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


The Ad Campaign 1

In early July, Rev. D. James Kennedy's Center for Reclaiming America (CRA) began taking out full page anti-gay ads in major papers. Ostensibly for ex-gay organization Exodus (previously presented as apolitical), the ads include phone numbers for fifteen Religious Right organizations, including the Family Research Council (FRC). The FRC's Robert Knight called them "the Normandy Landing in the culture war." Four ads were created; people featured include Reggie White and Ann Paulk (whose husband John is the head of Exodus). Appearing in the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, and San Francisco Examiner, many sources estimated the cost to be at least $600,000.

The Miami Herald and New York Times interviewed the CRA's Janet Folger, who also debated Andrew Sullivan on Nightline; the Paulks were on Newsweek's cover; commentaries ran in Time and U.S. News and World Report; Politically Incorrect and the McLaughlin Group debated causes of orientation; sports writers rehashed White's views; NGLTF and HRC folks debated Exodus folks on talk shows; and editors, letter writers, and columnists debated whether orientation can change, not its pertinence to equal protection. The Miami Herald's Nancy Murrell compared the ads to 1940's anti-Jewish and -Japanese propaganda. After the first ad the Inquirer and Daily News ran a Reuters story; the Daily News ran a reduction of the ad as an illustration. Daily News reporter Ron Goldwyn wrote a story (we helped find subjects) about the local ex-gay ministry Harvest, and Chris Paige of Tabernacle United Church and The Other Side magazine. Also in the Daily News: a sports-section profile of White and an editorial against ex-gay ministries. Rabbi Rebecca Alpert and Rev. Patricia Pearce were on a show on WIP-radio, and the Inquirer covered a Harvest meeting and ran a letter about the ads from Rev. Pearce.

The first ad shows Anne Paulk, "wife, mother, former lesbian," with her wedding ring prominent. A short biography is followed by an admonition tell people you love the truth. (It was to have included the Exodus phone number, but a number for a store in rural Alabama was printed instead). The second ad says that calling homosexual behavior a sin is pro-life and motivated by love; that Christians are attacked for being anti-homosexuality; and that homosexuality is related to disease, drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide. Most troubling quote: "...if we can't talk about sin as a nation, just where is our moral compass pointed? And is there truth in a created moral order, or is truth anything we define it to be?" The third ad shows White in his uniform (against NFL policy; later he was shown in a turtleneck). Entitled, "In Defense of Free Speech," it compares detractors of White and Trent Lott to oppressive third-world governments, rants about gays recruiting in schools and legally-mandated acceptance of homosexuality in churches, and decries "the raw political power" of "homosexual activists." Free speech is defined as Jesus coming to "reveal God's honest truth about deception and sin and to offer a way out with a lifetime guarantee." The fourth ad, "From innocence to AIDS," features Michael Johnston (of Kerusso Ministries) and his parents. It is largely a discussion of his parents refusal to accept him as gay, the fact that he has AIDS, and how with God's help he became an anti-gay-rights activist. The ad urges parents to refuse to accept their children being gay, depicting the lives of gay men and lesbians as filled with "anonymous sex, drugs, alcohol... and even physical violence."

The Ad Campaign II

On the same day the Reggie White ad appeared in USA Today, the Human Rights Campaign and several other gay-rights organizations (none religious) purchased an ad in that paper featuring an out lesbian and her supportive lesbian parents.

Other responses to the ads: The author of one of the studies cited in the second ad said that the authors of the ad reached the exact opposite conclusion from that reached in the study, and that he believes an intolerant society causes drug abuse, alcoholism and suicide, not homosexuality itself. On August 20, organizers say that about 2,800 people from 45 organizations, including Dignity and congregation Etz Chaim, staged a "March for Truth," outside Coral Ridge Ministries, home to Kennedy's Center for Reclaiming America. In San Francisco, three supervisors suggested the $35,000 that the Examiner received for the anti-gay ad that appeared there be donated to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. There were several press conferences in Washington: one at the Religious Roundtable [see article], one called by the HRC which featured the national UCC Office of Church in Society and other pro-gay religious leaders, and one featuring ex-ex-gays. Rev. Mel White, Minister of Justice for the UFMCC, issued a Soulforce response calling on everyone to surround the organizations in the ads "with truth and love relentlessly," and for a national campaign of civil disobedience.

The organizations listed in the ad are: the Alliance for Traditional Marriage--Hawaii, the American Family Association, Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, the Center for Reclaiming America, the Christian Family Network, the Christian Coalition, Citizens for Community Values, Colorado for Family Values, Concerned Women for America, Coral Ridge Ministries, Family First, the Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, National Legal Foundation, and Kerusso Ministries.

In response to the responses there was an FRC press conference with anti-gay-rights clergy. And the next propaganda wave from Kenney is in the works: On a recent Sunday morning show he announced he is raising $300,000 to blame the recent school shooting deaths of Christian children on the ACLU (because of its anti-school-prayer work).

United Methodist Church

On August 11, the United Methodist Judicial Council ruled that performing commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples is a chargeable offense. According to CORNET's web page, as of August 16, 245 United Methodist clergy had signed a statement: "..we will celebrate rites of union with all couples, regardless of gender, as part of the pastoral responsibilities consistent with the Gospel and spirit of Jesus Christ, entrusted to us by the United Methodist Church." Eight are from Eastern PA: Robert G. Coombe, James F. McIntire, and six IWG supporters: Art Brandenburg, David W. Brown, Ted Loder, David Tatgenhorst, Hal Taussig, and Tim Thomson-Hohl. Please keep the signers in your thoughts and prayers.

Also on August 11, the Reconciling Congregations Program released a statement calling the decision "deplorable and theologically unsound."

Presbyterian Church (USA)

The PCUSA General Assembly's Permanent Judicial Commission refused to overturn the ordination of gay elder Dr. Ray Whetstone (Second Presbyterian of Ft. Lauderdale), saying, (according to the Miami Herald: "We exhort the church not to provoke such proceedings through irregular ordinations or to initiate disciplinary actions vindictively or without prayerful consideration."

Lambeth Conference

There was a good deal of press in the U.S. for the once-a-decade meeting of the world's Anglican bishops, which passed non-binding resolutions stating that abstinence is right for those not called to marriage, (understood as a lifelong union between a man and a woman), that homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture, and that they cannot advise the legitimizing or blessing of same-sex unions or the ordination of those involved in such unions. The vote was 526 for, 70 against, with 45 abstentions. Bishop Bennison voted against the resolution. In other areas of the country, newspapers either interviewed the local bishop or an op-ed pieces by Episcopal priests. The dissenting bishops released a statement aimed at sexual minorities, saying in part: "We pledge that we will continue to reflect, pray, and work for your full inclusion in the life of the church." A statement from Integrity said full inclusion of openly gay clergy and laity would continue, as would celebrations of lesbian and gay unions: "The life of the Church...is not going to come to a halt because bishops from other parts of the world refused to even listen to the stories of their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and even denied their existence."

Southern Baptist Church's Sign Defaced

According to the Kansas City Star, the sign for Broadway Baptist Church (affiliated with the Southern Baptists) was defaced with spatters of black ink. "Baptist" was replaced with "Sodom" and the words "repent" and "Jesus" were added. The church has seven pastors, one of whom is gay, and openly gay members.

UUA and Boy Scouts of America

The Boy Scouts told Unitarian Universalist congregations that award Religion and Life badges to stop giving them, because they include information about the UUA's opposition to the Scouts' discriminatory policies in the award manual. UUA president John A. Buehrens, a Life Scout, wrote to Lawrence Ray Smith, Ph.D., Chair of the Boy Scouts of America Religious Relationship Committee, saying in part: "Your committee is charged with... [helping] the BSA relate to the increasing religious pluralism of American society. Judging by your letter, you are in danger of failing in that task. You risk exposing the BSA to charges of discrimination--not only against a sexual minority, but against entire religious groups, starting with Unitarian Universalism, a movement which has deep spiritual roots in America's commitment to religious freedom, to democratic values, and to minority rights."

Abstinence Programs

Abstinence programs to decrease the single teen mom birth rate and STD's have been announced by the Texas and Mississippi governors. The programs are not presented in the context of family planning or comprehensive sex education. In Texas, Governor Bush said": "Cultural wars must be waged on multiple fronts." Governor Kirk Fordice touted the "traditional family unit...the cornerstone of American survival, strength and success."

Letterhead Changes

Rabbi Amy Levenson has left the area. We have added Rabbi Linda Potemken of Beth Israel in Media, and Rabbi Marc Margolius of Beth Am Israel in Penn Valley.

Religious Leadership Roundtable

In July, Equal Partners in Faith and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute sponsored the Religious Leadership Roundtable in Washington, DC. The Interfaith Working Group participated, as well as the American Friends Service Committee, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Brethren/Mennonite Council, Dignity/USA, Disciples Justice Action Network, Gay Muslims Email Mailing List, Integrity, Lutherans Concerned, Methodist Federation for Social Action, More Light Presbyterians, New Ways Ministry, PFLAG, the Reconciling Congregations Program, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Methodist Affirmation, United Methodist Covenant Relationships Network (CORNET), the U.S. Urban Rural Mission of the World Council of Churches, Unity Fellowship Churches, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, and the World Congress of Gay and Lesbian Jewish Organizations. A press conference about the advertisements appeared several times on C-SPAN tape delay.

We were thrilled that so many organizations met in a spirit of overwhelming cooperation, agreed to meet again regularly, and agreed to consider a structure and possible education projects. We look forward to doing what we can to make this endeavor a success.

Lawsuit

The Urban Family Council, which helped organize opposition fo the Life Partnership ordinances, is now financing and publicizing a lawsuit to block implementation of the ordinances. Bill Devlin vowed to take the case to the State Supreme Court.



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