PINELLAS PARK, Fla. – Anna Gunnell's crystal rosary flashed rainbow colors in the sunlight as she bowed her head with fellow pilgrims to the Woodside hospice and asked the Virgin Mary to perform a miracle for Terri Schiavo (search).
"I've been just saying the sorrowful mysteries over and over, because it's got the crucifixion in it," said the 84-year-old Michigan woman, who kept her lawn chair vigil Tuesday outside the hospice. "This is the third time I've been around it. I'll just keep on until I get tired."
From across the country, heeding a Christian conservative call to arms or simply the tug of their own hearts, people of faith have descended on Woodside to pray and plead for Schiavo's life since a judge on Friday ordered the removal of the severely brain-damaged woman's feeding tube.
Behind an orange hurricane fence hung with dead and dying roses, votive candles burn on a table adorned with a picture of the Virgin Mary. As cameras roll, people wave signs that read, "Plz don't give up on what God gave you", "God's Law Will Prevail" and "Thou Shalt not Kill."
Franciscan friars in black robes tied with white ropes mill about, escorting Schiavo's parents and siblings between the news media throng and a makeshift headquarters across from the hospice. Several protesters sport black ribbons around their upper arms, signifying that they are fasting in solidarity with Schiavo.
After a federal judge declined Tuesday to order the woman's feeding tube restored, the Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Washington-based Christian Defense Coalition (search) asked those gathered to pray that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta would be "stirred" to act.
However, the 11th Circuit refused early Wednesday to order the restoration of Schiavo's feeding tube.
Before that ruling, during a Tuesday afternoon prayer session, the Rev. Sam Greene, a Baptist minister from Palm Bay, said: "I think this is a time for the church to literally bombard the throne of grace."
Dave Daubenmire says he was sitting in church Sunday in Hebron, Ohio, when the spirit suddenly moved him to come to Florida. A man in the congregation wrote him a $716 check on the spot and told him: "We need you down there."
Wearing a blue baseball cap with a red cross, the 52-year-old former high school football coach considers himself a "coach for the church."
He goes wherever he thinks the nation's Judeo-Christian values are under attack; he says he spent seven days on the steps of Alabama's judicial building in Montgomery, supporting Justice Roy Moore's (search) defiance of a federal order to remove a two-ton Ten Commandments monument.
That order was enforced, the monument was moved and Moore was eventually expelled from office.
"Those of us in faith have been missing in action," Daubenmire says. "How come Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson aren't laying in front of that door over there? If they really believe a woman is being murdered, where is the church?"
Recent polls have shown that a majority of Americans feel it was wrong for Congress and President Bush to intervene and push through a law allowing Schiavo's parents to appeal to the federal courts.
On Tuesday, only a pair of people turned out to support husband Michael Schiavo and the courts. Tim Harmon, 44, of Tampa, held a sign thanking the federal judge "for standing up for Terri + Michael and Doing the Right Thing."
"We feel like we're the silent majority," says Harmon, who claims fellow protesters have thrown salt on him and called him an atheist. "I just feel like Michael Schiavo went through the court system for seven years and so I believe we have to believe in our court system and that it works."
Rick Barnard scoffs at the polls and at courts that he sees as denying the foundation of the laws they claim to be upholding.
"I'm radical," declares Barnard, a pastor who drove 1,200 miles from Morris, Ill., to stand in the hot sun outside the hospice. "Of course, radical comes from the word `radix,' which means returning to the roots. And to me the root is God and his word. The Ten Commandments.
"Thou shalt not kill. It's pretty clear."