Badpuppy Gay Today

Thursday, 19 February 1998


Fanatical Christians Gloat Over Maine Defeat—Plan 100,000 Soldiers
National & Grass Roots Organizations Gay & Straight Rise to Challenge

Compiled by Badpuppy's GayToday


On a tense day (February 18) where—on the other side of the globe—a war-ready America again risks conflict, an openly religious war has been declared by the Christian Coalition.

The Coalition's leaders, basking in their February 10 Maine "victory" which struck down government-enacted civil rights for homosexuals at the polls, now are aiming, they say, to strike down the legitimacy of same-sex affection in all 50 states and to target and worsen the basic civil rights of people who are suspected of defying same-sex taboos.

Boasting about Maine as "Coalition-style" evidence of a divine mission at hand, the Christian Coalition has thus declared war on gay America, calling for 100,000 recruits to repeat the "Maine miracle" from coast to coast.

Calling its program "Families 2000" the Coalition says its strategy will be to work through local Christian Coalition chapters and churches to oppose any measures that extend anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation.

The group will circulate a menu which gives focus to other social "evils" including gambling, pornography, and late-term abortions with which its members may want to concern themselves.

People for the American Way Foundation charges that the Christian Coalition's aggressively declared agenda masks its real troubles--losses in both moneys and memberships.

"The Christian Coalition's 'new' agenda -- to return to the days of gay-bashing and assaults on constitutional liberties -- is the most dramatic evidence yet that the era of former Executive Director Ralph Reed is indeed over," says People For the American Way Foundation President Carole Shields.

"The Christian Coalition's agenda marks the end of the Ralph Reed era," Shields said. "Gone is the effort to persuade Americans that the Christian Coalition is a mainstream organization with a broader agenda than bashing gays and trying to outlaw all abortions.

"Randy Tate's announcement that the Coalition will return to an emphasis on social issues is evidence that the Christian Coalition, when faced with a financial crisis and a profound legal challenge, is returning to the red meat issues that motivate its members.

"Staring down the twin barrels of flagging contributions and an FEC lawsuit, the group is returning to a narrow Religious Right message, calculated to stir up its members and fill its bank account."

Shields noted that just before Christmas, the group announced it was laying off employees and severing ties with its so-called "Samaritan Project," which sought to convert communities of color to the Religious Right political agenda. "

"The Coalition's outreach to minorities obviously did not resonate with its membership," Shields said. "And although Randy Tate's crusade against gays and lesbians, for captive audience prayer in public school, and for outlawing all abortions might reinvigorate the Christian Coalition's base, it will not resonate with the American public."

Shields added that the Christian Coalition finds itself having to compete with groups such as the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family for members.

"Essentially, all of the Religious Right political groups have to compete with each other to see who can be the most extreme," Shields said. "They're going after the same base and they have to involve anti-gay, anti-Constitution and anti-Bill of Rights rhetoric to appeal to prospective members."

Bob Kunst, director of The Oral Majority and spearheading both Maine and Cayman Islands boycotts, faxed Randy Tate a letter painting the Christian Coalition director as a crossdresser "doing Anita Bryant all over again."

"Your desire to recruit 100,000 to attack us nationally," wrote Kunst, "will help us immensely to organize the alternative, while engaging in the massive debate on human sexuality." Kunst, who successfully battled Anita Bryant on national TV, challenged the Christian Coalition's Randy Tate to just such a national debate.

"I challenge you to debate me in every arena," Kunst wrote to the Coalition director. Kunst told GayToday that "this is an ideal time for people, gay or straight, to stand up loud and clear against the self-righteousness of the fundamentalist fanatics who impair the happy growth of children with their sex-negative messages."

Kunst referred to right-wing religious assaults on President Clinton's private life, recalling "non-partisan" Kenneth Starr's address to a large Pat Robertson contingent.

Taunting the Christian Coalition director and linking the White House scandal with the Coalition's shameless political allies, the Oral Majority director said that Americans are "sick and tired of a sex-bashing mentality" that puts too much moral focus on sex acts alone.

"Now," Kunst wrote Tate, "thanks to your (much-noticed style of) sexual witchhunting, every 6 year-old is talking about oral sex and trying it. You certainly know how to recruit children in your attempt to get Clinton."

"From the Cayman Islands to Maine, from Nassau to the White House, your dirty politics are very clear," Tate was told by the angered Kunst.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) denounced the new Christian Coalition Campaign as a "shallow ploy"

"The repeal effort was the result of a campaign of lies and distortions by its promoters. This is another shallow fundraising ploy to pad their coffers at the expense of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community," said Kerry Lobel, executive director of NGLTF.

"We will continue to work with our members, grassroots activists, and allies to secure civil rights laws in every state."

Lobel was also critical of Christian Coalition executive director Randy Tate, who characterized the passage of the discriminatory ballot measure in Maine as "a clear victory for people of faith."

The NGLTF director stated, "In every community there are people of every race, gender, and religion who stand for equality and know that discrimination is wrong. Randy Tate and the Christian Coalition have no right to speak for all people of faith."

"The election results in Maine do not foreshadow the rest of the nation."

The Human Rights Campaign charges that the Christian Coalition is seeking to promote discrimination nationwide. An HRC statement says that Pat Robertson's and Randy Tate's group has misread the results of the Maine election.

"It is unconscionable that a group purporting to speak for Christians would embark on a systematic national campaign promoting discrimination in the trappings of faith," said HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch. "Recent polling has found a strong majority of Christians -- 70 percent -- believe that gays and lesbians should be protected from discrimination in the workplace."

Discrimination based on sexual orientation remains legal under federal law and the laws of 40 states, unlike other forms of discrimination.

HRC asserts that the Christian Coalition has misread the results of the special election in Maine -- in which a very low voter turnout of only about 30 percent of the electorate and a campaign of misinformation contributed to the repeal of a civil rights law that the majority of Mainers had actually supported. The law, which would have added sexual orientation to the state's human rights law, had passed the legislature and was signed by popular independent Gov. Angus King last May.

As reported by the Portland Press Herald on Jan. 29, an independent poll taken shortly before the vote showed that Mainers overwhelmingly supported the non-discrimination law by a margin of about two to one. The poll found 62 percent in support of the civil rights law, 29 percent opposed, and 9 percent undecided. The survey of 450 registered voters was conducted January 16-20 by the independent firm of Strategic Marketing Services, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percent.

"Poll after poll demonstrates that -- when Americans learn that currently, in most of the country, there is no legal protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation, they overwhelmingly support rectifying that," said HRC Communications Director and Senior Strategist David M. Smith. "Americans understand that discrimination is wrong. The path of faith points toward fairness -- not the politics of fear."

The survey cited by Birch found a strong majority of Christians (70 percent) believe that gays and lesbians should be protected from discrimination in the workplace. In addition, when informed that federal law currently lacks such basic protection, Christians support a specific bill like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to protect Americans from job discrimination based on sexual orientation by a margin of more than two to one (63 percent to 27 percent).

Results come from a national survey of 1,007 voters conducted November 5-8, 1996, for the Human Rights Campaign by the polling firm of Greenberg Research Inc. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percent.

Ten states currently include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination laws: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. Of these, only two states -- Massachusetts and California -- have initiative or referendum procedures that may allow for a Maine-style repeal effort. According to the February 13 edition of The Washington Blade, seven state legislatures are currently considering bills to protect their citizens from discrimination based on sexual orientation: Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, New York and West Virginia.

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