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Pulse Survivors Host Freedom March for 'Overcomers' of Homosexuality

by Sam Cronin

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday September 18, 2019

People who attended the Saturday march organized by Angel Colon and Luis Javier Ruiz and the Florida Policy Council. (photo: Florida Policy Council/Facebook)
People who attended the Saturday march organized by Angel Colon and Luis Javier Ruiz and the Florida Policy Council. (photo: Florida Policy Council/Facebook)  

Angel Colon and Luis Javier Ruiz were both injured in the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, and have since founded the Fearless Identity ministry and hosted a Freedom March rally in Orlando.

The event, which took place Saturday, September 14 at the Lake Eloa Park in Orlando, was organized by a collection of Christian groups including the Florida Family Policy Council and New Hearts Outreach. It purported itself to be a connecting event for "Christians who have been delivered from LGBTQ lifestyles," according to the Freedom March website. The event's Facebook page claims to be "glorifying God by connecting the sexually and relationally challenged to Jesus Christ."

The march hosted a variety of speakers, including Ruiz himself and Devon Johnson, a Miami resident who said that God "set [him] free from same-sex attraction" after finding religion in college.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, he continued:

"After God dealt with my heart, he began to pour his love into me, and all I ever wanted was love," Johnson said. He also spoke of childhood sexual assault. "I was looking for attention, affirmation, acceptance, and in the homosexual community, it's more about sex."

Ruiz's speech included a public declaration aimed at distancing the Freedom March from conversion therapy, a practice that has been a target of legislators in Orange County. Recently, thousands signed a petition to ask the county to ban the practice, according to WFTV 9 ABC. At a county commission meeting this week, another Pulse survivor and activist, Brandon Wolfe, called for community leaders to "take a stand against conversion therapy," according to the Sentinel.

"I want to make a public declaration: This is not conversion therapy, this is not electrotherapy, this is not shock therapy," Ruiz said, according to the Sentinel. "This is all the Holy Spirit, this is the man that died on the cross. This man never cheated on me, never slept with my best friend. He's the man on the cross."

A community activist based in Orlando, Eric Rollings, challenged this declaration, according to Orlando Weekly, saying: "If this isn't conversion therapy, then what do they call it? If you're trying to get a bunch of people together to say 'don't be gay,' that's really the start of the conversion therapy explanation."

The day before the event, out Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan discussed the time she spent with an "ex-gay" conversion ministry called Eleutheros. In the video interview with Truth Wins Out, as reported by Orlando Weekly, she said:

"Do not as a young person, do what I did," Sheehan said. "It took me years, a lot of substance and alcohol abuse and personal suffering and bad relationships for me to be able to self-accept. A lot of it because what I was told was wrong with me when I was around these religious people.

She went on to encourage people to avoid groups such as Eleutheros.

"To those who are thinking about entering an ex-gay ministry, I would really encourage you to get some counseling outside of the church and really get a handle on where you are at, because I think they will take advantage of you, they will make you dependent and they will not do what's in your best interest."

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