On Monday evening, three and a half hours after Variety reported that movie director Steven Speilberg had donated $100,000 to the “No on Prop. 8” campaign, Rabbi Elazar Muskin turned over his synagogue, Young Israel of Century City, to supporters of the anti-gay marriage ballot measure. Under Muskin's direction, according to its own web site, Young Israel “has become one of the fastest growing Orthodox synagogues in the West Coast.” It was also apparently joining forces with a mostly Christian movement to ban same sex marriage in California.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse speaks at Young Israel of Century City synagogue on Pico Boulevard.

Billed as an “interfaith town hall meeting,” Young Israel of Century City on Pico Boulevard, just down the street from Factor's Famous Deli, hosted a mostly Christian crowd of 50 to 60 people, with a large contingent of young women and men in their twenties and early thirties. The Protect Marriage campaign, the umbrella group behind Proposition 8, sponsored the event.

Speakers ranged from Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, a Catholic and founder of the Ruth Institute, to Dr. Mark Brewer, senior pastor at the Bel Air Presbyterian Church, to Randall Huff, a high-ranking official in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, a leader with the influential Jewish group Orthodox Union. The late-breaking news about the Spielberg contribution did not seem to reach Morse, who mentioned nothing about the Oscar-winning director of “Schindler's List” and took actor Brad Pitt to task for contributing $100,000 to the “No on 8” campaign last week.

“He felt real good about himself,” Morse told the crowd. “He was real smug about it.”

But that remark came later. The meeting first started with One Accord, an all-male acappella group, singing “In Him My Soul Delights,” followed by a former Marine leading the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Then the speakers addressed banning same sex marriage in California through the passage of Proposition 8, which goes to the voters this November.

While there was much talk about the Bible and how God intended marriage to be only between a man and a woman, the speakers also hit upon strategy and values. Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse said the Protect Marriage campaign had “tested a number of messages” that will be aired through TV and radio ads. The ones that tested best, she said, focused on the need for a child to have a father and a mother, to restore “the will of the people” when voters passed Proposition 22 in 2000, which banned same sex marriage, and to prevent gay marriage from being taught as “normal” in California's public school systems. “It's really something new that the San Francisco judges have created,” Morse said.

Barbara Berg, who represented the Catholic viewpoint, although she's not an official within the church, said the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has already held two “informational meetings” for pastors of 288 parishes regarding Proposition 8. Led by Cardinal Roger Mahony, the archdiocese, according to Berg, is also offering pastors “legal representation.”

Dr. Mark Brewer of Bel Air Presbyterian said he “supports” Proposition 8, even though he has a large number of gays and lesbians in his congregation. “I don't think the sky is going to fall if this proposition goes down,” said Brewer, “but I do think there will be unintended consequences.” He added that “what America needs best” is a ban on gay marriage.

Rabbi Daniel Korobkin said voting for Proposition 8 was a “time to take a stand,” noting, “Today it will be homosexual marriage, tomorrow it will be incestual marriage, and after that it will bestial marriage.” He then added, “This is not hate speech.”

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse then returned and ended the evening with a call for more volunteers, citing that the Proposition 8 campaign expected to draw 100,000 volunteers to get out the vote in November. “People often call us the land of fruits and nuts,” Morse told the crowd. “People expect us to do crazy things out here…But if gay marriage goes down in California, it goes down in the United States. If it goes down in the United States, it goes down around the world.”

She then asked for more donations, so the Proposition 8 campaign can “test messages, make commercials, and make more commercials.”

“If gay marriage goes down in California,” Morse said, “it won't be back in our lifetime.”

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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