Anti-gay rights Christian groups fear harassment after California disclosure ruling

Focus on the Family news outlet CitizenLink on Monday posted a dire summary of a recent court ruling that rejected an attempt to protect the identities of donors to the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 campaign. The CitizenLink story echoes the fears of intimidation and harassment from “gay activists” and “the homosexual lobby” that drove the major organizational financial backers of the campaign to file the suit in 2008.

CitizenLink leans on high-profile religious-right attorney James Bopp to make the case against disclosure.

“We are certainly going to pursue the case vigorously, because the result of the judge’s decision is going to literally be a free-fire zone when we talk about the court sanctioning harassment of people who participate in our democratic process,” Bopp is quoted to say. “Absent the prospect of protection in future cases, I think the whole idea here by the homosexual lobby is they now have a threat. They [will seek the names of donors] and put them on the Internet. So they already know they’ve got a weapon of intimidation, and without the courts’ protection, they’ll continue to use it.”

The ruling upholding California’s campaign finance disclosure laws was handed down by U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr on Thursday. California requires political campaigns to disclose the identity of anyone who donates more than $100.

During the 2008 heated Prop 8 campaign, gay-rights websites like Californians Against Hate that opposed the ballot initiative posted information such as the names, addresses and employers of donors to the campaign. In Washington state a similar proposal saw the same kind of websites appear. There, the sites included and

CitizenLink refers readers to the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation report on harassment against Prop 8 supporters. The Heritage authors placed the harassment into three categories: vandalism, hostility and slurs, and violence and threats of violence.

Vandals also hit houses of worship. Perpetrators used orange paint to vandalize a statue of the Virgin Mary outside one church. Offices at the Cornerstone Church in Fresno were egged. Swastikas and other graffiti were scrawled on the walls of the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in San Francisco, a parish known widely as being “gay-friendly.” In San Luis Obispo, the Assembly of God Church was egged and toilet-papered, and a Mormon church had an adhesive poured onto a doormat and keypad. Signs supporting Prop 8 were twisted into a swastika at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Riverside. Someone used a heavy object wrapped with a Yes on 8 sign to smash the window of a pastor’s office at Messiah Lutheran Church in Downey.

Fear of harassment on the part of Christian groups has been a marked and ironic aspect of the Prop 8 campaign and its aftermath. At the trial that followed passage of the initiative and that considered whether the new law was constitutional, the team defending the law fought hard to keep the proceedings from being broadcast, fearing that witnesses for the defense would be harassed. Yet LGBT people have been one of the most harassed and discriminated against classes of American citizens in the post-slavery era.

In a previous ruling on the matter, Judge England pointed out that, if there were crimes committed by supporters of either side of the debate, those crimes could and should be prosecuted. As for the rest, he said, heated exchanges are part of the political process and aren’t reason to limit the ability of Californians to fully inform themselves on questions they’re asked to answer at the ballot box.

Bopp plans to appeal England’s decision once the written version is made available for review.

Bopp recently filed a brief with the US Supreme Court on behalf of Catholic Answers, a nonprofit group that has been penalized by the IRS for performing express advocacy against 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry.