Several hundred feminists, gays and lesbians, atheists, and liberal activists challenged the Promise Keepers during a protest on Saturday, carrying signs and chanting.
A press conference was held by the protesters, featuring Ellie Smeal of the Feminist Majority, Patricia Ireland of the National Organization for Women, Al Ross of the Center for Democracy Studies, Pamela Coukous of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Kerry Lobel of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, among others.
Feminist Majority president Smeal said “The Promise Keepers are preaching that men are ordained to lead — women to submit or follow. We have been there, done that. These out-moded attitudes have led time and time again to low pay, low status, and the abuse of women.”
NOW president Ireland challenged the Promise Keepers to keep some new promises — to respect women’s equality, uphold civil rights for women, people of color, and gays and lesbians, and to uphold religious freedom.
Many women came to speak out against the Promise Keepers political agenda. “They have a long-term agenda that is being funded by the religious right,” said 46-year-old Connie Hannah, who thinks the organization is a threat to civil rights, women’s rights, and democracy.
Twenty-year-old Wendy Weinhold of Nebraska said she objected to the Promise Keeprs because “they say it is the men who must lead in the household. They don’t talk about equality; they talk about submission.”
Georgetown student Angie Warren said, “They’re calling for a return to traditional values, and it seems like it took us so long to get away from some of those values — like having one head of a family. Why can’t women head it, too?”
Promise Keepers president Tony Evans claimed PK didn’t intend to “force our religious ideas on anyone,” yet many Promise Keepers spoke about the need to outlaw abortion and equal rights for gays and lesbians. One pro-PK woman grabbed a NOW member and began speaking in tongues, and the protesters were repeatedly asked to submit to Jesus Christ as their “Lord and Savior.”
Geraldine Brittain, 76 and Jewish, said the Promise Keepers movement “smacks of fascism. I think it’s fanatical, and it scares me.” Despite PK founder Bill McCartney’s insistence that “we are not out to divide this nation,” a group of men told the feminists that Jews killed Jesus, and only Messianic Jews were invited to speak at the rally.
A day after the rally, McCartney said that he plans to make Promise Keepers a global endeavor and convert more people to Christianity. He repeated to the Washington Post that homosexuality is “an abomination” and a sin, and that men must take authority in the home. Despite their new global plan and PK vice-president Raleigh Washington’s statement that PK men “will enter the political sphere” because “there is no way the group can restrict itself when it comes to public policy,” McCartney continues to tell the media that there is no political agenda. But, he added, if God told him to run for President, he’d “be a fool not to.”