"I feel that there is not a more important meeting being held in these United States as is being held here these next two days. If we lose this battle, there are no more moral absolutes left for this nation." And so Will Perkins, the Colorado Springs car dealer who sold the state on Amendment 2, issued the call to arms at a top-secret conclave hosted by Colorado for Family Values.
The May 16-18 gathering at the Glen Eyrie Conference Center outside Colorado Springs attracted hundreds of people from across the country, including members of Accuracy in Media, the Conservative Caucus, U.S. Taxpayers Party, even Warriors Not Wimps for Jesus. But it hasn't garnered a drop of ink in this state, even though Clinton's recent confrontation with the religious right is still making headlines, and even though the conference's goal was undeniably newsworthy: to set a moral mandate for the nation, with the elimination of gay rights at the top of the list.
Of course, CFV has already shown that's not hard to accomplish. All you need to do is bill those rights as "special," rather than the garden-variety rights supposedly enjoyed by everyone regardless of race, color and creed. This strategy was so key to Amendment 2's passage that CFV held a small seminar to share its success with groups interested in introducing similar initiatives and even produced The Colorado Model, a workbook designed to help antigay activists carry on the fight in other states. (It's yours for just $95.)
CFV isn't slowed by the argument that denying a portion of the population equal rights could be unconstitutional (in fact, the Colorado Supreme Court was again considering Amendment 2's constitutionality just last Thursday); it's relying on a higher law. And when CFV's acolytes came together in May, there wasn't much mention of legality at all. They were talking about spiritual revolution. They were setting a moral mandate--one that would inevitably lead to mandatory morality. And they were doing so in what they thought was complete privacy. The only publication told of the conference was the Washington Times, which had been "good to this issue," according to CFV executive director Kevin Tebedo.
"As you know, when we first issued our invitation to this," Tebedo told the gathering, "one of the first things we discussed and guaranteed was that there would not be any official press coverage of this conference, for the purpose of people being able to speak freely and openly."
Here's what those people said (on session tapes obtained by the Citizens Project):
John Eldredge, director of research in the public-policy division of Focus on the Family: "To the extent we can control our public image, we must never appear to be bigoted or mean-spirited. We must never appear to be attempting to rob anyone of their rights, of their constitutional rights."
Eldredge, again: "I think the gay agenda has all the elements of that which is truly evil. It deceives those who are drawn into it, who embrace it; it presents an extraordinarily deceptive face to the public at large. That is one of the primary marks of something which is truly evil, because while it is offering all the pleasures and liberties of happiness, autonomy and personal fulfillment, it is destroying the souls and lives of those who embrace it, and it has a corrosive effect on the society which endorses it, either explicitly or implicitly."
Judith Reisman, self-proclaimed sex expert: "I would suggest to you that while the homosexual population may right now be 1 to 2 percent, hold your breath, people, because the recruitment is loud; it is clear; it is everywhere. You'll be seeing 20 percent, 30 percent or even more, of the young population moving into homosexual activity."
Paul Cameron, another self-proclaimed expert quoted widely in the Amendment 2 campaign (which made points by emphasizing gays' high household incomes): "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."
John Skolrood, president of the National Legal Foundation: "Our pastors don't know anything, and most of them are wimps."
Skolrood, again: "The very weapons we use are not human but powerful in God's warfare for the destruction of the enemy's strongholds. Our battle is to break down every deceptive argument and every imposing defense that men erect against the true knowledge of God. We fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ."
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The conference ended with a strategy session on how to arm for battle: Create a religious-right computer network and a databank on gay office-holders and activists; monitor how corporations spend their advertising dollars; log crimes committed by gays and circulate "lethal" gay literature; work to influence--if not take over--local governments and legislatures. And finally, become more effective with that pesky media: "Know the people who scrap material; appeal to their `sensitivities.'"
Mike Shaver knows just how sensitive the media can be these days. The Colorado Springs native attended Colorado College; when he graduated from that "insulated community" in 1991, he says he emerged in a city changed almost beyond recognition. During Shaver's college years, dozens of religious groups had moved their headquarters to the area, lured by a 1988 tax break. But their impact was more than economic: By the early Nineties, Colorado Springs was a city divided by morality plays.
Shaver is now the director of the Citizens Project, a two-year-old organization started by Colorado Springs residents worried for their town. They aren't alone: One participant at the May CFV conference was so concerned by its tone that he shared tapes of the sessions--as well as an order form--with the Citizens Project. Shaver published excerpts in his newsletter and tried to pass them on to Colorado's major dailies.
Which apparently didn't think you needed to know about three days that shook your world.