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On the third day of the World Congress of Families meeting in Salt Lake City, stirring speeches about assaults on the family from the government and media, costs of the sexual revolution, and the urgent need to protect religious freedom rang through the Grand America ballroom.
The family was "ordained of God," the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez said in a plenary session of the international gathering Thursday morning. "In essence, it is the heart of God by which we experience the fullness of God's glory."
The idea of the family "does not stem from a political ideology," said Rodriguez, who ministers to a multiethnic evangelical congregation in Sacramento, Calif., "and I don't believe the U.S. Supreme Court has the power and authority to redefine it."
Close, loving families led by a mother and father provide, he said, the "antidote to poverty, gang violence and economic disparities. ... It is a God-ordained firewall against so many ills."
An attack on the institution, Rodriguez said, "is an attack on communities that need it most."
Jennifer Roback Morse added her voice to the chorus of worried Christians, sounding the alarm about the aftermath and victims of the so-called "sexual revolution."
Morse who was named one of the "Catholic Stars of 2013" along with Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI and others was so troubled by what she sees as the decline of marriage that she launched the nonprofit Ruth Institute in 2008 to raise awareness about the costs.
The list of those victimized by the family breakdown includes children of divorce, children of unwed mothers, women who have been abandoned and children of same-sex couples, she said. "Men, women and children have been harmed ... by the lies [about marriage]."
Society's view of sexuality "is a totalitarian ideology," the Catholic scholar said. "Even [its] most ardent opponents don't know how insidious the revolution is."
Morse then challenged the gathering to speak against sexual freedom and its consequences.
"We are up against powerful people in our world," she said, "but Bill Gates and George Soros do not have enough money to silence all of us."
The Rev. Paige Patterson, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and current president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, tackled the topic of religious freedom.
It began, he said, when God created the first couple Adam and Eve.
"God could have created automatons," the Baptist preacher said, "but our progenitors were created with the freedom to reject God or honor him."
The Constitution's First Amendment outlaws any government-established religion and forbids limits to the "free exercise of religion" unless the state has a compelling interest to do so.
"Those concerned about the future of the family can no longer lend support to any candidate who doesn't vigorously support the First Amendment or is seeking to impose restrictions on religious freedoms," he said. "All such [office seekers] must be resisted."
Without religious freedom, Patterson said, "all other freedoms become relatively meaningless."
The Utah gathering wraps up Friday. The 10th World Congress of Families is tentatively scheduled for May 16-18, 2016, in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.