Focus on the Family targeted by protesters on both sides of gay issues debate

Focus on the Family's national headquarters complex is expected to be the site of protests in early May by groups on both sides of the gay issues debate. One group, the national gay advocacy group Soulforce, criticizes the conservative Christian ministry for what it calls "hurtful rhetoric" from Focus and its founder, James Dobson. The other, Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., says the ministry is gay-friendly because it holds conferences encouraging gays to become heterosexual. "We're getting simultaneous picketing to balance things out," said Focus on the Family spokesman Paul Hetrick. "Fred [Phelps, Westboro's leader] thinks we're soft on homosexuality, and the other group thinks we're too hard on homosexuality. I guess we're sort of in the middle. I know now what it feels like to be moderate." Soulforce, headed by gay minister Mel White, expects up to 1,000 people from gay-friendly churches and advocacy groups in Denver and Colorado Springs, Colo., to participate in its protest. The group plans to deliver thousands of letters from people whom White says have suffered because of Dobson's speeches and political stances. White said the group plans to ignore Phelps but wants to meet with Dobson. "Dobson has become the primary source of misinformation about gay and lesbian people in the world," White said. "He is single-handedly doing more damage to the truth than anyone else, in our opinion." White said that in leading a crusade for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, Dobson has misused statistics and portrayed gays as a threat to "everything, including the universe, families, children, the church, the country, the nation, the world." During the groups' protests, Dobson will be in Washington, D.C., for National Day of Prayer events. Hetrick said a meeting between Dobson and Soulforce would serve little purpose. The group turned down an invitation to debate with Focus on the Family officials this week. (AP)

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