THOUSAND OAKS, Calif.--Fourteen words.
"Only" 14, states a flyer from the Protection of Marriage Committee
backing Proposition 22, which would define marriage in California: "Only
marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in
Despite its brevity, the measure on the March 7 California ballot
has sharply divided people of faith in the state and beyond. And few
religious leaders are predicting how the voting will go.
A Southern Baptist, for example: "I don't believe homosexuality is
normal," said the Rev. Rob Zinn, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in
Highland, Calif. "This isn't a civil rights issue. This is a moral
Or a Reform Jewish perspective: "Why is it that so many cannot
remember the simple religious teaching that we are--all of us and each
of us, straight and gays and lesbians--we are all children of the
Divine, Creator of the Universe?"
The question came in a letter from Rabbi David Saperstein of the
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C., sent in
January to congregations of the Pacific Southwest Council of the Union
of American Hebrew Congregations.
Along with other generally conservative Christian groups, California
Southern Baptists line up in support of Proposition 22, which seeks to
define marriage in California as strictly heterosexual. The Pacific
Southwest Council of the UAHC opposes the measure, joined by numerous
mainline Protestant leaders and others.
The campaign over Proposition 22--called the Limit on Marriage in
the official California Voter Information Guide but the Protection of
Marriage Initiative by supporters-- has made unexpected religious
bedfellows, like the California Catholic Conference, the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and the California Southern Baptist
They're giving both volunteers and money to the effort. And the
involvement of some church groups has stirred even more controversy.
The California Catholic Conference has contributed over $300,000 to
the pro-Proposition 22 campaign, according to the Rev. Greg Coiro of the
media relations office of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Sid Price, a Mormon and volunteer coordinator for the Protection of
Marriage Committee, said that Mormon financial support had come almost
exclusively from individual members rather than the church. Price said
the church's financial involvement was limited to the cost of a letter
mailed to 159 church leaders earlier in the campaign.
Kerrie Anderson, a member of the Thousand Oaks, Calif., Fourth
Ward, the Mormon equivalent to congregation, identified the main Mormon
contribution as campaign infrastructure.
With wards systematically divided among California's geographical
territory, Anderson said, the campaign for Proposition 22 used the
Mormon 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 up
with voting reminders about the initiative, sponsored by Republican
State Sen. Pete Knight.
Carl Doerfler, a member of the High Council of the Thousand Oaks
Stake of the Mormon Church, said a letter read in services Jan. 16,
2000, alerted Mormons to the opportunity to "help maintain and
strengthen the family as a fundamental unit of society" by supporting
Sitting beneath portraits of 14 grandchildren, Doerfler said the
church had tried to clarify the principles from its own teachings
applied to the proposition.
"The family is ordained of God," Doerfler said. "We feel it's the
very core of ... the heavenly plan of our Father."
In a 1995 document, Mormon Church President Gordon B. Hinckley
declared "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that
the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of
Speaking for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Coiro likewise linked
church support for Proposition 22 to Roman Catholic fundamentals.
"In terms of identifying some essential components of marriage, it
mirrors what the Catholic church believes and teaches," Coiro observed.
"There's really no way ... that the Catholic church could not endorse
Proposition 22 because it would be contradicting our own teaching if we
were to come out against it."
In a Dec. 20, 1999 statement, Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of
Los Angeles, said the California Catholic Conference backed Proposition
22 "to assure God's plan for marriage and family life described so fully
in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
"The church," he added, "has found no legitimate justification to
redefine and extend the marriage contract to include same sex unions."
But the religious community is not all of one mind on the issue and
opponents of the ballot initiative also look to their faith for their
"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. 31
at a rally opposing the initiative, located the current struggle in the
inclusive "beloved community" championed by slain leader Martin Luther
Rabbi Paul Kipnes of Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, Calif., near
Los Angeles, says he opposes what he sees as a static approach to the
biblical text among some of the measure's supporters.
"There's also a biblical mandate to stone to death a rebellious
child. There's a biblical mandate that allows slavery. ... There's a
biblical mandate that forbids the taking of interest, which is the basis
of most business in the United States and around the world," Kipnes
"To look at the Bible and not to recognize that our interpretations
of the Bible have ... evolved is not being true to the intent and spirit
of the Bible," he said.
Some religious leaders opposed to the initiative question the
motives behind Proposition 22.
Scott Sinclair of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of the
Latter Day Saints said he found the measure a "sort of a mean-spirited
attempt 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 described
the Reorganized church as "very different" from the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints, often known as the Mormons, which he said
shares only 14 years of 19th century history with its counterpart.
The Rev. Marcia Engelblom, canon of discipleship at the Episcopal
Trinity Cathedral Church in Sacramento, labeled the measure
"small-minded and fear-based" and Bishop Jerry Lamb of the Episcopal
Diocese of Northern California, said in a statement he fears the
initiative would become "a 'Wedge Issue' that will bring about more
discord and animosity in our local communities and our state."