Gay Bashing on Liberty Sunday
Another pre-election event strategically tied to the Summit was a nationally simulcast rally dubbed “Liberty Sunday.” This FRC-sponsored event was promoted at the Values Voters Summit, with which it shared some speakers, and targeted a similar audience: churchgoers with conservative social values. Some 1,000 people filled the Tremont Temple Baptist Church, where the event was held, while simulcasts were aired in churches across the country and beamed into homes through Christian satellite television, radio, and Webcasts.~60
The event was billed as “Defending Our First Freedom.” Promotional materials used the slogan, “Preserving the light of the Church,” along with an image of the famous Old North Church, where lanterns were hung to warn colonists of the arrival of British troops.~61 Liberty Sunday took place October 15, 2006 in Boston, which, the organizer FRC reminded the audience, is the “Cradle of Liberty” and the home of religious freedom in America. A welcoming video showed scenes of Plymouth Rock and a replica of the Mayflower and reminded the audience that Colonial Governor William Bradford had a vision, in his words, to “advance the cause of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the earth” by settling in the New World. Boston is also the capital of the only state to have legalized same sex marriage, and the Tremont Church was the site of protests at a Focus on the Family “ex-gay” event held almost a year before Liberty Sunday.
The FRC promised to “tackle one of the most divisive debates in the culture wars,” same sex marriage. FRC head Tony Perkins claimed that same sex marriage threatened freedom of religion as guaranteed by the Constitution by limiting freedom of religious expression. Sky Angel Christian satellite broadcasting published a pre-event interview with Perkins by conservative author Nancy Christopher, in which Perkins claimed:
“What we’ve seen in the last two years since Massachusetts [approved] same-sex marriage is the evidence of what we were projecting would happen, that there was a coming conflict between the homosexual agenda and Christianity that was vibrant and active in the public square.”
According to Perkins, a “hate crimes bill” making it a crime to speak out against homosexuality is imminent if Christians don’t continue to be engaged in this issue.
“The ability to preach the Gospel is at risk because the Gospel fully preached is offensive,” says Perkins. “Same-sex marriage is the vanguard of the homosexual agenda. If it becomes the law that you cannot speak anything that offends, it’s just a matter of time before the Gospel itself will be unwelcome public speech.
Stating the obvious, Christopher commented that it is “certainly no coincidence that the event is being held less than one month before mid-term elections, being that there are eight constitutional amendments related to marriage on the ballot across the country.” ~62
Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney appeared in person, introduced by his wife, Ann, who revealed that she is a direct descendant of Colonial Governor William Bradford.
Sky Angel is also broadcasting two specials on same sex marriage after Liberty Sunday and before the midterm elections, “No Tolerance for Truth,” about the danger of school programs normalizing homosexuality, and “Veil of Deception: The Impact of Same Sex Marriage on American Youth”:
Veil of Deception investigates the impact of same-sex marriage on today’s youth. It aims to show concerned citizens how critically important it is to stand up and oppose efforts to legalize same-sex marriage for the sake of the children. The special also reveals homosexual activism in schools and communities across America, how experimentation is encouraged to children, and how parents, community leaders and teachers are speaking out. ~63
At Liberty Sunday, the audience was presented with a line of reasoning that would make sense to them and to their fellow parishioners.
Catholic Action League Executive Director CJ Doyle asserted:
“ When religious freedom is imperiled, it never begins with a direct frontal assault on the liberty of worship. It always begins with the attempts to marginalize the church and to narrow the parameters of the church’s educational and charitable activities, and that is exactly what is happening in Massachusetts right now.”~64
Former Boston mayor Raymond Flynn added,
“But because the church has been diminished in the civic arena, this other side is more powerful and more influential, and those are the consequences of losing your strong moral voice.”~65
James Dobson appeared by video and made the case for the importance the battle over same sex marriage:
“We are at a crisis point in this nation. What will happen on November 7 will have profound implications for the future of our country.”
Dobson said the idea of marriage originated in the garden of Eden and warned that if same sex marriage is permitted,
“The family as we know it will die and with it will go everything else that sits on that foundation.”
Romney and Wellington Boone appeared at both the Summit and Liberty Sunday. Each varied his address little between the two events, and their different styles, although at opposite ends of the anti-gay spectrum, reinforced the same core message: a vote to ban same sex marriage is a vote of conscience and Christian principle.
The Liberty Sunday crowd was more racially integrated than that at the Values Voters Summit, with significant numbers of African-Americans and Latinos in the audience and a predominantly Black choir onstage throughout the event. The program drew on the multiracial coalition that has been built among conservative evangelical pastors on such issues as opposition to same sex marriage, with appearances by local Black and Latino ministers. Significantly, Tremont Temple Baptist Church was involved in the Underground Railroad and claims to be the first racially integrated church in the United States.
Some of the harshest anti-gay rhetoric came out of the mouth of Bishop Wellington Boone, the well-known Promise Keepers speaker from Georgia, who also appeared at the Values Voters Summit. In Boston Boone summoned the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and the African American freedom struggle as he dismissed any claim to civil rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender communities:
“I called this whole idea of trying to get rights and trying to get over there on the African-American side - I called it the rape of the civil rights movement and that’s an issue to me.” (Applause.)~66
Having positioned himself as an arbiter of legitimate rights, Boone took up the sword of judgment. He eschewed the words “gay” and “lesbian” in favor of “sodomite,” remarking with approval that in colonial times sodomy laws invoked capital punishment for transgressors. Back then, he said, “The Bible was the book.” He added, to audience applause, “If God calls homosexuality an abomination, if he calls it vile affections, if he calls it wickedness, I can’t call it inappropriate behavior.”~67
The FRC has successfully field tested the strategy of single issue simulcasts before. Liberty Sunday is modeled on a previous set of three simulcasts each titled “Justice Sunday,” which focused on mobilizing churches to support conservative appointments to the courts. Indeed, the Web address www.justicesunday.com connects visitors to the website for Liberty Sunday.~68