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Not Your Grandfather

As five Christians await trials that could send them to prison for peacefully protesting a homosexual street fair, the city of Philadelphia is becoming a proving ground for the future of America.

Lee Duigon
  • Lee Duigon
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"And thou Philadelphia, the virgin settlement of this Province … faithful to the God of the Mercies, in the life of righteousness thou mayest be preserved to the end. My soul prays to God for thee …" The Prayer of William Penn for Philadelphia, 1684 A.D. (For the complete text, see http://www.fullquivermission.com/CDJ.htm.)

As five Christians await trials that could send them to prison for peacefully protesting a homosexual street fair, the city of Philadelphia is becoming a proving ground for the future of America (see http://www.chalcedon.edu/articles/0501/050101-1duigon.php).

"What's happening here is an indicator of the challenges likely to be faced across the country in years to come," said Dr. Philip Ryken of the Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia.

Homosexual militants have emerged as one of the most powerful—if not the single most powerful—political blocs in the city. They have demanded, and received, special status backed up by a draconian regime of hate crime laws, executive orders by the mayor, and a cooperative law enforcement establishment.

Rev. Bruce Murch, of the Full Quiver Mission, Virginia, is the father of Lauren Murch, one of the "Philadelphia Five." As a minor, his 17-year-old daughter has been separated from the adult defendants to face the same felony hate crime charges in juvenile court.

"This didn't happen overnight," Murch said. "But how did it happen? Why didn't somebody say something while it was happening?"

Gay City

No trial date has been set yet for the Christian protestors. (There are, of course, no trials for those who protest for the expansion of homosexual "rights.") The defendants have countered by filing a federal lawsuit against the city for denying them their First Amendment rights under color of authority.

But how did Philadelphia become a city that chooses gays over God?

"Over the last twenty years," Dr. Ryken said, "Philadelphia has seen a long-term growth of its homosexual population—particularly in the Center City area, around City Hall.

"Christians have been disheartened by this growth. In the 1980s our church was developing an outreach ministry to gays. We met so much opposition, including bomb threats, that we never made much progress."

In 1999, a homosexual advocacy group, Liberty City, identified 20,000 gay and lesbian registered voters and pledged their support to John Street's mayoral campaign. After his election, Street rewarded the group with nine seats on his transition team.

The year before (1998), Mayor Ed Rendell—now the state's governor—issued an executive order to provide "domestic partner" benefits for homosexual city employees (but not to unmarried heterosexual partners). As City Council President at the time, Street opposed the order. A combination of homosexual votes and campaign contributions won him over.

The year 2000 was a good one for Philadelphia's homosexual movement. The mayor allowed "registration ceremonies" to be held at City Hall for same-sex couples simulating marriage. The Philadelphia Bar Association urged state legislators to expand hate crime laws.

A Commonwealth Court in 2002 overturned Rendell's executive order, saying the city had robbed the state of its authority to sanction marriage. The city government, now under John Street's leadership, appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and got the order reinstated in December 2004.

Meanwhile, the mayor ordered the Philadelphia Police Department to treat sexual orientation as "protected" by hate crime laws—before state law recognized it as a "protected" category. This is why the charges against the Christian protestors include "ethnic intimidation."

Silence from the Pulpit

Where was the opposition to these measures?

"It was the domestic partner benefits that demoralized the opposition," Dr. Ryken said. "Once you win that first battle, it's rare to see the decision reversed."

"I lay most of the blame at the feet of the city's preachers," Rev. Murch said. "They were silent while all this was going on. Some of us have become such creatures of comfort, such compromisers, rather than taking a stand. And when you do get a few who raise their voice, they look like madmen."

Ryken writes a semi-regular column, "Window on the World," in which he has discussed the advancement of organized sodomy in Philadelphia. But his Internet column hardly constitutes a media presence.

"The Philadelphia media have not covered this story," he said. "The Inquirer is a liberal newspaper, and all the other city media follow its lead. Politically, Democrats dominate Philadelphia, and they're somewhat cowed by the power of the gays."

Murch is a street preacher who tours cities and college campuses with his wife and nine children. Although ordained (a Presbyterian), he hasn't worked out of a church for sixteen years.

"With the churches incorporated and subject to various tax laws, etc., you have the pastors in an unholy alliance with the state, afraid to speak from the pulpit," he said. "They've been creating 'Bless Me' clubs—not witnessing for Christ."

Last summer, Philadelphia businesses launched a cable television ad campaign aimed at attracting more homosexual tourists. That, said Murch, was par for the course.

"Philadelphia has a huge financial incentive for encouraging these people," he said. "The demographics are that homosexuals tend to be a high-income group. With no children, for the most part, they have a lot of money to spend, a lot of freedom. The city encourages them to come and spend it here."

Night vs. Light

A lawyer for the homosexual activists, on national television in January, said it was unlikely that any of the protestors would be punished with anything more than a few months' probation.

Murch, a veteran of Operation Rescue, said he's been arrested more than fifty times for protesting at abortion clinics—until it was made a federal felony in 1994.

"I've spent many nights in jail because I refuse to pay the fines," he said. "We preach against the sodomite movement now because it's part of the godless spirit that's infected this country."

"I'm not optimistic about the moral future of this country," Dr. Ryken said. "But the darker the night, the more clearly will shine the light of the church's witness."

Editor's note: Chalcedon will continue to follow this ever-breaking news story as it develops.


Lee Duigon
  • Lee Duigon

Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.

Lee has his own blog at www.leeduigon.com.

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