Activists chant "racist, sexist, anti-gay, Promise Keepers go away" at an August 25 protest that followed a Washington, D.C., new briefing covered by C-Span and other press. Held on the eve of Women's Equality Day, the street theater included retrieving from an inequality can objects that symbolize women's rights Promise Keepers would trash. Pictured front and center are: NOW staffer Vanessa Salinas, a former Colorado NOW state coordinator; Dr. Maureen Polsby, who brought a discrimination suit against the National Institutes of Health; NOW Executive Vice President Kim Gandy; and UCLA student Dana Evans, then a NOW intern. Photo by Jennifer Pence.
By Beth Myers, Field Organizer
On the eve of Women's Equality Day, NOW President Patricia Ireland announced NOW's "No Surrender" campaign aimed at defending women's rights from the radical right's newest star, the Promise Keepers. NOW is committed to exposing this group's dangerous attitudes and political ambitions. And as this issue went to press, NOW activists were bracing for a huge, Oct. 4 Promise Keepers rally in Washington, D.C.
NOW has taken the lead in exposing the political agenda of Promise Keepers leaders and supporters. (See Viewpoint) Delegates at the 1997 National NOW Conference voted to create a project to raise awareness of the political implications of this men-only group.
"Promise Keepers is the hottest religious right marketing tool since televangelism," Ireland said. "Their message of submission of women is extremely political and anti-woman."
Promise Keepers, Inc. Jeopardizes Women's Rights
Promise Keepers, Inc. was founded in 1990 by former Colorado University football coach Bill McCartney. This all-male ministry is the fastest-growing segment of the religious right — with 1996 income of nearly $100 million and a staff of 450. The top backers of the Promise Keepers read like a who's who of the radical right, including Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and James Dobson — people who think that the Republican Party is too moderate. They are best known for their large, emotional meetings held in football stadiums with up to 50,000 participants.
Ireland warns that while the Promise Keepers publicize their call for men to take responsibility for their families and in their communities, their less-public agenda is for men to take control. They openly call for wives to submit to their husbands and extol the "God-given" right of men to lead.
Founder Bill McCartney has been a featured speaker at rallies of the violent, anti-abortion group Operation Rescue. McCartney has called homosexuality an "abomination of Almighty God," and was a supporter of Colorado's Amendment 2, a measure that was so extreme in denying lesbian and gay civil rights that it was struck down by the Rehnquist Supreme Court.
New Video Exposes Promise Keepers
NOW activists from North Miami NOW, Broward County NOW, Florida International University NOW and South Miami NOW poked fun at the Promise Keepers during a protest and news conference over a PK event at the Orange Bowl. The "Frustrated aggressive feminist..." sign refers to direct PK quotes.
NOW has begun to show the public and the media that this group is not about hugs and tears in stadiums but is, instead, a dangerous continuation of the anti-woman, extreme agenda of the religious right. NOW has created an action kit and produced an educational video for chapters to use in organizing their communities. Activists can use these tools to continue to educate their local media and to confront the Promise Keepers on their social and political mission.
The Promise Keepers Oct. 4 rally in Washington, titled "Stand in the Gap," will showcase the group's strength in the political heart of the United States, in front of the nation's capitol building. NOW plans to have a presence on the National Mall in Washington, along with demonstrations across the country. Many NOW chapters have had successful counter-demonstrations at previous Promise Keepers stadium events. NOW's efforts have resulted in more informed media portrayals of the Promise Keepers instead of the slick, manufactured image that their public relations teams would like the public to see.
NOW's work on the Promise Keepers will not end after Oct. 4. As the Promise Keepers continue to hold stadium events and rallies in other communities all over the United States, NOW's "No Surrender" campaign will greet them in every city.
For more information or to order a copy of the PK video, connect to http://www.now.org/issues/right/pk.html or contact email@example.com
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