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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
January 1998


Catholic University Alumni

Actress Susan Sarandon and lawyer Alan Yount have both returned alumni awards to Catholic University, according to a story in the Washington Post. Sarandon and Yount reportedly returned the awards because the University reversed an earlier decision to give an alumni achievement award to actor Joseph Sicari when he listed himself as a founding member of ACT-UP in a biography he sent to the school.

Religious Gay Rights Activist Coverage

The Washington Blade ran two major stories in their December 26 issue about gay rights and religion. One discussed the role of religious groups in the civil rights struggle, and the other covered the gay religious rights struggle. The AP did a story about gay pastors defying their denominations, focusing on Lutheran pastors in the San Francisco area.

Adoption Ruling

The New Jersey Supreme Court decision to allow same-gender couples joint adoption made news around the country, and spurred the usual deluge of commentary. The fact that gays and lesbians could already adopt as individuals was completely lost in the melee of words. Syndicated columnist Mona Charen cited the ruling as one more example of our living in what she now calls a "judgeocracy," failing to note the the elected governor of New Jersey told her attorney general not to contest the case. The Washington Post wrote a confusing editorial supporting the right of same-gender couples to adopt, but not marry. The Family Research Council called it a "landmark defeat for children," saying "children are not commodities to be parceled out." Jerry Falwell, Laura Schlessinger, Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Mario Cuomo discussed the case on Meet the Press December 21, with not one of them taking the position that a same-gender couple could do as good a job as a mixed-gender couple or that homosexuality was consistent with Jewish or Christian morality, though at least Jackson and Cuomo defended constitutional rights and church-state separation.

700 Club Observations

Watchers of the 700 Club report that on December 16, Pat Robertson said he couldn't understand how gays and lesbians, despite small numbers, could take control of the federal government and use billions of dollars to educate children in a "bizarre anti-God lifestyle." He also said that if the United States "officially embraces sodomy" then "all the pretty lifestyle we have, all riches and all the nice homes will be taken away from us."

New Episcopal Leader

The Inquirer Magazine's December 28 cover story about the new presiding bishop of the Episcopal church, Frank T. Griswold, III, focused on denominational debates over social issues such as sexual orientation and the recent and unclearly-defined defection by some conservatives. Griswold signed a statement saying homosexuality is morally neutral, and says he is in the "radical center," though conservatives believe he is thoroughly liberal. The article generally characterized the Episcopal church as one of the most socially liberal on gay rights and abortion, but with many wishing sexuality issues would just go away. It was implied that a ceremony of blessing for unions was the last remaining gay-related issue, and it would be settled at the next convention.

Firing Upheld

The US Supreme Court refused without comment to hear the appeal of Rev. Eugene Lumpkin on December 1. Lumpkin was fired from the San Francisco Human Relations Commission in 1993 after he said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle: "It's sad that people have AIDS and what have you, but it says right here in the Scripture that the homosexual lifestyle is an abomination against God." In a television interview two weeks later he indicated that he agreed that a man who sleeps with a man should be put to death.

Living in the Information Age

The Gary, IN Post-Tribune published a letter on November 3 that said recent archeological excavations of hundreds of dwellings in Sodom revealed a lack of a nuclear family structure, supporting the contention that God destroyed the city because of an abandonment of "family values." The Post-Tribune published a letter from the archeologist himself on November 27. He noted that his team had not excavated hundreds of dwellings, and certainly not enough to make any statements about family structure; the excavations of burial grounds indicated that extended family members were buried together; and the team never claimed they were excavating the Biblical Sodom, but it seemed like a good candidate.

Mel White Wins ACLU Award

The Rev. Dr. Mel White (Minister of Justice and Reconciliation for the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches) was awarded the ACLU's National Civil Liberties Award on December 6 for his efforts to apply the 'soul force' principles of Gandhi and King to the struggle for justice for sexual minorities. At the presentation, Dr. White passed the award to Lynn Cothren, the local gay activist/founder of Atlanta's Queer Nation chapter who headed the successful campaign to reform the Cracker Barrel Restaurant chain. In handing the award to Cothren (Coretta Scott King's executive assistant), Dr. White asked his friend, Lynn, to keep it temporarily, "At least until I've earned it."

Creche on the Mall

This month we had a Philadelphia church-state controversy after a creche sponsored by the Catholic League was added to Independence Mall (their name is prominently featured on the creche as required by the Park Service to avoid the appearance of government sponsorship). This is a classic example of the conflicts between the establishment, free exercise, and free speech clauses of the Constitution. Are free exercise of religion and free speech permissible if the impression is given of the government favoring one religion? Is a semi-permanent display the same as speakers? The Jewish Community Relations Council, which opposes the creche and the giant menorah next to it, was featured in the press (op-ed piece in the Inquirer and a long article in the Daily News). The Inquirer coverage initially consisted only of a color photograph, but a more complete story appeared the next day. The Daily News also ran an editorial opposing the creche, and printed our letter which reminded readers of the recent Catholic League opposition to a Catholic student's artistic expression of her faith at Penn State.



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