On Sept. 7, Sanctity of Marriage prayer rallies blanketed the nation in the hopes of maintaining the traditional definition of marriage. Brian Rushfeldt, executive director of the Canada Family Action Coalition, one of the organizers of the rallies, was pleased that so many Canadian Christians heeded the call to prayer, as an estimated 100,000 – including about 1,000 clergy – participated in the event from coast to coast.
“This is a first (time) praying for marriage and praying for all political leaders is a mandate of Scripture that was fulfilled. Sunday was the beginning of a unity of prayer that I have not seen before in this nation.” About those religious leaders who took part in the rallies, Rushfeldt said: “1,000 or more clergy involved in a national event, taking leadership is so significant. This is only a beginning for the Canadian church.”
Many of the 220 ridings that had official organizations reported numbers in the 200-500 range, with Halifax, Woodstock, Ont., and Medicine Hat, Alta. all reporting at least 1,000 participants. Furthermore, in many communities that were far from constituency offices, unofficial prayer rallies were held at city halls or in churches.
Christian Heritage Party leader Ron Gray reported that in Abbotsford, B.C., with just two days’ preparation, more than 300 people prayed in front of the city hall. Gray reported that “a Catholic priest, a Christian Reformed pastor, and a Pentecostal pastor” helped lead prayers at the event. Participants also included Mennonites, Baptists and Anglicans.
In many communities, large numbers of Chinese Christians came out and in some ridings, Sikhs, Muslims and Jews attended. This enormous grassroots movement was at first ignored or belittled by the mainstream media, as the CBC (and others) focused on ridings with poor turnouts or where there was no official organization. For instance, only a handful of Quebeckers showed up at the offices of Paul Martin and Martin Cauchon. However, CTV’s Sandy Renaldo declared that the rallies were evidence that “the sleeping giant is awake.”
In a release by the central organizers, Rushfeldt and Dr. Charles McVety of Canada Christian College, the two said that despite the difficulties of organizing the event over just a few weeks at the end of summer, the event was a tremendous success. But they did not take the credit: “Does anyone not think that God orchestrated all of this?” They added, “It is exciting to see God’s people uniting on this issue.”
At the rallies, people prayed for politicians to have the wisdom and courage to stand for the traditional definition of marriage, for all Canadian families for an end to judicial activism. In B.C., MP John Cummins (CA) told Today’s Family News that he was “thrilled” with the turnout and that ultimately, “It’s the prayers of the people that make all the difference.”
In some cases, an MP showed up at the event. In Calgary, Jason Kenney (CA) told more than 300 people who had gathered at his constituency office that judges have no business re-defining marriage. “We aren’t going to let the courts impose their morality on our society,” he said.
The constituency rallies came on the heels of several, large and more political prayer rallies. On August 22, at least 8,000 Canadians were on Parliament Hill, calling on Parliament to protect the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. Nearly one-third of the participants were Chinese Christians, most of them decked out in red T-shirts. On the shirts was the slogan, “Marriage = One Man + One Woman.”
Also in late August, rallies in defence of marriage were held in Winnipeg and Vancouver. At least 3,000 people attended a rally at the Manitoba legislature to show their support for traditional marriage. In Vancouver, a large demonstration of at least 6,000 people gathered at the courthouse to demand that marriage be protected from the courts. Organized by the Canadian Alliance for Social Justice and Family Values Association, K-John Cheung warned that Canada will alter the definition of marriage and pass the hate crimes Bill C-250 at its peril.