Soulforce Launches Letter-writing Campaign to Ted Haggard

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: November 14, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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(Austin, TX) — The social justice organization Soulforce has launched a campaign urging LGBT people and straight allies to write letters of concern and compassion to Rev. Ted Haggard, the deposed Pastor of New Life Church and former President of the National Association of Evangelicals.

"This is obviously a moment of personal, familial, and professional crisis for Rev. Haggard," said Paige Schilt, Soulforce Media Director. "We want to make sure that the voices of intolerance and homophobia are not the only voices that he hears during this difficult time. Through the Soulforce web site, members of our community can share their own experiences and affirm that LGBT people can and do live lives filled with faith, love, and happiness."

Haggard was dismissed as Senior Pastor of New Life Church on November 4, amid allegations of homosexual conduct. In a letter to his congregation, Haggard confessed to "sexual immorality" and indicated that the church’s board of overseers had directed him to James Dobson, Jack Hayford, and Tommy Barnett for "healing and restoration." Dobson has since bowed out of the team, but a spokesperson for Focus on the Family has continued to affirm the efficacy of counseling and prayer to change sexual orientation.

In fact, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association have all issued statements warning of the mental health dangers of so-called "reparative therapies." According to Dr. Jack Drescher, Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, "The American Psychiatric Association does not consider homosexuality to be an illness, nor should people be pressured to change their sexual orientation. Furthermore, even in the most optimistic studies, the majority of people who try to change their sexual orientation are unsuccessful. In cases where this "therapy" does not work, many patients have ended up feeling worse than when they started. This is one reason why the American Psychiatric Association, in opposing sexual conversion therapies, reminds therapists of their most important duty to patients: ‘First, do no harm.’"

"Haggard has now been referred to the same ‘reparative’ therapy that has threatened the mental and spiritual wellbeing of so many gay men and lesbians," says Schilt. "While we recognize that many in the gay community feel legitimate anger toward Haggard for his history of religion-based bigotry, we hope that many will see this as an opportunity to reach out in empathy."

For more information about the letter-writing campaign, please visit www.soulforce.org/letters/1.


Soulforce’s purpose is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.

Soulforce Urges Compassion for Haggard and Accountability for the National Association of Evangelicals

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: November 6, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Paige Schilt, Media Director
Cell: 512-659-1771
paige@soulforce.org
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(Austin, TX) — In response to the news that Rev. Ted Haggard has been dismissed by New Life Church and resigned as President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes urged the gay community to be compassionate and simultaneously called on the leaders of the NAE to claim responsibility for their role in the crisis.

"Rev. Haggard is just one more tragic example of how lives are destroyed by the lies about gay and lesbian people perpetuated by the NAE, the Religious Right, and both the Protestant and Roman Catholic Church. Taught by the church to hate himself, the only option from his point of view was to lead a psychologically and spiritually damaging double life marked by denial and self-destructive behavior. Rev. Haggard is a victim of religion-based bigotry that regularly demeans and demoralizes gay and lesbian people and refuses to acknowledge that we are part of the American fabric, and that many of us form loving families and practice a deep faith in God."

The NAE holds that "homosexuality is a deviation from the Creator’s plan for human sexuality." In a 2004 policy statement, the organization opposes legislation that would protect gays and lesbians from hate crimes or employment discrimination on the grounds that "such legislation inevitably is perceived as legitimatizing [sic] the practice of homosexuality and elevates that practice to a level of an accepted moral standard."

Haggard submitted his resignation as President of the NAE on Thursday, shortly after allegations of homosexual activity were aired on Denver talk radio. On Saturday, Haggard was removed as pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs. In a letter to his congregation, Haggard wrote "there’s a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all my adult life." He also wrote that the church’s overseers have required him to "submit to the oversight of Dr. James Dobson, Pastor Jack Hayford, and Pastor Tommy Barnett. Those men will perform a thorough analysis of my mental, spiritual, emotional and physical life. They will guide me through a program with the goal of healing and restoration for my life, my marriage, and my family."

In reaction to the unfolding events, Lutes said "Our community’s anger at Rev. Haggard’s hypocrisy is completely understandable. However, my hope is that our community will take the high road and extend an olive branch of friendship and support when he is ready to fully come out as a gay man. Dobson and the others will counsel him to bury, deny, and repress his sexuality even deeper than before. They will wound his spirit, and he is going to need our prayers and our compassionate message that God loves him, affirms him, and calls him to live his life openly with honesty and integrity."


Soulforce’s purpose is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information go to www.soulforce.org.

Six Vassar Students Arrested in Times Square Protest Over "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell"

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: November 5, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@soulforce.org
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(New York, NY) — Six Vassar College students were arrested at 3 p.m. Friday at the Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square. The students were holding a peaceful sit-in to protest the federal policy that denies openly gay Americans the right to serve in the military. They were charged with criminal trespassing and released Saturday evening.

Five of the arrestees — David Rodriguez, Pete Whinn, Julia Golomb, Clare Ciervo, and Leslie Hamilton — were inside the recruiting station to support a sixth student, Curt Peterson. Peterson, a gay man, entered the station at 1 p.m. and attempted to enlist in the Army without hiding who he is or whom he loves. When his attempt to enlist was denied on the basis of sexual orientation, Peterson and 12 supporters commenced the sit-in. Sixty additional students from Vassar held a simultaneous sit-in in Times Square.

The Vassar students are part of the Right to Serve campaign, a nationwide effort in which young, gay adults are attempting to enlist in the military in order to catalyze discussion about the human and national security costs of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."

Since the beginning of the summer, 43 openly gay young people affiliated with Right to Serve have attempted to enlist in 17 cities. They range from recent high school graduates to recent college graduates, but each one has been denied the opportunity to enlist because of sexual orientation.

Previously, Peterson was one of three gay Americans who attempted to enlist in Times Square on September 25. When Peterson and his fellow enlistees arrived at the office, they found the country’s busiest recruiting center locked and dark. The would-be recruits held a sit-in with more than eighty supporters from area colleges. Throughout the day, enlistees unaffiliated with the Right to Serve showed up for recruiting appointments, but they found that recruiters had cancelled appointments without notice in order to avoid gay Americans who wish to serve their country with honesty and dignity.

More recently, three young people were denied the right to serve on October 10 in Los Angeles. Among them was Vincent Cervantes, a student at Azusa Pacific University. Cervantes and five other Azusa Pacific students were arrested in the sit-in that followed. The following day, Cervantes posted his testimony as a gay student on the conservative Christian campus, claiming that the experience of standing up for social justice had made it impossible for him to live in the closet. Cervantes has since withdrawn from Azusa rather than "repent" in accordance with school policy.

Right to Serve Campaign Returns to New York

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: November 3, 2006
For Immediate Release
Contact: Haven Herrin, 469-867-5725, haven@soulforce.org
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(New York, NY) — At 1:00 pm today, Curt Peterson will walk into the Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square for an appointment with an Army recruiting officer.

He hopes the recruiter shows up.

Peterson was one of three openly gay Americans who attempted to enlist in Times Square on September 25. When Peterson and his fellow enlistees arrived at the office, they found the country’s busiest recruiting center locked and dark. The would-be recruits held a sit-in with more than eighty supporters from area colleges. Throughout the day, enlistees unaffiliated with the Right to Serve showed up for recruiting appointments, but they found that recruiters had cancelled appointments without notice in order to avoid facing gay Americans who wish to serve their country with honesty and dignity.

Peterson is part of the Right to Serve campaign, a coordinated effort in which young, gay adults are attempting to enlist in the military in order to catalyze national discussion about "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." Since the beginning of the summer, 43 openly gay young people have attempted to enlist in 17 cities. They range from recent high school graduates to recent college graduates, but each one has been denied the opportunity to enlist because of sexual orientation.

Three young people were denied the right to serve on October 10 in Los Angeles. Among them was Vincent Cervantes, a student at Azusa Pacific University. Cervantes and five other Azusa Pacific students were arrested in the sit-in that followed, bringing the total number of arrests in the campaign to 54. The following day, Cervantes posted his testimony as a gay student on the conservative Christian campus, claiming that the experience of standing up for social justice had made it impossible for him to live in the closet. Cervantes has since withdrawn from Azusa rather than submit to "reparative" therapy in accordance with school policy.

Today in Times Square, Peterson, who is a student at Vassar, will be joined by supporters from that institution. If Peterson is again denied the right to enlist, he and his fellow students plan to stage a second peaceful sit-in in Times Square.

The Right to Serve campaign is a project of Soulforce, an LGBT social justice organization dedicated to using nonviolent direct action to expose injustice and call attention to the real costs of homophobia.