Colorado Springs Gazette, 25 Aug 99

Dobson's 'anti-gay' message assailed

Meeting requested in letter to Focus


By Eric Gorski / The Gazette 
Story editor Bill Vogrin; headline by Joel Millman

A group of pro-gay religious leaders on Tuesday called on Focus on the Family president James Dobson to rethink his message about homosexuality.

In a letter obtained by The Gazette, members of the year-old National Religious Leadership Roundtable accused Dobson of regularly spreading "false and inflammatory rhetoric" about homosexuals in his worldwide broadcast and print ministry.

The letter, drafted on the final day of the groupís semiannual conference in Colorado Springs, charges that Focus's "anti-homosexual campaign leads directly and indirectly to broken families, to divided churches, and to suffering and death to Godís lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people."

The group wants a meeting with Dobson "to hear our case, and together to begin a process of seeking truth about homosexuality and homosexuals."

The letter was to be delivered today to the ministryís Colorado Springs headquarters.

The 40-member interfaith roundtable chose the Springs as the site of its two-day conference because it wanted to present an alternative view on gay rights issues in a city known as a haven for conservative Christian groups.

But the letter to Focus on the Family was not on the agenda.

The idea was raised by Mel White, who came out as gay after forging a successful career as a ghostwriter for Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. In 1994, White staged a weeklong "fast for understanding" outside Focus on the Family offices to protest its message on homosexuality.

The goal is not to sway Dobson or Focus on the Family from its moral stand on the issue, said the Rev. Nori Rost, a roundtable participant and pastor of the Pikes Peak Metropolitan Community Church.

"What we really want is to have a dialogue about this," she said. "Itís OK if they disagree. No oneís asking them to embrace gays and lesbians or advocate for same-sex marriages. What we want to see stopped is the dangerous rhetoric that portrays gays and lesbians as monsters."

Dobson was on vacation Tuesday and unavailable to respond to the group's letter.

John Paulk, one of three former homosexuals working full-time on gay issues at Focus on the Family, defended the ministry's message as neither false nor inflammatory.

It is simply a response to an "aggressive homosexual agenda" advanced nationwide.

"We are not assaulting the gay community," Paulk said. "We donít have a campaign against anybody."

Although the ministry communicates with several gay activists, he doubts a dialogue with the roundtable is possible because he feels the group doesnít honor the validity of his own story as someone who left homosexuality.