Thursday’s Mayors Prayer Breakfast at the Hyatt Regency in Valencia was well-attended and well-received – even though protesters were demonstrating outside,
The annual event, which coincides with the National Day of Prayer, featured several speakers from the Santa Clarita community as well as keynote speaker Brad Dacus, President of the Pacific Justice Institute.
A noted public speaker and religious rights activist, Dacus has become controversial after his public remarks on same-sex marriage and the rights of parents to seek counseling for minors who profess to be gay, lesbian or transgender.
But while as many as 50 people protested the event in front of the hotel, over 300 people enjoyed a morning of prayer and inspirational speeches in the packed Hyatt ballroom.
Among them was Kevin Korenthal, who lost a leg in a bicycling accident in 2012. Korenthal told the audience how he was able to overcome his injuries through the power of prayer and determination.
Many of the protesters outside the Hyatt were there because of remarks Dacus had made at a campaign rally for Proposition 8, the 2008 law, now under appeal, that banned same-sex marriage in California. At that rally, Dacus used an analogy about Nazi Germany to buttress his support of the same-sex marriage ban.
However, Dacus’ remarks at the Mayors Prayer Breakfast did not touch on those controversial subjects. His theme was why we should pray.
“Prayer is an act of humility, where we come together and acknowledge that we all need something above ourselves,” said Dacus. “How it builds community, causes us to be more sensitive to others, it brings healing for ourselves and for others, and we can see others as God sees them, not just as we might see them on our own.”
Speaking about the Prop 8 controversy, Dacus said that time and prayer have helped him see that he contributed to a misunderstanding not only of the comments he made, but of what was in his heart.
“I was humbled by prayer when I realized that a quote that I once gave at a rally might be misconstrued. I didn’t intend it to be taken that way,” said Dacus after the prayer breakfast. And that prayer – that humility – compelled me to apologize to anyone that I’ve offended because of that misunderstanding.”
Outside, protester Carole Lutness, a member of the Democratic Alliance for Action of Santa Clarita, was also concerned about comments Dacus has made about same-sex marriage and other gay-rights issues, saying they can lead to untintended consequences like school bullying and teenage suicide. “This dear little boy, Nigel Hardy, killed himself two weeks ago out in the Antelope Valley because he was being called gay and fag,” said Lutness.
Lutness and other protesters believe that Dacus’ views on a practice called “change therapy” is injurious to young people who may be struggling with their sexual identity. “Homosexuality, we know, is biologically based,” said Lutness. “You cannot pray the gay away.”
Another protester was Rev. Kelly O’Connell of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, who believes that Dacus has made offensive remarks regarding homosexuality by linking it to incest and polygamy. “I’m out here today because I believe that this is an inclusive community and we need to demonstrate that,” said O’Connell.
Meeting with protesters
Dacus made it a point to go outside and meet with some of the protesters before the event. “I was very pleased with that. They could’ve just shouted and screamed and not even communicated, but one gentleman in particular I visited with was very gracious and forbearing,” said Dacus.
“He allowed me to dialogue with him, allowed me to express my apologies for the misunderstanding in what I intended by what I said and what I didn’t intend by what I said.”
Dacus said he prefers to speak with his critics than to shout with them. “With dialogue comes understanding and an opportunity for healing and growth.”
Dacus said the event held special meaning to him, not just as a Christian, but as a citizen. “I think the National Day of Prayer is very important because it reminds us as a people that our nation – whether its our freedoms, our liberties, our prosperity, our opportunities – that these are all things that are given to us by the grace of God. Our founding fathers recognized that, very explicitly. And it’s important for our nation to maintain a heart of humility in recognizing that…and recognize the source of our blessings.”