“The Armageddon of the Culture War”: The Right’s Campaign Against Marriage Equality in California

For two hours on Wednesday afternoon, July 30, pastors gathered at 215 sites in California, Arizona, and Florida were exhorted by national Religious Right leaders and local anti-gay pastors to spare nothing in the cultural and spiritual war against Satan and his allies who support marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. National figures included Tony Perkins, Harry Jackson, Maggie Gallagher, and Chuck Colson.

“The Armageddon of the Culture War”

The primary focus of the call was Proposition 8 in California, described by Colson as “the Armageddon of the culture war.” Many speakers invoked the language of warfare, raising up an army of believers, putting soldiers in the streets, being on the front lines of a battle. Lou Engle actually described a massive rally planned in Qualcomm stadium on November 1 as a “blitzkrieg moment.”

While speaker after speaker spoke of the dire threats same-sex married couples pose to “traditional” marriage, religious freedom, and civilization itself, the overall tone of the call was confidence that victory would be won with God’s help, 40 days of prayer and fasting before the election, teams of intercessors and prayer warriors around the country, and a massive highly organized deployment of volunteers in a systematic voter identification and turnout campaign.

Pastors from around the state, and those representing African American, Latino, and Chinese congregations, reported on their mobilization efforts. Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, auxiliary bishop of the diocese of San Diego, pledged the support of the Catholic Church and said the state conference of bishops would be providing congregations with organizing resources and urging parishioners to take part in the broader campaign. Organizers said that they are “blessed to have the full support of the LDS church” — which will help identify anti-equality voters in 21,000 precincts in August. Individual activists will be encouraged to write letters to the editor, call in to radio shows, comment on blogs, and be as visible as possible to overcome the expected media effort to “discourage” Proposition 8 proponents.

Funding the Campaign

While complaining about opponents of the proposition “raising millions of dollars from wealthy gay Americans,” campaign organizers said they have already raised $15 million of their minimum $23 million budget and have plans for special offerings to be taken in churches around the country. In addition to precinct-by-precinct organizing and deploying thousands of volunteers to identifying and turn out voters, the plan includes rallies, a “Stand for Marriage Sunday” on September 21 and a “family voting weekend” on October 18 and 19, when people will be encourage to vote by absentee ballot.

Ron Luce from Teen Mania ministries and other organizers talked about plans to organize 300,000 youth and their families for an October 1 simulcast, and using them to reach 2.4 million. A representative of the Church Communication Network, a satellite network that has downlink equipment in 500 churches in California, 95 in Arizona, and 321 in Florida, said it would simulcast the youth event free of charge, and would make a satellite dish available “at cost” to churches who don’t yet have one. Said one speaker of the youth organizing, “if we don’t use them, Satan will.”

Another speaker, Rev. Dudley Rutherford, predicted that if Prop. 8 fails, the God-ordained institution of marriage would be destroyed; the engine of hate crimes legislation would be fueled, ultimately leading to it being illegal to read some sections of the Bible; the floodgates would be open to gay couples suing to force churches to marry them; and the polygamists would be next.

“8 for 8”

The campaign’s volunteer recruitment is built around an “8 for 8” theme, ie, asking pastors to recruit eight other pastors for next month’s call. Among action items for pastors:

  1. Urge people to pray 8 minutes every morning and evening at 8 for passage of Prop. 8
  2. Urge people to enlist 8 other people to join 8 for 8 plan
  3. Give at least $8 to protectmarriage.com for each member of the family, or $88, or $888
  4. Obey — as we watch and pray, we must decide to be obedient to God in all that he is directing each one of us to do
  5. Starting on 8/8/08, begin to volunteer, offer services of work 8 hours for the campaign in some capacity — sign up through protectmarriage.com… we’re going to be offering more opportunities for volunteer service on Aug. 27 conf. call
  6. Encourage one another — send a note of encouragement to at least eight other pastors who are standing for marriage
  7. Turn out the vote — people need to be registering at least 8 other people to vote — get 8 other people to apply for permanent vote by mail
  8. Contact 8 families and ask them to participate in the family voting weekend, display bumper stickers, put posters in local stores.

Speakers urged a primary focus on energizing pastors who are committed to the anti-marriage proposition, but also discussed strategies for individuals and pastors to reach out to the “mushy middle” — people “who need a good common sense rationale to protect marriage.”

Right-Wing ABC’s

One speaker described the ABC’s of the campaign’s outreach to those undecided and/or secular voters:

  • Activist judges hijacked the issue;
  • Benefits for gay couples are one thing but marriage goes too far; and
  • Children are profoundly confused by this whole debate.

Three African American pastors from San Diego recounted how they mobilized after the city’s mayor changed his position to support marriage equality. The call’s host goaded the ministers by asking “how do you feel when you hear the opposition try to equate homosexuality with race as an issue.” Dr. Timothy Winters of Bayview Baptist Church called it “absurd” and “a trick of Satan.” Another pastor said he was “highly offended… I was born this color. I have no choice, they have a choice.”

Quoting Dr. King

Jim Franklin of Fresno made it clear that he has no hesitation in claiming the civil rights movement for the pro-Prop. 8 forces, quoting Martin Luther King as saying the church should be “a voice rather than an echo…a thermostat, not a thermometer” He said a church should be identified as a “mega church” not by the size of its budget but by the size of “the enemy” it takes on.

He encouraged pastors not to waste time dealing with liberal ministers who support marriage equality, but focus on identifying and engaging pastors who have a “Biblical foundation” but don’t understand what’s happening or how important it is.

Organizers dismissed as deeply flawed a recent California Field Poll and cited instead an LA Times survey showing amendment proponents with a commanding lead.

The next conference call will be held on August 27, with a focus on training.