Friday, Sept. 26, 1997 | 10:58 a.m.
Some women's groups are criticizing Rep. John Ensign for his "proud and enthusiastic" support of an all-male religious rally Oct. 4 in Washington.
The event is being staged by Promise Keepers, a conservative Christian movement co-founded in 1990 by then-University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney.
Ensign has belonged to Promise Keepers for five years and is expected to attend next month's rally. He co-signed a Sept. 9 letter on congressional stationery, inviting other congressmen to "this historic and powerful event" on the Mall next week.
Elizabeth Toledo, a spokes-woman for the National Organization for Women, says Ensign's participation in Promise Keepers could hurt him with some voters.
"It's anti-choice, it's anti-equality, it's homophobic," Toledo said of Promise Keepers.
Suzann Denton-Pratt of the Southern Nevada Women's Political Caucus said Promise Keepers is too right wing "when what you want to be politically is in the middle." Statewide voter registration is split almost equally between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans hold a 1,673 voter edge.
Ensign, a two-term Las Vegas Republican, is expected to run for the Senate in 1998.
Like the incumbent, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., Ensign is anti-abortion, which would give neither an advantage among women voters, but Ensign's allegiance to Promise Keepers could be a deciding factor for some, Toledo said.
"I think people will look at that candidate with skepticism," she said.
Ensign, a Protestant raised as a Catholic, said critics don't understand Promise Keepers, which he says encourages fidelity, purity and "spiritual renewal."
"Promise Keepers strongly emphasizes the husband not being so career-oriented that he sacrifices family," Ensign, the father of two, told the SUN last year. "Life is about balance -- job and family."
The letter Ensign wrote to his colleagues earlier this month says Promise Keepers is "a nationwide movement of men seeking to commit one another to their families, racial reconciliation and God."
Critics assert that Promise Keepers encourages followers to suppress women.
Those who oppose the organization cite a statement written by evangelist Tony Brown in "Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper," published for Promise Keepers by James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Dobson, a conservative Denver radio talk-show host, is a member of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission.
Brown says husbands should tell their wives, "Honey, I've made a terrible mistake. I've given you my role. I gave up leading this family, and I forced you to take my place. Now I must reclaim that role."
He tells men there should be "no compromise" on issues of authority and urges women to relent for the "survival of our culture."
In a news release Ensign issued this week, he said the rally will include a 10-minute prayer "for our nation's leaders."
"We will be praying for all of America's leaders -- Republicans, Democrats, men, women, conservatives, moderates and liberals," he said. "I think it's shameful that any group would question the motivation of an event that can only strengthen us as citizens and legislators."
Others who signed the letter are Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, and Reps. Ed Bryan, R-Tenn., and Jon Christensen, R-Neb. Christensen is Ensign's Washington roommate.