Self-proclaimed moral police strike again 

Late last week, the Independent received an e-mail announcing a strategic campaign to dissuade local businesses from advertising in the paper, due to concerns over its "ever-increasingly immoral and offensive" content.

The e-mail was signed by Tom Pedigo, who identifies himself as state director of the American Family Association of Colorado. The national AFA is a Washington-based lobbying organization, positioned to monitor legislation on abortion and gay rights issues. At the state level, according to a Washington spokesperson for AFA, there is no card-carrying members, just donors who receive the national magazine. State directors are generally self-appointed activists who monitor media and business in local communities, searching for aberrations that threaten their mission of "protecting faith, family and freedom."

Apparently Mr. Pedigo's definition of protecting freedom, faith and family doesn't exactly agree with ours.

We have long been familiar with Mr. Pedigo and his activities as moral policeman in Colorado Springs. In August of 1999, in a cover story entitled "God's Instrument?" we covered Pedigo's support of Mike McKee, the radical radio jock who launched a smear campaign against the Independent by threatening more than 100 advertisers with a boycott of their businesses. (Mr. McKee's radio show was yanked from the air last July due to non-payment of fees.)

In that story, Mr. Pedigo admitted his "group," the AFA, had stopped supporting McKee's show due to a shortage of funds. But he roundly supported McKee's mission, characterizing him as "the most forceful, in-your-face, confrontative (sic), prophetitive (sic) man in Colorado Springs," a powerful force opposing the Independent and other "pro-homosexual" newspapers.

McKee and Pedigo have joined forces in at least one campaign. In 1999, they demonstrated outside the Chapel Hills Barnes & Noble bookstore, protesting the national chain's policy of selling books about homosexuality. According to a report in the Colorado Christian Chronicle, the demonstrators' signs "spelled out an impending doom for those who choose to bow to the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. The choices were clear: repent and take a stand or answer to the consequences."

The mission of Pedigo and McKee is clear -- stamp out any business in the community that doesn't condemn homosexuality as a mortal sin and a scourge to humanity.

Since its inception, the Independent has championed freedom of speech and representation for all members of the community. And along with that mission, we support individuals' right to choose whether or not to pick up the paper. Still, folks like Mr. Pedigo, who proclaim their fundamental distaste for the paper, feel compelled to pick it up and to comb the pages for any references to homosexuality, or sexuality in general, that might offend them.

In our e-mail exchange, we encouraged Mr. Pedigo to voice his complaints in the way that is available to all our readers -- by writing a letter to the editor for publication. Instead, he has chosen to take his campaign on the road and to threaten advertisers with a boycott if they don't bend to his will.

This week, he mailed a letter and a homemade xeroxed flyer to businesses across the community, claiming that his one-man "organization" is "concerned about the morality and decency of our society." Specifically, Pedigo says he is greatly concerned about the "social atmosphere and direction" of Colorado Springs, and is asking advertisers to withdraw financial support from the Independent or risk losing business from his supporters.

Apparently, Mr. Pedigo has learned one important lesson from his buddy Mike McKee, whose current whereabouts are unknown. While McKee preached from a bully pulpit, spouting vehemently his own personal disgust for homosexuals and those who would support them (including the Urban League, KRCC, Barnes & Noble and the Independent), Mr. Pedigo has printed himself some official-looking stationery and has bestowed upon himself instant credibility by referring to himself as director of a state-wide organization. "It's all in the way you present yourself," he said to the Independent last August, expressing some reservations about McKee's strident methods of lambasting those who didn't agree with him.

Mr. Pedigo refused to acknowledge that the Independent bothers to cover anything that is not "pornographic" in nature, choosing instead to focus on a single February issue dedicated to sexual expression, scouring the personals ads for gay content that directly offends his sensibilities. His xeroxed flyer is yellow journalism of the worst sort, pulling advertising copy and representing it as editorial content, thereby generally skewing the overall content of the paper.

When the editor pointed out to Mr. Pedigo that the paper's past four cover stories have focused on a threatened downtown neighborhood, the habitat of the Mexican Spotted Owl south of the city, standardized testing and a fifth-grade classroom -- racy stuff, indeed -- he chose to disparage the journalistic methods of the paper overall.

So expect to hear from Tom Pedigo in the near future, but be clear about one thing -- his mission is not about cleaning up or fixing Colorado Springs. It's about demanding that everyone see the world through his narrowly focused eyes.

Check out the August article, "God's Instrument?"


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