Surprising Last Minute Religious Rallies for Both Sides of CA's Proposition 8
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In synagogues and church pulpits across California the Sunday before the Nov. 4 election, rabbis and preachers admonished their flock on how to vote on Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that would eliminate the right of same sex couples to marry.
In Sacramento, Rev. Rodolfo Llamas told congregants at St. Peter's Catholic Church to vote for Prop 8. "This vote is insulting God," Llamas said at early Mass, the Sacramento Bee reported. "When civil power steps on religious power, then there is a problem." Two hours later, the Rev. Ginny Curinga urged her church members at Sierra Arden United Church of Christ to vote No on Prop 8 as a matter of civil rights. "It has angered me so much to hear the propaganda about Proposition 8," Curinga said. "We need to stand up and vote against this kind of hatred."
Sunday night, however, hundreds of demonstrators from both sides took to the streets in what local television news station CBS13 reported were "violent" clashes resulting in three arrests. "You know, if my child grows up and decides they're going to be gay and they get married, I want them to have that right," Christina Rothman told the CBS13 reporter. "That's why I'm here."
On the other side, a Prop 8 proponent shouted: "Think about your future for your kids. What's going to happen when they grow up?" Not surprisingly, there were no such confrontations at a large get-out-the-vote No on Prop 8 rally in West Hollywood Sunday afternoon. One rally that did surprise the country -- and the organizers -- was a quiet vigil against Prop 8 in Salt Lake City, Utah. More than 600 people showed up at Salt Lake City's Library Square heeding a call from three Mormon mothers of gay children.
"I am so touched that you would be here," said a tearful Millie Watts, the mother of six who organized the vigil, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. "This is what happens when people in California say mean things about our gay kids. The mothers come out of the closet."
Linda Barney, another Mormon mother/organizer, said her heart "reaches out to young Californians, teens who are not out of the closet who are alone ... listening to hateful [rhetoric]...They need to hear from us. They need to know there are people with loving hearts." Watts said she felt "disappointment and betrayal" by the Church of Latter-day Saints, which, according to the independent group Californians Against Hate, has raised $22 million to pass Prop 8. LDS Church and the Yes on 8 campaign, Watts said, is "dividing families."
As a result, some Mormons have left the church. Tiffany Lewis, 21, however, found a way to remain a Mormon and still support her gay brother and oppose Prop 8. "Everyone should have equal rights," she told the Tribune. "You can't help who you love. People deserve to be together."
Famous former San Francisco 49er quarterback Steve Young, who is a descendant of Mormon founder Brigham Young, also demonstrated their opposition to Prop 8, the Bee reported, by posting "No on 8" signs in front of their Palo Alto home. His wife Barbara also contributed $50,000 and issued a statement saying, "our family will vote against Prop. 8."
But Prop 8 has its own big guns -- including Focus on the Family's James Dobson and Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, who showed up for a Christian evangelical rally Saturday at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. The massive rally was organized by TheCall's Lou Engle and Dr. Jim Garlow, Senior Pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church.
"Lou Engles is regarded as a prophet and apostle in what is known as Latter Rain, Manifest Destiny, Third Wave, Joel's Army movement," says longtime Religious Right-watcher Jerry Sloan. "Most mainstream media simply does not understand the implications of this theology. A bigger part of this movement is found in a world wide effort to win 1 billion people over to its teaching ...They are virulently anti-gay and want to be able to have people who are in places of authority in governments everywhere."
"I want to move angels and demons today," the charismatic Engle told the crowd, which prayed intensely and jumped up and down to the constant Christian rock music in the unrelenting 84-degree heat. "We are crying out for mercy for this nation and for this state."
In his introduction to Dobson, Garlow said the battle over Prop 8 was a "make it or break it moment for our state and our nation" and reminded the audience that Watergate felon and now Christian religious leader Chuck Colson called Prop 8 "the spiritual Armageddon." James Dobson calls it "Gettysburg." Donald Wildmon (of the American family Association) said to me on the phone just two days ago, "If we lose now, it is over."... So what hangs in the balance -- what we do here in these next few moments determines everything." Dobson, Garlow said, is "one of the five star generals" in the cause for the cause of traditional marriage.
Dobson talked about how he felt "the Lord's hand in my back telling me to go [to TheCall rally] ... because it is so critical ... Who would have believed that on our watch in our day the institution of marriage would be on the ropes? And it is across the country and if the Lord does not intervene it will be lost. And many, many things will go with it."
Dobson also addressed some protesters. "I don't even know where they are but I can hear them and there are some others outside," he said. "I want you to know that we care about you. We're glad you're here. This is not about hate. This is about love. We love you."
However, no protesters were visible inside or outside the stadium and the constant music and the young people mumbling prayers out loud made it difficult to understand what protesters Dobson was addressing.
Perkins was received with less adulation. His admonition through prayer was that, "Our responsibility as Christians to stand does not end on Tuesday," and to commit to the struggle beyond the election.
If TheCall organizers hoped to fill Qualcomm Stadium, which holds 71,000 people, their expectations fell far short. A public relations person associated with TheCall reported 33,000 participants, based on "clickers" recording people coming through the gates. However, two journalists independently concluded that there were no "clickers" at the main entrance. The two journalists guesstimated the crowd at between 10,000-15,000 people.
A Latino Yes on 8 participant, who works at Qualcomm Stadium, placed the crowd count at around 5,000 and called the event "a failure." And since many of TheCall participants flew in for the rally and not to help pass Prop 8, the effect of the rally is uncertain, at least in the short run.
On the other side of town, in front of the LGBT Community Center, more than 6,000 San Diegans turned out as a counter-rally to TheCall and candlelight march. The "Making the Right Call" No on Prop 8 rally included Republican San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and his lesbian daughter Lisa and lesbian City Councilmember Toni Atkins. Earlier, more than 500 people attended an interfaith service at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral with more than 30 local clergy from diverse denominations.
Now each side is trying to rally their troops to turn out to vote. The final Field Poll before the election showed the No on Prop 8 slightly ahead by five points -- but the combined 7 percent undecided voters and 3.3 percent margin of error suggests the battle over Prop 8 will go right down to the wire on election night.