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With its well-known gay community and liberal social laws, San Francisco has long considered itself a beacon of tolerance. But this spring, local politicians condemned 25,000 Christian teens who converged there to rally against what they called pop culture's terrorism against virtue.

San Francisco supervisors passed a resolution warning against the negative effect such Christians could have on the community. Democratic Assemblyman Mark Leno was quoted on March 25 saying the youths were "loud, they're obnoxious, they're disgusting, and they should get out of San Francisco."

This irony was not lost on the San Francisco Chronicle, which editorialized that "the supervisors' reaction was so boorishly over the top that only one word could describe it: Intolerant."

This came only a week after the same supervisors blasted their former Catholic archbishop, now the Vatican's chief of doctrine, for saying that Catholic agencies should not place adoptive children in gay households. The conservative Catholic League and two local Catholics responded by suing the city for breaching the First Amendment.

This was not the first time San Francisco officials have spoken out against a Christian campaign—and it likely won't be the last. But it did call into question whether politicians are permitted to attack the values of a religious group.

"If you single out a religious group and publicly criticize them, it at least leads to the danger of an establishment-clause violation, that the government, through its policies, is denigrating religion," said David Hudson, an attorney with the First Amendment Center.

The events evoked a late-1990s suit brought by Don Wildmon's American Family Association (AFA) against the city and county of San Francisco. ...

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June 2006

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