Fifty-two Sacramento ministers have come to the defense of an alternative newspaper to protest the actions of David Woodel, state director for the American Family Association.
Taking a full-page advertisement in the free distribution Sacramento News & Review (SN&R), church representatives, including 16 United Methodist and 11 Presbyterian ministers, defended the free-press rights of the publication, saying, "It saddens us to see the word 'Christianity' used as a cover for intolerance, bigotry, small-mindedness, and anger."
In July, Woodel succeeded in having SN&R-which draws revenue from explicitly sexual personal preference advertising in its classifieds-removed from 16 Burger King franchises. "Most business people really don't understand that there's a civil war of values taking place," Woodel says.
SN&R wrote that alternative newspapers are facing "increasing pressure from Religious Right groups that either use existing corporate policy or perceived homophobia in individual communities to in effect censor the newsweeklies." Woodel, an insurance agent, sees it differently. Pointing to the homosexual and lesbian personal ads, he says, "These are people with sexual addictions who need help. The purpose of the News & Review is to desensitize and legitimize such activity."
Meanwhile, Woodel is coping with the fallout, including clients who have canceled insurance because of his "intolerant" views, obscene graffiti painted on his building, and threats of sexual violence against his family.1
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