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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Focus on the Family pastor speaks at Arcadia breakfast; dozens protest

By Brenda Gazzar -

Helen Miller of Arcadia, reacts to chants as she heads towards Arcadia's 2011 Mayor's Community Breakfast Friday, March 4, 2011 at Arcadia Community Center as gay rights activists chant "focus on our families" and "city funds are not for hate" as they protest the keynote speaker, H.B. London, Jr., of Focus on the Family. Gay rights activists oppose the conservative Christian group's views on same-sex marriage and homosexuality.

Robin Tyler, who was part of the original same-sex marriage lawsuit in 2004, protests with gay rights activists Arcadia's 2011 Mayor's Community Breakfast Friday, March 4, 2011 at Arcadia Community Center.

ARCADIA - A pastor from a conservative Christian group that opposes gay marriage spoke about the importance of compassion and unconditional love in the family during a city sponsored breakfast Friday that drew protests from scores of residents and gay rights activists.
The Rev. H.B. London Jr., vice president of ministry outreach and pastoral ministries at Focus on the Family, spoke about family values to a crowd of at least 300 people Friday inside the Arcadia Community Center, receiving a standing ovation.

Greeting attendees filing into the 2011 Mayor's Community Breakfast were some 90 protesters from around the region who support the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Waving American and rainbow flags, they chanted "we are families too" and "city funds are not for hate."
London, who served as pastor at First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena from 1985-91, stressed the importance of unconditional love among family members, no matter what they may say or do.
"In spite of some of the things that (my sons) may have done or said that I disagreed with, I loved them unconditionally," London told the audience. "They were my sons. Nobody had a greater responsibility to them than I did...It seems that in this day and age, that in so many ways we've acquiesced to the point where maybe we've given over to social agencies the role of parenting and the role of family and we need to take that back."

Arcadia resident Gary Searer, a structural engineer, was among the protestors outside who claimed that the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family is neither accepting nor unconditional toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. "They do not tolerate people who are different and that's inappropriate for the city to spend money on this," Searer said.

H.B. London, Jr., of Focus on the Family, and his wife Bev, right,
visit with guests after he spoke during Arcadia's 2011 Mayor's
Community Breakfast Friday,  at Arcadia Community Center.
London made light of the attention his invitation by Mayor Peter Amundson to be the keynote speaker at the breakfast has received in recent months but steered clear from the topics of same-sex marriage and homosexuality in his speech.

"I just believe this is democracy and if they disagree with my appearance here, they have every right to disagree with it as long as they are peaceful and respectful. Whatever they say or do is their conscience," London said after the event. "They are speaking their conscience."

While he believes strongly in marriage between one man and one woman, London said he accepts those with differences of opinion.

"I respect their right to do what they do and to believe what they believe," he said.
London also argued that Focus on the Family "has not been intolerant" but rather advocates what it calls "a biblically based position" on such issues.
Long-time Arcadia resident Marsha Aizumi, who has a transgender son, was there protesting with her family Friday morning with a sign that read, "LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) loves and accepts all families."

"I think he's really courageous every day because he's transgender," Aizumi said of her son. "He goes out and tries to live his life the way he was meant to be. So for me to come today is to support all the LGBT people and especially my son. I want to be courageous, too."

Ten police officers and a SWAT vehicle were stationed outside the community center to ensure public safety at the event. Police said there were no problems.

Focus on the Family, originally founded in Arcadia in 1977 by Dr. James Dobson, believes that marriage should be between one man and one woman and advocates "reparative therapy" as one way to change unwanted same-sex attraction.

Besides an unknown amount of staff time, the city's contribution to put on the event is estimated to cost between $5,000 and $5,500, said Linda Garcia, the city's special projects manager.
David Steinmeier, a long-time Arcadia resident, said London's talk about family was something everyone could relate to.

"I felt his presentation was very well-balanced and a unifying presence," said Steinmeier. "He didn't single out any one particular group."


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