Freedom Watch, Volume 3, Number 4 July/August 1994
In May, Colorado-for Family Values (CFV) sponsored a closed-door, invitation-only conference for nearly 40 national organizations committed to "roll[ing] back the militant gay agenda." If audio- taped portions of the proceedings are any indication, once the cameras are gone, anti-gay forces emphasize very different themes than those touted in public.
A May 19 Washington Times article described CFV's recent conference in Colorado Springs as two days of top-secret meetings." Conference tapes and internal documents obtained by Citizens Project spell out why participants wanted to meet unobserved. The conference, held May 16th through the 18th at the Navigators' Glen Eyre Conference Center, resulted in an eight-page blueprint for future action. This blueprint, according to post-conference summary materials, outlines a national plan for collecting and sharing data on gay-supportive office holders and activists, waging mass media blitzes, and adopting tactics from the now publicized Project Spotlight (see sidebar at end).
Speakers emphasized the importance of the next few years--- a period characterized by one participant as part of a full-blown revolution against domestic enemies."
Letting their guard down
The list of participants and presenters included some of the most prominent organizations and individuals ever to rally around the anti-gay flagpole. With organizational superstars like Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, Christian Coalition, Family Research Council, Traditional Values Coalition, Eagle Forum and the American Family Association, it`s no surprise that CFV conducted the meeting in near-perfect secrecy.
According to CFV Executive Director Kevin Tebedo, the total media blackout (with the exception of the Washington Times, a paper described as having been a good to this issue and was designed to encourage participants to speak "freely and openly" about their mutual objectives. Nationally recognized speakers did just that, waxing candidly about the successes and failures of the past few years.
Anti-gay heavyweights included Paul Cameron, a "researcher" whose vicious work about gays and lesbians prompted his expulsion from the American Psychological Association; Peter LaBarbera, creator of the now notorious "Gay Agenda" video; Ron Ray, a lawyer, reserve Colonel in the Marines and a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense who authored Military Necessity and Homosexuality, Judith Reisman, author of Kinsey Sex and Fraud and Focus on the Family's John Eldredge, Director of Seminars and Research and architect of FOF's Community Impact Seminars. These and other speakers covered a broad range of issues, painting a disturbing picture of the years to come.
Extreme objectives, mainstream message.
As some of the more frank commentary from the conference demonstrated, ideals held by the mainstream are often at odds with anti-gay legislation. It was necessary, therefore, to repackage their message in terms more acceptable to the broader public. Citing figures which show a strong majority of the public supporting the values of individualism and autonomy, Focus On the Family's John Eldredge explained, "This is still a country that embraces the pioneering spirit radical individual autonomy is an American value."
While acknowledging individualism as a "traditional" value, Eldredge quickly explained that commitment to such a value has "tilted the field, if you will, in favor of the militant gay agenda."
Winning on this field means carefully controlling one's image. "To the extent we can control our public image, we must never appear to be bigoted or mean-spirited. And you noticed the qualification--- to the extent we can control our public image. We must never APPEAR to be attempting to rob anyone of their rights, of their constitutional rights," explained Eldredge.
Having underscored the importance of appearances, Eldredge later offered his unabridged view, remarking, "I think the gay agenda, and I would not say this as frankly as I will now in other cultural contexts, I think the gay agenda has all the elements of that which is truly evil. It is deceptive at every turn...it is destroying the souls and the lives of those who embrace it, and it has a corrosive effect on the society which endorses it, either explicitly or even implicitly."
Manipulating the data
Part of repackaging this "evil" view of homosexuality as a political message means selective use of data. In a moment of striking candor, leading anti-gay researcher Paul Cameron pointedly denied the widely-circulated claim that gays are disproportionately wealthy, a claim used by the far right to characterize gays as unusually powerful. Explains Cameron, "Most people who engage in homosexuality are of the lower strata. These are people who are waiters and busboys and bums and hobos and jailbirds and so forth." Trying to explain the apparent contradiction, Cameron argued that the figures showing gays earning large incomes referred to an elite few.
Ironically, Cameron's observation about gay income levels came less than an hour after gay-"researcher" Judith Reisman maintained that the number of gays reading The Advocate constituted "somewhere between 30 to 50 percent of the homosexual population". Reisman's research used personal ads from the magazine to argue an alleged link between homosexuality and child molestation. Her need for a larger, representative sample-in this case appeared to be at odds with Cameron's interest in a much smaller sample.
Although inconsistencies like these surfaced around general claims about gay culture, when it came to the engine driving this movement, discord vanished. Seemingly unquestioned was the assumption that an effective assault against the "militant homosexual agenda" required the engagement of religious institutions and closer adherence to a narrowly defined set of moral principles reality especially observable in discussions about dissenting Christians.
Attacking fellow Christians
Interestingly, gays and lesbians were not alone in being criticized. Unsupportive Christians were characterized as "extraordinarily damaging to our movement" by John Eldredge, who described the evangelical church as "a house divided."
Conference materials included correspondence from the Institute in Basic Life Principles, an Illinois-based ministry which filed a legal brief supporting Amendment 2 during the injunction hearing. The letter, signed by Kent Sehmidt from the ministry's legal department, criticized prominent evangelical author Tony Campolo for adopting "the innocent sounding axiom 'love the sinner-hate the sin,"' which Sehimdt described as "heresy." Further evidence of alleged "injury to the cause" was Campolo's call for the church to be a "support community" for Christians who are non-practicing homosexuals. Compolo's comments prompted Schmidt's request that this issue be addressed at the conference.
Additional criticism was directed at the clergy. National Legal Foundation counsel Robert Skolrood minced no words, saying, "Our pastors don't know anything and most of them are wimps." Skolrood went on to explain, "There's compassion on one hand and there's truth on the other and I think this is where pastors have a lot of problems."
Energizing and excluding
From the beginning, gay rights proponents have claimed that anti-gay measures like Amendment 2 are driven by individuals with a religiously inspired political agenda that is inherently at odds with basic notions of democracy and political inclusion.
Political success for anti-gay groups, therefore, required establishing credibility by use of the mantra "equal rights, not special rights." As important as this claim was during the Amendment 2 campaign, taped sessions and conference documents make no reference to the concept of "equal rights, not special rights." The reason, as the presentations suggest, is that this movement is less about rights and more about a much broader objective.
Robert Skolrood, who heads the organization that worked with CFV to draft and defend Amendment 2, prefaced his legal talk by stating. "As you know, it's a spiritual battle." He explains, "Although we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level...The very weapons we use are not human but powerful in God's warfare for the destruction of the enemy's strongholds." He concludes his point, describing the war this way: "We fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ."
Also revealing is the list of "Foundation Principles" from the printed materials which appear to summarize the conference.
Objectives include getting elected officials to oppose gay-friendly legislation and public policy, eliminating government dollars and resources for problems which are "the result of improper behavior brought on by their lifestyle (ex. AIDS)," and stressing family values so that "homosexuality would be regarded as a sad pathology by implication." In marked contrast to these principles, however, is the third objective, which reads simply "Spiritual revival."
This item may have been inspired by Ron Ray, an active and vociferous critic of gays serving in the military. His presentation included several minutes of religiously charged rhetoric, which included: "We're going to have to remember His standard... And then we can have repentance, because the problem is the church...Once we have repentance, we can have revival... Sodomy, Sodom and Gomorrah, means the end or termination point...When you accept it in the law order, they have rendered Thy word void. Now the Lord will have to move."
Ron Ray and Bob Skolrood were not alone in drawing on this theme. John Eldredge noted that Focus on the Family president James Dobson sees the issue of homosexuality as "one of the key issues of our age" and outlined the work that Focus is doing to "raise the consciousness of the vast majority of Christians in the country who are woefully ignorant on these issues."
Observing that the church is "slowly waking up," Eldredge promised that evangelical churches would turn "the great ship of evangelism backs toward social engagement".
Whether mentoring isolated anti-gay activists or kicking in 70% of the money needed to pass an Amendment 2-styled law in Cincinnati, CFV has become a leader in the growing assault on gay and lesbian rights. Now that role is a national role, and CFV appears to be taking it seriously. How does the "behind-closed doors" talk of anti-gay groups match their public rhetoric? A prominent disparity concerns religion. Public claims, like CFV chairman Will Perkins' sworn testimony that "Amendment 2 is not a religious issue," become highly suspect when talk of "equal rights, not special rights" is replace by calls for revival, repentance and warfare against "evil" gays and dissenting Christians.
At bottom, this kind of duplicity suggests a drive so passionate and uncompromising that basic respect for truth and the democratic profess has been sacrificed for political expediency. If this conference is an indication of things to come, their biggest foe may well be an alerted public.
Who Was There?
According to conference documents, CFV was host to some of the brightest stars in America's traditional right constellation, as well as a scattering of more unique groups.
Attendees included Concerned Women For America, Focus on the Family National Legal Foundation, Colorado chapters of the Traditional Values Coalition and Christian Coalition. Washington-based Family Research Council formerly a division of Focus on the Family was there as well as The Conservative Caucus, represented by Howard Phillips (who also heads the American Taxpayers Union).
Mississippi-based American Family Association was represented through numerous State level organizations, including representatives from Texas and Florida (two big states facing Amendment 2-like iniatives).
Of the national organizations, Colorado Springs' own Focus on the Family played the most prominent role, sending three representatives two of whom were featured speakers.
Among the less well-known organizations, were New Mexico's Warriors Not Wimps for Jesus and Mothers Against Bad Government. Texas sent the curiously named Truth before Consequences. The Chinese Family Alliance came all the way from California and The Kansas Education Education Watch was joined by Kansas state representative Darlene Cornfield Broadening Their Scope According to a list of "Primary Strategies" developed at the CFV conference, gays and lesbians are no longer alone in being targeted by anti-gay groups like CFV. Their "to-do" list includes developing a "central clearing house" for information about corporations, media personalities, clergy, political candidates and office holders. Plans also call for recruiting and promoting sympathetic candidates, an aggressive "war of words like heterophobia, Christian-phobia, Christian-bashing," as well as creating an "anti-gay national PAC."