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Recent Soulforce arrest at Springs campus portends campaign to come


Robynne Sapp and Dotti Berry vow that Soulforce will - pressure Focus on the Family. - MICHAEL DE YOANNA
  • Michael de Yoanna
  • Robynne Sapp and Dotti Berry vow that Soulforce will pressure Focus on the Family.

Robynne Sapp says if she could have, she would have hugged James Dobson.

Then she would have told the Focus on the Family patriarch why his teachings led her to the brink of suicide.

"It was like walking into the room of my abuser and saying, "What you did was not OK,'" Sapp, a lesbian, says when describing why she protested at the evangelical Christian organization that calls homosexuality a sin.

She and her partner, Dotti Berry, both of Blaine, Wash., never got to meet Dobson on Feb 19. Within minutes of their arrival, they were arrested by police and removed.

Last month, the two returned to Colorado Springs to pay a $50 fine on trespassing charges stemming from the protest. Then they promised that Focus would see similar protests in weeks and months to come.

Both are part of Soulforce, a nonprofit that in 2005 staged a 700-person rally at Focus headquarters. Last year, the group sponsored a weeklong march from the Capitol in Denver to Focus.

In a change of tactics, Soulforce now vows to ramp up protests through a series of smaller actions on an "ongoing basis," says Chris Hubble, Soulforce's Colorado organizer.

Soulforce's past efforts allowed Focus to "evaluate and critique our message, give their response to the media and then go back to business as usual once the event had concluded," Hubble wrote in an e-mail.

"I would hope for weekly events, but that will be dependent on the organic dynamics of the campaign," Hubble added. "We could see action participants blocking entrances or distributing literature on campus."

The campaign, "Focus on the Facts," seeks to end what Hubble describes as years of Dobson's "untruthful rhetoric, which causes suffering for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."

Sapp and Berry point to Dobson's "misinformation" in a December Time magazine op-ed titled, "Two Mommies Is One Too Many." The piece took aim at Mary Cheney, Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter, who is pregnant and intends to raise her child with her lesbian partner.

"The two most loving women in the world cannot provide a daddy for a little boy any more than the two most loving men can be complete role models for a little girl," Dobson wrote in the Dec. 18 issue.

He also referenced "30 years of social-science evidence," a claim Soulforce denounced on its Web site,

The organization points to the findings of the American Psychological Association, the scientific and professional organization for psychologists. APA "supports the protection of parent-child relationships through the legalization of joint adoptions and second-parent adoptions of children being reared by same-sex couples," according to a 2004 resolution.

Nima Reza of Focus on the Family declined to comment on Dobson's article and Soulforce's plans for more protests at Focus.

On a different note, QueerWatch, a national network of gays and lesbians, had criticized Sapp and Berry's protest, saying it reinforced the idea that gays and lesbians must identify with Christianity to be accepted.

Sapp and Berry counter by stating that although churches have shunned them because of their sexual identity, they won't be forced from their faith.

Sapp adds that she cannot change who she is.

"You can't pray the gay away," she says.

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