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Teen-Agers Gather at Capitol for ‘Washington for Jesus’ Youth Rally

April 29, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Capitol steps were the destination for thousands of young people expected today for the ``Washington for Jesus″ rally, billed by its organizers as a ``Christian Woodstock.″

U.S. Park Police prepared for up to 250,000 teen-agers and young adults, but by the time it opened at noon EDT no more than a couple of thousand were on hand. The rally, featuring about 20 Christian musical groups and two dozen speakers, continues Tuesday.

Rally spokeswoman Delores Hearn said was unperturbed by the low attendance numbers at the rally’s start. She said she still expected a quarter-million young people despite overcast skies and forecasts of rain and thunderstorms Tuesday.

``This event is to speak about hope and have young people in the hundreds of thousands doing something positive, not something negative,″ Hearn said.

Jeff Fenholt, former lead singer of rock band Black Sabbath, is host at the youth rally.

``Young people are hungry for a cause,″ said Fenholt, who played Jesus in the Broadway musical ``Jesus Christ Superstar.″

Other scheduled speakers include Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff ``Jane Roe″ in the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion but now an anti-abortion activist; actress Vanity, who starred in the film ``Purple Rain,″ and actor Todd Bridges, who played Willis on the television series``Different Strokes.″

``It’ll be equivalent to a Christian Woodstock,″ spokesman David Jordan Allen said.

Eric Champion is lead singer for an Orlando, Fla., rock group called Spin Cycle, which plays traditional rock rather than more Christian-based music, came to the festival.

``We’re here to tell Christian kids that there are cool, modern rock bands that are made up of Christians,″ Champion said.

Tuesday’s events will be more of an all-ages show centered an all-day mock trial about societal problems, Hearn said. Speakers include the Revs. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

Similar Washington for Jesus rallies were held in 1980 and in 1988.

The rally’s date, April 29, is significant, organizers said, because in 1607, one of Virginia’s first settlers, Rev. Robert Hunt, arrived in America and dedicated the new country to the glory of God. And in 1863, President Lincoln declared a day of national fasting and prayer.

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