A hail of Hosannas would be more in keeping with what the coalition of religious groups that passed California's gay marriage ban expected after their victory, not a heated post-election debate. But a debate is what they got.

It was just last week that a full-page ad appeared in the New York Times decrying grassroots demonstrations against the passage of Proposition 8 – the California constitutional amendment approved by a slim majority of voters that restricts marriage to heterosexual partners – as mob “intimidation.” Gay rights groups have countered with a full-page ad in today's Salt Lake Tribune.

In Friday's ad, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty came to the defense of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS or Mormons) who became a target of grassroots gay activists after their overwhelming support for Proposition 8 most likely tipped the passage of the anti-gay measure.

“[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, titled No Mob Veto, calls the demonstrations against Proposition 8 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.”

It is signed by Becket Fund for Religious Liberty founder Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson, Rich Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals, William A. Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Chuck Colson of the Prison Fellowship and nine others.

“These anti-gay activists are crying wolf on the Proposition 8 protests, but they actually are a wolf in sheep's clothing that preaches religious tolerance while practicing the most defamatory form of religious bigotry,” said Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen, whose group is backing the gay response. “We refuse to permit this orchestrated campaign to rewrite history, nor will we allow some of the most notorious Mormon bashers in America to pose as friends of the Latter-day Saints.”

The pro-gay ad calls the No Mob Veto ad a lie. “Those demonstrations across the country were remarkably peaceful and were a vivid example of Americans exercising their free speech rights, and we think it's inexcusable for anyone to misrepresent these protests for political gain.”

The ad, titled Lying Is Wrong, points out that the men behind the ad are no friends to the Mormons.

“[W]e should start this effort by spotlighting the religious bigotry of the ad's very own signers,” the ad says, giving several examples.

“Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular,” is attributed to William Donohue of the Catholic League.

“Mormonism either affirms historic Christianity, or it doesn't. Since it doesn't, it can't call itself Christianity, a fact that all the good will and public relations in Utah can't change ... While Mormons share some beliefs with Christians, they are not Christians,” is attributed to Chuck Colson of the Prison Fellowship Ministries.

“Most evangelicals still regard Mormonism as a cult,” is attributed to Rich Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals.

“Activists like Colson, Cizik and Donohue must decide if they are 'people of faith' or 'people of fibs' – they can't be both. Lying is wrong, especially when it's done in the name of God,” the ad says.

Social conservatives have been forced to respond to the actions of grassroots gay activists whose daily protests have drawn enormous media attention to the role religious leaders played in backing four anti-gay measures in California, Arizona, Florida and Arkansas that passed on Election Day.

While touring his new book Do The Right Thing, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has made the argument that gay rights are not civil rights.

On Tuesday's broadcast of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Huckabee said, “There's a big difference between a person being black and a person practicing a lifestyle and engaging in a marital relationship.”

But while such comments have drawn praise by hosts on the conservative talk show circuit, Bill O'Reilly included, Stewart challenged his guest.

“You know, you talk about the pro-life movement being one of the great shames of our nation,” Stewart said. “I think if you want number two, I think it's that: It's a travesty that people have forced someone who is gay to have to make their case that they deserve the same basic rights as someone else.”

And on December 9, the radio talk show The Morning Show featured Becket Fund for Religious Liberty Founder Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson, who continued his push to marginalize gay activists protesting the passage of Proposition 8 by likening them to terrorists.

“Well, whether it's an organized movement like Al Qaeda or whether it's the Al Qaeda-like ... inspired acts of terrorism elsewhere, people are right to be concerned about ... radical Islamist violence,” he said before Susan Russell, of the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California broke into the conversation.

“These are people who are determined to paint American citizens, living out democracy in the streets, as similar to terrorists and Al Qaeda,” she responded. “The title of the ad is No Mob Veto. What they're [the Prop 8 proponents] trying to do is frame the debate, already, as the Supreme Court begins to reconsider Proposition 8. ... You can see what they're doing right now, they're framing the debate so when that [Prop 8 being invalidated] happens, they can say it was mob rule against democracy, they're going to continue to compare us to Al Qaeda and I think the American people have got to stand up and say stop. We're a nation of freedom of religion, we've got to be a nation of freedom from religion.”

The gay marriage post-Prop 8 debate, with or without the protesting, was most likely inevitable. Social conservatives embolden by their anti-gay victories on Election Day are quickly fastening themselves to an anti-gay platform in the hopes they might remain relevant to a tattered Republican Party that partly blames recent election losses – including the office of the president – on divisive social issues.

Besen called claims made in the No Mob Veto ad a “manipulative and cynical political ploy.”

On the Net: Truth Wins Out is at www.truthwinsout.org.