Volunteers and staffers at last weekend's Gender PAC conference got a surprise as they were preparing for the weekend. Inside each of the plastic bags that were to be stuffed with materials for the attendees was an anti-gay pamphlet, "Homosexuality: A Queer Turn of Events!"
Because the pamphlets were found early, conference attendees never saw them, according to Gender PAC executive director Riki Wilchins. But it was obvious that whoever pre-stuffed the bags with the pamphlet hoped to slip them by conference organizers.
One of the pamphlets that was
surreptitiously inserted into bags to
be used at Gender PAC's conference
"They skipped the top two bags [in each box] so we wouldn't know," Wilchins said. "They were very clever."
While the volunteers and staff who found the pamphlets were upset by it, Wilchins stressed that the incident didn't affect the conference in any way beyond the couple of hours they took to remove them from the bags.
According to Wilchins, Gender PAC contracted with a vendor in Indiana for the plastic conference bags, to be printed with the GPAC conference logo. The vendor then subcontracted the actual production of the bags to a company in Wisconsin, where the pamphlets were apparently inserted.
Wilchins, who declined to provide Metro Weekly with the name of the vendor or subcontractor, said that the Indiana company was very apologetic about the incident, offered to reprint the entire job and gave them a significant discount. The company has issued a letter of apology to Gender PAC and, said Wilchins, is investigating the incident.
The pamphlets are produced by Yay God! Ministries, a religious activist organization in Wisconsin. The pamphlet quotes verses from the Bible that condemn homosexuality, as well as arguments from "reparative therapy" groups such as NARTH and Exodus Ministries.
Jason Marianna, president and founder of Yay God!, said he provided the brochures that were inserted in the bags.
"I was told the pamphlets would be going into the bags," Marianna said. "I was told that the group would be homosexual activists."
Marianna said that Yay God! provides the pamphlets to as many people as they can, "as free as we possibly can."
Yay God!, which grew out of another religious group and began operation earlier this year, has four "foundational goals": evangelism, church assistance, social activism and political activism.
"Our ultimate goal is to bring honor and glory to God," Marianna said. "Whether it be putting things in bags or standing in front of [abortion] clinics, the mission is evangelism."
Yay God! focuses on homosexuality because it "seems to be a sin that is promoted more and more in our culture," he said, pointing to gay marriage victories and activism in Massachusetts, San Francisco and elsewhere. "I want [young people] to understand that God doesn't say this is okay. We believe very much that the Bible is clear that homosexuality is a sin."
Wilchins dismissed the insertion of the pamphlets as "an irritation factor," adding that something of this nature has never happened with one of their vendors or suppliers in the past. She noted that the pamphlets were somewhat misdirected, given that Gender PAC is not a gay organization but one that deals with gender issues as they apply across sexual orientation and other factors.
Looking at the weekend as a whole, Wilchins called the conference "very successful," with their largest-yet number of participants for the annual lobby day on Capitol Hill, and "awesome" plenaries and keynotes from conference speakers focuses on race and gender.
One outgrowth of the conference Wilchins hopes to see is the continued formation of a parenting support network through Gender PAC, part of the special parenting track featured at this year's conference.
However, Wilchins does regret the negative tone that was introduced, albeit briefly, by the confrontational message of the pamphlets.
"We need less sloganeering and more honest dialogue on both sides."
For more information
Yay God! Ministries