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Publish Date: 4/26/2005

Focus targets Salazar
Protest groups to turn up heat on ministry


DENVER — In the latest escalation in a dispute between U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar and a Colorado Springs-based conservative Christian ministry, the politician criticized Focus on the Family supporters for protesting in front of the Dairy Queen owned by his wife.

“It is one thing to disagree with me on controversial issues of the day, and I accept and welcome differing views,” Salazar said in a statement. “But it is something else to target my wife’s business, in an attempt to intimidate me.

“These tactics are outrageous and un-American, and simply won’t work.”

According to Salazar press secretary Cody Wertz, around 30 Focus protestors camped out in front of the Westminster ice cream store Sunday.

The rhetoric, which has included criticisms calling each other “unchristian” and “anti-Catholic,” began as a dispute over President Bush’s judicial nominees.

The lobbying arm of Focus on the Family placed a series of radio and newspaper ads criticizing Salazar and other senators for holding up some of the nominations.

Meanwhile, Focus on the Family’s national headquarters complex is also expected to be the site of protests in early May by groups on both sides of the gay-issues debate.

One group, the national gay-advocacy group Soulforce, criticizes the conservative Christian ministry for what it calls “hurtful rhetoric” from Focus and its founder, James Dobson.

The other, Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., says the ministry is gay-friendly because it holds conferences encouraging gays to become heterosexual.

“We’re getting simultaneous picketing to balance things out,” said Focus on the Family spokesman Paul Hetrick.

“Fred (Phelps, Westboro’s leader) thinks we’re soft on homosexuality, and the other group thinks we’re too hard on homosexuality. I guess we’re sort of in the middle. I know now what it feels like to be moderate.”

Soulforce, headed by gay minister Mel White, expects up to 1,000 people from gay-friendly churches and advocacy groups in Denver and Colorado Springs to participate in its protest.

The group plans to deliver thousands of letters from people whom White says have suffered because of Dobson’s speeches and political stances.

The Daily Times-Call contributed to this report.

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