Bill Moyers reports on the “holy war” between conservative Christian values and homosexual rights.
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BILL MOYERS: What is it that homosexuals want that most alarms you?
BERNIE KUIPER: Our children, I think.
RICK ANSORGE: They think that America is on a hell-bound train and that homosexuals are driving the engine.
1st WOMAN: I have read about things that they do, and it is sick, it is sickening.
BRUCE LOEFFLER: They maintain that they love me as a homosexual.
BETTY LYNN MAHAFFEY: But they know that they hate me. They know that they believe that I’m a vile person, and they’re saying awful, nasty things about me.
TED HAGGARD: All human beings want to be sexual. The issue is morality versus immorality.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over} In this report, Colorado Springs: ground zero for “The New Holy War.” I’m Bill Moyers.
DR. JAMES DOBSON: And the radical homosexual agenda, I don’t agree with what they think ought to happen in this country.
1st MAN: The case proves homosexuals don’t have the same civil rights as other Americans.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over} Just an hour’s drive south of Denver, Colorado Springs is sprinkled along the front range of the Rockies. The view of magnificent Pike’s Peak has attracted visitors for more than a century, including Katherine Lee Bates, who wrote “America the Beautiful” after seeing these vistas. At this summer’s 100th anniversary for her song, it was reported that Bates might have been a lesbian. The furor that followed was one more skirmish in a bitter dispute over homosexuality and Christian values in the town that gave birth to Amendment Two. Amendment Two to the state constitution was passed last year by a majority of Colorado voters. It would have denied gays and lesbians the right to claim discrimination at the local level in jobs, housing and public accommodations.
LAWYER: Between 175,000 and 455,000 people in this state will assume a second-class status.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Gay rights supporters are challenging Amendment Two in the courts, after calling for a nationwide boycott of Colorado visitors.
BARBRA STREISAND: We must now say clearly that the moral climate there is no longer acceptable.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Both sides expect the case to be heard by the Supreme Court. As the legal battle continues, the ashes from the controversy still smolder here in Colorado Springs, where it all started.
KEVIN TEBEDO: And we don’t hate anybody, but somebody has to stand for truth.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] This has long been a conservative town- old West heroes, old-fashioned patriotism. The Air Force Academy is here, and the Pentagon’s nerve center for nuclear war, tracking missiles the world over. There are churches on almost every corner, five Christian radio stations, and the ubiquitous talk show. In the past six years, another kind of conservatism arrived in Colorado Springs. Several dozen conservative Christian ministries moved their headquarters here. Some folks now refer to the town as Vatican West. Its most powerful voice belongs to the largest of these ministries, called Focus on the Family. Focus on the Family earned $90 million last year distributing magazines, books, audio- and videotapes to parents and teachers all over the country.
ACTOR: [“Focus on the Family” home video] Our nation is engaged in a civil war of values, and to the victor goes the prize- our children.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over} The arrival of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs turned up the volume in this debate over values. Child psychologist James Dobson heads Focus on the Family.
DR. JAMES DOBSON: We firmly believe that we’re involved now in one of the most incredible cultural wars that has ever occurred in western civilization.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over} Dobson offers parenting advice, along with political analysis, on almost 2,000 radio stations around the country. On Pat Robertson’s 700 Club, James Dobson describes the situation in Colorado Springs.
JAMES DOBSON: It’s true that Colorado Springs has kind of been ground zero, as they call it, a focal point for this struggle against homosexual activists, but it’s coming to every city, every little town, every city council, every school. This is something that’s going to be fought out, really, all across the nation, and people are just going to have to decide what they think about it.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Not long after the new ministries arrived in Colorado Springs, conservative Christians began exerting influence at local public schools. In response, a new group, called Citizens Project, formed to watch them.
AMY DIVINE: We just felt we had come to a juncture in this community, where there was too much public policy influence, too much school influence.
BILL MOYERS: From?
AMY DIVINE: From the far right, the religious right.
BETTY LYNN MAHAFFEY: Smile, God loves you. Some restrictions apply.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] The role of the religious right has also provoked vigorous opposition from gay rights activists.
BRUCE LOEFFLER: We decided that diversity, defamation and deceit are the three words that sum up what’s going on in Colorado Springs.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over} A year after Amendment Two passed, Colorado Springs is still split along the fault lines of controversy. I came here to listen to some of the voices along that divide. As an old print man, I started with the local newspaper, The Gazette Telegraph. Opponents of Amendment Two complain that its editorial and opinion pages are relentlessly conservative.
CHUCK ASAY: I’m a born-again Christian. I guess I would consider myself part of the religious right. I guess that’s fairly fundamentalist.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Cartoonist Chuck Asay regularly condemns homosexuality in his cartoons.
CHUCK ASAY: This is one that we thought long and hard about to run, but I think it makes a valid-
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] This one, “Gays in the Military,” provoked a demonstration in front of his office.
CHUCK ASAY: Here are Bill Clinton’s new inductees, you have the two gays and then the AIDS which follows which relates to the destructive lifestyle.
BILL MOYERS: And this one?
CHUCK ASAY: This one has to do with- we are portrayed as a hate group, but I think it is a fairly broad Christian viewpoint, that the God of the Bible calls homosexuality an abomination. He also commands those people to love the sinner but hate the sin. I think that kind of expresses in a nutshell what the large Christian community feels. And this is portrayed as a tolerant group. And I’ve been called all of these names, homophobic-
BILL MOYERS: You have?
CHUCK ASAY: Yes, many times. Homophobic, Bible-thumping hatemongers, mental dinosaurs, bigots, Nazis, et cetera. It seems to me that these labels have been misplaced.
BILL MOYERS: Do you wrestle with that? Because, in a sense, some of the people you are caricaturing are victims of a disease, often the victim of persecution and oppression.
CHUCK ASAY: Yeah. Yeah- I- I wrestle with it, or I did, but now I feel like the wrestling part is over. I feel like, by taking the stand that I do through these cartoons, I’m kind of drawing a line for myself and for many other people which encourages people to- to tolerate each other, to really care for each other, and- but on the other hand, not to accept just behavior. And so I feel like that’s the Christian response, and that’s also a- a response that I believe as an editorial cartoonist.
DAN GRISWOLD: The vote here was two to one against gay rights in principle, in favor of Amendment two.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Dan Griswold is the editorial page editor. During the past year and a half, he wrote more than 20 editorials in favor of Amendment Two. [interviewing] How do you assess how the national media have treated Colorado Springs in this debate? Have you gotten a fair shot?
DAN GRISWOLD: I think they’ve oversimplified the debate here. It is not a question of evangelical Christians trying to grab control of the levers of government here and impose some conservative Christian agenda on the community. It’s basically Christian people – conservative Christian people in particular, in the case of Amendment Two- trying to prevent the government from interfering in their lives. What they oppose is the force of government being brought on them to force them to accept and condone this lifestyle that violates their most basic beliefs. If you had come here four years ago, nobody was talking about gay rights. What really kicked the hornet’s nest in this town is in the spring of 1991, the city Human Relations Commission was determined to put sexual orientation in a proposed human rights ordinance for the city.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Covering the controversy that followed this emotional event has fallen on the reporters working the news section of the paper.
LOUIS AGUILAR: I’m still known as “the fag reporter.”
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Louis Aguilar has been covering Amendment Two.
LOUIS AGUILAR: Well, I guess a lot of people say it on the certain radio shows.
BILL MOYERS: What do they actually say?
LOUIS AGUILAR: But I’ve also been attacked on the other side. I want to point that out, that because of our editorial policy, many people are very distrustful of me, and were not willing to open up, so.
RICK ANSORGE: It’s just become so polarized. Everybody’s on a soapbox these days.
WARREN EPSTEIN: And where else is- are words like tolerance and diversity going to have such a controversial connotation? What’s so nasty about these words? It seems absurd to me.
BILL MOYERS: Why are they nasty- why are those words nasty to the other side?
WARREN EPSTEIN: Because they’re code words. They’re code words for gay sympathizer.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Warren Epstein and Rick Ansorge have reported on the growth of a politicized evangelical community. [interviewing] Are evangelical Christians the dominant influence in Colorado Springs?
RICK ANSORGE: Yes, very much so. In fact, they did a great job selling the amendment with their refrain of “special rights, special rights.” I think they planted a lot of fear in people’s minds that, indeed, there would be some kind of quota system, some sort of affirmative action program for homosexuals. And the churches were- were very much, you know, they were very active in promoting this view. There was a tape from the San Francisco gay parade showing some pretty flamboyant behavior, and that tape was circulated through most of the churches in town.
BILL MOYERS: What about the gays and their response to all of this?
LOUIS AGUILAR: Well, the gay community has changed dramatically. I would say, as they say, that there is now a gay community in Colorado Springs and the Pike’s Peak region, and that, I think, is one of the long-lasting impacts of Amendment Two, regardless of what happens, is that there are more people dealing with homosexuals as friends, people have come out. The number of people who have come out has even surprised the gay community. Amendment Two was just the mechanics of what it’s really about. It’s about how you deal with people in your community who are gay.
BILL MOYERS: If I were to go talk to some of the leading church figures in this, who would you suggest I talk to?
WARREN EPSTEIN: The Reverend Ted Haggard. Yeah. He runs New Life Church north of town. It seats about 4,000 people. It looks more like a convention hall than the churches I grew up in.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] New Life Church calls itself a “family ministry.” Pastor Ted Haggard built this congregation of 4,500 from a prayer group in his basement eight years ago. It’s a nondenominational church, and Haggard is known as a charismatic preacher.
TED HAGGARD: Hey, then, hallelujah. It’s wonderful, wonderful, wonderful to know him personally and intimately. It is wonderful to have a relationship with God. And all of you know we’re not talking about religion, we’re not talking about church attendance, we’re not talking about just trying to be a good person, we’re talking about having a personal relationship with the creator of the universe and his name is Jesus, Amen.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Although The Gazette Telegraph reported that Haggard preached on Amendment Two during the campaign last year, he claims that he didn’t.
TED HAGGARD: I think the biggest problem is not the religious community. The biggest problem for the gay rights people are these farmers out here in the plains and these guys up here in the mountains who aren’t sympathetic at all. Most of the Christian community is at least open-minded and understands that human beings are human beings. Human beings love to be sexual, any way that- that human beings can at the moment, and then they’re constrained by whatever moral values they may have.
BILL MOYERS: Given the fact that, as you just said, that you celebrate sexuality as a Christian, what is your personal interpretation, as a Christian, of homosexuality?
TED HAGGARD: I think it is not God’s highest best for those people, just like many other things. I think being a slave to alcohol keeps people from receiving God’s best. Being a slave to greed, being a slave to anger and hatred and a murderous heart, or an adulterous heart- lust. And those things that keep us from God’s best take a variety of forms, and homosexuality is certainly one of them.
BILL MOYERS: Are you suggesting that homosexuality is a question of character?
TED HAGGARD: I think all sexual behavior is a question of character.
BILL MOYERS: They would say it’s a question of nature, of orientation, of being in the world.
TED HAGGARD: All- yeah, all human beings want to be sexual. The issue is morality versus immorality.
BILL MOYERS: And you think-
TED HAGGARD: Sexual behaviors.
BILL MOYERS: -and homosexual behavior is immoral?
TED HAGGARD: Yes. I would say homosexual behavior is immoral. In other words, it’s not the very best. And that’s not my opinion, either.
BILL MOYERS: What’s your source, then? What’s your authority?
TED HAGGARD: The Bible. [voice-over] I was for protecting the rights of the people in our church to be able to rent out a room. I have little old ladies in my church that rent out the extra bedroom of their house to supplement their income, and if they had a heterosexual there, a man, that wanted to bring a woman in to have intercourse with her, they need to have the privilege to say, “Oh, no, I don’t allow this in my home, you need to be honorable when you’re in my home renting this room.” Where if the homosexual rights law had passed here, then if a homosexual man had rented that room, which would be fine, but then brought a homosexual lover into the little old lady’s house to have sex with him, she would be a hateful woman full of discrimination and full of bigotry to say, “Oh, no, you can’t do that in that bedroom.”
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Some conservative ministers in town say Colorado Springs is ground zero for a battle between God and Satan, and that Ted Haggard is their de facto leader in the spiritual warfare. In the cover story of this fall’s Charisma magazine, Reverend Haggard claims demonic forces are bent on controlling the city, and that in response there has been an explosive growth among conservative churches.
TED HAGGARD: [on-camera] The little churches of 30 would turn into churches of 60. Churches like ours went from nothing to thousands.
BILL MOYERS: But all of this did trigger a backlash, didn’t it, in some circles?
TED HAGGARD: Yeah, it did.
BILL MOYERS: How would you describe that backlash?
TED HAGGARD: The backlash was amongst people who couldn’t understand the spiritual renewal movement and felt as though it was surely politically motivated. But the interesting thing about that is that the political things that have gone on here have not come from any of the parachurch ministries or any of the local churches. They came from a car dealer.
WILL PERKINS: [TV commercial] For the past 48 years, large numbers of people here in southern Colorado have been coming to Perkins Chrysler-Plymouth and Alfa-Romeo for used cars and trucks.
TED HAGGARD: A car dealer, Will Perkins, who’s a nice guy, was the one who promoted the Amendment Two whole deal.
WILL PERKINS: [TV commercial] We’re the way to go.
BILL MOYERS: How are you, Will Perkins?
WILL PERKINS: Good.
BILL MOYERS: Bill Moyers.
WILL PERKINS: Nice meeting you, Bill.
BILL MOYERS: Pleasure to meet you. [voice-over] Will Perkins is chairman of Colorado for Family Values, the political action group that was founded here to promote Amendment Two.
WILL PERKINS: Frankly, the majority of society does not agree with the practice and the acts of homosexuality. Most people say if they want to practice that in their bedroom, that’s their business, but if they want to come out of the bedroom and say because of what we’re doing in the bedroom we want special rights, we want special recognition, we want special protection, the people in Colorado and the people all over the nation, if they have an opportunity, will say that’s not fair.
BILL MOYERS: Someone like you, a businessman, respected businessman in town, doesn’t give as much time to an issue like this, doesn’t risk public ridicule and threatening calls like you. There has to be some strong conviction driving you. What is it?
WILL PERKINS: If you’re looking from a religious perspective, I personally would come from the side over here that says the Bible equates this with a lot of other sins. Now, that’s my religious perspective, and everybody- most people have some kind of a religious perspective. And I’m saying that there are people just as religious, just as sincere, who would disagree with that. So I’m looking at it from a practical, secular- as an employer, as a member of society, that when you start putting sexual orientation into civil rights – and I’m very interested in civil rights – you destroy the real reason why civil rights legislation was proposed and initiated in this country, and that’s why you- we have to deal with the people who are pushing for this protected class status. They’re pushing for other things, homosexual marriages, adoption of children. Those are things that most people don’t agree with.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Even as Amendment Two was stalled in the state supreme court, Colorado for Family Values launched a $!- million fundraising drive this summer to promote similar amendments around the country.
WILL PERKINS: When we talked about the militant homosexual agenda a year and a half ago, nobody knew about it, but now, listening to the homosexuals themselves, everyone knows that there is an agenda, and the agenda is to overhaul straight America.
ACTOR: [Pro-Amendment 2 commercial] Where gays have special rights, school kids are taught this lifestyle is healthy and normal- by law. Do we want to protect our children? Yes, we do. Vote yes on Two.
ACTOR: [Pro- Amendment 2 commercial] These people would call it a hate crime if you speak out against the other side.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] During their campaigns for Amendment Two, Will Perkins and Colorado for Family Values ran these TV spots on local stations. They got the footage from a videotape called The Gay Agenda, which some conservative churches were circulating to their members. No individuals take credit for producing the video, and its distributors remain elusive.
NARRATOR: [Anti-gay video] Studies show that male homosexuals average between 20 and 106 partners every year.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over) Gay rights activists denounce it as a malicious misrepresentation, based on the most extreme gay pride parades, and on the testimony of homophobic experts.
MAN: [Anti-gay video) And then, about 92 percent of homosexuals engaged in something called rimming, and rimming was simply licking in and around your partner’s anus.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over) Similar material about homosexual practices had been published in a book by Focus on the Family called The Homosexual Agenda and in a newspaper supplement printed by Colorado for Family Values which was circulated to 750,000 households during the campaign.
WILL PERKINS: I can’t let you know all the details. If you knew all of this, we’d have to shoot you.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over) Colorado for Family Values is also distributing nationwide a how-to workbook based on their Amendment Two campaign. The package includes The Gay Agenda videotape. So far, more than a dozen states have similar amendments on their ballot for 1994. [on camera) Colorado Family Values’ philosophical model, sample seminar workbook, public relations campaign, the big lie technique.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over) Will Perkins has insisted from the start that Colorado for Family Values is not a religious organization. Amy Divine, who founded Citizens Project to monitor conservative religious politics, disagrees.
AMY DIVINE: There’s a whole network of what is seen as the national religious right powerhouses being associated with Colorado for Family Values. And on top of that, Kevin Tebedo, who’s the executive director, in a speech he gave last summer at a church – and I imagine this was his standard church talk – opened the talk saying that Amendment Two was about the authority of God versus the authority of man, and that if we choose to believe in God, we must support Amendment Two. And recently, at a library panel that was on part of a tolerance-intolerance series at the library, at the end of his talk he said, “And it will only be before we stand before the king of kings … ”
KEVIN TEBEDO, Executive Director, Colorado for Family Values: And it will only be before we stand before the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, whether you want to or not. And I would say that before we go anywhere further in our lives, that we come face to face with Jesus Christ. You know, we talk about the separation of church and state, but ladies and gentlemen, Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, and he said that all power and authorities were given unto him. That is political.
BILL MOYERS: And this man is-
AMY DIVINE: Executive Director of Colorado for Family Values.
BILL MOYERS: Will Perkins’s group?
AMY DIVINE: Will Perkins’s group. I would classify them with the organizations that would like to see biblical law dictating American law, and this is, I think, is one step on the road. I think this is their main step, that they- I’m not sure that beyond gays and lesbians they have a full agenda, but they’re certainly connected to organizations that do. They’re a dangerous group.
WILL PERKINS: It’s the position and the responsibility of the pastors in America to teach their people what they think the scriptures teach on this issue. If you don’t have a basis to bounce things off of, some fundamental guidelines, some absolutes, some standards, if you’re basing everything on evolving standards, then that’s very dangerous, very dangerous.
BERNIE KUIPER: I know where Will Perkins comes from, I’m his pastor. He’s probably one of the most loving individual [sic] that you’ll ever come across. He is our number one evangelist in our congregation. Now, he comes from a biblical viewpoint, that the Bible is God’s inerrent word and what was wrong 6,000 years ago is still wrong today. A year ago we went into this building now which takes in 2,200.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Reverend Bernie Kuiper is pastor of Village Seven Presbyterian Church, where two of the three founders of Colorado for Family Values worship. [interviewing] What is your own understanding of homosexuality?
BERNIE KUIPER: Well, as a minister of the gospel, you know, it’s not very important what I personally believe, it’s what I believe the scriptures teach, and the scripture teach- the Bible teaches us that homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle, it is contrary to nature, it’s contrary to the plan of God, it’s contrary to everything that the world up to this point has really stood for.
BILL MOYERS: What makes homosexuality a sin, in your reading of the scripture?
BERNIE KUIPER: In the reading of the scriptures we first, I think, meet blatant homosexuality in the first few pages of the Bible, the situation with Sodom and Gomorrah, where these angels, apparently in human bodies, visited Lot and men in the city wanted to meet them and have sex with them, and it was such a bad sin in the eyes of Lot that he said, “Hey, I’ve got my daughters here, you can have them.” To him, the homosexual act was worse than throwing his virgin daughters to these men. And go to the New Testament and you see Paul the apostle in Romans, Chapter One, gives a whole scenario about the behavior of sinful people, and so there he tells them that those people who do that and engage in it, women with women and men with men, actually are given over- God gives them up. In other words, God takes his hands of them and then they degenerate into something that is lower than animals. And the Bible says God gave them up or God gave them over to a depraved mind and they received in their bodies the due penalty for their perversion. It’s very clear.
BILL MOYERS: What do you think is meant by that, they received the due penalty for their perversion?
BERNIE KUIPER: I think disease hepatitis or AIDS or any other venereal disease.
BILL MOYERS: You think that’s the moral consequence?
BERNIE KUIPER: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: Of homosexuality?
BERNIE KUIPER: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: What if it’s just the way some people are, something they can’t do anything about?
BERNIE KUIPER: That still doesn’t- that doesn’t give them the right- see, for instance, I was born a liar. I mean, I could tell lies, you wouldn’t believe what a good liar I was. I was born with it. I was born with a sinful nature. But there was a law that said you must not lie. There are people that are born with murder in their hearts, they’re, you know, with envy and so on, and there are commands that said, “Okay, you want to live in this society? Okay, here are the rules. You break those rules and you lose the right to live in society.”
BILL MOYERS: Can a homosexual be a Christian? Can a born-again Christian be a homosexual?
BERNIE KUIPER: Yeah, but not practicing. I see the responsibility of a Christian to be light in darkness, and to be salt. And to be light is to expose anything that is hidden in darkness, and to be salt is to deal with anything that has gone putrid and needs to be sterilized. And that Jesus said, that, “You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world.”
BILL MOYERS: Jesus also said, “I have other sheep not of this fold,” suggesting to some biblical scholars that there was room in his kingdom for all kinds of differences and all kinds of people. This is the man who accepted the prostitute, forgave the tax collector – even the tax collector- and that in his world are many mansions.
BERNIE KUIPER: Oh, yes. Now, that’s- that’s very beautiful and that’s very specific why that’s in the Bible. The prostitute became an evangelist and the tax collector who had robbed people of money says I’m going to pay everybody I’ve ever robbed back fourfold. See? It is not- Jesus did not condone his stealing, and did not condone the prostitute, but he cleansed her, he healed her. The tax thief became an honorable person. And so that’s the business of the church.
BILL MOYERS: Jesus says nothing about homosexuals. What do you make of that?
BERNIE KUIPER: No, he didn’t say anything about that, but that doesn’t matter, there’s a whole lot of other things that Jesus never mentioned. But he said not one word in the Old Testament, the writings will ever be changed, heaven and earth will change, but the word of God will last forever.
BILL MOYERS: How do we find a compromise says if one side says this is God’s word, then there’s no debating it?
BERNIE KUIPER: I do not think there is compromise. These people need help, these people need to be told that- that it is dangerous, the practice is dangerous. I guarantee that 99 percent of them are not gay, not happy, but they are very miserable people, and that they live under constant fear and dread of when is my turn going to be, to be- hit with some hepatitis or kinds- or kinds of venereal disease, AIDS. And they are not gay people at all, they are very unhappy people. It’s a lie, they live a lie, and it is our responsibility, it is my responsibility as a minister to say, “Look, there’s a way out. We want to help you. What you’re doing is not right but we want to love you through it.”
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Much of the controversy here has been fueled by the fear of conservative Christian parents that what pastors like Reverend Kuiper teach about homosexuality will be undermined by sex education in public schools. So I sought out some parents from the conservative Baptist congregation at Pulpit Rock Church. Their Sunday school class discusses current affairs and distributes Christian Coalition literature, as well as videotapes about homosexuals. One father here was a volunteer in the crusade for Amendment Two.
1st PULPIT ROCK CHURCH MEMBER: What aroused me was the gay agenda in Colorado Springs. See, now we’re in a situation where we’re confronted, as citizens of Colorado Springs, whether or not our government is going to sanction as a legitimate alternative lifestyle a certain behavior, homosexuality. You know, because government is a great teacher, and what government legitimizes through its laws, you know, is also going to have an impact, and it’s going to impact my child, it’s going to say something to my child about what’s right and wrong.
BILL MOYERS: Why is it that, as a Christian, you feel the way you do about homosexuals?
2nd PULPIT ROCK CHURCH MEMBER: There’s a difference of moral viewpoint. I don’t accept their behavior or it personally revolts me. I mean, I have read about things that they do and it is sick, it is sickening. If my husband wanted to do things to me that they do to one another- sodomy, fisting, golden showers- I mean, after puking I would go- you know, leave, a long way away.
3rd PULPIT ROCK CHURCH MEMBER: Homosexuality tends to be deleterious to one’s physical health and well-being. If you simply look at the- I think the average life span of homosexuals, male homosexuals, based on recent data, is about 41 years. I think that’s not a difficult argument to make, that it doesn’t seem to be good for one to actively practice.
BILL MOYERS: What if the gay man says, “That’s my business, that’s my affair.” It’s like the smoker who wants to smoke. “It’s my”-
2nd PULPIT ROCK CHURCH MEMBER: But even the smoker has been asked to change, because it doesn’t affect just the smoker. As a society we have accepted so much and said, ‘Well, it’s in the privacy of their own home, it really doesn’t affect me,” but now it is affecting me. Now there is this aggressive behavior. It’s not sex education anymore, it’s sex promotion, you know.
4th PULPIT ROCK CHURCH MEMBER: It’s recruitment.
5th PULPIT ROCK CHURCH MEMBER: It is recruitment.
BILL MOYERS: You think it is recruitment?
2nd PULPIT ROCK CHURCH MEMBER: Oh, absolutely.
3rd PULPIT ROCK CHURCH MEMBER: There’s a certainly an active minority among gay organizations who chant things at public rally like “Ten percent is not enough, recruit, recruit, recruit.” I mean, drivel, silly, but hostile, scary stuff for ordinary kind of people.
6th PULPIT ROCK CHURCH MEMBER: We cut across culture in such a radical way because we ask people to remain chaste until marriage, and a homosexual could be an evangelical if he was not promiscuous. You know, that’s all there is to it. If a person said they had these tendencies and they wanted to be a Christian, they would have to set aside all the promiscuity, which is synonymous with homosexuality.
BILL MOYERS: By promiscuity you mean?
5th PULPIT ROCK CHURCH MEMBER: Going out and have sex with other people-
6th PULPIT ROCK CHURCH MEMBER: -before marriage.
5th PULPIT ROCK CHURCH MEMBER: Well, you can’t be married if you’re a homosexual, in our viewpoint. God did not sanction that in the scriptures.
BILL MOYERS: Since they can’t have sex in marriage and they can’t be married, they can’t have sex.
6th PULPIT ROCK CHURCH MEMBER: But you know, it’s the same for singles. If you’re single and you’re a heterosexual and you’re an evangelical believer, you do not have sex with other people. I mean, I know it sounds incredible; in 1993, to say something like that, but that is how we believe. God set it up for our own good.
3rd PULPIT ROCK CHURCH MEMBER: But they want an active sanctioning of the homosexual lifestyle and even the teaching of homosexual sex techniques during regular mandatory sex education classes in the school.
BILL MOYERS: What do you think should be taught in the schools about homosexuality?
4th PULPIT ROCK CHURCH MEMBER: To teach that this is a very dangerous practice. The people who participate in it, many of them die by the age of 41, and they die a hideous death.
7th PULPIT ROCK CHURCH MEMBER: With the gay agenda, there’s a lot of fear in young children because they don’t know what to believe. They don’t know what to think.
BEITY LYNN MAHAFFEY: It’s exhausting to be on the defense so much. There isn’t a gay agenda, and that’s one of the things that’s so misleading about this. I think if you stop and think for a moment, what is the heterosexual agenda, and what you would see is, you look and you see that there is a number of heterosexual people that have a lot of different ideas as to what should be happening, and there is no single heterosexual agenda. What is the Christian agenda? Well, some Christians have an agenda about limiting the civil rights of gays and lesbians, and some Christians have an agenda about being more inclusive towards gays and lesbians.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] In response to the Amendment Two campaign, electrician Betty Lynn Mahaffey began to speak out on behalf of gay rights in Colorado Springs. She lives with music teacher Lyn Boudreau.
BEITY LYNN MAHAFFEY: Pete Peters, who’s a minister in Fort Collins, Colorado, wrote a pamphlet and it’s titled, “Death Penalty for the Homosexual.” Shall we assume that that’s the heterosexual agenda?
BRUCE LOEFFLER: I feel as though this constant negative portrayal of gays and lesbians in this society is like psychological warfare, and it is really, really hurtful.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Geology professor Bruce Loeffler has been a leader at Ground Zero, the local gay rights organization, and a board member of Citizens Project. He lives with author and ex-Marine Michael Petit.
BRUCE LOEFFLER: And I guess it is very burdensome to constantly have to stand up and say, “No, I do not molest children, no, I have not had 1,500 sexual partners this year.” You know, it’s at some level really, really offensive, and yet I feel there is no choice but to speak out and say those things, because somebody has to counter the lies that are being put out.
BILL MOYERS: What goes through your mind when you look at a video like The Gay Agenda?
BEITY LYNN MAHAFFEY: It takes a real emotional toll. It’s very painful for me. It’s- I have to stop, I hear what they’re saying, I read the stuff, I look at the videos, and I think, “Who are they talking about? How can they say this about me?” I mean, I have an understanding of prejudice that has come out of this Amendment Two process that was never quite so personal for me, the notion that there are people out there who hate me, and they haven’t ever met me, but they know that they hate me, they know that they believe that I’m a vile person, and they’re saying awful, nasty things about me, and they don’t know who I am. So it’s this- it’s like I disappear, and I don’t have anything to do with it. I am this hateful person for who I am.
BILL MOYERS: They say that they don’t hate you, Betty Lynn. They say, “We love her, we just don’t like what she does.”
BEITY LYNN MAHAFFEY: If I were never to have sex again, I would still be a lesbian, so it’s not about what I do, it’s about who I am.
BILL MOYERS: Did you choose to be a lesbian?
BEITY LYNN MAHAFFEY: I did not.
BILL MOYERS: When I talk to these conservative Christians about Amendment Two, they say to me that they were for it for a number of reasons. Let me just run through some of the reasons I’ve heard this week. Number one, because homosexuality is an unhealthy way to be in the world. They point to the disease, they point to premature death of gay men, and they just say, “We have to be concerned about these people because it is an unhealthy lifestyle.”
BRUCE LOEFFLER: In fact, they make us responsible for almost every sexually transmitted disease in the United States. And I think if you look behind their data – and often they cite, for instance, Paul Cameron, who’s director of the Family Research Institute in Washington, D.C. -if you look behind that data you’ll find that what they did was look at surveys done on gay men who went to VD clinics in San Francisco in the early ’80s. Now, obviously, men who are going to a VD clinic are presumably much more sexually active than the average population. And so they take data based on the sexual behavior of one subgroup of the gay and lesbian community, and they generalize that to the entire gay and lesbian community. That, to me, is the nature of defamation, to take extreme individual behavior and say it represents the entire group.
BILL MOYERS: You think this is what they did in The Gay Agenda, which they all refer to, as I talked to them, “Well, have you seen the video?” they tell me.
BEITY LYNN MAHAFFEY: Absolutely.
BRUCE LOEFFLER: Its sole purpose is to fan the flames of hatred, to make people anxious and concerned, and feel like they’ve got to stop gays and lesbians because they’re such a threat to the family and to their children.
BILL MOYERS: This is the book published by Focus on the Family right here in Colorado Springs, called The Homosexual Agenda, and it begins with this declarative sentence, quote: “Homosexuals are attempting to force their lifestyle and its consequences upon society.” They interpret that to mean that you want to undermine the traditional family.
BEITY LYNN MAHAFFEY: When they say we want to undermine the traditional family and “traditional family values,” one, I wonder what family values is it that they’re worried about. The family values that I grew up with in my traditional family were love, respect, compassion, support for one another, integrity. I absolutely still hold those values to be very, very dear, and I think they’re very important family values.
BILL MOYERS: Do you go to church?
BEITY LYNN MAHAFFEY: I do, practically every Sunday. My beloved goes to church with me, and my father.
BILL MOYERS: Your partner?
BEITY LYNN MAHAFFEY: My partner and my father, and sometimes my brother comes with us. Started going three years ago when I moved my father out here, and much to my surprise, I have fallen in love with the church.
BILL MOYERS: What is it about this church that makes you feel that you want to belong, that you want to be there, that you’re home?
BEITY LYNN MAHAFFEY: Part of it, I think, is the minister, Jim White.
BILL MOYERS: How did your church react when Betty Lynn presented herself for membership?
Rev. JIM WHITE: Well, with a mixed reaction, that is, that there were people in leadership positions that said, “Jim, I cannot, in good conscience offer these people the right hand of fellowship.”
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Reverend Jim White is pastor of First Congregational Church, which is a member of the United Church of Christ denomination. When he spoke up early in opposition to Amendment Two, his church lost members and money. [interviewing] Knowing that your church had already had a difficult time with this issue, did you have to struggle with this?
Rev. JIM WHITE: It was the most agonizing week I think I’ve ever had, really, because it just- I mean, one of the people whose opinion I have the greatest respect for said, “Jim, if you announce this, it’ll just tear this church apart.” And so we struggled with the fact that people couldn’t understand why we would accept them. And you see- and when I said to Betty Lyn and Lyn, “How do you want me to introduce you?” they said, “Just like you’re going to introduce all the other couples that are being married,” and we had two couples that were going to get married. I thought, “Oh-oh. Are they going to get married? And so what do people think about marriage and the church approving this, and where are they going to get married, and can they get a license?” And it just had all the – so I really thought about this, and finally had to say something like this. “Lyn and Betty Lynn have asked me to share with you their great joy in finding one another and that they plan, next summer, to make lifelong commitments of fidelity, one to the other, in a ceremony that will take place in the mountains.” [in church] Every human being that ever lived has the same problems as to figuring out, “What is my relationship with God? What’s to be the relationship between a man and a woman? How are we supposed to get along with one another? Whence is the source of evil?”
BEITY LYNN MAHAFFEY: There was a great deal of feeling expressed by people that if the minister were to announce our intention to get married that the church would fall apart, that it would be destroyed by that, and that he would lose his job.
Rev. JIM WHITE: It was really a great faith statement and decision, especially, that Betty Lynn was making, because she was struggling with her faith in God and her commitment to Jesus Christ and to join this church. And people said, “Well, she’s doing this for some sort of show.” No. This was a very serious step in faith that she took that day. Now, Lyn’s always been a person of faith. I mean, she was herself a former nun. In a way, whenever they join themselves together, it will be a togetherness in the Lord.
BILL MOYERS: One evangelical pastor after another in town has used the Bible as his source for condemning homosexuality as a sin. You’re clearly on the other side of that interpretation.
Rev. JIM WHITE: The great principles of the Bible are for love and forgiveness and acceptance, and it’s those great principles that made me take the Bible seriously, but not literally. Every passage that we could look to that indicates some sort of condemnation of homosexuality, not a one understands what we moderns mean by homosexuality, and that what’s going on is sometimes funny and sometimes very sad. I was intrigued by Coach Bill McCartney at Colorado University, who quoted the thing from Leviticus, you know, that it is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord to- for a man to lie with another man. And I read a little further in Leviticus, and it said it is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord to touch the skin of a dead pig. And I thought, “Oh-oh, there goes football at CU.”
BEITY LYNN MAHAFFEY: One of the things that I was uncomfortable about Christianity before this was the notion that it is the only way, that people who believe and have some other kind of description around their relationship to God are not right, and are not related to God therefore. But as I look at it in this way, as a window to God and a mirror to humanity, it feels very exciting, actually, to begin to read the Bible and study the Bible, and study the teachings of Jesus Christ and see what does this mean.
Rev. JIM WHITE: I think that there’s a falling out, and it’s been very divisive in every church I know of, mainline Protestant church, anyway.
BILL MOYERS: So it’s divided the mainline- the liberals and moderates.
Rev. JIM WHITE: Mm-hmm. Within churches. And it’s been very, very- very harmful. And so many of my colleagues in ministry say, “I just wish it would go away, and let’s just put it away, if we can.”
BILL MOYERS: Is that going to happen?
Rev. JIM WHITE: It doesn’t seem to be going away.
BRUCE LOEFFLER: Jim White is really risking his career at that church, because there are some people who object to it, and I have an enormous amount of respect for him. I grew up in that- Congregational churches, but I struggle with Christianity, because I do tend to see it as something that’s really hostile to me, that’s really inimical to me, that causes a lot of problems in my life. Personally, I have a life partner. We’ve been together six years. This is the man that I share a house with, that I go shopping with, that I grow a garden with. It’s the man I love itís the person I cuddle with in the morning and the person that supports me, and I support him. It’s a loving, nurturing, caring relationship, and part of that relationship, part of the expression of that love, is sexual, as it is in a heterosexual marriage. And I don’t see anything wrong with that.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] On the other side of that moral divide, strong, contrary opinions have led not only to political and legal campaigns like Amendment Two, they have also triggered harsh words and violence. Gay and lesbian groups report almost 1,900 hate crimes against homosexuals in America last year, with 12 resulting in death.
BRUCE LOEFFLER: If I were an African-American and someone were driving up the street shouting “Nigger” at me, I could have recourse under the law. Or if I were Jewish and somebody were driving up the street shouting “Kike” at me, I would have recourse under the law. But because I’m a gay man and this teenager is shouting “Faggot” at me, I have no recourse, I have no protection from that. And to me, it feels like an assault, it feels like I’m in a threatening situation, because I don’t know how unstable this person is. Now, coupled with that- and I can’t necessarily make the connection – I’ve had three windows shot out in my house.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Such violence against gays offends many Christians, even as they wrestle with their own faith and doctrine. Here in Colorado Springs, Amy Divine, from Citizens Project, invites Bruce and Betty Lynn to meet with several evangelical Christians who are struggling with the issue.
SCOTT: So you said earlier there was no real animosity, or there wasn’t a lot of energy here until we started pushing Amendment Two, and yet if you look nationally, you have to admit there is an “in-your-face” variety of homosexual expression. And Christians are the same way. There are some actions on the part of the Christian right- you would call them militant right- that embarrass me.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Terry, Scott and Cathy are members of Covenant Presbyterian Church. They do not want their professional identities revealed, which is just another indication of the anxiety and uncertainty surrounding this controversy.
BRUCE LOEFFLER: It’s used a lot, and if you look at the behavior, some of the behavior, that goes on in gay pride parades, you know, is pretty blatant sexuality that seems to be personally inappropriate. It’s not something I would ever do. I hope you understand that the entire community does not necessarily approve of all the behavior. But we’re being victimized by that behavior by the insinuation that that represents all of us, and I think that’s really problematic.
SCOTT: I can fully understand that and agree. In fact, Christians wind up with the same rap. We get the rap for the witch-hunts and for the Crusades and all of that.
CATHY: In-your-face Christians, yeah.
SCOTT: Yeah, in-your-face Christians.
AMY DIVINE: I’m not sure I’m following what the whole Amendment Two battle has meant to you, what journey you have gone through in your own thinking.
CATHY: I knew you would ask that one. Well, I don’t- you know, I knew we were going to get into public policy, and you know, for me, it started out real small, Amy. I think, first of all, you know, you don’t start out with public policy. You start out with yourself, and you start out with friends that you know are gay, and with your Christian friends that are gay, and you move out into concentric circles, and you think about what that means for your church. But- that’s where I stop.
TERRY: For me, Amy, to answer your question, my concern for people of Christian persuasion is that our definition of being created in the image of God has somehow gotten reduced to our sexual identity, and our sexual identity is, biblically, is a significant piece of being created in God’s image, but it’s not the whole identity. Part of what I want to say to you is that internally, we as Christians need to do a whole lot of work in terms of elevating the biblical standards and applying them to ourselves first before we ever take it to the street. And that’s part of the major mistake that’s been made, that reduces our credibility and painfully wounds people like you, and I’m deeply sorry for that.
BEITY LYNN MAHAFFEY: Is there a piece in that where what you’re saying is we’re all sinners, and we’re all called to work to eliminate the sins from our behavior? Is that- am I hearing that?
CATHY: Not from each other’s behavior.
BEITY LYNN MAHAFFEY: No, not from each other’s, but from our own. And what I’m uncomfortable with, with that, is if we conclude that Christianity views homosexuality as a sin, and I’m a Christian and I’m not convinced of that- clearly- am I to be working to give up the loving relationship that is the most important relationship that I have, that is about supporting and nurturing and, you know, that gives me the richness that we all have some sense of in marriage?
SCOTT: No, I wouldn’t divide that into an either-or. I think that the intimacy part of that relationship is a good thing. In fact, in the homosexual relationships, I suspect that Christians have a lot to learn- Christian men have a lot to learn- about how to be intimate with each other, I think that the American male is not very good at- and part of it is homophobia. Yeah, even the Bible says greet one another with a holy kiss, but I’ve never done that with Terry.
AMY DIVINE: Can one be a lesbian or be gay and be a good Christian?
CATHY: In some ways, I think, can you be a gay Christian is something that only the church can discuss, because only the church wrestles with the Lordship and the authority of scriptures.
BRUCE LOEFFLER: It sounds to me, Cathy, like for you it is a problem.
CATHY: Yes, it is.
BRUCE LOEFFLER: For you, your interpretation of scripture-
CATHY: It sure is.
BRUCE LOEFFLER: -is a real problem to accept that somebody who’s in a homosexual relationship and therefore presumably a “practicing homosexual”, to reconcile that with Christianity is a real problem.
CATHY: It really is hard for me. I can’t do it, and I just have to stand there and say this is the truth as I know it on my journey, and-
BRUCE LOEFFLER: You know, I accept that.
CATHY: Yeah. It doesn’t mean that I can’t have you over for dinner or enjoy conversation or have fun with you. I think that’s the tragedy of what’s happened in this community.
BILL MOYERS: [voice-over] Despite their search for common ground, nothing was settled here this evening. Polls show few minds have been changed since Amendment Two passed last year, and The Denver Post reports Coloradans would likely vote the same way again. So as Amendment Two heads for the Supreme Court, adversaries are mobilizing coast to coast. We will hear these voices for some time to come.
BERNIE KUIPER: How could we compromise? A little bit homosexuality now and then?
BEITY LYNN MAHAFFEY: I’ve had some nasty phone calls, some death threats, people throwing rocks at the truck.
TED HAGGARD: We respect homosexuals. We don’t want them, though, to come into our homes with our own taxpayer money and take our children and say this is the way you have to-
BRUCE LOEFFLER: They used- the blood libel against the Jews in Nazi Germany was the Jews were sacrificing Christian children. I mean, if you make somebody a threat to children, then you have cause to act against them.
SCOTT: The force of the problem you have, I think it comes mostly from our cultural shock at homosexuality. That sin, as a sin, somehow carries more lightning rods with it.
4th PULPIT ROCK CHURCH MEMBER: They desperately want affirmation and acceptance of their lifestyle.
BRUCE LOEFFLER: In their view, homosexuality is an abomination before the Lord. God is not an idiot, therefore God couldn’t make queer people. So I cannot exist.
Rev. JIM WHITE: That’s the way God made them, so how can we say that who they are is unacceptable?
This transcript was entered on April 27, 2015.