Protesters crowd church after passing of Prop 8



By Thomas Watkins

LOS ANGELES – On the first Sunday after a gay marriage ban passed in California, activists rallied in defiance, including hundreds of protesters outside a megachurch whose pastor brought Barack Obama and John McCain together last summer for a “faith forum.”

About 300 gay rights advocates fanned out along sidewalks leading to Saddleback Church in Lake Forest to voice their anger over the church’s support of Proposition 8. The constitutional amendment approved by voters Tuesday overturned a state Supreme Court decision in May legalizing same-sex unions.

Ed Todeschini, a Human Rights Campaign volunteer, accused Saddleback in particular of helping propagate what he called misinformation about the Supreme Court ruling, including that gay marriage would have to be taught to kindergartners.

A message seeking comment left at the church’s main office, which was closed Sunday, was not immediately returned.

“They told such obvious lies. They used their lies to deceive the public,” Todeschini said of the church. The church gained national attention in August when its pastor, Rick Warren, brought Obama and McCain together to discuss their religious faith.

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    Todeschini said Sunday’s rally was peaceful, with demonstrators waving placards with slogans including “Equality for all” and “Shame on you.”

    The amendment was passed last week with 52 percent of the vote, and backlash at churches over their support swept across California on Sunday after days of protests.

    In Oakland, a large protest at the city’s Mormon temple led the California Highway Patrol to close two highway ramps.

    Protest organizers said they hoped to tone down the anger that has characterized some previous demonstrations.

    “Our intent is not to disturb churchgoers,” organizer Tim DeBenedictis said in a statement. “Our goal is to mend fences and build bridges.”

    The pastor of the 4,000-member All Saints Church in Pasadena spoke out against Proposition 8, calling the religious community’s support of it “embarrassing.”

    The church announced that while it could no longer legally marry same-sex couples, it would continue blessing gay civil unions.

    Associated Press writer Marcus Wohlsen contributed to this report