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Law firm criticizes Padres over gays

July 07, 2007|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — A national law firm involved with religious issues joined a local Christian minister Friday in decrying what they termed support by the San Diego Padres' management for the "homosexual lifestyle."

The Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center said the baseball team is encouraging homosexuality by allowing a gay group to attend the Sunday game at Petco Park featuring the Padres against the Atlanta Braves. At the game, the Padres plan to distribute free floppy hats to children 14 or younger.

"The Padres are playing the part of the Pied Piper leading unsuspecting children into the homosexual lifestyle as normal," said Richard Thompson, the group's president and chief counsel.

Ron deHarte, executive director of San Diego LGBT Pride, said the law center's concern for children "is just a shield for the homophobic, anti-gay message they're trying to get out."

"Gays and children attend games all season and there is no problem," DeHarte said. "We hear this rhetoric every June and July during pride season."

A Padres spokesman said the team sold a block of tickets to San Diego LGBT Pride, one of about 100 business, community and family groups buying tickets for the Sunday game. With block sales, the group's name is often shown momentarily on the electronic scoreboard.

San Diego LGBT Pride, which states its mission as fostering "pride in and respect for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in San Diego," is referring to the event on its website as "Out at the Park -- San Diego Pride Night at Petco Park."

The organization bought about 1,000 tickets for the game. Also, the Gay Men's Chorus of San Diego will sing the National Anthem. The group applied to sing it and was screened as all applicants are, a Padres spokesman said. San Diego's 33rd annual Pride Festival is set for July 21-22.

The game controversy began when an El Cajon-based ministry said its followers would refuse to work the food concession stands during the game as a way to show disapproval of homosexuality. Set-Free Ministries has a contract with the team to staff such stands. The Padres plan to have other workers at the game to prevent any interruption of services.

Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., the Thomas More Law Center is active in issues in which it believes "the religious freedom of Christians is threatened."

The group filed a lawsuit against the Poway school district for allegedly ordering a teacher to remove a sign in his classroom that mentioned God.

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tony.perry@latimes.com

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