Lisa Ling says she is "incredibly proud" of her report "God and Gays."
"If anyone thinks a person can be changed from gay to straight, they need to watch it," she says.
When she's told that statement is more political than anything in the hour, she replies: "The head of the largest ex-gay organization in the country has said it himself."
That person is Alan Chambers of Orlando-based Exodus International.
"God and Gays" will premiere at 10 p.m. Thursday on OWN. The program is a special episode of "Our America With Lisa Ling." Ling notes that "Our America" is the longest-running show on OWN, and she has started making a fifth batch of shows.
I talked to Ling on Wednesday about the report.
How would you describe your approach to the material?
"We've been covering Exodus for the last three years. It was featured in "Pray the Gay Away," [which aired in 2011]. Alan Chambers had called me to tell me about different things in the organization and with him. The organization has ceased to conduct reparative therapy. Alan says the experience of shooting our show the first time made him think about whether one can be a Christian and gay at the same time. He concluded if someone professes to love God, they will have a place in heaven. He said 99 percent of people cannot change sexual orientation. He called me several months ago and said he wanted to apologize to people. It begs the question, If it [Exodus] doesn't conduct reparative therapy, then what is its purpose?"
What will Exodus be?
"I don't think he knows. But he's going with his heart. I think Alan was sincere in his apology. I think things are happening so quickly and he's going through a transition. Where they leaves the organization has yet to be determined."
Were you surprised this story came your way?
"He says that his experience with us propelled him on this journey. That things have happened so quickly surprised me. With what's happening with the Supreme Court, this is the civil rights issue of our generation. Alan is starting to think about what side he wants to be on."
What about his personal life?
"He is married to a lovely woman, and they have two children. They are his children. He's very devoted to his family. But the change is in his heart and mind. I asked if he's straight. He says he's Alan, he's a father and a great decorator. He's obviously made a choice for himself. If he wants to maintain this family unit that he deeply loves, then more power to him. He acknowledges he's been the poster boy for what Exodus can achieve. He says that may not be possible for other people. He neither acknowledges that he's gay or straight. He says he's Alan. He's not sure what direction Exodus will take."
Will we see another follow-up?
"Alan may have another epiphany a year from now. I don't know. Things are changing in the gay rights movement and with marriage equality. There could be another special. The opportunity to have survivors of the ex-gay program confront the group leader is something we're very proud of showing."
A viewing note: It makes for powerful television.