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Gay proclamation sparks calls for Clinton's censure

ATLANTA -- The president of the Southern Baptist Convention on Monday called for local church discipline against fellow denomination member President Clinton for proclaiming June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.

Paige Patterson, president of the 15.7-million-member denomination, issued the call for church discipline, as more than 14,000 convention delegates, known as messengers, converged on Atlanta's Georgia Dome for Tuesday's opening of the national convention's annual meeting.Patterson, also president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, castigated Clinton for issuing the gay-pride proclamation last week. Every June, the U.S. gay community observes the anniversary of the 1969 resistance to police harassment and mistreatment at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.

"That (proclamation) is entirely inconsistent with his confession as an evangelical Christian and certainly as a Southern Baptist," Patterson said. "I would call once again upon the church in which the president holds membership to take before them this proclamation he has made at the White House and make it the subject of church discipline," Patterson said during a live broadcast of a denominational radio program.

Patterson's call was greeted with applause from a small audience attending pre-meeting activities.

Richard Land, president of the convention's ethics and religious liberty commission, also harshly criticized the president. "I am appalled that the president would abuse the office of the presidency to call for an affirmation of a lifestyle that tens of millions of Americans, based on their religious convictions, believe to be a deviant lifestyle," Land said.

But Barry Toiv, a White House spokesman, defended the proclamation. "This proclamation is about preventing discrimination," Toiv said. "It is about preventing hate crimes; it is about every American having an equal opportunity to contribute."