VA Christian group denies reports of hunger strike to protest ga - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

VA Christian group denies reports of hunger strike to protest gay marriage

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

The Family Foundation in Virginia wants to make it clear that members are not planning to starve themselves to protest gay marriage.

The organization is asking its followers to participate in a 40-day prayer and fast campaign. The effort is to promote the group's beliefs on traditional marriage, said Chris Freund, vice president of the Family Foundation. The campaign can be compared to a Catholic lent, where observers up something for a period of time.

However, after the Family Foundation's campaign was labeled a "hunger strike," in a national publication, the organization is making it clear that no one will be "starving."

"(Fasting) always involves just giving up a single thing. It doesn't mean going without food," said Freund, of how his organization interprets a "fast."

Freund says the Huffington Post's story wrongly labeled their effort a "hunger strike." Since then, he says the Family Foundation has been inundated with hate messages like, "Have you guys considered mass suicide?"

"A lot of them are very vulgar. A lot of them are very hateful, hoping we starve during these 40 days," described Freund.

The Family Foundation blasted out a clarification notice on Tuesday, stating the organization is not promoting people to go without food for 40 days. However, Freund is confident that Evangelical Christians will understand the spirit of the campaign, regardless.

"I think the folks we're trying to reach understand what a campaign of prayer and fasting is," added Freund.

Meantime, groups which support gay and lesbian marriage are gearing up their own campaigns.

This comes at a time when a major decision on gay marriage in Virginia, is expected in just a few weeks. A federal appeals court will decide whether to uphold a recent judge's ruling that a ban on same-sex marriage in Virginia is unconstitutional.

"The judge in Norfolk ruled and said, ‘Yes, this marriage ban in unconstitutional.' And we are hoping the Fourth District Court of Appeal will do the same thing," said James Parrish, executive director of Equality Virginia.

Ironically, Equality Virginia, a well-known gay advocacy group, often shows its support of same-sex marriage, through cookouts. More than 40 barbeques are planned throughout the state, right after the hearings in May.

"It's just more about celebration. All these cookouts are hosted by couples who are legally married in other states, but Virginia doesn't recognize their relationships, or friends and allies," explained Parrish.

The Family Foundation's fast comes just before the U.S. Supreme Court goes into session this fall. Many believe a final decision on gay marriage could be made, as many same-sex marriage cases are circulating through court state and federal court systems around the country.

Meantime, both the Family Foundation and Equality Virginia plan more commonplace rallies and protests to express their opinions, in addition to fasts or cookouts, as the gay marriage issue escalates to a head, nationwide.

Wednesday, Equality Virginia is set to host a conference on how the state's gay marriage ban affects gay couples and taxes, in Virginia.

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