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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Soulforce, Thomas Road Baptist Church and
On Friday, October 22, the Rev. Mel White (of
with two-hundred supporters of GLBT rights
from across the country, gathered at First Christian
Church in Lynchburg, VA. They participated in
community service activities around Lynchburg, met with
the Rev. Jerry Falwell and two-hundred
students and members of
Thomas Road Baptist Church,
and worshipped at Falwell's church.
Media coverage was extensive, including White and
Falwell on NBC's Sunday Today and a long story at the
top of the ABC Sunday Night News featuring White and
the Rev. Patti Ackerman. Much of the media focus was
on Falwell and White, but what emerged was a sense that
pro-GLBT people of faith are everywhere, and while
reactions to Falwell were mixed, those who went to
Lynchburg were moved by meeting the students and
members of Thomas Road.
The Soulforce delegation was a diverse group; many
of the names in this partial alphabetical list will be familiar
to readers of this newsletter: Rev. Patti Ackerman
Peggy Campolo, (Central Baptist, Wayne, PA);
(Dolores Street Baptist, San Francisco);
Rev. Jimmy Creech;
Rev. Jim DeLange
(St. Francis Lutheran,
Rev. Doug Donley
(Dolores Street Baptist);
Maggie Heineman (Bridges Across);
Greg Marlan (called a "gay Silicon Valley
engineer" and "devout Methodist" by the
San Jose Mercury News); Richard Murphy
of South Beach);
Rodney Powell (called "a black civil rights leader who
marched with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr." by the
Lynchburg News & Advance); Gary Rimar (a
frequently-published letter-writer, called "a Jewish gay
delegate from Michigan" by the
News and Advance);
songwriter Steve Schalchlin
and Bob Skaggs
of South Beach).
Preliminary coverage included a
U.S. News and World Report
story about Falwell and White's mutual history,
and local-angle stories in several papers. The
said Rev. Heather Hensarling of United
Methodist Campus Ministry spoke at a Queers and Allies
meeting at the University of Kansas urging attendees to
"open communication lines between the Christian
community" and sexual minorities. The Raleigh
News and Observer
put the event in the context of current
denominational conflicts, citing
Jimmy Creech's upcoming trial
Wake Forest Chapel controversy.
The Pittsburgh Post Gazette
interviewed Dick Hatch, a
Christian radio talk-show host in the 1980's, who accused
gays of "killing everyone else with disease and
promiscuity." In the interview, he said, "I have not
changed my views about homosexuality...But the hostility
is not necessary...It is harmful to the message of the
Gospel, and...to the people you are talking about...I did
and said what I believed, at the time, was right...I realize
that you can get caught up in a religiously intolerant
bubble...You end up following the party line...and say
things in the heat of the moment that you think were
brilliant, and with time, you realize that they were
stupid...I'm not saying that they're right. I'm saying that
I was wrong."
Friday night, Lynchburg's mayor spoke, as did Rodney
Powell, who said: "A sustained, massive social protest,
guided by love, is required to end the violence and
discrimination that homosexuals face in this country,"
Lynchburg News & Advance, which cited
testimonials by two gay graduates of Liberty University,
and an Evangelical Christian mother whose lesbian
daughter hanged herself after they were estranged.
Reporting on the service in
his online diary, Steve
Schalchlin said: "...people began carrying large photos on
posters of the faces of the dead...and placing them in our
pews so they could sit among us. Matthew Shepard,
Billy Jack Gaither....Coming down the aisle was a face I
knew....Bill Clayton. Dead at 16 from suicide after a gay
bashing. Bill Clayton whose face I stumbled into on the
internet three years ago. Whose face I returned to every
day for a solid week before writing his mother. Bill
Clayton whose story was first posted on my site.....the
person carrying his poster turned and put Bill's face right
into our pew. And I completely fell apart....Maybe it was
God reminding me why I was there. Maybe it was Bill
himself there in the room reminding me that I was doing
the right thing, that *WE* was doing the right thing."
Community service activities, including a
donation to the local food bank and a
Humanity - $20,000 each from
Thomas Road and
- $200 of which came from
Tabernacle United Church
(IWG letterhead) -
were noted in the
News and Advance, the
San Jose Mercury News,
Orange County Register,
Austin American Statesman,
and San Francisco Chronicle.
The Family Research Council
was concerned about the gathering. They compared White to
Fred Phelps, and
said: "...the church has been remarkably consistent on this
topic for 2,000 years. Even major liberal denominations
have moved in recent months to reiterate that
homosexuality is a sin. The Bible is utterly clear on this point."
They hoped White will "repent from his sin and embrace
the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ, as thousands of
ex-gays have." Saturday's San Francisco Examiner said a
letter was sent to Falwell from the San Francisco police
chief saying: "'Love the sinner, hate the sin' is a
statement which validates and encourages violence." The
News and Advance reported that Falwell said "We
oppose alcoholism and drugs...not alcoholics and drug
addicts," and the Rev. Creech said "I'm hearing things from
the Rev. Falwell...that I consider close to spiritual
Washington Post said Falwell apologized "for
not always loving homosexuals," but said his goal is still
to "bring them out of the lifestyle and to the Lord." The
Post also said he was reprimanded by "evangelicals who
believe the Bible prohibits Christians from sharing a meal
with 'sexually immoral' people," so he only served
"small bottles of Poland Spring water."
The News and Advance
reported that Falwell said
there's "nothing a child can do" that should make a
parent cut him off. Mel White responded: "If he only says
that in his life, he's going to save lives;" and Peggy
Campolo: "If Jerry Falwell says it, parents will think it's the
right thing to do." Falwell also promised to monitor all
messages going out under his name "to tone down the
anti-gay rhetoric." White said he would do the same, and
send his letters to Falwell for review before posting them.
Falwell-specific commentary focused on his past
behavior, the pressure to change (especially after Matthew
Shepard's murder), the risk he took by participating, the
civility he exhibited, his promises to improve, and/or his
continued shortcomings. Positive coverage included an
article in Time, a column by Cal Thomas, and editorials in
the Bergen County, NJ Record and
More critical coverage included editorials in the
Brown Daily Herald and the New York Times.
The Sunday AP story gave details from Falwell's
sermon, noting that he spoke of "the importance of
parents' unconditional love for their gay children," but if
a son of his were gay he would pray for him and do
everything he could to bring him out of "this lifestyle."
They also quoted Fred Phelps: "Now, Jerry Falwell is just
as much a sinner as Mel White and both will burn in hell."
Richard Murphy felt that the Falwell delegates were
alarmed and shocked at the violent words of Phelps and
his followers, according to the Miami Herald.
San Francisco Examiner quoted Rev. Doug Donley:
"We lovingly saw each other as human beings and saw
each other as brothers and sisters and started telling the
truth for the first time for many of us. I think we made
great inroads on the opportunity to put faces behind the
issues." The Examiner also quoted Dave Chandler: "My
expectations were to build a relationship with one person
from Jerry Falwell's side. I made that connection...and I
felt very successful in that connection."
San Jose Mercury News focused on Greg
Marlan's spiritual life journey, in the only story which
noted that Falwell invited ex-gay anti-gay activist Michael
Johnston to speak from the pulpit (which Marlan called
"sneaky"). In a
statement on worldnetdaily.com, Falwell said,
"I am committed to helping Michael Johnston and
thousands of other 'ex-gays'..." The
News and Advance
quoted Gary Rimar, taken to Hyland Heights Baptist
Church by a Liberty University student (and welcomed
warmly): "They had never met normal gay people. They
didn't know what to do with me."
Gay Church Panic Defense
Jeffrey Montgomery has been reporting from the
Matthew Shepard trial in Laramie through the support of
Triangle Foundation and its supporters;
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs,
Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.
His October 25 report said that
observers speculated on whether the 'gay panic' defense would
be used, though activists called it inevitable. He wrote,
"...for a reduced verdict of manslaughter, it would
become essential...to tie the brutal beating to some motive."
Montgomery reports that the defense cited same-gender
sexual experiences as a youngster, and two other items
not widely reported: the defendant [as in the Gaither
case] was rumored to be gay, and, among "sexually
confusing events in his past," McKinney, vacationing with a
girlfriend in Florida, inadvertently entered a gay church.
According to Reuters, Wyoming state court Judge
Barton Voight told defense attorneys that he was "having
a problem" with the gay panic defense: "...without a
statute in Wyoming I'm not sure it's admissible. I may not
allow it." Defense attorney Dion Custis blamed the media
for calling it a "gay panic defense."
United Methodist Church and Boy Scouts
United Methodist General Board of
Church and Society issued a
anti-gay policies and supporting the
New Jersey Supreme Court's unanimous decision.
The statement said, in part:
While the General Board of Church and Society would like to
enthusiastically affirm and encourage this continuing partnership of
the church and scouting, we cannot due to the Boy Scouts of
America's discrimination against gays. This discrimination conflicts
with our Social Principles.
The United Methodist Church, the largest single supporter of
the Boy Scouts of America, strongly condemns discrimination based
on sexual orientation. The Social Principles state: "We insist that
all persons regardless of age, gender, national status, or sexual
orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured."
(Para. 65G) The Social Principles further state: "Certain basic
human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed
to supporting those rights and liberties for homosexual persons."
The General Board of Church and Society affirms the decision
of the New Jersey Supreme Court in the case James Dale v. Boy
Scouts of America that ruled the Boy Scouts of America is
discriminatory in its exclusion of gays. We further, for the sake of our
continuing partnership, call upon the Boy Scouts of America to
discontinue this exclusion of gays.
The United Methodist News Service noted that the
statement ran counter to the denomination's
Commission on United Methodist Men,
which objected to the ruling.
The denomination said it had no official position on the
question. The Los Angeles Times reported that the
Boy Scouts of America
has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to
exempt them from state anti-discrimination laws.
reports that The U.S. Supreme
Court turned down four church/state cases, including two
voucher cases from Maine. According to
People for the
American Way Foundation, seventeen of Milwaukee's
private and religious voucher schools, facing investigation
by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI)
for alleged violations of the state's voucher law, are
contesting the agency's authority; they claim their private
status and alleged lack of appropriate procedural
regulations puts them beyond the reach of oversight and
enforcement. In August, PFAW Foundation and the
of Milwaukee filed a complaint with DPI after
the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council
discovered that some private and religious voucher schools
failed to select voucher students at random, charged extra
fees prohibited by law, and failed to allow parents to opt
children out of religious activities.
Rainbow Flags In Solidarity
A member of
Tabernacle United Church
living in Powelton Village was harassed because of his rainbow
flag, so Rev. Patricia Pearce
(IWG letterhead) decided to
fly a flag at her house in solidarity, and helped organize a
neighborhood flag distribution. Twenty flags (provided by
Giovanni's Room) have been distributed. Powelton
residents can get them at the Community Education Center.
Jimmy Creech Trial Coming Up
Jimmy Creech's trial will be in Grand Island, NB,
Nov. 17-18. If you plan to hold a prayer vigil/service,
email a request for a sample liturgy from
and contact Laura
Montgomery Rutt, Media Publicity & Logistics Coordinator
Send financial support for
trial expenses (checks payable to MFSA) to: MFSA; c/o K.
Johnson; 212 E. Capitol Street, NE; Washington, DC
20003. ("Creech Defense Fund" on memo). Letters/cards
for Rev. Creech will be delivered to him on the eve of the
trial. Send to: Jimmy Creech, c/o Alliance for Tolerance
and Freedom, PO Box 5211, Lancaster, PA 17606.
Ten Ways to Fight Hate
The Southern Poverty Law Center
has a new booklet:
"Ten Ways to Fight Hate," which they plan to give to two million
human rights and civic organizations, schools, police
agencies, houses of worship and others. The first
organizational representative in the Philly area to call gets our
extra copy! Or print copies by
going to their website.
Presbyterian Church (USA)
The Permanent Judiciary Commission (PJC) of the
Synod of the Northeast overruled two presbyteries
(Southern and Northern New England) in cases involving
ordination of sexual minorities. The Presbytery of
Northern New England was
to require that
Christ Church Presbyterian
in Burlington, VT
comply with the
ban on ordination of sexual minorities; in 1997 they
declared they would defy it. The synod PJC
First Presbyterian Church
in Stamford, CT to
reexamine an openly gay elder's "suitability for continued
service on the session." They said that the PJC of the
Presbytery was wrong to uphold election of previously
ordained Elder Wayne Osborne to the Session when his
examination "left some questions unanswered,"
to the Presbyterian News Service.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that support for
the anti-marriage ballot initiative in California is down to
50% with 41% opposed, compared to 57% and 39% in
August. Don't forget to read
"Religious Support for Equal Marriage Rights"
and share it with people in your organization.
AFA Sues San Francisco
The American Family Association
filed suit in federal
court against the City and County of San Francisco because the
Board of Supervisors passed a resolution encouraging
local television stations not to run the Center for
Reclaiming America's anti-gay ads. It is unclear
AFA press release
what the exact charges might be.