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He Came, Saw but Couldn't Conquer : San Francisco: An evangelist and his 'prayer warriors' are met by 1,500 demonstrators on Halloween. He had hoped to 'exorcise sin' in the city.

November 02, 1990|MARK A. STEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — In the military vernacular used by his hymn-singing, check-writing "prayer warriors," a Texas television evangelist came and saw, but could not conquer.

The Rev. Larry Lea sought to "exorcise sin" from San Francisco on Wednesday night, but had to do it from inside the Civic Center Auditorium while 1,500 vocal demonstrators chanted outside and San Francisco engaged in its usual raucous and lascivious Halloween festivities.

Lea, who has staged similar "exorcism" events in Anaheim and other cities as part of his "Prayer Breakthrough" crusade, had planned to march his 5,000 Bay Area followers through the streets to confront gays and other "sinners," but was dissuaded by local clergy members who feared violence.

The demonstration was nasty--the primarily gay and lesbian protesters chanted, "Bring back the lions!" as the Christians entered the ornate hall--but relatively peaceful. Most of the costumed demonstrators, including pagans, simply chanted "Go Home!"

The only violence occurred when a motorcyclist threw a tear gas canister at the worshipers as they left the service, long after most of the demonstrators had departed. A boy was slightly hurt by the gas bomb; no arrest has been made.

"They're trying to push their views on other people," said San Francisco artist Joe Babcock. "It's repulsive and I wish they'd go back to Texas."

The furor grew out of the provocative advertising Lea used to draw a crowd, many of whom lived outside the city, which Lea described as "famous for sin and satanism."

"Spirits of witchcraft, violence, greed and moral corruption must be broken in this region," the ads said. "Prayer Warriors from across the nation will raise a mighty roar that will quake Satan's camp."

Lea was conciliatory at a news conference immediately before the service.

"Our welcome in San Francisco is quite unique," he said. "We're not afraid of those who curse us. Jesus taught us to forgive."

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