When David took on Goliath, he wasn’t quite so organized. Mitchell Gold’s slingshot, however, is a full-scale media campaign. His target is anti-gay bigotry couched in Bible verse.
Mitchell Gold and Jimmy Creech with Soulforce in Colorado Springs last year.
Gold is CEO of “Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams,” a successful furniture manufacturer located in North Carolina. The company has annual sales of more than $70 million and employs over 700 people.
“Last year Jimmy Creech and I realized that an organization just didn’t exist that was focused on educating people about religion-based bigotry,” Gold said at a May 3 press conference.
Creech, a former minister, is now executive director of Faith in America — the organization started and funded by Gold. Gold is 56, gay and Jewish. Creech is not gay, 62, and Christian.
Together, they’ve planned an advertising campaign to educate Americans about the historical misuse of religious teachings.
“During my 29 years of ministry, it became clear to me that the fundamental reason for the discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people is religion,” Creech said. “As someone committed to the Christian church and the ministry, I felt it was incumbent upon me to begin to challenge the misuse of religion.”
Challenge he did, and it cost him dearly. Creech lost his minister’s credentials with the United Methodist Church after he performed a marriage ceremony for two gay men in Chapel Hill in 1999. But he continued to support the gay community, joining the board of Soulforce, a national interfaith movement dedicated to “ending spiritual violence” against gays. He is also on the board of the N.C. Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality.
“Religion is such a powerful, positive presence, and makes such an important contribution to society and to culture, moving us to compassion, to justice, to respect for the dignity of all people,” Creech said. “It is really, in a sense, anti-religion to misuse it in the name of bigotry and fear and ignorance.”
Creech and Gold announced their campaign, called “Call to Courage,” on the National Day of Prayer. They want to engage people who live in the early presidential primary and caucus states. The first newspaper ad ran in Ames, Iowa, on Sunday, May 6. From Iowa the campaign will move to Reno, Nev., Greenville, S.C. and Manchester, N.H.
Faith in America will also campaign in Colorado Springs, Colo., home of the anti-gay organization Focus on the Family. The five campaigns will be held between May and the end of November 2007.
“Each of the campaigns will be pretty similar with newspaper ads, billboards, yard signs, bumper stickers,” Creech said. There will also be direct mail and grassroots organizing with local groups.
In 2006, Faith in America initiated a similar media campaign that revealed that participants were more accepting of gays and lesbians after the six-month education campaign.“Many have said I, and we, are dreamers. That we can’t change people’s minds about their deeply-held religious beliefs,” Gold said. “I would only remind them that Jerry Falwell was once one of Americas leading segregationists and he changed.”
In addition to the support of clergy and other community activist groups in each city, the organization is working with allied local and national organizations, including the Metropolitan Community Church, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.