They went to Focus on the Family world headquarters, took the guided tour, futilely asked to see ministry founder James Dobson, refused to leave, and got arrested.
It was pretty much what Dotti Berry and Robynne Sapp expected of their Monday.
The lesbian women, from Blaine, Wash., are activists of the nonviolent type who belong to Soulforce, a national civil rights group that fights for freedom for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people. Specifically, this week Berry and Sapp wanted to exact a promise that Dobson would stop uttering “misleading statements about research on lesbian and gay parents” – essentially claiming that gay and lesbian couples are not fit to be parents.
“Dobson and his staff at FotF have consistently misrepresented LGBT families as dangerous and undeserving of equal protection under the law,” noted Soulforce in a news release announcing this week’s action. “These dehumanizing portrayals are often bolstered by misleading references to social science research.”
Berry and Sapp got to Focus in time for the 11 a.m. tour. By 1:30 p.m. they had been arrested and were being led out of the building by police.
The action is the latest in a continuing string of protests by Soulforce members at the Colorado Springs ministry.
Last July nearly 100 activists participated in a march, beginning on the steps of the state capitol in Denver for 70 miles to the front doors of Focus on the Family in northern Colorado Springs.
Their message, as always: They are not freaks, they are not pedophiles, they are not mentally unbalanced. They are gay. They are faithful. They have partners and families. They are actual, real, live human beings.
They were not welcomed at the ministry with open arms. Nor were they welcomed the year before, on May Day 2005, when they staged a 700-person-strong nonviolent rally there.
The gay activists had hoped to tour the digs, but, rather than risk the prospect of happy same-gender couples frolicking hand-in-hand through their broad hallways, or eating a snack in their chapelteria, Focus on the Family pulled up the drawbridge, barring all visitors for the day. Ministry executives refused to meet with Soulforce representatives, claiming its execs were all out of town.
Soulforce is co-founded by Mel White. A former ghostwriter for evangelicals like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, White burned through more than $100,000 trying to “cure” himself of his homosexuality. He tried psychotherapy, electroshock, exorcism. None of it worked.
In an April 2004 interview with the Colorado Springs Independent, White explained what he and other Soulforce activists ultimately hope to accomplish.
“At the heart of it is the model of intervention. When a family finds a family member who is destructive to herself or to her community, they have to intervene. They simply take that person aside and say, ‘Since you can’t see that you need help, we’re going to have to help you get help.’
“And so we’re intervening [at Focus on the Family] because Mr. Dobson leads a double life. His rhetoric has gotten so irresponsible and so destructive; he says one thing to certain publics and he says a total other thing to others. He will say, for example, to a rally in Washington, D.C., that we’ve videotaped recently, that we need to treat gay people with dignity and respect. And everybody cheered. And then he goes on to say to ‘you moms and dads’ that we homosexuals are the worst possible threat to your children. That we are child molesters, that we shouldn’t be allowed to teach or coach or foster care or adopt.
“You can’t say both things. His rhetoric leads to hatred and he is not being held accountable for it. We are coming to Colorado Springs to try to help him to understand the tragic consequences of his hyperbole and his half-truths and his lies. We’re trying to hold him accountable and say this area, this part of Colorado Springs, this world headquarters, is a source of toxic rhetoric that is poisoning the national discourse. He’s poisoning the air against millions of innocent Americans who do not in any way reflect the lies that he tells about us.
Cara DeGette is a longtime Colorado journalist and a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.