For lesbian activists and grassroots organizers fighting the Christian Right.
Know Your Enemy: Researching the Christian Right
The History of the Christian Right Wing
The current National Christian Right Wing
Other Groups Who Have Organized Against Anti-Lesbian and Gay Initiatives
State and Local Snooping
Know Your Enemy: Researching the Right Wing
It's important to realize that the right-wing, in general, and the Christian-Right, in particular are not new to this country. And, we aren't the first people who have fought against them. Reading some general history about the right-wing in this country and your state is a good way to begin. It can give you some good insights into the way they operate, how they have gotten support, and from whom. It will also give you information about how other people have organized against them. You'll also find that people are more prone to listen to your side of the argument when they see that you are knowledgeable about both sides.
Gaining knowledge about the Christian Right groups active in your area will help you frame your argument and begin to organize. You can get a sense of what you are up against in the way they state their arguments and the issues they think motivate people to action. For example are they telling people that homos are going to get their young sons? Do people actually believe that lesbian and gay hiring quotas are around the corner? What do they think are the strong points about their campaign?
Knowing your enemy well will help you feel more confident and be more competent. It will also give you some great ideas and venues for organizing actions.
There are some good books that can give you an overview of the history of the Christian Right. We've listed some of them in the back of this handbook apendix. It's a lot of information to take in, especially when you're dealing with an immediate threat but it's knowledge that can prove to be very useful. There's usually at least one dyke in a group who loves to do this kind of reading and who might summarize for everyone else what she learns. Or, have group members each read a different book and do a kind of teach-in to inform each other of what you've found. Make copies of the most salient parts and put them in your project journal or file.
There are several national organizations which have been keeping track of the right-wing. We also list some of them at the back of the handbook. One is (Political Research Associates) (I think this is their name), a watchdog organization which has been following the Christian Right for many years. They publish a magazine and may be able to give you advice on the best approach to take in your situation. They might also be interested in knowing whatever you turn up.
You can also call or get on the mailing list of the Christian Coalition (read more about how to do this, below, in the section on mailing lists and phone calls). To find their nearest chapter or to get on their mailing list, contact:
A word of caution: Many of these groups spend their lives following the Christian Right and have enough bundles of information to bog you down way past election time. They are researchers, you are an activist. Try not to go overboard trying to ingest all their very detailed information. You don't need to know the specifics like who's who in each splinter group. Concentrate on the broader strategies and trends and leave the nitty gritty in the neat professional-looking little folders you get from watchdog groups.
The National Lesbian and Gay Task Force in Washington, D.C. has a Fight-the-Right handbook with some helpful information. Be aware, though, that the campaigns they describe are usually "mainstream" models.
Call groups which have already fought against anti-lesbian and gay initiatives in their area -- organizers in Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Florida, Cincinnati, Maine -- contact grassroots groups like yourselvesrather than contacting only the "mainstream campaign" equivalent (which usually have names like "No on 1."). If you want to get a direct-action activist view of what happened, make a phone call. Anyone who's done this kind of work is probably very emotionally attached to it and would love to share their experiences with you. You may get new ideas for actions by asking them what worked for them - and what didn't. Out, direct-action dykes in other areas are great sources of information, inspiration and support.
When it comes to getting important information about the opposition, one standard means of obtaining it often comes up, infiltration -- becoming a member of the state or local right-wing group For many of us, the Christian Right is an abstraction; we have never seen them close up. Hearing, rather than reading what they have to say, and how they say it, and experiencing how they operate, will be enlightening. In addition, you might find out when certain big-wigs are coming to town, when rallies will take place or when certain literature will be available. All of this can provide a basis for creative actions at venues where the media will be sure to turn up, making your job a bit easier. Infiltration is therefore, one obvious way of obtaining information but it can be very risky and difficult, especially if you want more than surface information. It takes a lot of effort and mental strain(having to sit through meetings quietly when people are going on and on about the "sins and perversions of homosexuality", etc.) and often does not provide lots of information unless kept up on a fairly regular basis.
If you do decide to infiltrate, a church is a good place to get started. Is the church supporting any candidates, mentioning certain upstanding individuals in their sermons or extolling key political ideas? For instance, do they relate the Good Book to local government control or school choice? Do a lot of people in the congregation have fund-raising parties for certain members' campaigns? Do any political groups meet in the church basement? If you already know of a right-wing church, you might get involved with the people there. Go to a pancake breakfast or a coffee hour on Sundays after the service. Find out if anyone knows how you can get involved with the campaign.
If you decide to go to church, the best way is to team up with your favorite fag. Why bring a fag date? For one thing, there's safety in numbers. Another reason is that a single girl is everybody's business; a married lady is above question. No matter what your age, without your husband you're always a girl and people will feel free to examine you and ask you probing questions: "You're here alone?", "Who are your parents?", "Are you new in town?", "What do you do?" The more background you have to make up to create your identity, the greater the chances of making a mistake somewhere down the line. If you go as one half of a heterosexual couple, family privacy will reign and you won't face such scrutiny.
A relatively anonymous place to dip into for information
is the local Christian bookseller. Even if that store, in particular isn't
supporting the initiative, there's bound to be information around. Look
for notices on bulletin boards, stacks of flyers or palm-cards. This is
one of the safest types of places you can go to get this kind of information.
Whether on the state or local level, you can save a lot of time and energy
researching the Christian Right by using the phone, getting on mailing
lists and going on-line.
Phones are definitely better on the local level. If
you do some face-to-face snooping you might be recognized behind the line
of a counter-demo or visibility action. But, when you call be prepared
with an alias and decide whether or not you will leave a phone number,
even if what you get is a taped message. In our case it would have been
absurd to leave the number of the Lesbian Avenger headquarters. Not only
was it known from all the flyers posted around town but we would have had
to change our message and then what would our supporters think? But, you
may have access to a more discreet line, maybe at work or a number that's
only hooked up to a machine. In some areas you can protect a phone line
from Caller-ID boxes by dialing #67 waiting for a dial tone and then dialing
the number you want to call. Instead of the number and account name coming
up on their box they will get a reading of "Privacy" as if the
phone was unlisted.
If you don't think you can pull off the phone call
ruse, or if you want additional information, one of the best sources is
Christian Right written material.
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