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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
The Murder of Matthew Shepard
The murder of Matthew Shepard has produced more media
coverage that civil marriage discrimination, Jimmy
Creech's trial or the anti-gay ads. The
Philadelphia Inquirer, for instance, ran an
editorial, a cartoon, three opinion pieces, letters,
major articles and related human interest stories.
Social, political, and religious reactions are complex;
we believe it is important to view them separately,
especially with the huge effort to confuse them.
Reactions include calls to add orientation to
existing federal hate-crime law; react
civilly and forcefully to anti-gay statements; and
overturn sodomy laws and end marriage discrimination.
The has been an effort among anti-gay-rights
activists to confuse the first two points and suggest
that there is an attempt to outlaw all negative
comments about homosexuality, and therefore
conservative Christianity. This approach was
exemplified by Gary Bauer, Robert Knight and Steve
Schwalm of the
Family Research Council, and by
Pat Buchanan. Schwalm complained that "militant
homosexuals" were characterizing the FRC as hateful
and extremist. He also said adding sexual orientation
to hate crime laws would criminalize the expression
of "pro-family beliefs" and "disagreement with the
political message of homosexual activists." In
a USA Today opinion piece, Robert Knight
said the FRC was "championing the traditional family."
In his column, Pat Buchanan said Shepard's death was
"being exploited to launch a new round of
Christian-bashing." Anti-gay activists seemed
incapable of condemning the killing without adding
qualifying statements. In a New York Times
article, John Paulk, whose wife Anne was featured
in the first anti-gay print ad, condemned the violence
and said gays and lesbians were advocating
an agenda "contrary to biblical norms."
Commentaries against adding orientation to hate
crime laws (some from gay rights supporters) generally
contend that all crimes are hate crimes. We suggested
a distinction in many letters: a hate crime is a
terrorist act, aimed not just at the victim, but
everyone sharing the characteristic that inspired the
attack; these crimes inspire imitators and serve by
reference as a weapon of intimidation.
Statement from the Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
I grieve at the death of Matthew Shepard, and deplore
the hate and violence which led to it. My prayers
are with Matthew, his family, his friends, and his
parish. Matthew was not only a member of
our church family,
but of our human community. He could have
been our child. He was our brother.
The fact that Matthew was an
our grief no more sharp, but it does give us a
particular responsibility to stand with gays and
lesbians, to decry all forms of violence against
them--from verbal to physical, and to encourage
the dialogue that can, with God's help, lead us
to new appreciation for their presence in the
life of our church, and the broader community.
I pay that this unnecessary tragedy will make plain why
we cannot be silent in the face of intolerance, or
quietly accept the climate of hate and fear of "the
other" that makes such a crime possible. May we
accept anew our responsibility to be agents of the
healing love of the risen Christ.
Statement from the Rev. Troy Perry
Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of Matt
Shepard. We mourn his passing and decry the senseless
act that claimed his young life.
If there is a ray of light today, it is that Matt's
life and death have served to bring us together and
have reminded us in powerful ways of the sanctity and
dignity of every life.
I am please to report that many UFMCC congregations,
both across the US and internationally, will be
joining hands with many faith communities to hold
interfaith candlelight vigils and memorial services
in honor of Matt's life throughout this week.
As moderator of the
Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan
Community Churches, I will be traveling to Casper,
Wyoming for the funeral services of Matt Shepard this
weekend. I will carry the love, prayers and support
of our denomination to Matt's family and friends and
will honor his brave and too-short life. I will count
it a privilege to stand in solidarity and support with
the community which helped to birth his sense of
activism and his deep commitment to justice.
I call upon all people to uphold Matt's family with
our love and prayers and to take hope that Matt has
truly "slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the
face of God."
The Murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian
Statement from Kate Michelman, President,
National Abortion Rights
Action League: "The cold-blooded assassination of
Dr. Slepian is a shocking example of just how far
some opponents of abortion and reproductive rights will
go to deny women their constitutional right to choose.
Coming on the heels of the gruesome murder of Matthew
Shepard in Wyoming, it is also a telling reminder of
the increasing climate of intolerance and hatred we
now see in America." Rabbi Bonnie Margulis, of the
Religious Coalition for
Reproductive Choice: "Dr. Slepian was a physician
who cared deeply for his patients -- his greatest joy
was bringing babies into the world. He was not an
abortion provider, he was an obstetrician-gynecologist
and a fertility specialist, a man dedicated to
providing complete health care to all his patients.
He was not pro-abortion, he was pro-total health care."
On October 28,
First Baptist Church of Philadelphia
hosted an interfaith service to remember and mourn
Matthew Shepard, James Byrd, and Barnett Slepian which
was sponsored by the
Interfaith Working Group,
the Alliance of LGBT Religious Communities,
the Union of American
Hebrew Congregations, and the Federation of Reform
Synagogues of Greater Philadelphia.
Thanks are due to the volunteer choir, to the
Church of the Holy Trinity
for providing choir rehearsal space, to everyone who
attended, and those who participated in and organized
Rabbi Rebecca Albert, Brian Anderson,
Rt. Rev. Charles Bennison, Rabbi Henry Cohen,
Rabbi Sue Levi Elewell, Rev. Nina Grey,
Cantor Naomi Hirsch, Daniel Howe, Cantor Jenny Izenstark,
Rev. Jeff Jordan, Rev. James H. Littrell,
Rev. Dwight Lundgren, Rev. Patricia Pearce,
Rabbi Linda Potemken, Barbara Purdom,
Br. Ben Regotti, Rev. Stephen Snider, Kevin Vaughan,
Rev. Paul Washington, Sr. Joanne Whitaker, and Tom
Whittemore. The Collection was split between the
Matthew Shepard Fund and the
Mormon Contributions in Hawaii and Alaska
The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-Day Saints contributed $600,000
to Save Traditional Marriage '98, which is campaigning
to amend the Hawaii constitution to allow the
legislature to forbid the recognition of same-gender
marriages, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.
Papers in Alaska reported a $500,000 contribution to
the campaign to amend the constitution in that state.
Los Angeles Denounces NARTH
The Los Angeles City Council unanimously condemned
a conference being held there by the
for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH),
according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
Joseph Nicolosi of NARTH said the condemnation
infringed on his free speech rights. Council members
called the conference "an anti-gay event that will
promote hate that can lead to violence against gays,
like the recent beating death of Matthew Shepard in
Wyoming." The flier for the conference stated that
the "homosexual movement has targeted children, the
family and popular culture in its attempt to increase
its numbers and acceptance in society," and that
"children are being indoctrinated through homosexual
propaganda in school and in the media." It also said
that "homosexuality is not a civil rights issue,"
and "homosexuals are trying destroy organizations such
the Boy Scouts,
which seek to promote decency and
United Methodist Church
According to the Chicago Tribune, Bishop
C. Joseph Sprague, who brought charges against
Rev. Greg Dell, a Chicago pastor, for performing
a same-sex union, has himself officiated at two
such ceremonies, and has been a leader in the movement
to remove anti-gay language in church policies. Bishop
Sprague said, "I hope to make it a teaching moment.
I hope the whole church will learn what a terrible
box we have put ourselves in." Meanwhile, the lay
leader of the California-Nevada Conference and her
partner of fifteen years are planning a union
ceremony; more than 67 UMC clergy have agreed to
co-officiate. The Judicial Council will rule in
early November on the constitutionality of the
ban on same-sex unions.
Anti-Gay Children's Literature from Coral Ridge
The September 1998 Christian Alert Bulletin from the
Center for Reclaiming America
had an ad for "Resources for Christian Living."
One book listed is called "Mommy, Why Are They
Holding Hands?" The cover blurbs say: "The nation's
first Bible-based children's book focused on
preventing homosexuality," and, "A story to help
children learn what the Bible says about the sin
of homosexuality." The text for the ad reads:
"Homosexuality is commonly discussed on television,
radio, and in print. In public schools, homosexual
activists portray homosexuality as 'normal.' The
messages must be countered at home. But how? In
this illustrated story for children in grades three
through five, young Sarah sees two men holding holding
hads at the mall and discovers, as her mother leads
her through the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, what
God's Word says about sin and forgiveness."
We welcome Rabbi Sara Levine of the
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association,
Rabbi Yael Levy of
Congregation Mishkan Shalom in Philadelphia,
and Rabbi Rochelle Robins, a chaplain at the
Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Rev.
Patrick Maye of Unity Fellowship Church has moved out
of the area. We still have room (believe it or not!)
for other clergy, congregations or religious
organizations in east or central PA, southern NJ, or
DE who want to publicly declare their support for
gay rights, reproductive freedom, and separation of
church and sate and add their names to the
Additions to the Web Page
The IWG web page now has the full text of
Martyrs of Our People,
a statement regarding
the murder of Matthew Shepard from the
Gay and Lesbian Rabinic Network.
There are also links to
a letter to Gary Bauer
from the Gallucio Family and
Principle: Separation of Church and State.
Television Version of the Anti-gay Ads?
With a great deal of publicity, the
Center for Reclaiming America
Family Research Council
announced the creation of television ads like the print
ads which we reported last month. The announcement
of the new ads allowed Janet Folger of the CRA to get
even more free air time with the broadcast media. The
ads, however, don't seem to have actually run
anywhere as yet. The Washington Post printed,
and then retracted, a report that they would run in
key Congressional districts.
And In New Jersey
Governor Whitman made two new appointments to her
Advisory Council on AIDS: the Executive Director of the
New Jersey Family Policy Council,
and the New Jersey Director of
Concerned Women for America.
According to the Asbury Park Press, three members
of the council died within the year, and there are now
no board members living with AIDS.