- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 4, 2006

The breadth of support among religious groups for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman extends well beyond the boundaries of evangelical Protestantism.

The Religious Coalition for Marriage, a fledgling organization forged to fight same-sex “marriage,” includes eight U.S. Catholic cardinals, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Church of God in Christ and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

Also signed up to support passage of the Marriage Protection Amendment are Mormons (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), Missouri Synod Lutherans, Greek and Russian Orthodox churches, among a host of groups representing more than 100 million Americans.

“This is unprecedented,” said coalition co-founder Robert George, a constitutional scholar at Princeton University. “Despite historical theological divisions, [we] are saying with a united voice that we do not want to go where activist judges have taken us.”

A Senate vote on the proposed amendment, which would prohibit states from recognizing homosexual “marriages,” is expected this week. President Bush used his weekly radio address yesterday to call on the Senate to pass the bill.

“Ages of experience have taught us that the commitment of a husband and a wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society,” Mr. Bush said. “Marriage cannot be cut off from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening this good influence on society.”

Mr. George, also a professor of politics at Princeton, was one of four Roman Catholics who called a meeting of about 60 to 70 religious leaders Feb. 24 at the Army Navy Club in the District to plot strategy and form the Religious Coalition for Marriage. The others were former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork and two other university professors, Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard and Gerard Bradley of Notre Dame.

“I hope we are sending a message to the politicians from the religious people of America,” Mr. George said.

The coalition’s lobbying has taken on biblical proportions over the past three months. Focus on the Family sent out letters to 135,000 pastors and distributed almost 2 million postcards for individuals to send to senators, pressing for passage of the amendment.

“Groups that don’t normally work together coalesced on this issue,” said Peter Brandt, senior director of public policy for Focus on the Family. “A lot of folks felt like they were stakeholders in this.”

The First Presidency — the top three leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — sent out a letter supporting the marriage amendment to be read aloud last Sunday at 12,500 church services across the country.

Russell Nelson of the church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles — which rarely participates in interfaith efforts — signed a letter supporting the amendment, along with 55 other religious leaders.

The Knights of Columbus distributed 10 million postcards through Catholic parishes for members to forward to their senators ahead of the Senate vote this week.

“It’s without precedent,” said Patrick Korten, communications vice president of the Catholic fraternal group. “A lot of members of the Senate underestimate the depth of feeling on this issue on the part of Americans, and especially religious ones.

“If they don’t want to defend marriage being between a man and a woman now, they’ll have to defend it at the polls.”

Some religious leaders have taken a stand against the proposed amendment, however, including a coalition of Reform Jews, mainline Protestants, Sikhs, Quakers, the United Church of Christ and Unitarians.

Clergy for Fairness, an ad hoc group of ministers from 22 religious groups, held a press conference May 22 to protest the marriage amendment. Serving as moderator was the Rev. Paul Simmons, board chairman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State and a minister affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists.

“I believe the Constitution is intended for all Americans,” Mr. Simmons said. “This is an effort to disenfranchise a certain group of Americans. The issue of homosexuality generates a lot of fear and mistrust in a lot of these groups, especially when some of these groups are part of a religious tradition that’s never been accepting to those who are gay.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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