NLNS Packet 2.9 - 11 May 1992 Christian Hate Groups Take Root in Colorado Fundamentalist C

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NLNS Packet 2.9 - 11 May 1992 Christian Hate Groups Take Root in Colorado Fundamentalist Christians Mount Attack Against Gays & Lesbians Jerry White, NLNS COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO (NLNS)--Set in one of the most beautiful locales imaginable, the mid-sized city of Colorado Springs, Colorado is quickly emerging as the national capital of the religious right. It should come as no surprise for right wing ideology has always had fertile soil in which to grow here: the city supports five military installations. But recent developments have been exceptional even for this place. The ultra-conservative "Focus on the Family" cult moved its national office here, and the recently formed Colorado for Family Values has chosen to put their headquarters in the Springs. The latter group is currently focusing its efforts on a statewide ballot measure designed to make it illegal for governments at the state and local level to pass laws protecting homosexuals. In addition, Colorado Senator Bill Armstrong has written a seven page letter calling gays and lesbians "a grave threat." He has been joined by lesser but still notable local figures such as former chairman of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission John F. Franklin. "That tells you how far we got with civil rights," quipped one Colorado Springs resident. Focus on the Family's 1989 relocation to Colorado Springs served as a lightning rod for other like-minded groups to move in. The cult's leader James Dobson has long been a favorite among right wing Christians. The scope of the organization is huge. With an annual budget of around $70 million, they produce eight magazines and six nationally aired radio shows, and they are considered a powerful lobbying force. The presence of such a huge organization apparently sent a message that Colorado Springs is the place to be for fundamentalist Christian cults. Focus on the Family has been sponsoring numerous workshops which encourage right-wingers to take an active role in local politics. Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, recently made an appearance at the local New Life Church, challenging Christians to "take back the culture." In addition to telling the crowd about Christian's duty to make sure that "perverts" are not allowed to teach about their lifestyle in schools, Terry discussed methods of anti-choice activism. A questionnaire was distributed asking people if their "main interest in activism" was in places where abortions were performed or at the homes of doctors who performed the abortions. In a recent article of Focus on the Family's Citizen was titled "If You Wait 'til Nov. 3, You'll Be Too Late." New Life Church also sponsored a workshop on how to become a delegate to party assemblies. Activists from across the country are expected to attend a May seminar in Colorado Springs sponsored by the national Christian Action Council titled "How To Elect Pro-Life Candidates." The seminar will be hosted by former Pennsylvania state Rep. Gregg Cunningham, who in 1980 wrote the bill that ended state funding for abortion. Other groups are following the lead, and digging in. The locally based evangelical group Bethesda has just purchased a local country club and neighboring housing development, in addition to spending around $14 million since December of 1989 in the local real estate market. One of the city's major radio stations, KATM, was recently purchased by the Caramillo, CA-based Falcon Media station. This means the city will have four local Christian radio stations, as well as two Christian TV stations. A fifth radio station is on the way: "The Word in Music" plans to move a local station to a new frequency in the Fall. The Word's president Mark Plummer says that "Colorado Springs... [[is] a good marketplace because they (Christian broadcasters) believe they can gain a significantly higher market share than in most communities." When Colorado for Family Values was formed with the express purpose of combatting civil rights, they found that Colorado Springs was the logical place for their headquarters. All but one of the members of their executive board lived there. Their advisory board includes Focus on the Family's Randy Hicks, in addition to University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney and US Senator Bill Armstrong. In one of their pamphlets, they boast that "CFV... helped defeat a proposed 'gay rights' ordinance in Colorado Springs, organizing rallies of concerned citizens and the writing of more than 3200 signed postcards opposing the ordinance." More than anyone else, Colorado for Family Values is the group to watch on the current Colorado political landscape. CFV is the primary sponsor of a state wide ballot measure to curtail any kind of legalized gay and lesbian rights. On March 21, they delivered to the state capital in Denver 63,391 valid signatures of the petition seeking to add the measure to the next ballot. They drove the signatures from Colorado Springs to Denver in an armored car. The group says that it "opposes legislation that would grant ethnic, minority, or protected class status to practitioners of gay sexual behaviors." Throughout their promotional literature and position papers, they emphasize that those associated with "real" civil rights think that gay and lesbian rights are not entitled to any more protection than they already have. In addition to the previously mentioned John Franklin, the quote Dr. Anthony Evans (identified as director of "America's largest ministry to the Black family"), and an unidentified "African American Church Pastor, Kansas City, Kansas" as being against gay rights. This identification with supposedly prominent African American figures is an apparent attempt to bolster the group's claim that they are not a hate filled, bigoted bunch of lunatics. They go out of their way to say that they are trying to fight "special rights," rights not available to anyone else but gays and lesbians. Most recently, the battle has been joined by state political leaders who support gay rights. Governor Roy Romer, current Denver mayor Fedrico Pena and former Denver mayor Willington Webb head the list of those opposed to the ballot measure. It's shaping up to be more than just a local squabble among right wing fringes. Any political issue that pits U.S. Senators against state governors is bound to have big ripples. In addition, the results of the initiative will undoubtedly indicate the national mood on the issue of gay rights. Similar initiatives are on the ballot in many other states, many of which utilize the same language--"special rights," minority status," et cetera. This surge in Evangelism and associated hate politics in Colorado Springs is more than a passing fad. The religious right has significant financial commitments and community ties in the city-- they are clearly here to stay. CFV's ballot measure is key to their current strategy. If it fails, it will represent a significant setback for the group and the associated movement; if it can't pass where there's such a huge right wing presence, where can it pass? But if CFV is successful, it will be a victory that can only foreshadow darker times throughout the country.

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