News - December 1995

PFLAG launches controversial ad campaign

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Hardhitting, emotionally-compelling TV advocacy advertisements portraying the anti-gay hate speech of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Sen. Jesse Helms and images of the deadly consequences of their words, are the focus of a national education campaign on the effects of hate speech and hate crimes on lesbian and gay Americans.

Called "Project Open Mind," the national education campaign is being conducted by PFLAG: Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, an international organization serving more than 55,000 households, with affiliates in 380 U.S. cities and 11 other countries. The 30-second ads were first shown at a press conference in Washington, and attempted to begain airing it four other cities earlier this month.

That was until Pat Robertson heard about the ads, and Christian Broadcasting Network lawyers threatened any station which aired the spots.

In a letter to ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates, CBN lawyer Bruce Hausknecht wrote that the spots contain "defamatory material and cast Pat Robertson in a false light and imply that Pat advocates/promotes heinous crimes against gays or directly caused the suicide of one or more homosexual persons."

"We are condemning hate speech," said PFLAG President Mitzi Henderson. "Project Open Mind was created to challenge all hate speech that is currently being spoken by those who consider themselves moral leaders in our society, and to show the potential tragic consequences of such anti-gay rhetoric.

"America needs to hold its leaders accountable to a higher standard of tolerance and acceptance of their fellow human beings. The ads are a wake-up call to tolerant, fairminded Americans that this kind of hate speech in their communities is harmful to their lesbian and gay family members and neighbors.

"The religious and political leaders featured in the television advertisements are unfortunately only representatives of those who bring insidious anti-gay rhetoric into our culture every day for political gain. There is no justifiable context for the demonizing and marginalization of gays and lesbians, or any group of American citizens."

PFLAG spokesman Rob Banaszak said Robertson, Falwell and Helms "are by no means the target of our campaign, which is a wake-up call to middle America to hold accountable our political and religious leaders to the kinds of speech they deliver."

The advocacy spots are designed to raise public awareness on the harm caused by anti-gay rhetoric and bigotry by juxtaposing the words of nationally prominent anti-gay leaders with images of hate crimes against gays, and gay and lesbian suicide.

The first ad spot, "Bashing," show video clips of Robertson equating homosexuality with an "abomination," a "pathology," "Satanists" and even "Adolf Hitler." While he is speaking, the viewer witnesses a group of skinheads beating up a young gay man. At the end of the spot, Nancy Rodriguez of Atlanta, tells viewers, 'My son Paul was brutally murdered. The FBI said it was a gay bashing.'

The second ad, "Innocent," shows video clips from Falwell saying that 'God hates homosexuality' and that it is a 'moral perversion,' as well as quotes from Robertson and Helms. While these three are speaking, the viewer sees a teenage girl in tears entering her parents' bedroom, getting a gun and considering suicide. At the end, an announcer notes that 'It is estimated that 30 percent of teenage suicide victims are gay or lesbian.'

In addition to the television ad campaign, Project Open Mind includes a program of local community outreach to educate the public about the harsh realities of anti-gay rhetoric and attacks.

"The damage caused by these attacks affects every community - large and small," said Gillis, "that's why our local outreach program is so important. The television ads may get peoples' attention, but our personal message will be able to connect with them in a way a television ad can't. "

"This campaign is about family values," said Henderson. "The number one family value is to love and protect your children. If our community and our society is to embrace family values, then we must love and protect all of our children. To do so, we must speak out forcefully against anti-gay bigotry wherever it occurs - and reaffirm to gays and lesbians that they are entitled to the same respect, dignity and civil rights as all Americans."

"Dr. Martin Luther King said, 'We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people,'" said Sandra Gillis, executive director of PFLAG. "The purpose of this ad campaign is to shock the good people of America out of their silence, so that they join with us in condemning anti-gay bigotry."

[OASIS]General information: Jeff Walsh
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