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Associated Press/Photo by Denis Poroy

California girl

Marriage | Carrie Prejean's stand-up attitude at the Miss USA pageant and during the media blitz that followed made both her parents and her pastor proud

The parents of Miss California Carrie Prejean, the Miss USA contestant who last week faced down a media attack on her biblical view on marriage, aren't surprised at their daughter's stand-up attitude.

"When Carrie sets her mind on something, nothing can stop her," her father, Wil Prejean, told me Sunday.

He and Carrie's mother, Francine Coppola, talked backstage at the Rock Church in San Diego, where Carrie Prejean received a heroine's welcome at the megachurch she calls home. The 12,000-member church, founded by former San Diego Chargers defensive back Miles McPherson, holds five worship services each Sunday, and in each one Prejean told the congregation she has no regrets about answering celebrity judge Perez Hilton's politically charged question the way she did.

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Prejean, 21, was named first runner-up to Miss North Carolina April 19, after facing down a question on same-sex marriage posed by Hilton, whose name she randomly picked out of a bowl. Hilton, who is gay, asked if Prejean thought every state should legalize gay marriage. Prejean replied that marriage should be between a man and a woman. "No offense to anybody out there," she added, "but that's how I was raised."

Wil Prejean, a tall, dignified man who, along with Coppola, is a practicing Christian, recognized the strength in his daughter's politically incorrect answer. "I raised both my daughters to take care of themselves," he said.

Both daughters, their parents said, were gifted high school students and leaders among their peers. "They didn't do what everyone else did," said Coppola, a slim brunette who has accompanied her beauty contestant daughter on the media whirlwind tour since the pageant in Las Vegas.

Miss California may be fearless but that doesn't mean she didn't feel a bit lost in all the media blitz. Flying into New York City alone after the pageant to face liberal media giants like Today's Matt Lauer, she said she broke down in tears and asked God for help.

What she didn't realize was that McPherson, her pastor, was in the air at the same time, headed to New York with his wife, Debbie, for a week of meetings unrelated to the Miss USA controversy. McPherson was one of the leaders of the drive in 2008 to successfully pass California's Proposition 8, amending the state constitution to say marriage is between a man and a woman.

Meanwhile in San Diego, someone called the church to ask for prayer for Prejean. McPherson's assistant reached him during a layover with the prayer request. McPherson then left Prejean a message saying, "I'm proud of you." Miles and Debbie McPherson supported Prejean for the next three days, coaching her through interviews on Today, Access Hollywood, and Larry King Live, and a personal, confidential meeting with Donald Trump.

In a talk-show style conversation at the Rock Church on Sunday, Prejean and McPherson told the congregation the tale of the media whirlwind in New York.

"What would you tell Perez Hilton right now?" McPherson asked Prejean.

Prejean lit up with a smile: "I'd tell him he needs Jesus."

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