National Catholic Register

Commentary

The New Evangelization Will Not Be Televised

BY Peter Wolfgang

February 29-March 6, 2004 Issue | Posted 2/29/04 at 1:00 PM

 

Here in Connecticut we did not take our robed masters’ diktat lying down.

On Feb. 4, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court declared that nothing less than the imposition of same-sex marriage on an unwilling public would satisfy its whims. The court's decision was released four days before a long-planned rally for marriage at the state capitol in Hartford.

The rally, organized by the Family Institute of Connecticut, was intended as a follow-up to last year's Defense of Marriage petition drive, which had gathered 70,000 signatures and stalled the state's same-sex marriage movement.

Feeling the wind at our backs following last year's success, we believed this could be the year to pass a Defense of Marriage Act in liberal Connecticut. What would the Massachusetts decision mean for our rally?

The answer, according to the capitol police, was a turnout of 6,000, the second-largest rally in Connecticut history. Viewed from my spot on the dais, it was beautiful: 6,000 people shivering together in the freezing cold, determined to defend their culture against an aggressive assault.

It was a historic moment. But it's a historic moment that was carefully kept secret.

Our hopes that state legislators would pass a Defense of Marriage Act after seeing the widespread opposition to same-sex marriage in Connecticut were cast into doubt by the biased media coverage of the rally.

First, there was the numbers game. Though the capitol police — a neutral third party — counted 6,000 at our rally, the Associated Press cut that number in half, reporting that we had “about 3,000.” Most of the state's media followed the wire service's lead, often putting the number at “nearly” 3,000. The Hartford Courant, in the caption for its above-the-fold front-page photo, put our number in “the hundreds,” while the below-the-fold article reported vaguely that it was “thousands.”

By contrast, the Courant noted rather specifically that “more than 800” attended a homosexual-marriage counter-rally at a local church, a number that grew to “about 900” in a New Haven Register article. Only The New London Day reported that the number was actually 600, 70 of whom were speakers.

“A few dozen” activists, according to the Courant, staged some guerrilla theater across the street from our rally, but that number grew to 40 in most media accounts and to 75 in the New Haven Register. Though the New Haven Register did note the lopsided numbers of the dueling rallies, it added that the pro-homosexual marriage side “will get their chance” at another rally the following week (that later rally drew “more than 300,” according to the New Haven Register).

Everywhere it was the same: Media reports deflated our numbers, inflated the numbers of the other side and left the false impression of a rough parity between the rally and the counter-rallies.

Then there was the portrayal of our speakers. Bishop LeRoy Bailey, the black pastor of the largest Protestant church in New England, spoke eloquently of how “civil rights,” a term coined to describe the goal of black people, had been illegitimately usurped to support a cause Martin Luther King Jr. would have opposed.

No media outlet reported his words. Instead, of all the wonderful things said by our speakers, the Associated Press ran only a single quote: Bailey's “Are we a nation under God or under gays?” By itself, that quote did not reflect the tenor of any speech, including Bailey's.

Bishop Peter Rosazza, auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Hartford, emphasized our compassion for our adversaries. But the Courant claimed that Bishop Rosazza “mocked” the homosexual lobby Love Makes a Family when he made a reasoned argument that love alone does not make a family. No speaker for any pro-homosexual marriage rally was portrayed in a similar light.

Instead, the media seemed determined to prove that, indeed, the devil is in the details.

While 600 pro-homosexual-marriage activists rallied inside a church, the 6,000 who attended our rally endured freezing temperatures. Some of us on the dais, where it was slightly warmer, noticed early on that we could no longer feel our feet. The Courant made no mention of the weather that day, but when a second pro-homosexual-marriage rally was held a week later in 40-degree temperatures — a balmy day for this winter — the paper noted that the crowd “of about 400” were “dressed for the mid-February chill.”

Pictures of the size of our crowd were hard to come by, with the Courant's photo of our rally instead showing a woman holding a painting of the Divine Mercy.

But the caption under the photo of the pro-homosexual marriage rally that was published a week later sounded like a press release: “She has two moms, and 6-year-old Rachel Howard of Stamford loves them both, as the sign she helped make attests. Rachel took part in a rally at the state capitol Saturday supporting the rights of gays to marry.”

What I saw in person that day and what I saw reported in the media were two different events. What I saw was 6,000 concerned Americans defending morality and asking their representatives to consider their opinions before changing their laws.

But what was reported was a small group of fanatics lashing out in anger at reasonable churchgoing homosexuals.

What I saw was the New Evangelization: a diverse crowd of enthusiastic men and women promoting enduring moral principles. The New Evangelization will continue as planned, but don't expect to see it on TV.

Peter Wolfgang is a district deputy for the Connecticut State Council of the Knights of Columbus.