An advertisement that characterizes grassroots demonstrations against the passage of Proposition 8 as mob “intimidation” has been labeled “untruthful” by gay activists groups.

The full-page ad appearing in Friday's New York Times was sponsored by The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a nonprofit group dedicated to “protecting the free expression of all religious traditions”.

“[W]e're united in this: The violence and intimidation being directed against the LDS or 'Mormon' church, and other religious organizations – and even against individual believers – simply because they supported Proposition 8 is an outrage that must stop,” the ad reads.

The advertisement calls the demonstrations against Proposition 8 – the California constitutional amendment approved by a slim majority on Nov. 4 that restricts marriage to heterosexual partners – as “mobs, seeking not to persuade but to intimidate.”

It calls for an end to anti-religious propaganda: “It has no place in civilized society.”

And vows to work against demonstrators by “exposing and publicly shaming anyone who resorts to the rhetoric of anti-religious bigotry – against any faith, on any side of any cause, for any reason.”

Passage of Proposition 8 sparked a wildfire of protest the day after Election Day. California's gay marriage ban was the 30th to pass muster with voters, but it was the first to yank back the right of gays and lesbians to marry.  Gays had been marrying at a rapid rate since the California Supreme Court overturned a 2000 voter-approved gay marriage ban in May.

Anger over the notion that it is fair or democratic to revoke rights granted by the constitution and upheld by the California Supreme Court had been percolating on the Internet since it was announced that the measure would be on the Nov. ballot. And as gay groups traced Mormon giving, which nearly single-handedly bankrolled the anti-gay campaign, on websites such as, the Mormon church increasingly became a lightning rod for that resentment.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay and lesbian rights organization, responded by calling the ad “untruthful” and an effort by the Mormon church to mislead people into believing it was being victimized.

Clergy members belonging to HRC's Religion Council voiced similar concerns.

“Several signatories to the ad are generals in the culture wars,” said Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints Church (Episcopal) in Pasadena, California. “They lied about gay people in the campaign, and now they are lying again when they say we are in favor of mob intimidation and violence. ... Many of the leaders cited in this ad preach hate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, then look the other way when LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people are the victims of hate crimes. This ad is an act of individual and corporate hypocrisy.”

Rev. Dr. Miguel de la Torre of Iliff School of Theology in Denver called the ad a “shameful act.” “I am always struck that those in power, those who manipulate the truth to maintain oppressive structures, present themselves to the public as the ones being persecuted. Make no mistake, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a powerful organization with an agenda of imposing a narrow religious view upon the rest of America. As we Hispanics say, 'que vergüenza' (what a shameful act).”

Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) expressed gratitude for the ad.

“This was a thoughtful and generous gesture at a time when the right of free expression of people of faith has come under attack,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in a statement.

A let up in demonstrations against the gay marriage ban seems unlikely. At least not until the California Supreme Court weighs in on a challenge to the validity of the amendment, which won't happen until at least March.

A Saturday protest march in San Diego organized by labor union Unite Here drew attention to two large and early donors to the anti-gay initiative: Doug Manchester, owner of the Manchester Hyatt hotel, and Terry Caster, owner of A-1 Self Storage, who together donated nearly $425,000 to ban gay marriage in California (Caster's family contributions included).

“To protest the enormous financial involvement of a religious body in stripping equal rights from California LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people, their families, and their children is in no way anti-religious bigotry; it is instead, like the example of Jesus in the temple, an attempt to speak the truth to those rooted in power and wealth whose actions serve to deprive other human beings of the equal respect and dignity all of God's children deserve,” said Rev. Mary A. Tolbert of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the Pacific School of Religion.