Pastor Rick Warren has publicly endorsed a proposed California constitutional marriage amendment, giving supporters a boost in what is expected to be a close vote Nov. 4.
The pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. — who hosted a presidential forum with both major candidates in August — made the endorsement of Proposition 8 in an Oct. 23 e-mail to church members. His statement comes as ProtectMarriage.com, the main organization supporting Prop 8, tries to raise enough money to purchase additional television ads and fight off a well-funded final push by opponents.
If passed, Prop 8 will overturn the May decision by the state high court that legalized "gay marriage."
"For 5,000 years, EVERY culture and EVERY religion — not just Christianity — has defined marriage as a contract between men and women," Warren wrote. "There is no reason to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 (percent) of our population. This is one issue that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Both Barack Obama and John McCain have publicly opposed the redefinition of marriage to include so-called 'gay marriage.' Even some gay leaders, like Al Rantel of KABC oppose watering down the definition of marriage.
"Of course, my longtime opposition is well known. This is not a political issue, it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about. There is no doubt where we should stand on this issue."
Warren concluded: "This will be a close contest, maybe even decided by a few thousand votes. I urge you to VOTE YES on Proposition 8 — to preserve the biblical definition of marriage. Don't forget to vote!"
The next eight days could very well determine whether Prop 8 passes. Through Oct. 23, opponents of Prop 8 had outraised supporters by a margin of 5 to 1 this month in donations of $1,000 or more, and that money has gone mostly to fund notoriously expensive television advertising in the state. The most recent big-name donor was Apple, the computer company, which said Oct. 24 it was donating $100,000 to Prop 8 opponents.
Frank Schubert, campaign manager for ProtectMarriage.com, wrote in an e-mail to in-state and out-of-state supporters Oct. 24 that Prop 8 opponents outspent supporters by $1.9 million on TV ads during the week and "will outspend us in advertising (this) week by another $2 million."
There is, though, some good fundraising news for Prop 8 supporters. Schubert said in the e-mail that $1 million of a $3 million emergency goal had been raised as of Oct. 24. Additionally, a donor had agreed to match, dollar for dollar, each donation made to ProtectMarriage.com "up to a total of $1 million."
ProtectMarriage.com's own internal polling now shows the race in a dead heat, Schubert said, after leading in internal polling a week earlier.
ProtectMarriage.com also has released a new ad, meant to counter one by opponents that had claimed public schools would not be required to teach about "gay marriage" if it remained legal. The ad shows students on the steps of the San Francisco city hall, celebrating their lesbian teacher's "gay wedding" as part of a mid-day field trip. The ad quotes a school official who called it a "teachable moment." The ad ends by citing data from the California Department of Education's web site showing that 96 percent of the state's schools districts teach sex-education, which, according to state law, requires schools to "teach respect for marriage and committed relationships."
"Children will be taught about gay marriage unless we vote yes on Proposition 8," the ad's narrator concludes.
Schubert said funding is needed to put the ad on air.
"As strong as this new ad is … it won't be able to reverse our downward trend in the polls if voters only see it once for every two times that they see ads from our opponents," he wrote. "The future of traditional marriage remains in grave, grave danger."
Schubert, other pro-family leaders and supporters of Prop 8 are scheduled to gather on the west steps of the state capitol Oct. 28 for a "rescue marriage rally."
Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June passed a resolution urging Southern Baptists in California to work and vote for the amendment there and for all Southern Baptists and other Christians to pray for its passage. The resolution passed nearly unanimously. Additionally, in September the executive board of the California Southern Baptist Convention unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the amendment.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.)