THOUSAND OAKS, Calif.--Fourteen words."Only" 14, states a flyer from the Protection of Marriage Committeebacking Proposition 22, which would define marriage in California: "Onlymarriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized inCalifornia."Despite its brevity, the measure on the March 7 California ballothas sharply divided people of faith in the state and beyond. And fewreligious leaders are predicting how the voting will go.A Southern Baptist, for example: "I don't believe homosexuality isnormal," said the Rev. Rob Zinn, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church inHighland, Calif. "This isn't a civil rights issue. This is a moralissue."Or a Reform Jewish perspective: "Why is it that so many cannotremember the simple religious teaching that we are--all of us and eachof us, straight and gays and lesbians--we are all children of theDivine, Creator of the Universe?"The question came in a letter from Rabbi David Saperstein of theReligious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C., sent inJanuary to congregations of the Pacific Southwest Council of the Unionof American Hebrew Congregations.Along with other generally conservative Christian groups, CaliforniaSouthern Baptists line up in support of Proposition 22, which seeks todefine marriage in California as strictly heterosexual. The PacificSouthwest Council of the UAHC opposes the measure, joined by numerousmainline Protestant leaders and others.The campaign over Proposition 22--called the Limit on Marriage inthe official California Voter Information Guide but the Protection ofMarriage Initiative by supporters-- has made unexpected religiousbedfellows, like the California Catholic Conference, the Church of JesusChrist of Latter-Day Saints, and the California Southern BaptistConvention.They're giving both volunteers and money to the effort. And theinvolvement of some church groups has stirred even more controversy.The California Catholic Conference has contributed over $300,000 tothe pro-Proposition 22 campaign, according to the Rev. Greg Coiro of themedia relations office of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Sid Price, a Mormon and volunteer coordinator for the Protection ofMarriage Committee, said that Mormon financial support had come almostexclusively from individual members rather than the church. Price saidthe church's financial involvement was limited to the cost of a lettermailed to 159 church leaders earlier in the campaign.Kerrie Anderson, a member of the Thousand Oaks, Calif., FourthWard, the Mormon equivalent to congregation, identified the main Mormoncontribution as campaign infrastructure.With wards systematically divided among California's geographicalterritory, Anderson said, the campaign for Proposition 22 used theMormon organization as a "framework in order to cover the whole state"and ensure contact with every voter.Working with backers from other organizations, Anderson said,Mormons identified supportive or undecided voters in order to follow upwith voting reminders about the initiative, sponsored by RepublicanState Sen. Pete Knight.Carl Doerfler, a member of the High Council of the Thousand OaksStake of the Mormon Church, said a letter read in services Jan. 16,2000, alerted Mormons to the opportunity to "help maintain andstrengthen the family as a fundamental unit of society" by supportingProposition 22.Sitting beneath portraits of 14 grandchildren, Doerfler said thechurch had tried to clarify the principles from its own teachingsapplied to the proposition."The family is ordained of God," Doerfler said. "We feel it's thevery core of ... the heavenly plan of our Father."In a 1995 document, Mormon Church President Gordon B. Hinckleydeclared "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and thatthe family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny ofHis children."Speaking for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Coiro likewise linkedchurch support for Proposition 22 to Roman Catholic fundamentals."In terms of identifying some essential components of marriage, itmirrors what the Catholic church believes and teaches," Coiro observed."There's really no way ... that the Catholic church could not endorseProposition 22 because it would be contradicting our own teaching if wewere to come out against it."In a Dec. 20, 1999 statement, Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop ofLos Angeles, said the California Catholic Conference backed Proposition22 "to assure God's plan for marriage and family life described so fullyin both the Old Testament and the New Testament."The church," he added, "has found no legitimate justification toredefine and extend the marriage contract to include same sex unions."But the religious community is not all of one mind on the issue andopponents of the ballot initiative also look to their faith for theirreasoning."There can be no such thing as rights for gay and lesbian, bisexual,transgender people," said civil rights veteran the Rev. James Lawson,"if there are not rights for every child, every boy, every girl."Lawson, a United Methodist, speaking in Irvine, Calif., on Jan. 31at a rally opposing the initiative, located the current struggle in theinclusive "beloved community" championed by slain leader Martin LutherKing.Rabbi Paul Kipnes of Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, Calif., nearLos Angeles, says he opposes what he sees as a static approach to thebiblical text among some of the measure's supporters."There's also a biblical mandate to stone to death a rebelliouschild. There's a biblical mandate that allows slavery. ... There's abiblical mandate that forbids the taking of interest, which is the basisof most business in the United States and around the world," Kipnessaid."To look at the Bible and not to recognize that our interpretationsof the Bible have ... evolved is not being true to the intent and spiritof the Bible," he said.Some religious leaders opposed to the initiative question themotives behind Proposition 22.Scott Sinclair of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of theLatter Day Saints said he found the measure a "sort of a mean-spiritedattempt to make sure that no benefits come to homosexual unions."Sinclair is president of the Greater Los Angeles Stake of the RLDS,which has not taken an official stance on the proposition. He describedthe Reorganized church as "very different" from the Church of JesusChrist of Latter-day Saints, often known as the Mormons, which he saidshares only 14 years of 19th century history with its counterpart.
The Rev. Marcia Engelblom, canon of discipleship at the EpiscopalTrinity Cathedral Church in Sacramento, labeled the measure"small-minded and fear-based" and Bishop Jerry Lamb of the EpiscopalDiocese of Northern California, said in a statement he fears theinitiative would become "a 'Wedge Issue' that will bring about morediscord and animosity in our local communities and our state."