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Body of Missing Woman Found; Being Gay in America

Aired June 23, 2007 - 22:00   ET


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Nine months pregnant and missing. And now a gruesome discovery. Some unexpected, yet startling developments. After ten days of searching, Jessie Davis' body found. Now her boyfriend, a police officer, facing double murder charges.
Being gay in America. Is it choice? Is it nature? What are the rights? You've heard the debates. We take our questions to the street.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God don't like gay people. I don't like gay people.


SANCHEZ: Not so fast.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you ever see anywhere in scripture where Jesus rejected anybody? Period. From the prostitute called an adulteress to the tax collector.


SANCHEZ: All this from the CNN NEWSROOM.

Oh, what a night. Hello again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez right here in B control. We are following the latest developments in what has been really a startling series of events in this case of a pregnant woman who's now turned up dead.

And tonight, her boyfriend and the father of her unborn child is charged with not one, but two murders. We are hearing from several sources that he even led the FBI to her body. Complicating things further, the couples' two-year-old son is now key to this case. He may have seen what happened to his mother.

We have been covering this story since these latest developments broke about five hours ago. And we do have an awful lot to tell you. Let's begin with the suspect, Bobby Cutts, Jr., a Canton police officer. Behind bars tonight in a northeast Ohio jail. His arraignment on two counts of murder is set for Monday.

This afternoon, police recovered a body believed to be that of Jessie Davis. She was nearly nine months pregnant. Her due date, July 3rd. It is a complicated story. And our Jim Acosta is joining us live now from Canton, Ohio to pick it up from here. Take us through it, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rick, a source close to the search has told CNN that investigators were led to the body that is presumed to be Jessie Davis by the man in custody tonight, Bobby Cutts. Authorities have yet to confirm that. They have yet to confirm just how they were led to this body that they discovered earlier today, saying that they are still keeping the breaking details in this case close to the vest, but saying also that this investigation is still developing.


ACOSTA (voice-over): After ten days of searching for missing 26- year-old pregnant mom Jessie Marie Davis, authorities coming to nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park make a grim discovery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At approximately 3:30 p.m. today, we recovered the body of what who we believe to be is Jessie Marie Davis in Summit County, Ohio.

ACOSTA: Attorney Rick Pitinii spoke on behalf of Davis' grieving family members, who are coming to grips with the conclusion that Jessie and her soon to be baby girl are presumed dead.

RICK PITINII, ATTORNEY: They have gone through an absolute roller coaster of emotions. I've seen them laugh. I've seen them cry. I've seen them be angry, upset, everything you can imagine.

ACOSTA: Also difficult to comprehend is the man now charged with two counts of murder in connection with the case. 30-year-old Bobby Cutts Jr. was the victim's boyfriend and is the father of their two- year-old son, Blake. No stranger to the world of law enforcement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Much has been made of the fact that an officer of the Canton police department has been charged in this investigation. There is no denying that this is resulted in giving our department a black eye in the opinion of the local community, as well as the opinion of the people across the nation.

ACOSTA: Stark County prosecutor John Ferraro says it's too early to say whether he has a death penalty case on his hands, adding that pending charges could be elevated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will vigorously prosecute this case. We will take this to the court of law. And we will prosecute, as I said, vigorously. As it stands right now, he is facing two counts of murder, which is the murder of Jessie Davis and also her unborn child.


ACOSTA: And as you just heard there from the county prosecutor, Cutts is scheduled back in court on Monday when he will be formally charged with two counts of murder. One for Jessie Davis, one for what may be -- and we really haven't focused on this very much, for the killing of a child that may be his own. Rick?

SANCHEZ: Well, he had to have confessed, Jim, to something, right? I mean, if you do the math, if he led police to the body, he had to have said something prior to that.

ACOSTA: Well, Rick, not necessarily. I suppose what you're saying is right. But we could be adding two and two and getting 22 here. I think what you're saying sounds plausible. And lined up 10people in am room, they'd probably all say yes, that sounds reasonable enough.

But I suppose it's also possible from some of these wild stories that we're hearing that if he is, as various reports out there have been suggesting, that he is not confessing to this but is saying, well, some sort of accident happened and I had to go hide the body because of whatever. And that is -- that's all speculation, obviously.

SANCHEZ: Yes, that's...

ACOSTA: But I guess we can't really 100 percent say with all certainty that he has confessed in this case.

SANCHEZ: Jim Acosta, we thank you. You've been hanging in there with that story all day long. Good job. Good day's work.

Reporter Sharon Reed from WIO helped us try and put the pieces of this story together live on our air just hours ago. She shared with us some exclusive information from a source that she had, that apparently nobody else seemed to have, who told her what the suspect had said.


SHARON REED, WIO: Let me just bring you up to date. Around 1:20 this afternoon, our cameras were there. We were the only ones there. Bobby Cutts, Jr. left his home for the first time in days. And we knew something was going on right there.

We captured that video. And we began to see family members who had been there all week in droves just suddenly take off. Everybody was gone. And about 25 minutes after that, remember, that was 1:20, I got a call from a man who was Bobby's close friend, who I know for a fact has been at the home of Cutts for days, inside, communicating with me and with Cutts' mother right now and with the family, told me that Cutts said he found Jessie "laying there," that she began pulling on his clothes, that her eyes rolled back in her head, and that she just died. He panicked, so he called another friend. A woman he went to school with, I think he said high school, that he used to date a bit to help him move the body.


SANCHEZ: Helped him move the body. Let's bring our own expert, CNN law enforcement analyst now. Mike Brooks is joining us.

If someone helped him move the body, what is that person liable for in this case? Are they now possibly looking at charges?


MIKE BROOKS, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Absolutely. That person could be an accessory either during the case or during the murder or after the fact, Rick.

And but what will determine - you know, we talked about this earlier. People just don't die. There are -- there are pictures of she and Blake earlier that evening at a store. And you know, we've seen those pictures over the last week. And she seemed to be in good health. No one said she was having any problems. No -- she was going through prenatal care.

And Rick, it's going to come down to the autopsy on what the medical examiner decides is going to be the cause and manner of death.

SANCHEZ: But do you believe -- do you believe he's already copped to something? Look, if he's the only one who can take police to the body, then obviously he had to tell them something about what happened to that body. Am I crazy?

BROOKS: No, no, you're not crazy at all, Rick. And I think the pressure finally got to him, to be honest. They had - as we know, he gave a consent to search his house, his truck, and another car in his garage, but then the FBI and Stark County sheriffs, they went back with a search warrant. And you just don't give you a search warrant, Rick. As you know over all these years of covering law enforcement cases, there had to be some probable cause for them to get that search warrant. So I think...

SANCHEZ: So you believe that at some point today he copped to something? For some reason he established a communication with law enforcement where he was now the one sharing information, as opposed to keeping it so close to the vest as he was in the past?

BROOKS: Absolutely. And we heard from another -- Denise, another WOIO CNN affiliate reporter say that she was there. And she saw him leave. And then his whole family left.

SANCHEZ: Yes, with stuff.

BROOKS: And they had been there at his house the whole day.


BROOKS: That's very unusual.

SANCHEZ: And they left the house before police showed up. And they took some stuff out of the house. I don't know, but that looks very - that seems curious to me that they'd be able to do that.

BROOKS: Very, very curious, Rick. And you know, he had not left the house. And you know, you draw parallels. And we've been drawing these parallels all day. All last week, the Laci Peterson case, it's very -- it's just unbelievable to me, the parallels that were drawn between these two cases.

SANCHEZ: Eerily similar. Mike Brooks, always a pleasure talking to you. Thank you so much.

BROOKS: Thank you, Rick.

SANCHEZ: Coming up, the man police arrested claimed his innocence earlier in this week. When we come back, you're going to hear what Bobby Cutts, Jr. said about the mother of his unborn child.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the person's choice, you know. They choose to be gay. That's what they choose to be.


SANCHEZ: Are they gay, though, by choice? Are they born that way? Tonight, we uncover America, the lives of gays and lesbians in our country and ask a special panel is it nature or nurture?


SANCHEZ: We welcome you back here to B control. Let me try and get you caught up if you're just now joining us. A body, believed to be that of Jessie Davis, was found today in Ohio. She's the pregnant woman who's been missing 10 days now, in jail tonight charged with killing her and her unborn child. She was nine months pregnant. Canton police officer Bobby Cutts, Jr.

Cutts is described as Davis' boyfriend. Also the father of her two-year-old and apparently the father of her unborn child. He is also married to another woman at the same time. Earlier this week, Cutts spoke with Canton Ohio newspaper reporter Todd Porter. This is at the beginning of the week before any of these revelations came out. Listen to his words and his responses. Here it is.


TODD PORTER, REPORTER: Bobby, did you have anything at all to do with the disappearance of Jesse?

BOBBY CUTTS, JR.: No, I didn't.

PORTER: Have authorities given you any indication if you're a suspect?

CUTTS: I mean, they continue to say that I'm not a suspect, but I mean, I'd be dumb and naive to think that they weren't treating me as a suspect...a lot of different things I've had to go through the past couple of days.

PORTER: Have any authorities told you that you've been cleared in this investigation?

CUTTS: No, they have not told me that I have been cleared, but as like I said on the media, I mean they've said to the media that me nor my wife are suspects. But, I don't feel that we've actually been treated as that was 100% true.


SANCHEZ: And always remember that he was a police officer.

Now the family in this case, not his family but the Davis family, has asked that they be given some time to grieve in private tonight. They did not attend the news conference. They have not issued a statement about Cutts' arrest. But yesterday Davis' mother, that's Patricia Porter, admitted in her eyes, Cutts was a suspect. That's how she sees it. And that's how she told it to Nancy Grace.


NANCY GRACE, HOST: Miss Porter, I noticed this morning when you were speaking, you stated that you believed Bobby Cutts is a suspect. Why do you say that?

PATTI PORTER, MOTHER OF JESSE DAVIS: Well, I really wanted to clarify things that were being said that I had -- that I was supporting him.


PORTER: And I was definitely not supporting him. I just -- because, you know, he's my grandson's father, that I pray he's not. But I see the same evidence, the same things that everyone else is seeing.


SANCHEZ: We are all over the developments out of Ohio tonight. One of our affiliate reporters is going to join us in just a little bit to give us his analysis of this thus far.

Also, this...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not sending my teenager around somebody who likes the same sex.

SANCHEZ: You're not saying that they're going to be a pedophile. You're just saying you're playing it honest?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just saying I'm playing it honest.


SANCHEZ: Open and honest. We are uncovering America by examining the lies and the lies surrounding the gay/lesbian community. Keep it here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: We welcome you back. Police do believe that they have found the body of 26-year-old Jessie Davis, nine months pregnant. And they're charging her boyfriend, Bobby Cutts, who's also a police officer, by the way.

He's also the father of the child that she was carrying, according to police, and possibly the father of her two-year-old that she also had, who somehow comes into this story, interestingly enough.

Let's go to reporter Eric Mansfield of WKYC. He's joining us now with more information.

Eric, I understand that you have a source in the police department who's shared some information with you. What have you got?

ERIC MANSFIELD, WKYC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've had sources that have been talking to us over the last few days, telling us that they felt the evidence was leading them closer and closer to close that circle on Bobby Cutts. I don't know if they could anticipated his confession today that ultimately led to them finding the body of Jessie Marie Davis and her unborn child, but the sources told us that it was closing in. And of course, it all broke this afternoon. We learned about 3:15 that he had come in. He had confessed. They had found the body by 6:00. They made it known to everyone.

SANCHEZ: You're using the word 'confession.' We were trying to stay away from that. But please, let us know how you're able to substantiate that.

MANSFIELD: Well, I've spoken to several officers in Bobby's own department, in the Canton police department. And I am told that he was with other Canton police officers when he made his statement official.

Those officers were very struck by what they heard come out of his mouth. I spoke with his partner that spent Thursday and Friday with him right after Jesse Marie's last call. They were very taken because of his very calm demeanor during those days. But today, it all came to fruition. He had been in his house, unable to leave the last few days because of everyone outside. He broke down shortly after lunchtime. And that started that chain of events.

SANCHEZ: Started the chain of events where he spoke to some of the folks in his circles, his friends. Then he called the police officers. And then eventually led them to the body. Is that true?

MANSFIELD: Well, I haven't been able to confirm that he was with them in the vehicle. Summit County is just north of here about 30 miles. But he certainly led them to - or rather sent them to where they were headed. This is in the Cuyahoga Falls map area, roughly 30 miles north of here in the metro parks. Certainly an area where people walk through every day. And certainly someone could have come across this had he not made the statement that led them to the body.

SANCHEZ: What effect has this had on the police department? And what effect has it had on the people there? I know it's a little early to tell since the charges are there, but I know there's been whispers about this all week long. Bring us -- help us understand how this has played out there?

MANSFIELD: Well, for a police department, Canton is roughly 180 officers. So it's a big enough that it's a big department, but small enough that everybody knows everybody. And everybody knows Bobby.

I think they all follow the police chief's lead, Dean Kim throughout the last 10 days, which was to keep a professional distance and keep your opinions to yourself, but be ready to help. They were very, very shocked today. I think a lot of them are chewing up the cell phone lines to each other. They can't believe it tonight.

As for the community, very, very much in shock. I think more so that they've lost this woman and her child that they've been looking so hard for. They're just so heartbroken over that. The fact that she may have been killed by a police officer, I think, is just making them numb to the entire experience.

SANCHEZ: Eric Mansfield with WKYC, we thank you for sharing your perspective. Good report. Job well done.

MANSFIELD: Good to be here.

SANCHEZ: Coming up, we're going to take you in depth at a look at gays and lesbians in America.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's just something that people are born with. It's not anything that they choose, or a direction they decide that they're going to go. It's just something that happens.


SANCHEZ: What if it happened to your son or daughter? And other questions. We'll have some of those.

Also, a minister who spoke against homosexuality for years. Today, he's preaching from a little bit of a different pulpit. It's all next when we uncover America next in the NEWSROOM.


SANCHEZ: We welcome you back to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rick Sanchez. It's often called in this country part of the gay debate. You've seen in it politics. You've seen it in many other circles as well. We're asking some of the controversial questions. Is being gay immoral as many in the church have labeled it? Does being gay happen by choice or does it happen by nature? And should gays have all the same rights as the heterosexuals enjoy?

First, here's literally a picture of the rights that gay couples have in America right now. In the U.S., Massachusetts, which you can see on this map in green in just a little bit here, there you go, is the only state that allows same-sex couples to marry. Four states, which you see there in orange, allow civil unions between gay partners. They are New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire.

Oregon's domestic partnership law kicks in next year. And in blue, you see four more states give limited rights to gay couples, including the right to inheritance, hospital visitation, guardianship, and the right to sue for wrongful death. Those states are California, Oregon, Washington, Maine, and the District of Columbia.

We've invited two guests, who find themselves on opposite sides when it comes to the gay debate. They are Peter Sprigg. He is the vice president of the policy at Family Research Council. Perhaps the most outspoken group. They believe that gay behavior is destructive. And then there's Reverend Dr. Miguel de la Torre. He works for the Human Rights Campaign, a main group defending gay rights.

We're going to come to them to share their opinions throughout this newscast. So hang on there, fellas.

First, though, here's a very personnel story of two men attracted to other men all their lives. They tried to change course and live as straight men or heterosexual. You'll see that their efforts led them in very different directions. And that begs this question, are you born gay or are you born straight? Is it a choice? Or is it something else? Afterwards, we're going to debate the nature versus nurture issue with our guests. First, though, here's Gary Tuchman to tee it up.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Men, women, looking for a way to exercise homosexuality here at a gathering in Phoenix called Love One Out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There will be people there that are just, you know, searching for more information.

TUCHMAN: Christian ministries offer referrals to various treatment programs.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have a good day now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will. I am. Thank you.

TUCHMAN: With more than 120 local branches in North America, Exodus International calls itself the world's largest ex-gay referral service. Exodus president Allen Chambers says his own journey from homosexuality to heterosexuality followed a long and difficult path. How did you do it?

ALLEN CHAMBERS: Well, it's not like a light switch. I didn't flip it on and flip it off. It was years of work.

TUCHMAN: Not everyone is at the same result.

Shawn, when did you realize you were gay? SHAWN O'DONNELL: At the age of 6, I realized I was different from other boys. And it wasn't until later on that I associated the word gay with that. I was 10.

TUCHMAN: Growing up gay in Elgin, Illinois wasn't easy for Sean O'Donnell. His Catholic parents were loving, but the kids at school were merciless.

O'DONNELL: I had a very low self-esteem. Hated myself.

TUCHMAN: It got worse when at age 10, Shawn was born again and joined an evangelical church. How important was religion in your life at that time?

O'DONNELL: Extremely important. It was at the top of my list. I mean, I went to church four or five times a week. I mean, I was always at church. I was so involved. In mission trips, bible studies, prayer groups.

TUCHMAN: And if you're gay, you believe you're going to hell?


TUCHMAN: It was too much for the boy. He started cutting himself. He attempted suicide. And finally at 18, he came out to his pastor.

Did you feel like he was angry at you?

O'DONNELL: No, no. He was very compassionate with the understanding that I needed help.

TUCHMAN: Shawn's pastor referred him to therapy at a local ex- gay organization.

O'DONNELL: I had to deal with my father issues. And I had to deal with my mother issues. And I had to deal with -- you know, I as never molested, so that wasn't an issue, but that also was an issue that they brought up. If I was, that could've pushed me to be gay.

TUCHMAN: At times, Shawn says he felt like he was making the transition from homosexuality to heterosexuality.

O'DONNELL: I thought I'd go a couple of days without being attracted to other men, but then you know, I'd have a sexual slip-up. So then I thought, you know, I'm failing again.

TUCHMAN: Five years into therapy, Shawn hit another low point and again tried to kill himself. Desperate, he moved to California and joined a live-in program for gay men trying to become straight.

O'DONNELL: Very controlling environment. We went to work. We -- after we got home, we had dinner together. We didn't go places alone other than to work and back. We were always in groups of two or three. Sundays we went to church together. And we had curfews.

TUCHMAN: Shawn says he was totally committed to the program.

O'DONNELL: God, if anybody tried to do this, I tried. I did pray so many hours and sweat so many tears. And you know, the picture I get is Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane when he sweat blood. You know, if I could have sweat blood, I would have.

My first year into it, I just - I felt great. I felt - I graduated through the first year because we had like a graduation ceremony. And I thought oh, you know, I'm going to make it. You know? This is all what I've needed. You know, and then I had a slip with one of the guys in the house.

TUCHMAN: The next day, Shawn drove into San Francisco and had a one-night stand with a man.

O'DONNELL: You know what? That was it. You know, I was done. I had given it the good old college try. And I decided that I was going to come out again.

TUCHMAN: This is what the established psychological community says about homosexuality.

CLINTON ANDERSON, DR., AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSN.: There is no conclusive research that explains why people become gay or why they become straight for that matter.

TUCHMAN: Dr. Clinton Anderson handles gay and lesbian issues for the American Psychological Association. The APA categorically rejects theories about the causes and cures for homosexuality.

ANDERSON: Homosexuality is not a mental disorder and does not in any sense need to be treated or need to be cured.

TUCHMAN: But many of the people struggling with their sexuality here in Phoenix don't see it that way.

This is kind of blunt, but I'm curious. Do you like girls now?

CHAMBERS: I love my wife. I'm attracted to my wife. We've been married for nine years.

TUCHMAN: Are any feelings towards men still within you? Do you feel you could come out again in some way?

CHAMBERS: Again, I don't think that I will be as though I never was. You know, certainly I'm human. I could be tempted by a homosexual thought. I could find myself...

TUCHMAN: That doesn't go away?

CHAMBERS: It hasn't gone away 100 percent with me.

TUCHMAN: Still, Chambers and other self described ex-gays like Mike Hailey, say they'd never go back.

CHAMBERS: The thought of forfeiting my wife and my children, I wouldn't have the blessings that I have in my life now.

TUCHMAN: But Shawn O'Donnell doesn't buy any of it.

You talk to people who tell us they're heterosexual. They love their wife. They find their wife sexually attractive. And they have been cured.


TUCHMAN: You don't believe that?

O'DONNELL: No, not one bit. Not one bit.

TUCHMAN: Do you think programs like Exodus can work for some people?.


TUCHMAN: Shawn is back in Elgin, Illinois now, working as a high school science teacher. He has been living as an openly gay man for six years.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Elgin, Illinois.


SANCHEZ: Peter, Miguel, are you there?


SANCHEZ: What do you think? Peter, let me begin with you. Can you deprogram someone who's gay?

PETER SPRIGG, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, I don't think deprogramming is the right word. But certainly there are thousands of people who have testified to -- to the effectiveness of what sometimes called reorientation therapy. Many people have overcome unwanted same-sex attractions.

Now that's not to say it's easy as Allen Chambers indicated. There's no magic bullet. There's no pill you can take that will change you overnight. But...

SANCHEZ: Miguel, Miguel, let me bring Miguel into this.


SANCHEZ: Should you do that? I mean, should people consider it? Is there anything wrong with that?

DE LA TORRE: No, I think people should not consider it. I as a heterosexual man can no way become homosexual, in the same way someone who is born homosexual can in no way become heterosexual.

SANCHEZ: All right, you - hold on, hold on, hold on. You just said born homosexual. DE LA TORRE: Oh, absolutely.

SANCHEZ: Well, hold on. Let's try Peter and then we'll come back to you because I have a feeling you're going to have to defend that position. Peter, have at it.

SPRIGG: Well, even the spokesman you heard from the American Psychological Association, who doesn't consider homosexuality to be wrong, said that the causes cannot be determined or have not been determined. I think...

SANCHEZ: So you're saying in short you're not born that way?

SPRIGG: I don't believe that anyone is born homosexual.

SANCHEZ: Miguel? Let's give Miguel a shot.

DE LA TORRE: Rick, let's use some common sense. If you are a heterosexual, if you were born a heterosexual -- I'm sorry. If you were not born a heterosexual, if this is something you choose, when did you choose to be heterosexual? Most people will say, well, I always was. In the same way, why are we changing the rules of homosexuals?

SANCHEZ: Would you say -- well, Peter, what would you say to him?

SPRIGG: Well, that's...

SANCHEZ: Would you say it's something deviant happens? Is that what you would argue?

SPRIGG: Well, the -- his presumption is that heterosexuality and homosexuality are somehow equal and opposite. I think heterosexuality, everyone is born heterosexual. If you're born with normal sex organs and normal chromosomes, you're born heterosexual.

SANCHEZ: Well, hold on. Well, then, what makes you -- he asks a good question. What makes you homosexual?

SPRIGG: Well, I think the -- the best evidence suggests that developmental factors are -- have a stronger influence. That's not to say there may not be some slight biological factors or slight genetic factors, but the idea of a gay gene has been just not panned out in any of the research.

SANCHEZ: Well, there was a 1993 study, although they weren't able to duplicate it.

SPRIGG: Right.

SANCHEZ: We understand. Gentleman, I'm going to have to hold you right here. We're coming back to you. And Miguel, you're going to get a little more chance to respond this time. I'm sorry the way the conversation ended up that time. I swear.

Coming up, our next question. Is being gay immoral?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything that I had -- that I felt was secure became profoundly insecure.


SANCHEZ: He's a preacher who was known for chastising homosexuals. He now welcomes them to his church. Why the change of heart? And what effect it had on his life and his congregants. It's an amazing story. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: And we welcome you back. I'm Rick Sanchez. We're taking a look tonight at gays in America, and what some call the gay debate.

June is Gay and Lesbian pride month. And we're asking some controversial questions on this night to get it out in the open. Is being gay immoral as many in the church have labeled it? Does being gay happen by choice? Does it happen by nature, nurture? And should gays have all the same rights given to all other people in this country?

We want to introduce now to somebody. He's an evangelical bishop who felt that for most of his life, gays were sinners. That's what he believed. He doesn't seem to think that anymore. Why the change of heart? And what effect did it have on him and those around him? I bring you now Bishop Carlon Pearson's story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know when you're a true shepherd because the holy, righteous indignation rises up inside of you.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): He was one of the hottest tickets on the Christian evangelical circuit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you to welcome Bishop Carlton Pearson back to life today. Would you welcome him right now.

SANCHEZ: This Tulsa, Oklahoma bishop spent 30 years saving souls. His tears, his dancing, his singing got Christians excited about serving God. He ministered in high political circles, praying with both President Bush and Bush senior. Jim Bakker counted him as friend before and after his downfall. Just like most other evangelists, Carlton Pearson's concept of sin included homosexuality.

CARLTON PEARSON, BISHOP, NEW DIMENSIONS CHURCH: The people who were gay were disfigured and dysfunctional and confused. And I mean, those are the only explanations we had. And that God would not be pleased with that. It's not natural. This is of the devil. It's - you know, we need to rebuke this thing and bind it. And I had all of my gay friends fasting and praying and seeking God. We were anointing them with oil and in encouraging them to go further into counseling.

SANCHEZ: That was then. This is what he preaches now.

PEARSON: Do you ever see anywhere in scripture where Jesus rejected anybody? Period. From the prostitute caught in adultery to the tax collector.

SANCHEZ: After his change of heart, the bishop is accepting sinners for who they are and allowing gays to just be.

PEARSON: Why do you have a judge a person based on a label or a title with which you attach to them. Are you all hearing me? We just love God. We just love people. And we are the most radically inclusive worship experience in the city of Tulsa.

SANCHEZ: His revelation has nearly ruined him. Christian magazines and leaders have labeled him a heretic. His new preaching cost him everything. Most of his 5,000-member megachurch abandoned him. He can no longer afford the church property. Lost his place to minister. And his speaking engagements, which made up three-quarters of his income, went dry.

PEARSON: Everything that I had -- that I felt was secure became profoundly insecure. My whole life's work went up in smoke.

SANCHEZ: So what led the bishop, who had it all, to take what evangelists call a detour, a way from God? For one, his best friend told him he was gay.

PEARSON: I couldn't see sending him to hell. He was spiritual. He loved the Lord. He loved gospel music. He was a physician. I'd seen him go through med school. And he was part of our family.

SANCHEZ: Then it was seeing how most people in Tulsa weren't leading righteous lives despite being a Bible Belt city.

PEARSON: We have one of the highest - second highest divorce rates, second only to Savannah. We have one of the highest out of wedlock teen pregnancies. And I kept thinking all this hyper conservative fundamentalist religion is probably not working.

SANCHEZ: Then he wrestled with the scripture issue. The bible does say thou shalt not lay with mankind as with womankind. It is abomination. However...

PEARSON: It also says slaves, obey your masters. That's new testament. It says if you -- Jesus says you must hate your mother and father if you want to take that - or in brother and sister if you're going to follow me. If you want to take that literally, I mean, I've got to hate my parents to follow Jesus.

SANCHEZ: Pearson decided God was not going to send all sinners to hell. They were already saved by God's grace.

PEARSON: The scripture says that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting men's sins against them. So if God doesn't count men's sins against them, why are we Christians or religious people so comfortable doing that?

SANCHEZ: Today this Episcopal church is all that's left of his Tulsa ministry. He leases space for his service with dozens of other churches that don't have a home of their own. But he's gaining a lot of fans by preaching what he calls the gospel of inclusion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is courageously suffering and lost so much and rejected by so many for people like us. Now that's our hero.

SANCHEZ: In May, Bishop Pearson was one of dozens of religious leaders who went to Washington to support adding gays to hate crime legislation.

PEARSON: I think we have idolized the bible and used it, and I call them bible bullets, to denounce anything that we don't like or understand or anything we hear. And I would like for that to be corrected in the Christian consciousness.


SANCHEZ: WWJD, what would Jesus do if he was walking amongst us today about this question?

Well, we don't have Jesus, but we have Spriggs and de la Torre. And they're going to take it up for us as best as they can. It's an interesting debate. A question of sin, a question of immorality. We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: I'm Rick Sanchez back here in the CNN NEWSROOM. The question that religious scholars often tussle with is the question of sin. What is a sin? Well, is being gay or acting in a gay fashion a sin? Is it immoral? Here's Peter Sprigg. He's with the Family Research Council. Also Reverend Miguel de la Torre. He consults with the Human Rights Campaign. Want to make sure we get that right. You know what's interesting about Miguel de la Torre? He's also -- you're a minister, right?

DE LA TORRE: I'm a southern Baptist minister, ordained.

SANCHEZ: You know, that's interesting because this is the question. Do you believe that the bible specifies that being gay is a sin?

DE LA TORRE: Well, at one time in my life I would have agreed with Peter, your other guest. And I would have said that homosexuality was a sin condemned by God until like the bishop in the previous segment, one of my - a friend of mine came to me and confessed that they were gay. And he wanted to become heterosexual.

And we prayed together. We cast out the demon of homosexuality. Years went by. And you know what? He was still gay, which means one of two things. Either God is unable to cure a person, or we are reading the scriptures through the eyes of heterosexism and therefore imposing upon a group of people oppressive structures. SANCHEZ: Peter, is that a good argument?

SPRIGG: I don't believe so. The bible is clear. There's not just one or two verses. There's at least 10 passages of scripture in both the old testament and new testament that deal with homosexuality.

SANCHEZ: So you believe that someone who is gay is a sinner and is going straight to hell?

SPRIGG: Well, you know, you keep talking about someone who is gay. Let me talk about a foundational concept, which is when we're talking about sexual orientation or homosexuality, we're really talking about three separate things. We're talking about a person's attractions, their desires, which are an internal psychological phenomenon. We're talking about their actual behavior, what sexual acts do they choose to engage in. And third, we're talking about their sexual self-identification.

SANCHEZ: Well, let me just narrow is down for you. Someone who has sex with someone of their same sex. Someone who has a physical relationship with someone of their same sex, is that person sinning? Is that person going to hell?

SPRIGG: That is a -- that is a sinful act. It is not an unforgivable sin. Certainly as Bishop Pearson mentioned, Christ was -- reached out in love to people like that. But he mentioned the woman caught in adultery.


SPRIGG: And that's the story of the woman who Jesus prevented the crowd from stoning to death, the woman who was caught in adultery. But what did Jesus say afterwards? He said to that woman...

DE LA TORRE: Rick...

SPRIGG: ...go and sin no more.

SANCHEZ: Miguel, you have 10 seconds.

SPRIGG: He did not say go for you have not sinned.

SANCHEZ: Miguel, ten seconds to finish it out. Go.

DE LA TORRE: Yes, real fast. You have two ministers on this program who believe in the bible, who are evangelical, who obviously are coming down on two different sides. This is a great issue for the church to debate and struggle with.

SANCHEZ: And that's why -- and that's almost a kudos to our bookers for getting you here...


SANCHEZ: But we are out of time, gentlemen. Thanks for being with us. We'll do it again. Promise. Coming up, a preview of tomorrow's "Uncovering America." No more than meets the eye with these guys and gals. Their story in just a few minutes.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez. Imagine looking in the mirror and feeling like the person staring back at you isn't really you. It's someone else. Several people told us this is exactly how they felt before they learned that they were transgenders. We asked them to explain just what that means.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So a lot of people confuse being transgender with sexual orientation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Always think of it like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Transgender in general just means...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To know that you are a woman, but - or to know that you're a man.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gender is between the ears. Sexuality is between the legs.


SANCHEZ: Our "Uncovering America" special continues with "Living from the Inside Out: A Look at being Transgender in America." That's tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Still to come tonight, rebuilding in Rwanda. One man's fight for guerillas is also a battle for his country's future. This is a CNN Heroes report. And it's coming up.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez. All year long, CNN shines the spotlight on ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Tonight, we introduce you to man from Rwanda in Africa. This is our CNN hero.


EUGENE RUTAGARAMA: When you approach a group of gorillas, the first thing that you are approaching -- the human being. In this region, we have been able to bring conservationists from the three governments together to sign an agreement to protect these mountain gorillas.

Having rangers to cover the park with their patrols means that we keep the poaching at the lowest level, but the poaching is still there. My name is Eugene Rutagarama. My work is to protect mountain gorillas in their habitat. When I come back from Burundi, Rwanda was devastated by the genocide. You would see the bodies of dead people, thousands of people.

The whole country had to resume from scratch. My attention to the national park. If these parks were not protected, it means that we'd have lost the mountain gorillas, which is a hobby for many tourists. It brings foreign currency for this country, which has to conserve this park.

Gorillas can't really do much if a human being has decided to decimate or kill the gorillas. They needed to be defended. They need to be protected by human beings.


SANCHEZ: If you would like to help Eugene's Rutagarama's project, staff didn't think I could pronounce his last name, by the way, you'll find all the information you need at I didn't think I could pronounce his last name.

You can also nominate somebody that you think qualifies as a CNN hero. And we'll be happy to help out in any way that we possibly can.

I'm Rick Sanchez. Boy, had a lot of news tonight. Came out of nowhere, it seemed. Thanks so much for being with us. We'll look for you again here tomorrow at 10:00 p.m. Good night.


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