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Ex-Ghostwriter to Televangelists Leaves Jail

March 10, 1995|BETTINA BOXALL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mel White, a former ghostwriter for televangelist Pat Robertson and now an openly gay minister, ended a three-week fast in a Virginia jail cell late Wednesday after his former boss met briefly with him.

"It's so good to be free," rejoiced White, who was released from the Virginia Beach jail after Robertson dropped trespassing charges filed when White refused to leave the headquarters of the televangelist's Christian Broadcasting Network on Feb. 15.

Placed in a solitary unit for his protection, White had subsisted on a single glass of skim milk and Tang a day, vowing to fast until Robertson met with him and condemned violence against gay men and lesbians. White's supporters gathered daily a few miles away, outside CBN, delivering flowers and messages to Robertson.

Wednesday morning White decided to forsake the milk and juice, drinking water only. But that same night the door to his small cell was unlocked and he was led to a meeting room, where Robertson and another CBN official spoke briefly to him, gave him a letter and told him they were dropping the charges.

Fifteen pounds lighter than when he entered the jail, White was nibbling flan and turkey slices Thursday. He described the meeting with Robertson as cordial. But in a telephone interview, he said he remained frustrated with Robertson's response and would return to CBN if Robertson did not make stronger statements repudiating anti-gay violence.

"His reactions haven't satisfied me at all," said White, who contends that Robertson's anti-gay statements on his "700 Club" broadcasts promote discrimination and violence against gay men and lesbians.

In his letter, released by CBN, Robertson says he met with White in response to entreaties by White's parents--both longtime CBN members and donors who live in Northern California.

"I have never preached hate on the "700 Club" or elsewhere against (homosexuals) as you allege," wrote Robertson, who accused White of trying to create a "media circus" by fasting and refusing to post bail. ". . . I have never, nor will I, counsel others to commit acts of violence against you or any other homosexual."

In a Feb. 25 letter to Robertson, Carl White, Mel's 82-year-old father, said he could not understand why Robertson would not see his son. "It seems that you are either afraid of him . . . or your pride and arrogance refuses to let you be Christian. . . .," he stated. "I do not condone his lifestyle. I do not understand it, but he is my son. . . . My family is dishonored by your actions."

Mel White lived for years in Pasadena with his wife and two children. He had his own church, taught theology and built up a career as a ghostwriter for Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham and Robertson--work he continued even after his marriage ended due to his homosexuality.

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Two years ago he publicly revealed that he is gay and moved to Texas to become dean of the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, the largest gay church in the world. Now he is doing political organizing for the cathedral's denomination, the Metropolitan Community Church.

Along with the Los Angeles-based MCC, All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena--to which Mel White once belonged--helped generate a flood of calls and letters of support over the past few weeks.

Mel White's backers in Virginia Beach said that they received more than 12,000 letters from around the nation. More than 1,000 were delivered to the jail, where he stacked them under his metal bunk.

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