FOR OVER A HUNDRED YEARS children have gathered on the South Lawn of the White House on the Monday after Easter to roll Easter eggs across the yard and meet the Easter Bunny. Seemingly few (if any) Washingtonians have ever tried to exploit the annual White House Easter Egg Roll for political purposes. Until now. A church-based homosexual rights group is planning to crash the event with a "family visibility action" to spotlight their non-traditional families.
"On April 17, 2006, when the White House lawn is opened to families for the Annual Easter Egg Roll, imagine if the first 1,000 families onto the lawn were LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] families," enthused a January 4 email alert from Soulforce. Once America sees the White House lawn awash in LGBT families, "there will be no going back," Soulforce promised.
Soulforce is the political organizing tool of self-described "militant gay activist" Mel White, the former Jerry Falwell speech writer who discovered his gayness and became a clergyman in the predominantly homosexual Metropolitan Community Churches.
White and his supporters routinely show up at church conventions and other events to protest, perform acts of civil disobedience and demand that denominations change their teachings about homosexuality. They apply the "soul force" of principles from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi to the "struggle for justice for sexual minorities."
According to Soulforce, "LGBT" participants are being urged to gather at the White House gate the night before so as to be the first to enter the next morning. Volunteers will stand in line for "LGBT" parents who cannot do it themselves.
Although Soulforce insists this will not be a political protest, only a gathering for families, its supporters will arrive with special "non-political" t-shirts to identify themselves as "LGBT."
THE WHITE HOUSE EASTER EGG ROLL dates back to Rutherford Hayes, who opened up the South Lawn to children after the Easter egg roll at the Capitol was shut down. In typical fashion, a fusty Congress became concerned about damage to its lawn and turned the kiddies away. President Hayes and his successors have been glad to compensate for Congress' lack of hospitality. Besides thousands of children and parents, the roll often includes prominent entertainers, the Easter Bunny, and sometimes the president and first lady.
The Easter Egg Roll has remained non-controversial for too long, apparently. Soulforce, in cooperation with other homosexuality advocacy groups, such as Family Pride, wants same-sex couples and other non-traditional "sexual minorities" to bring their children to the White House so as to expose America to "LGBT" families.
"The media will be there (they are always there for the egg roll) and millions of Americans--many for the first time--will meet our families," the Soulforce email explained. "This is an amazing opportunity to reach homes in blue states and red states with positive images of our families participating in this great American family tradition."
Soulforce went on to promise: "This event will be like nothing anyone has ever seen before. The White House lawn--the Bush [italics in original] White House lawn--will, quite unexpectedly, be filled with gay and lesbian families. This is something people will be talking about for a long time, an event that will make history!"
According to Soulforce, "It is time to claim our place at the table. Come to our nation's capital and let America see who we really are." Less any of its supporters be lacking in enthusiasm, the email promised: "It is basically going to be the biggest LGBT family party ever, you and your kids will have a great time."
Recipients of the Soulforce email were asked to be "discreet" and not to post the information on websites because the "success of this action depends on keeping it under the radar of the media and the administration!!!"
OVER THE YEARS Soulforce has become well known for its disruptive demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience at the conventions of religious denominations that do not share its views on sexual ethics. Invariably these churches, even the liberal mainline ones, are portrayed by Soulforce as "anti-gay."
Soulforce's main partner in crashing the White House Easter Egg roll is the Family Pride Coalition (FPC), which is the "only national non-profit organization solely dedicated to equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parents and their families."
"There is no more powerful way to change the national discussion around our families and our rights than to introduce ourselves to our neighbors on a grand scale," the Family Pride Coalition promises on its website. "Join us in making history, having fun and showing off our amazing families to the country!" (Like Soulforce, the FPC also wants its members to be secretive about the plan. A passage on its page about the event reads: "Important Note: If word about this reaches the administration or any of our opponents, there may be an effort to keep our families from participating. Please tell as many LGBT families as possible about this event, but please DO NOT post a link to this page on a searchable website. It is fine though, to forward the link directly to LGBT families.")
Other sponsors of the Egg Roll crashing include: the Metropolitan Community Church, PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), COLAGE (Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), Love Makes a Family, the BLGT Office of the Unitarian Universalists, and the unofficial Reconciling Ministries Network within United Methodism.
Soulforce and the Family Pride Coalition warned that if the Bush administrations gets wind of their special plans, the White House Egg Roll may be declared an invitation-only event. If somehow blocked from entrance, the "LGBT" families are encouraged to still stick around outside the White House and talk to the media.
When he invited in the children turned away from the Capitol's lawn, President Hayes probably had no idea of the controversy the White House Egg Roll would bestir more than a century later. Welcome to Easter 2006.
Mark D. Tooley directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.