Whose Promise Are They Keeping?
by Jena Recer, NOW Intern
"It appears that America's anti-Biblical feminist movement is at last dying, thank God, and is possibly being replaced by a Christ-centered men's movement." This chilling comment is not a quote from a Margaret Atwood novel regarding a fictitious group in a preventable future. This claim was made by the Rev. Jerry Falwell regarding one of the newest threats to women, The Promise Keepers.
The Promise Keepers is an all-male, evangelical organization founded by the notoriously homophobic Bill McCartney. McCartney is the former Colorado University football coach who used his name and position on fundraising letters for the Amendment 2 campaign, a measure banning civil rights laws for lesbians and gays.
According to NOW Action Vice President Rosemary Dempsey, "Amendment 2 is in effect a license for gay bashing. Hate crimes against lesbians and gays have increased dramatically since it was passed."
McCartney has been quoted in numerous places as having said that lesbian and gay people are "a group of people who don't reproduce, yet want to be compared to people who do reproduce, and that lifestyle doesn't entitle anyone to special rights."
McCartney's misogyny is also legendary. In 1989 he publicly disregarded claims that two players on his team committed date rape claiming "rape by definition is a violent act. And so I don't think that's what we are talking about here, although that's what the charges are."
In the last four years, McCartney's Promise Keepers have grown from 4,200 members to 600,000 members. He hopes to stage a march of 1 million Promise Keeper members in Washington in 1997.
In 1995 the group will hold 300 weekend conferences or "Wake Up Calls" in cities across the country. Claiming to teach men to honor their wives and children, this group uses its narrow interpretation of the Bible to promote homophobia, patriarchy and misogyny.
Prior to each conference, the wives of the Promise Keepers prepare the stadium where the meetings are held by praying over each seat and anointing it with oil. However, once the conference begins, women are forbidden from entering the stadium grounds except to sell concessions and souvenirs.
Promise Keeper and sociologist Jay Coakly was quoted in The New York Times as saying, "Promise Keepers give moral legitimacy to men who wish to regain power. Men in general, and white men in particular, feel they haven't been treated fairly, and that they need to get together and make sure that won't happen in the future."
In the group's text, Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper, one author explains how men must dominate women, "Don't misunderstand what I'm saying here," the book says, "I'm not suggesting that you ask for your role back, I'm urging you to take it back . . . you must lead. Be sensitive. Listen. Treat the lady gently and lovingly. But lead."
NOW activists in Colorado, Michigan and across the country have staged protests and conducted media interviews regarding Promise Keeper events. Despite NOW's best efforts to expose the Promise Keepers through the media, the information aired is overwhelmingly positive. Two network nightly news interviews with Dempsey -- by ABC and NBC -- were both left on the cutting room floor. To protest the biased coverage contact ABC at 212-456-1000 and NBC at 212-664-4444.
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