About a month after the right-wing, politically driven We Stand With God rally drew more than 10,000 people to the S.C. State House, a similar event mixing politics and evangelical Christianity drew a smaller crowd in Columbia, this time inside the State House lobby.
Local pastors, Columbia City Councilman Cameron Runyan and Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum spoke familiar messages against abortion and gay marriage as they gave calls for Christians to eschew “unjust” laws in favor of what they believe to be God’s law. Roughly 70 to 100 people gathered with them to pray, sing hymns and hear their speeches.
The former Pennsylvania senator, who has ranked near the bottom of polls among the crowd of GOP presidential hopefuls, insisted this was “not a political speech. But as you know, I’m running for president.”
His speech, which drew “amens” and cheers from the crowd, included praise for Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk of court who was jailed for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, as well as calls for the church to not sit idly in response to a government and court system that, he said, wants to “rewrite moral laws.”
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“We have to pass a law to give people in America of goodwill who don’t hate anybody but want to stand for what their God is calling them to stand for not to be forced to conform to something they believe is wrong,” Santorum said. “In America, that used to be called freedom of conscience, freedom of religion. But today it’s called bigotry and hatred.”
Runyan also issued a call to action in a short speech preceding Santorum and a mini-sermon by Lexington’s Gethsemane Baptist Church pastor Steve Williamson.
Runyan is up for re-election for his at-large seat on City Council, facing numerous opponents and widespread criticism of his stances against funding for the city’s annual gay pride parade and a proposed human rights commission.
“There’s nothing special about me except that God called me to walk,” Runyan said. “If there are not people who hold to eternal truths in elected office wherever you are, then perhaps you should run.”
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.