April 30, 2005
Soulforce, a national gay Christian group, is spearheading a protest Sunday at Focus on the Family’s Briargate headquarters, picketing what Soulforce organizers call Focus’ anti-gay agenda. Soulforce expects at least 1,000 protesters, most from within Colorado, said founder Mel White. The group has planned several other weekend activities in Colorado Springs, including filming documentaries and nonviolent resistance training. The demonstration at Focus will kick off Sunday with a 12:30 p.m. picnic. At 2:30 p.m., the demonstrators will march around Focus headquarters. Explorer Drive will be closed between Briargate and Research parkways from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Colorado Springs police said. Monday morning, Soulforce organizers say they will return to Focus to deliver scores of letters — written by gays, lesbians and their families — to Focus officials. Soulforce protesters have been arrested during previous demonstrations, according to the group’s Web site (www.soulforce.org), and participants will be trained to resist nonviolently. “Soulforce supporters and clergy and church (members) will do a sit-in on his (Focus Chairman James Dobson’s) front lawn,” said Laura Montgomery Rutt of Soulforce. “We will sit there all day if that’s what it takes.” Focus officials would not say how they’ll respond to Monday’s demonstration. But Dobson said recently he doubts if they “will be very good hosts.” “He (White) opens the door to the possibility of civil disobedience,” Dobson said. “And I’m not real wild about permitting that. If somebody’s coming in telling you that they very well may break the law, why would we cooperate with that?” Squabbles over homosexuality have been a recurring theme in Colorado Springs for 13 years, often accompanied by heated accusations and supercharged rhetoric. This will be the second time White has protested in the Springs; he led a weeklong fast in front of Focus in 1994. White, an evangelical Christian who, before coming out, worked closely with conservative leaders like the Rev. Jerry Falwell, says he’s proposed meetings with Dobson and Focus officials several times. All have been rebuffed. Dobson said he doubts White’s sincerity. “It wouldn’t hurt to look eyeto-eye and have an opportunity to communicate with (other homosexual activists) and find out that we’re not monsters on either side,” Dobson said. “But I see Mel as doing this primarily for the media and primarily to manipulate the public.” Soulforce officials won’t get close to Dobson on Sunday or Monday: he will be in Washington, D.C., for National Day of Prayer activities. PROTESTS Westboro Baptist Church, an antigay congregation from Topeka, Kan., will protest at several Colorado Springs locations today, Sunday and Monday. Westboro is led by the Rev. Fred Phelps and is largely made up of Phelps’ family. A Westboro group plans to picket several churches; activities by Soulforce, a national gay Christian group; Palmer High School and other downtown locations: Today: 3:30 p.m., St. Mary’s Cathedral; 6 p.m., Pikes Peak Metropolitan Community Church. Sunday: 8:30 a.m., First Lutheran Church; 9 a.m., First Presbyterian Church; 10 a.m., First Baptist Church; 10:30 a.m., Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church; 11 a.m., St. Mary’s Cathedral; 11:30 a.m., Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church, and 2 p.m., Soulforce demonstration at Focus on the Family. Monday: 7:15 a.m., Palmer High School; 8:30 a.m., Pikes Peak Metropolitan Community Church; 9 a.m., City Hall; 10 a.m., Gill Foundation; 11 a.m., Poor Richard’s Restaurant.