is possible to convert from homosexuality to heterosexuality is upset that people naturally take the piss out of them. So terrified were Exodus International that the Liberty Counsel sent blogger Justin Watt a cease-and-desist letter asking him to remove an image parodying the organisation's snake oil advertisements.
Fortunately, the ACLU is on Watt's side, along with their lawyers, who argue that the parody image is constitutionally-protected free speech, and fair use.
The moment I saw the billboards last September, I was deeply offended. The inspiration for the parody I created came to me instantly. How would straight people feel if their very being, their sense of self was being so overtly disparaged?said Justin Watt, a blogger from Santa Rosa, California.Their response was to try to intimidate me into taking the image down. It’s troubling that an organization as big as Exodus would go to such great lengths to silence its critics.
The billboard, sponsored byex-gayministry Exodus International, read,Gay? Unhappy? www.exodus.to.After seeing a photo of the billboards online, Watt posted an altered version reading,Straight? Unhappy? www.gay.comon his website, Justinsomnia.org. Liberty Counsel, an anti-gay legal group representing Exodus, sent Watt a cease-and-desist letter earlier this month claiming the parody violated Exodus’s intellectual property rights and threatening legal action if the parodies were not removed. In a response sent today to Liberty Counsel, the ACLU’s cooperating attorney, Laurence Pulgram of Fenwick & West, LLP, called upon Exodus to drop its attempts to censor Watt, pointing to case law holding parodies to be Constitutionally protected speech.
Parodies like Justin’s are protected by the First Amendment as a form of political commentary. His point was to make a comment on a very important issue he has strongly held beliefs about: that Exodus’s tactics are wrong, that there’s nothing wrong with being gay, and that being gay doesn’t make you unhappy,said Ann Brick, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California.Just as a group like Exodus has a Constitutionally protected right to say whatever it wants to about gay people, even when that view has been roundly condemned by every major psychological and medical organization, Justin has a right to use parody to voice his opposition.
ACLU Defends Blogger's Right to Parody "Ex-Gay" Group—ACLU Press Release, 22nd March 2006.