Critics Pile Up Promise Keepers Questions: Group Accused of Political Agenda

Article excerpt

The upcoming Promise Keepers gathering on the Mall, which is projected to bring as many as 1 million men to Washington next month to pray for the country and repent their sins, has added one more enemy.

The New York-based Center for Democracy Studies, headed by lawyer Alfred Ross, a former researcher for Planned Parenthood, has launched a media campaign charging "our constitutional rights will be challenged on Saturday, Oct. 4," the day of the gathering.

"We don't have issue with religion as such; what we are concerned with is the masking of political agendas with a religious vocabulary," he says, adding that Promise Keepers' aim is to force a Christian agenda onto the local, state and national levels.

Publications such as the Village Voice and Gentleman's Quarterly have slashed at the Denver-based Christian men's ministry, whose adherents make seven promises geared at making them more godly husbands, fathers and sons. GQ has called the movement's founder, former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney, a "raving lunatic" and compared him to Adolf Hitler.

Last week the National Organization for Women stepped in, announcing a campaign "to take the mask off" the movement, saying its goal is to repeal all women's rights and force women to submit to men.

Now the Center for Democracy Studies has issued a PK Watch newsletter in which it charges that the Oct. 4 gathering is "a dry run for a more ambitious holy war, and further national-scale assaults on the positions of women, gays and lesbians, the future of government action for social programs and the legal separation of church and state."

A consulting editor, Russ Bellant, contributed an essay to PK Watch connecting Promise Keepers with leaders of a "shepherding movement" that greatly influenced charismatic Christians in the 1970s. But one of the leaders, Franciscan University of Steubenville President Michael Scanlan, publicly disassociated himself from the shepherding movement in 1991. And Strang Communications, an Orlando, Fla., Christian media conglomerate cited by Mr. Bellant, published a lengthy critique of the shepherding movement in 1990.

These charges are hardly new to Promise Keepers, and the group's president, Randy Phillips, has continually denied them.

Promise Keepers spokesman Mark DeMoss disavows political intent. …