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Use 'Velvet Glove' To Thwart Gay Rights Groups Tol


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Use 'Velvet Glove' To Thwart Gay Rights Groups Told

by The Associated Press

Posted: September 12, 2005 9:00 pm ET

(Portland, Maine) Pastors opposed to the state's gay rights law are being advised to tone down their condemnation of homosexuality and focus as much on love and support as on sin and scripture.

Haley and Melissa Fryrear from Focus on the Family have urged a meeting of about 200 leaders from Maine's evangelical community to stop quoting Leviticus, which refers to gay sex as an ''abomination," and to avoid sayings like, ''Love the sinner, hate the sin."

They encouraged "balance" in churches, communities, and public policy debates.

That balance could be key for Maine's Christian conservatives trying to win support for a November ballot question. They hope to overturn a state law that would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation.

A righteous or hateful tone could steer undecided voters away, while one of kindness and compassion could help win supporters, said Mark Brewer, a political science professor at the University of Maine.

''You have to avoid coming off in any way as hateful," Brewer said. ''If they can't do that, they won't succeed."

Gay rights advocates question how much love and support conservative Christians can muster while they condemn same-sex relationships as morally wrong.

Jesse Connolly of Maine Won't Discriminate, the campaign to add sexual orientation to the Maine Human Rights Act, questioned how much love and support exist in an effort by conservative Christians trying to stop a law that would ensure that people can keep their jobs, apartments, or lines of credit.

''If there was compassion in what they talk about, they would be on our side," Connolly said.

Christian conservatives in Maine have swayed voters on the antidiscrimination measure before. Mainers in 1998 sided with conservative religious groups and repealed a law that would have outlawed discrimination against gays. Two years later, lawmakers did not pass the measure, but asked voters to decide. Mainers rejected it in a close vote.

The most recent dispute over the antidiscrimination law started last spring. The Legislature enacted the law, but conservative Christians led a drive that gathered enough signatures to force a vote in November.

Colin Lemont of Calvary Bible Baptist Church in Whitefield said he hopes Focus on the Family's message will help to keep the campaign from becoming nasty and divisive. ''That really needs to become a key component through this whole debate and process," Lemont said.

©365Gay.com 2005


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