If you need to catch up on why we’re protesting at Harvard today, click here.
On Saturday, April 2, 2011, approximately fifty people protested the fundamentalist “Social Transformation” conference held at Harvard Extension School. The conference promoted the “Seven Mountains” movement intended to bring various spheres of American life under greater religious right influence: society: education, government, media, business, arts & entertainment, religion, and the family. The conference featured religious extremists who were billed as “leading voices for the faith-based social transformation culture.” Conference speaker Lance Wallnau said during an October 2010 webcast: “So you’ve got your homosexual activity, your abortion activity here, Islam coming in, you’ve got a financial collapse — all of this, to those of us who are Christians, is an apocalyptic confirmation that when you remove God from public discourse, when you don’t line up your thinking with kingdom principles, you inevitably hit an iceberg like the Titanic and you go down.”
Organized by Join the Impact MA and Truth Wins Out, the rally took place on Harvard University grounds. Join the Impact MA Board member Sasha Kaufman started the action by leading the protestors in a series of chants: “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Homophobia’s Got To Go” and “Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay, Take Your Hate and Go Away.” Signs featured messages like “Standing in Love against Hate” and “Love Is the Answer.” Calling attention to the ties of one conference speaker to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, Join the Impact MA member Matthew Murphy carried a sign that read: “Os Hillman Take a Bow for Anti-Gay Violence in Uganda.”
The first rally speaker, Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, decried the efforts of conference organizers to whitewash the speakers’ extremist views. Organizers denied that conference presenters espoused anti-gay and anti-Islamic positions—though YouTube video footage is conclusive. Wayne noted that, “once the Potemkin Village is dismantled – these activists will go to places like Uganda or the backwoods of Mississippi and preach the poisonous ‘gospel’ of hate.”
Join the Impact MA member and Harvard School of Education graduate student James Croft, a Briton, observed that the conferees’ theocratic agenda conflicted with foundational American values. He exhorted the crowd that “it is our duty to confront these theocrats, and to defeat them, to ensure freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and secular government remain among the guiding principles of the United States of America.”
Three student speakers represented different schools at Harvard. Neil Peterman of the Harvard Graduate School for Arts and Scientists, Jacob Krueger of Harvard Divinity School, and Sam Bakkila of Harvard College’s Queer Students Association and Allies all emphasized that the Seven Mountains conference clashed with Harvard’s tradition of welcoming LGBT people and other minorities. They stressed that the conferees were not representative of the Harvard community.
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force organizer Sue Hyde attended the conference to observe, and reported back to the group that there weren’t many more people inside participating than outside protesting. Bruce Wilson, a researcher with Truth Wins Out and editor of the blog “Talk 2 Action” which follows the religious right, critiqued the “International Coalition of Apostles,” the umbrella organization for many of the conference speakers. He noted that along with their hostility to LGBT people, the “apostles” warn that witchcraft is a threat to society and seem to regard Catholicism and Mormonism as illegitimate faiths. Another speaker, the Rev. Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican Priest from Zambia, made clear that the theocrats at the conference did not know the true Jesus Christ.
Join the Impact Co-Chair Ann Coleman lambasted the conferees’ plan for “social transformation” toward greater bigotry. Coleman noted that “there is a real movement for LGBT equality that sends a different message. I have faith in the power of the people: women, men, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, those of all faiths, students and working people to create real democracy, freedom, equality, and justice. Every great social transformation for the good of all people has started with those willing to take a stand against bigotry no matter where it emerges.”