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San Francisco Chronicle, 30 Oct 1990

‘Spiritual Warfare’ at Civic Auditorium

New Age contingent to greet evangelist

by Don Lattin
Chronicle Religion Writer

Pagan, witches and costumed gays will be out to greet Texas televangelist Larry Lea tomorrow night when his “prayer army” descends on San Francisco — a city the controversial Christian preacher describes as “famous for sin and Satanism.”

Lea, whose Halloween crusade of “spiritual warfare” being at 7 p.m. in the Civic Auditorium, has given rise to protests by several New Age groups, including the New Earth Temple and an ad hoc organization called GHOST — Grand Homosexual Outrage at Sickening Televangelists.

“His message is, ‘Perverts are bad and we’re going to destroy perversity,'” said GHOST organizer Mark Pritchard. “People in San Francisco want a chance to stand up against fundamentalists. Larry Lea has made himself a convenient target.”

Lea, who travels around the country conducting noisy prayer marathons to defeat “territorial spirits” that he says hold sway over particular cities, said his militant rhetoric has been misunderstood.

“Our purpose is prayer, spiritual warfare,” Lea said. “We are not here to cause a physical riot of any kind. We’re not going to bash anyone’s party.”

Plan for March Scrapped

Concerned about a street confrontation, organizers of the rally scrapped plans to march around Civic Center. That change was made after local church leaders, including P.T. Mammen, president of the San Francisco Association of Evangelicals, warned Lea’s group that Halloween night might not be the best time for noisy evangelicals to hit the streets of San Francisco.

“I told them that evening there are other communities that plan marches,” said Mammen, who endorsed Lea’s crusade after the march was called off.

GHOST will hold a “peaceful, legal demonstration and celebration of San Francisco’s religious diversity, tolerance and freedom” outside the Civic Auditorium at 6 p.m. tomorrow, organizers said.

Meanwhile, Eric Pryor, the “high priest” of the New Earth Temple, an emporium of witchcraft that is run out of a small Geary Street apartment, is organizing a pagan protest and ritual at 3 p.m. today at the Civic Center.

Stake-Burning

“We came to the United States to escape religious persecution,” said Pryor. “The witch-hunts are over, and I, for one, don’t intent to be burned at the stake.”

Replied Lea: “This is not a battle between me and them. It is a battle between God and the powers that lead people from a real faith in Jesus Christ.

“Anyone who has done any study of Satanism knows this is the high holy day of the satanic church. We just thought that was a good time to come and for Christians to pray.”

Janet Christian, coordinator of Bay Area Pagan Assemblies, an umbrella group formed 18 months ago in response to more frequent attacks on the New Age movement by conservative evangelicals, said she is concerned that “the Christian right is getting more militant in their response.

“We’re tired of them trying to force their beliefs on us,” she said. “How would Larry Lea feel if on Christmas, their holiest day, we decided to surround his church and outpray him? They wouldn’t stand for it.”

Copyright 2013-5 Mark Pritchard, Bernal Heights, San Francisco