Over the weekend, the America for Jesus rally descended upon Independence Mall in my hometown – Philadelphia, PA. Independence Mall is a large open area at the edge of Old City, Philly’s historical district. Old City is where you’ll find the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and various other Revolutionary-Era sites. The city is nicknamed “the Cradle of Liberty” because Philadelphia served as a focal point for the birth of the United States, a nation founded upon – among other things – the principle of personal liberty.
Keeping this in mind, I found it very interesting that a far-right, conservative Christian event chose Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for its location. This is politically a left-leaning and diverse city – culturally, ethnically, and religiously. However, religious plurality is something toward which conservative Christians are largely hostile. Many go so far as to declare the separation of church and state to be a myth; that the U.S. was founded upon Christian principles. The Christian Right movement of Dominionism seeks to eradicate the secular government and put in its place a theocratic one.
The rally had two parts – a Friday night youth rally, which went until midnight, and a 9am – 5pm event of public prayer that took place the next day. Speakers included Lou Engle (who was deeply involved in Uganda’s anti-homosexuality conference), Tony Perkins (leader of anti-gay hate group Family Research Council), and Cindy Jacobs, a virulently anti-gay activist and self-proclaimed prophet. The entire event was filmed live and several large video screens were placed along the area. On both days Christian music artists shared the stage with the guest speakers. The event was well attended, though it is difficult for me to say how many attendees were native Philadelphians and how many came on the charter buses ringing the perimeter.
Adjacent to the site of the rally is the National Constitution Center, a museum dedicated to educating visitors about the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified in Philadelphia in 1787. A large stone block stands on the Mall as a monument to the First Amendment – the opening words being: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Given the context of the event versus the context of its location, I was able to snap some interesting photographs, some of which can be seen below. For more, please visit my original post here.