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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
July/August 1998


Vouchers

The Winsconsin Supreme Court ruled the state can issue vouchers for religious schools. The state would be "forcing taxpayers to support private religious education," according to Barry W. Lynn (Exec. Dir., Americans United). "Todays ruling strikes at the heart of the First Amendment, ignores the language of the state constitution and overlooks every other court ruling on public funding of religion." Lynn also noted that the ruling is not in line with decisions in Ohio, Vermont and Maine which struck down religious school vouchers.

Cardinal Bevilaqua has urged Philadelphia and suburban districts to pay parents for Catholic school tuition to relieve public school overcrowding and make up for parochial school underenrollment. That these schools offer very specific religious training is downplayed by the Cardinal.

Parade Report

Religious groups in June's Philadelphia Diversity of Pride Parade included IWG supporters Congregation Beth Ahavah and Integrity/Philadelphia (with Bishop Righter and his wife, plus priests and layity from St. Peter's, Trinity Memorial, and St. Luke and the Epipheny Churches), plus Dignity, Evangelicals Concerned, and MCC Philadelphia. Walking with the IWG were folks from supporting organizations Tabernacle United Church and the Methodist Federation for Social Action (Eastern PA Conference), plus Kaatryn and Phoenix MacMorgan from Religion: Other (an alliance of Alternative Religion). Kaatryn also had an excellent school prayer letter published in the Philadelphia Daily News on June 20.

Lott amd Armey Dominate News

A big story this month was Trent Lott and Dick Armey calling homosexuality a sin and illness. The comments were the subject of editorials, letters and political cartoons around the country. Religious Right organizations called White House spokesman Mike McMurray's comments about Lott's remarks ("backwards" and "incorrect") anti-Christian, though it was clear McMurray was specifically referring to the classification of homosexuality as a disease. The media went to the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches for a religious response, and the Rev. Michael Piazza of Cathedral of Hope was interviewed in the Dallas press. THe church issued a press release inviting Lott and Armey to worship with them. The media missed that Lott and Armey are listed by the Institute for First Amendment Studies (IFAS) as Council for National Policy (CNP) members.

Southern Baptists Define Family

The second biggest religion story was the statement by the Southern Baptist Convention defining the family. IWG supporter Rev. Marcia Bailey of Central Baptist in Wayne, an American Baptist, was interviewed for the Philadelphia Daily News front page story. The Convention's statement brings their definition of family very much in line with that of the Promise Keepers, and attendees were praised for their actions in person by Focus on the Family's James Dobson, who originally funded Promise Keepers and is their publisher. Dobson is also listed by IFAS as a member of the CNP.

Orlando

The third major story involved Orlando, FL, where a local group paid to hang rainbow flags from street lights after Operation Rescue threatened to disrupt Gay Days at Disney World. The Operation Rescue effort put all of between seven and twelve protesters at Disney World, according to various news reports. Operation Rescue is better known for blockading women's health clinics, but after losing the NOW v. Scheidler case in April, a change in focus was announced. On the 700 Club, Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson reacted to the rainbow flags. His actual words are in dispute, and whether he was promising or speculating, but the remarks involved the possibility of hurricanes and terrorist bombs damaging Orlando because of the flags. A 19-year-old was charged with ripping down at least 25 of the flags; his sister was quoted in the Orlando Sentinel, saying that Robertson's remarks had worried her brother.

Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Presbyterian Church (USA) met in June and took no action to change the section of the Book of Order added last year to prevent ordination of sexual minorities. An overture from the Presbytery of Milwaukee to strike the new language completely was rejected.

Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns and the More Light Churches Network will become a single organization in January: More Light Presbyterians.

United Methodist Church

THe California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (four-hundred and seven churches in Southern California, Hawaii, Saipan, and Guam) voted to make their churches "welcoming" to all people regardless of sexual orientation. The terminology was apparently chosen to avoid either the "reconciling" or "transforming" designation. The highest court of the UMC will meet August 7-8 in Dallas to rule on whether performing same-sex unions is a chargeable offense. The American Family Association (see below) has added a section to their web page about the same-sex union debate in the UMC, including that 120 clergy signed a statement indicating a willingness to perform same-sex unions.

Reformed Church in America

According to the Grand Rapids Press, the Reformed Church in America voted not to debate policies of homosexuality, and urged general assemblies to not debate the issue for the next two years.

Billboards

Wisconsin Christians United has five billboards around the state reading "Homosexuality is not a family value! Homosexuality is a sin!" According to the Madison Capital Times, the ads were run in June to coincide with Pride month activities. The county executive and the mayor criticized the billboards and expressed support for sexual minorities. Advertising by religious and quasi-religious organizations to debate social issues is now more common, as seen here before the Life Partnership vote.

AFA Blocked

The American Family Association, specializing in media boycotts and avocating internet censorship, was added to a list of sites blocked by CyberPatrol, recognized as the industry leader in in internet filtering software. Legislation is pending in Congress to require libraries and schools receiving federal money for internet connectivity to install filtering software of some kind, meaning that in many libraries and schools, AFA web pages would be inaccessible. Blocking software is touted as a way to keep sexual and violent images from children, but most products block sites the producer objects to on ideological grounds, or accidentally block non-pornographic sites due to faulty search criteria. AFA is marketing X-Stop, installed in the Loudoun County, VA public library. The library is being sued by the ACLU, who reports along with Peacefire and the San Francisco Chronicle that the software has prevented access to Glide Memorial UMC, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Safer Sex page, Banned Books Online, the Renaissance Transgender Association, the Religious Society of Friends, the AIDS Quilt, Shamash (the Jewish Internet Consortium), Planned Parent Federation of America, and the Holy See.

The AFA site was added to CyberPatrol's blocked list because their committee (including a GLAAD representative) determined they are intolerant. The AFA objected, saying CyberPatrol did not so classify a number of sexual minority advocacy organizations, like GLAAD. The original press release on the AFA website also listed Digital Queers as a group that ought to be blocked; DQ is a non-profit assisting other non-profits with computing and internet needs. AFA has a web page advocating restricting rights of individuals with a single trait based on supposed statistical tendencies of those sharing that trait.

Civil Marriage Update

According to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, the Christian Coalition met with conservative Protestant, Catholic and Jewish clergy to discuss two items that will be on the ballot in Hawaii, a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and a constitutional convention.

In California, where attempts to pass legislation banning recognition of same-gender marriages have repeatedly failed, there is an effort to put the question on the ballot. Focus on the Family mailed a letter from James Dobson urging recipients to sign an enclosed official petition and speaking of reaching out in love to gay people (using a particular man from Exodus International as an example); it quotes Genesis, Leviticus, and Romans; and cites remarks by the President; the ENDA vote; AIDS funding; and recent court decisions in Canada (among other things) to show the success of a "highly coordinated international effort" and warns of consequences to any nation that "mocks the laws of God."

Religious Marriage Update

Over 100 San Francisco-area clergy signed a statement saying that they had or would officiate at religious marriages for same-gender couples. Signers were Baptist, Episcopalian, Zen Buddhist, Jewish (Reform, Reconstructionist, Renewal), Presbyterian, Lutheran, UMC, Unitarian Universalist, UCC and non-denominational Christian.

The Philadelphia Daily News Father's Day coverage featured an AP story about Michael and Jon Gallucio (nee Holden), under the headline, "A double-dad family: Having won lawsuit to adopt, gay men are married in church." Their adoption of a 2-year-old foster son prompted changes in New Jersey adoption law. Their relationship was blessed in a holy union ceremony at the Episcopal Church of the Atonement in Fairlawn. The Gallucios also plan to adopt an 18-month-old foster daughter.

According to the Bergen County Record, Bishop Spong issued a statement that the Episcopal Church blessing "is a symbol of the church's recognition that life-giving relationships that bring wholeness are holy." The New York Times quoted Bob Knight (Family Research Council): "...there is nothing holy about this union. It is a mockery of marriage."

NY Domestic Partnership

The New York City Domestic Partnership legislation, far more extensive than Philadelphia's, passed easily. During the debate, William Devlin, of the Urban Family Council of Philadelphia was interviewed at New York's City Hall. During the vote a protest by Jews for Morality was covered by UPI, Reuters, the New York Post and the Bergen County Record. About two dozen men, Hasidic rabbis and rabbinical students read the Torah portion about Sodom and Gommorah and blew shofars (rams' horns). According to the UPI, Rabbi William Handler said they asked "God to direct His wrath against the guilty parties," and added that "it's possible that an atomic attack could be made by Russia or China."

New Book

Roberta Showalter Kreider, author of the essay 15 Reasons Why I Have Changed My Mind, has edited From Wounded Hearts, Faith stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people and those who love them. The book includes works from forty-nine people, including Krieder, local PFLAG member Helen Early, and IWG supporter Rabbi Rebecca Alpert.

Concert Report

Thanks to all who performed, donated money, bought advertising or tickets and/or worked at our first Marching in the Light concert, and especially to First Presbyterian Church for donating their space. We netted over a third of our budget ($1,000.00) and all concert expenses were more than covered by ads. The audience heard performances by Wilbert Boone, Tom Baust, Lavinia Wu, Kip Leitner, the Ottavino Flute Ensemble, Daniel Howe, and the choirs of Hanover Presbyterian (Wilmington) and Tabernacle United Churches performing South African, jazz, classical contemporary, Broadway and early music. PGN covered the concert with a picture of the flute ensemble playing "Over the Rainbow." The same issue featured an interview with IWG supporter Rev. Bonnie Casey.

Letterhead Changes

Welcome to the BuxMont Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.! Our number of supporters will remain the same, however, since Rabbi Kevin Hale has left the area.



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