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Religious right mobilizes against Jerusalem pride event

Religious right mobilizes against Jerusalem pride event

A coalition of evangelical Christians and rabbis from the United States as well as ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem vowed Wednesday to try to prevent an international gay pride parade from being held in Jerusalem this summer, but the mayor of the holy city said he has no way of stopping it. California pastor Leo Giovinetti said hosting the 10-day WorldPride 2005 event could bring divine retribution upon Jerusalem, citing the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorra as a precedent. Ultra-Orthodox lawmaker Nissim Zeev hinted at more earthly troubles in store. "If they think they can party here in this city and carry out this provocation without hindrance, I think the police will be kept busy dealing with demonstrations," he told a news conference. "With demonstrations we never know how they end up, we know how they begin. Residents here are enraged. Everything should be done to stop this [event] and not cause people to break the law." Israeli gays have held small pride marches in Jerusalem in the past that have passed relatively peacefully, with a few shouted insults from onlookers and minor acts of vandalism. This time the plan is for a major international happening, comprising parties, a gay film festival, and workshops, and culminating in the WorldPride parade, street fair, and rally. The event, held every five years, attracted tens of thousands of participants when it was held in Rome in 2000. Giovinetti, from San Diego, has a nationwide radio ministry in the United States that he says reaches millions of listeners--and he is seeking a million signatures for a petition against the August festival, which he said is offensive to the values of religious people and debases the sanctity of Jerusalem. "We did not come here because we hate homosexuals," he said. "But when they said, 'I'm coming to your house and I'm going to spit on your mother, what are you going to do about it?' In order to be a good son I'm going to say, 'Mom, that's not right and I'm going to fight it."' The petition, drafted by Giovinetti, quotes the biblical book of Isaiah (3:8-9) as a warning against profaning the holy city: "Judah and Jerusalem will lie in ruins because they speak out against the Lord and refuse to obey him. They have offended his glorious presence among them.... They sin openly like the people of Sodom." Organizers of the festival, themed "Love Without Borders," say they want to promote coexistence. "The holiness of Jerusalem does not come from manipulating religion to keep people away," said Hagai El-Ad, the director of Open House, the Jerusalem group that has organized local gay parades in the city. "Jerusalem's holiness comes from it being a city that can bring together all kinds of people," he said. The decision to host the WorldPride parade in Jerusalem was made by InterPride, the association that organizes gay parades around the world. Giovinetti, who also heads an evangelical congregation in San Diego, accused organizers of deliberately targeting holy places. "We are convinced that it is no accident that the last parade was held in Rome and that today Jerusalem is being targeted. Clearly the group's agenda is to create a provocation and thus offend religious sensibilities," he said. A majority of Jerusalem's more than 600,000 residents are either Orthodox Jews, Palestinian Muslims, or Christians, traditional communities that oppose homosexuality. The city's ultra-Orthodox Jewish mayor, Uri Lupolianski, said in a statement that while he opposes the parade, he has no legal way of stopping it because authorization for public events is given by the police. New York rabbi Yehuda Levin, representing a group of U.S. Orthodox rabbis, the Rabbinical Alliance of America, said that with the help of the powerful conservative Christian lobby, the coalition plans to put pressure on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and key Israeli cabinet ministers. "Whatever the police say about the festival, if those men don't want it to happen, it won't happen," he said. (AP)

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