U.S. Evangelicals cheer on Latin American culture wars

Sun Aug 10, 2014 12:16pm EDT
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By Alistair Bell and Mitra Taj

WASHINGTON/LIMA (Reuters) - Losing the fight against same-sex marriage at home, leading U.S. Evangelical Christians are joining in the culture wars in Latin America as cheerleaders for opponents of gay legal partnerships, abortion and pornography.

One of the Americans is veteran legal crusader Mat Staver who was both a disciple of late Moral Majority co-founder Jerry Falwell and the leader of a campaign against the removal of religious symbols from celebrations of Christmas in stores and public buildings.

The other is Samuel Rodriguez, a dynamic Latino preacher with strong ties with Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Washington D.C. who describes his religion as mixing Martin Luther King Jnr. with televangelist Billy Graham and then "putting a little salsa on top."

Working together, both men increased their influence in Latin America in April when a U.S. Hispanic Evangelical group that they help to run took over one of the region's oldest Evangelical organizations.

"Because of what was happening in Latin America and what we are fighting here in America there needed to be a combination to be able to create a firewall for our Judeo-Christian values. That is what ultimately brought about this merger," Staver told his Faith and Freedom radio show.

The new group -- known as NHCLC/CONELA and headed by Rodriguez -- boasts a network of socially conservative pastors in Latin America who it is asking to be more politically active.

The many left-leaning governments in Latin America will not be easily swayed by U.S.-backed conservatives and the fight against gay marriage has already been lost in Argentina, Uruguay and Mexico City, which have legalized it in the last four years.

But the alliance of U.S. and Latin American Evangelicals is having some success in Peru, where a conservative lawmaker who is an NHCLC/CONELA officeholder is blocking a bill in Congress that would allow gay civil unions.   Continued...

People pray during a ceremony held by Peru's Christian Evangelical churches with political leaders in Lima, July 30, 2014.  REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil