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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
March 1999

Television Labeling 1

A magazine published by Jerry Falwell urged parents to be careful about their children's television viewing and noted that several publications had identified the purple Teletubby as a symbol of sexual minorities. A subsequent AP story about Falwell outing Tinky Winky generated almost as much press as the marriage cases, the anti-gay ads or Matthew Shepard. Most of it focused not on a moral or ethical debate about diversity, role models, TV or parenting, but on who first outed the character or whether a fictional, non-human character can have a sexual orientation. Syndicated columnist Sara Eckel noted that while the Teletubby furor was raging, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that a 15-year-old boy is better off with his mother and abusive stepfather (also called an unemployed, drug-using convicted felon in Eckel's column) rather than with his gainfully employed home-owning gay father and his father's partner. Rev. Mel White issued a statement titled Bashing Jerry Falwell Hurts Our Cause (A Soulforce Response to the Tinky Winky Wars, urging the gay and lesbian members of Thomas Road Baptist Church and students and graduates of Liberty University to come out to Falwell.

Equal Partners in Faith Proclamation

Contact Equal Partners in Faith to add your name (send name, address, phone, email) to their Proclamation by People of Faith for the Full Equality of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People:

As committed people of faith representing diverse religions, creeds, nationalities, genders and sexual orientations, we join together to celebrate March 21-27, as "The Week of Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people." We join in solidarity with the the hundreds of thousands who will celebrate Equality Begins at Home across the United States, a national campaign to strengthen and unite the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and ally communities.

Tragically, many LGBT people have repeatedly endured fear, suffering and even rejection by those in positions of power and leadership. As people of faith, we know too well the discrimination, homophobia and hatred that exist in our communities of faith, leaving in their wake broken and hurting souls longing for a healthy balm. We confess that our faith communities have betrayed the dignity and respect of LGBT persons and humbly ask for forgiveness.

We further pledge that in our daily living beyond today, we will work relentlessly to foster an environment of growth, acceptance and full equality for LGBT persons wherever we may have cause and reason to speak. We solemnly recognize that we are to be held accountable for championing the rights and welfare of those who have been dismissed or marginalized by society. We pray that our united voices may begin the process of healing, offer hope to the disheartened and restore the broken trust in our communities. Because we hold to the belief that the Divine is the Sustaining Source of genuine love, we in return offer the richness of that love to all LGBT people in our homes, our communities and in our houses of worship.

Many LGBT people find love and acceptance in their faith communities. We applaud those people who have served as pioneers in our communities and lift up their efforts as a paradigm for the full equality of LGBT people. In joining with our fellow sisters and brothers celebrating Equality Begins at Home, we affirm that LGBT people are indeed created in the image of God, deserving of mutual love and respect. Our continued prayer is that one day intolerance, ignorance, bigotry and violence against all of God's children will be eradicated from the very places where compassion and peace should reign. Until that day we stand in one voice, one spirit and one hope for the full equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Freedom of Speech?

Jesse Helms has introduced Senate Bill S45, the "Freedom of Speech Act," to "prevent the Federal government from trampling the First Amendment rights of Federal employees to express their moral and spiritual values in the workplace," according to Helms. The bill prevents any funds from being spent on the Presidential Executive Order which bars discrimination on the basis of orientation, forbids Federal departments/agencies from acting on such an order and prevents such an order from being executed or enforced in the future. Tell your Senators about your moral and spiritual values.

Philadelphia Speaks Out

Rev. Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church were expected to demonstrate in Philadelphia on January 30 in response to the death of police officer Thomas Gilbert Kalt, Jr., and to protest the recruiting and hiring of sexual minority police officers. They never showed, but Philadelphia responded with statements from religious leaders and members of City Council, and a rally and "victory party" at the William Way Community Center that included gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and straight people, city officials and their representatives, political candidates. clergy, and civil rights activists.

The Jewish Community Relations Council released a statement signed by the Rt. Rev. Charles Bennison (Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of PA); Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua; Rev. Dr. Helen Baily Cohrane (Interim Exec. Presbyter, Phila. Presbytery, Presbyterian Church USA); Rev. Ed Geiger (Exec. Dir. Metropolitan Christian Council); Rabbi Sanford Hahn (Exec. Dir. Board of Rabbis of Greater Phila.) and Thomas Jacoby (Pres., Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phila.). The statement denounced Westboro Baptist's practice of picketing funerals, as well as anti-Semitic quotes on Westboro Baptist's web site, and concluded "We pray that the family of Officer Kalt finds comfort in God and in their community. We call upon the Westboro Baptist Church not to picket in Philadelphia. Such picketing is an inappropriate expression of our faith traditions.

On February 6 the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an opinion piece headlined "Philadelphia Must Stand Up to Bigoted Attacks," signed by seven Philadelphia City Councilpersons: Angel L. Ortiz, Anna Verna, David Cohen, Frank DiCicco, Donna Reed Miller, Marian Tasco, and Frank Rizzo, Jr. The piece said that Philadelphia has made "great strides facilitating and nurturing a city of diversity," and discussed the necessity of publicly affirming "acceptance of specific communities when those communities are under attack." They noted Westboro Baptist's habit of picketing funerals, cemeteries and churches, and their written and verbal attacks against the "Roman Catholic Church, Southern Baptist Church, Jewish Conservative Movement and Episcopal Church USA," as well as the Rev. Billy Graham, Elizabeth Taylor, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and President Clinton. They praised the efforts of the police department to recruit from the gay and lesbian community. The piece concluded: "With the progress we have made, we do not need this level of toxicity in our civil discourse. To move forward, we must have an honest discussion, where everyone can air their feelings and thoughts. One thing we can all agree upon is that we will stand together against abundant displays of bigotry and shameless hatred.

IWG President David Drum, Coordinator Barbara Purdom and some clergy were present. Religious participation was highlighted on the 10 pm Channel 17 news and in Au Courant. The IWG statement is on the web.

Presbyterian Church (USA)

First Presbyterian Church of Stamford, CT was tried by a court of the Presbytery of Southern New England on February 26 for electing an elder in violation of Amendment B. On the Presbytery web page, a solo by that elder is listed in the highlights of the March 7, 1998 Presbytery meeting. According to PCUSA News, the PCUSA Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy voted unanimously to remove a brief "divisive" section on sexual orientation from their 70-page draft policy statement "Building Community Among Strangers" to be presented at General Assembly. The section had concluded: "To build community we will need to do a lot of listening inside and outside the church: to gay and lesbian persons and to those among us who are pained at challenges to their understanding and interpretation that scripture condemns homosexuality."

United Methodist Church

Rev. David M. Holms of Council Bluffs, IA, is the first to be charged for participating in the January 16, 1999, holy union service of Ellie Charlton and Jeanne Barnett in Sacramento, CA. Rev. Greg Dell's trial (Dell co-officiated in Sacramento, but was already charged for performing other services), is to begin March 25. In the last month, Rev. Don Fado was profiled in the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle, and Dell in the Chicago Tribune. Southern Methodist University students voted 961 to 670 for sexual orientation to be added to the university non-discrimination statement.

Church/State Booklets

The American Jewish Congress has announced the publication of two new church/state booklets by Marc D. Stern, Co-Director, AJC Commission on Law and Social Action: Public School Chaplains, Listening Posts and The Constitution and the Ten Commandments: Innocent Display or Weapon in Religious War? ($3/ea., quantity prices available). Publications Dept., AJ Congress, 15 E. 84th St., NY, NY, 10028. Or call 212-360-1545.

Marriage News

California has withdrawn from a coalition of states filing a friend of the court brief favoring marriage discrimination, and has ceased involvement in the Hawaii case. A Vermont public radio poll found 43% of respondents favoring same-gender marriage, 48% opposed and 7% with no opinion. A same-sex marriage case is pending before Vermont's Supreme Court.

Other News

IWG Cocoordinator Chris Purdom joined leaders from thirty other groups supporting GLBT equality at the National Religious Leadership Roundtable...An anti-gay and pro-ex-gay Southern Baptist Sunday School curriculum was covered by ABC News Jan. 31...Christian Coalition president Don Hodel resigned; Pat Robertson has resumed the role...and a jury returned a $107 million verdict against anti-abortion activists who producted Wanted posters and the "Nurenberg Files" website.

Television Labeling 2

The Christian Action Network (CAN) asked the FCC for a television rating of HC (homosexual content) that would apparently apply not just to sexual content, but the inclusion of non-heterosexual characters. Some commentators asked whether it would be applied to Teletubbies. Editorials denouncing the idea appeared in the San Francisco newspapers, and it was debated on CNN. The CAN website features the results of a "Disney Survey" which includes the question "Do you believe Disney should assault religious faith?" (1 Yes; 11,172 No).









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