The leading Republican candidate in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election laid out a socially conservative vision for education, reproductive rights and transgender rights during a Sunday visit to a Placer County megachurch whose pastor has endorsed ousting the governor.

Larry Elder, the longtime radio talk show host, endorsed school choice, bashed sex education in schools, and said no state money should go toward abortions or gender affirmation surgeries.

When asked by Destiny Christian Church pastor Greg Fairrington about whether he supports the “pornographic” practice of sex education in schools, Elder said sex education has “no role in schools at all.”

He also said transgender athletes should not be able to compete in sports according to their identity, nor should transgender people be able to use the bathroom of their choice.

“Male athletes should not be competing against female athletes,” he said. “And you ought not be able to wake up one day and think you are female and use a female bathroom.”

Elder was a featured guest at Destiny Christian Church’s three morning services in Rocklin, where Fairrington praised him as someone who could stand up for the conservative views shared by his evangelical congregation. The services were livestreamed online.

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Fairrington and Destiny Christian Church have made headlines over the past year for their decision to stay open in defiance of COVID-19 rules that restricted indoor gatherings in an effort to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Over the summer, Fairrington tested IRS rules by urging followers to recall Newsom. The church also offers religious exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine.

On Sunday, Fairrington, speaking to the congregation praised Elder for not being a “polished politician,” and said there is still “hope for our state of California.”

“Our state has been groaning for years now, 2.2 million people signed a petition to have an immoral governor removed from his office,” he said. “We believe that God can save our state, we believe it with all our heart, that California can turn around.”

Elder, as he has in recent weeks, promised to repeal the mask and vaccine mandates put in place by California in light of rising COVID-19 rates. Over the summer, Newsom announced the state would require proof of vaccination for health care workers, state workers, and school employees, or otherwise require them to take regular COVID-19 testing.

Elder also slammed Newsom for his restrictions on businesses during the pandemic, accusing him of “killing the California dream.”

He also promised not to shut down churches which Fairrington claimed was a violation of constitutional rights to freedom of religion.

Anti-abortion activist Lila Rose last week endorsed Elder, and claimed he had promised to use his gubernatorial powers to cut abortion funding, veto abortion expansion and “abortion misinformation” legislation and appoint anti-abortion judges.

Elder, speaking at Destiny Church, said he is “pro-life, 100%” but did not get into the details of Rose’s endorsement.

“I’m asked that question a lot by the media,” he said in response to a question about abortion. “I’m not running on the issue of abortion, but I’m asked that a lot because they’re trying to find something that scares people…. whenever a reporter sticks a mic in front of me, I always say ‘I’m pro-life,’ and I I say ‘when have you ever asked Gavin Newsom that?'”

Elder last week told reporters that that limiting access to abortion in California would not be a priority for him as governor.

The Sacramento Bee, following his remarks at Destiny, asked Elder about Rose’s endorsement and the promises she said he made. Elder did not answer and a Bee reporter was blocked by his security team.

Newsom has made abortion rights a central message of his campaign, especially since the Supreme Court last week declined to intervene in a new Texas law that effectively bans most abortions.

“A woman’s fundamental right to make her own health decisions could be wiped away” in the recall, Newsom wrote on Twitter while highlighting Rose’s endorsement of Elder.

With a little over a week left until Sept. 14, Elder and other Republicans are hitting the campaign circuits. Elder is expected to campaign at other churches over the next week.

Elder’s positions on sex education, abortion and transgender rights run contrary to recent California laws signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown and by Newsom.

A 2016 state law requires schools to provide comprehensive sexual health education in middle school and at least once in high school. California has moved to increase access to reproductive health care, including abortions, including a 2019 law that requires California State University and University of California campuses to provide medication abortions at their student health centers.

California made a statement on transgender rights with a 2016 law that cuts off state-funded travel to any state that passes a law that California officials view as discriminatory against gay or transgender people. California has restricted state-funded travel to 17 states as a result of the law.

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(c)2021 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

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