Sunday, November 26, 2000

Camp cancels HIV/AIDS retreat

Coalition chief: 'Homosexual agenda' cited

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        AMELIA — A Christian camp abruptly canceled a weekend retreat for a group of people living with HIV and AIDS.

        The Ohio AIDS Coalition had signed a contract with the Woodland Lakes Christian Camp and Retreat Center, off Lindale-Mount Holly Road in Amelia. The group paid a $200 deposit months ago, reserving the camp for a weekend in January.

        Nearly 50 of the 75 HIV and AIDS patients expected to attend the retreat were expected to come from the Greater Cincinnati area.

        But last month, after accepting both the contract and down payment, officials from the Woodland camp suddenly canceled the coalition's reservations and returned its deposit. Coalition officials claim the Woodland officials cited their opposition to homosexuality.

        “They said they don't support the homosexual agenda,” Kim Jackson, executive director of the Columbus-based Ohio AIDS Coalition, said Saturday. “It was like being sucker-punched. I was caught off guard. I was really upset for the people we service.”

        Woodland Camp Director Ralph Wilmhoff declined to comment directly on the coalition's accusations.

        When told of Ms. Jackson's version of his explanation for the cancellation, Mr. Wilmhoff said, “I really don't have anything to say about it.”

        He did say the 96-acre camp is affiliated nationally with Christian Churches and the Church of Christ, which he described as independent Christian churches.

        Part of Woodland's mission statement on the camp's Web site states the center's goal is “to evangelize the lost, edify the saved and minister to those in need.”

        Ms. Jackson said the coalition plans to contact the American Civil Liberties Union regarding possible legal action.

        Scott Greenwood, general counsel for the ACLU of Ohio, said the camp's action is “outrageous.”

        “It's ignorant to equate AIDS with homosexuality,” said Mr. Greenwood, adding that heterosexuals also can contract HIV, which often leads to AIDS.

        “Secondly, if the group already had a proper contract with the camp, that should be the end of it,” he said.

        Ms. Jackson said the coalition has rescheduled the coalition's weekend retreat for March at Camp Joy in Warren County.

       The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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