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Clergy Protests Gov’s Ballot Measures

By Ann K. Williams
Staff Writer

November 2 -- With the special election only days away, an alliance of progressive clergy used Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s church in Santa Monica as a backdrop as they railed against his ballot measures before an audience of reporters and TV cameras Tuesday morning.

Across the street, parishioners at St. Monica’s Catholic Church celebrated mass in honor of All Saint’s Day.

“Our whole safety net has been compromised,” Margaret Lindgren of the Immaculate Heart Community told the press. These propositions “would just take it away.”

Rev. Peter Laarman speaks at Tuesday's protest (Photo by Ann K. Williams)

The group attacked propositions 74 through 78, saying that they “would inflict grievous and unnecessary harm on working families, the elderly, the disabled, the very young and the poor.”

Lindgren paraphrased Esther 4:14 – “This is not the time to be silent,” -- and Rabbi Stephen Jacobs called on the prophet Jeremiah who “stood in the market, in the temple, in the common places” to justify their appearance in front of Schwarzenegger’s Church.

Earlier in the day, the Governor called the location of the appearance “tacky” and “over the top,” a reporter told the religious leaders.

“I don’t think it’s tacky,” Sister Patricia Krommer, CSJ, said. The church behind them was “a symbol of God in the community,” she said.

“The saints are generally people who looked after the needs of the poor over and against the powerful,” Jacobs said, explaining why they picked the All Saints’ Day to speak out.

“The church is supposed to be about defending the poor and the needy,” added Reverend Sandie Richards of the Church of Ocean Park.

The criticism got a little more personal when Reverend Peter Laarman, executive director of Progressive Christians Uniting, who moved to California from New York less than two years ago, shared his analysis of California politics.

“As an ordained minister, I know a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” he said. The propositions are “driven by a corporate agenda,” and will “smack down working families.”

“As the numbers have been plummeting, an unholy alliance has set in,’ Laarman said.

He predicted Proposition 73 – the initiative constitutional amendment that requires doctors to notify parents before performing abortions on teenaged girls – will be used to “bring a large conservative block out and turn this election for the governor.”

Though the press outnumbered the speakers and the few who came to hear them, the event wasn’t free of protest.

“Don’t you think it’s shameful to be using the church this way?” Genevieve Peters asked Richards. Peters accused Richards of using religion for political gain.

“We’re not engaged in politics, we’re engaged in a discussion of moral principals,” Richards rejoined.

Richards bridled at the accusation that the clergy are being used as “puppets” and said that the only entity directing her was God.

One reporter said in an aside that Peters was working for the Governor, but when asked repeatedly, Peters said she was an individual, a Christian, a supporter of the Governor, and was there with “seven supporters of Proposition 75.” This in spite of the fact that when clergy, police and press were subtracted there weren’t more than five others present.

The “faith based leaders’” appearance was organized and at least in part paid for by Alliance for a Better California, a coalition of teachers, firefighters, public employees and police unions that opposes Propositions 74 through 77, the slate supported by the Governor.

St. Monica Parish was “not a participant” in the press conference, St. Monica’s Spokesperson Jason Farmer hastened to assure The Lookout.

The Catholic Bishops of California support Proposition 73, but have no positions on any of the other ballot measures.

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