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Promise Keepers Going Down?

by Matt Cherry

The following article is from Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 18, Number 1.

"Stand in the Gap: A Sacred Assembly of Men" was a potent demonstration of the growing strength of conservative religion in America. The Promise Keepers rally brought an estimated 700,000 men to Washington, D.C., to proclaim their commitment to male supremacy and other traditional Christian values. But the rally at the National Mall may mark the high tide for Promise Keepers, as the organization is reported to be facing serious financial problems.

Promise Keepers, Inc., claimed a total staff of 452 workers and 36 regional offices early this year. Its 1997 income was originally projected at $117 million, with 70% of revenue coming from the sale of admission tickets for rallies. But according to inside sources, a 28% drop in attendance at PK stadium rallies in 1997 created a gaping hole in the budget. As a result, financial cutbacks forced Promise Keepers to lay off hundreds of workers and close many regional offices over the summer.

Although PK rallies usually charge a $60 admission fee, "Stand in the Gap" was a free event. Organization and publicity for the rally cost Promise Keepers, Inc., more than $9 million.

Promise Keepers may have been hoping that the massive publicity for the D.C. rally would recoup its costs by boosting attendance to future events. "Stand in the Gap" certainly succeeded in generating blanket media coverage for the men-only Christian group. But PK founder Bill McCartney - reputedly a loose cannon in the organization - was so moved by the occasion that he promised all future stadium rallies would also be free. Since the average donation made at PK meetings is a meager $4 per person, it will be very difficult for the organization to make up for the loss of admission charges. (Bill McCartney's personal life has been scrutinized by the press and is a source of further embarrassment to the PK movement.)

The father of the Promise Keepers may find that free admission to stadium rallies is one promise he can't afford to keep.

Thanks to Skipp Porteous and the Freedom Writer for the detailed information on the Promise Keepers.

Matt Cherry is Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism.

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This page was last updated 02/13/2004

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