Check out the paragraph where it says there are "prayer police" in public schools and how Christians are being "victimised".

New York Times, August 13, 1998
229 W. 43rd Street, New York,NY,10036
(Fax 212-556-3622 ) (E-MAIL: letters@nytimes.com )
( http://www.nytimes.com )
Woman Behind Anti-Gay Ads Sees Christians as Victims


WASHINGTON -- Over the last two and a half years, leaders representing about 25 conservative Christian groups have been meeting for private strategy sessions to discuss how to counter what they see as the increasingly powerful "homosexual lobby" and its legislative victories.

The conservatives believed that their position was getting clobbered: Gay people were adopting children, coming out on television shows and persuading politicians to vote for anti-discrimination laws.

"The final straw," said Janet Folger, a member of the strategy group, came in June when Michael McCurry, the White House press secretary, denounced Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., the majority leader, as "backward" for comparing homosexuality to alcoholism and "kleptomania."

So, in a conference call to the group of conservative strategists in Washington on June 24, Ms. Folger proposed taking out full-page newspaper advertisements that would show "former homosexuals" who "overcame" their sexual orientation through prayer and the help of Christian "ex-gay ministries."

The advertisements, which ran recently in seven major newspapers with a combined circulation of nearly 8 million, infuriated gay rights advocates and ratcheted up the intensity of the debate over homosexuality. The advertising campaign also drew attention to its architect, Ms. Folger, who raised more than $400,000 to pay for it, and is now placing more ads.

Ms. Folger, who has recently appeared on "Nightline" and the "ABC Evening News," has no formal training in human sexuality, psychology or science. She has a master's degree in communications from Cleveland State University, and once worked for a Christian radio station writing and producing commercials.

"Janet is an example of what I like to think of as an issue entrepreneur," said Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition. "Some entrepreneurs try to figure out what the new hot stocks are. Janet is an ideological entrepreneur, someone who tries to pick the hot new issues."

In a recent interview here, Ms. Folger said she is convinced that conservative Christians are victimized by a popular culture that ridicules and dominates them.

The debate over homosexuality illustrates her point, she said. Gay rights groups have persuaded Americans that Christians who condemn homosexuality are intolerant, she said, while actually it is gay people and their supporters who are intolerant of Christians.

"They're not advocating tolerance," Ms. Folger said. "If that were the case, they'd live and let live. Instead, they do things like demand that the Boy Scouts change their position by accepting homosexuality. And they will sue anyone who doesn't agree with them. It's basically forcing people to embrace their behavior."

For the last four years, Ms. Folger has traveled to churches and conferences presenting a seminar and slide show on "the assault against Christians." She lectures that the media, the courts, popular culture and the politicians are "chipping away" at the rights of Christians.

"Prayer police are roaming the halls" of schools, she told the "Reclaiming America for Christ Conference" in Florida earlier this year, "looking not for guns, not for drugs, but for children praying."

Until recently, Ms. Folger was a lobbyist for the Ohio Right to Life Society and the major force behind Ohio's becoming the first state to ban partial-birth abortion. She rallied state legislators by referring to the procedure as "brain suction abortion" and displaying gory posters.

"She is a very effective advocate, very articulate," said Doug Johnson, federal legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee.

Yet Ms. Folger was so relentless that several legislators barred her from their offices, newspaper reports say. State Rep. John Garcia, R-Toledo, who said he usually votes against abortion and was not among those who evicted her from his office, recalled that "she got me so frustrated that I was ready to vote for abortion and get it out of the way."

"Janet is good at what she does, but she comes on a little too harsh," Garcia said.

After nine years with Ohio Right to Life, Ms. Folger said she wanted to broaden her repertoire. When Reed left his job leading the Christian Coalition in 1997 to become a political consultant, Ms. Folger says she sought to replace him. But the job was given to Donald Hodel, who was secretary of Energy and later secretary of the Interior in the Reagan administration.

Last September, Ms. Folger moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to become national director of the Center for Reclaiming America, a fledgling advocacy group started by the Rev. D. James Kennedy, founder of Coral Ridge Ministries, a multimedia evangelical organization.

As a startup in the already crowded field of conservative Christian public advocacy organizations, the Center was in search of a strategy and a focus. Ms. Folger had been at work developing a series of "animated cartoons for children promoting biblical values," she said, when she realized that the advertising campaign on homosexuality was more timely.

"She's looking for a way to influence the debate," Reed said, "and she's smart enough to know that it's easier to dive into a topic that people are already talking about than to try and start a new conversation."

The advertisement that ran in The New York Times featured a photograph of Anne Paulk, with a caption that read, "Wife, mother and former lesbian," and showed a portrait of men and women gathered at a convention for Exodus, an ex- gay ministry. Ms. Folger said she wanted to strike at the assumption that homosexuality is an immutable trait and that gay people therefore need protection under anti-discrimination laws.

Gay rights groups quickly composed an opposing newspaper advertisement to refute the claims. They maintain that only a small percentage of those who seek help from ex-gay groups permanently alter their sexuality, and that many more are emotionally scarred by trying to change something they cannot.

"There are definitely some people who sincerely believe that homosexuality is a sin, and that you should have compassion, but I think that the advertisements are not being put out by those people," said Cathy Renna, director of community relations for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. "The ads are being put out by political operatives and religious extremists who are trying to influence public opinion and political candidates, who know that a very strident approach is not going to work."


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