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

Religious Conformity Amendment Reintroduced

Rep. Istook has reintroduced the Religious Conformity Amendment (also known as the Religious Freedom Amendment) in Congress, as H.J. Res. 66. This constitutional amendment eliminates the First Amendment's balance between the establishment and free exercise clauses. It lost in the House the last time it was voted on. Let your Representative know you like the First Amendment the way it is.

United Methodist Church

The Rev. Jimmy Creech will again stand trial, this time for blessing the relationship of Larry Ellis and James Raymer on April 24. In response, Rev. Creech stated:

"The trial will be an act of violence against lesbian, bisexual and gay persons, and a betrayal of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and all who participate in it will be complicit. It also will be a waste of resources (money, time, energy and personnel) that should be used otherwise in positive, helpful ministries to people in need in the world. The celebration of love and commitment between two people is a profound and particular embodiment of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If I am found guilty by a trial court, then The Order and Discipline of The United Methodist Church is in conflict with this gospel. It is arrogance on the part of the church to elevate some people's relationship with God, while denigrating that of others, on the basis of innate sexuality. This arrogance is evil, comparable to racism. The consequences of this arrogance are spiritual, psychological, social and physical violence against gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, their families and friends, and a profaned witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ."

The Rev. Greg Dell's suspension for blessing the relationship of a same-sex couple was shortened by a church appeals court to one year. According to the Chicago Tribune and other reports, he will be reappointed to Chicago's Broadway United Methodist July 1, 2000. In a statement following the decision, Dell said:

"In a very fundamental way, the decision by the Committee on Appeals is a loss for The United Methodist Church and the overwhelming majority of its members who are not supporters of mean-spirited legalism, bigotry and exclusion. At the same time, I am clear that this struggle is nowhere close to being resolved."

Focus On the Family Website Mentions Roundtable

The religious GLBT-rights movement has reached a point where it can't be completely ignored by those who object to its message. A recent search for the word "Roundtable" on the Focus on the Family website actually turned up an article which begins: "Some church leaders are trying to build support for the notion that homosexuality is 'normal.'" This is a rare concession, even if the article says "several of them" met in Colorado Springs (several being about 30), and the bulk of the 263-word article is a seminary professor quoting Leviticus 18 as a rebuttal, concluding that "people must accept God's word in its entirety, not just some of it."

Georgia Baptist Convention

In November the Georgia Baptist Convention will vote on a recommendation of its Executive Committee to remove Oakhurst Baptist Church (in Decatur) from the rolls because of the congregation's acceptance of gays and lesbians. The Washington Post quoted Bill Merrell, vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention: "This is not a move against homosexuals, but the SBC wants to send a clear, ungarbled message. Churches should not change the Scriptures and should not endorse sinful behavior." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted Faye Short of RENEW, the Women's Branch of the United Methodist Good News: "We stand with them as they stand for the biblical standard regarding homosexual practice." According to the Journal-Constitution, Oakhurst Baptist released a statement saying that in their church "gay and lesbian Christians serve as Sunday School teachers, choir members, deacons and preachers."

Although the members of Oakhurst are not unanimous, the statement said, "we came to believe that the biblical references to homosexual behaviors do not address the Christian commitments and loving relationships of our gay and lesbian members."

AFA McDonald's Alert

The American Family Association wants you to complain to McDonald's about their recent decision to add sexual orientation to their corporate non-discrimination policy. Their alert asserts that "McDonald's corporate policy is damaging the good community image of the lo- cal franchise owners across the nation," and asks that you complain to your local McDonald's franchise owner and to the McDonald's Corporation, Jack Greenberg, Chairman, 1 Kroc Drive, Oak Brook, IL 60521, Phone: 630-623-3000. The AFA alert is likely to generate many complaints; please write a letter of support.

Indianapolis Rally

A prayer rally for to promote fair and equal treatment of GLBT people was held on the Indiana statehouse steps. Congregations and religious organizations involved included Jesus MCC; All Saints Episcopal; Holy Eucharist Church; Lutherans Concerned/Central Indiana; New Life Community Church of Hope, Michigan City; Northeast UCC; REACH Group of St. Luke's UMC; and Shalom UCC, Lafayette.

North Carolina Baptists

Wake Forest Baptist Church, which worships in the Wake Forest University chapel, has been asked by the University not to hold same-sex commitment ceremonies there, according to ongoing reports in various North Carolina newspapers. According to the Winston-Salem Journal, the request by the University was welcomed by the President of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the President of the Southern Baptist Convention. The University's report said, "Although there remains division and uncertainty among the Wake Forest Baptist Church's own membership about the position of the church regarding the proposed ceremony, it is not the intention of the university to restrict the practice of the congregation, whatever its ultimate decision may be or to interfere with the content of the church services. The university does not, however, want to become an involuntary participant or be perceived to have approved such practice, by having its facilities used for this purpose."

Texas Religious Liberty Case

Briefs have been filed with the Texas Court of Appeals, Second District, in a case in which a judge ruled that a divorced lesbian mother could not take her child to the Metropolitan Community Church because the denomination is not "main line." A brief was filed by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the ACLU, People for the American Way, and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Another brief was filed by The American Jewish Congress, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, American Friends Service Committee and Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. According to an Americans United press release, their brief argues that: "A court-imposed ranking of religions and determination as to which are sufficiently 'main line,' or orthodox, constitutes impermissible state assessment of ecclesiastical matters and partiality concerning religious denominations. The trial court's order also violates the mother's free exercise rights because the court made a determination concerning the mother's visitation rights based on an evaluation of her religious beliefs." The American Jewish Congress brief said: "the position of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches regarding homosexuality, while intensely controversial, is widely shared by other churches, including some within the historic Protestant 'mainline.' If its beliefs are immoral, the court below will have cut out a wider swath of the mainline than it imagined."

TVC Concentrates on Hate Crimes Legislation

The Traditional Values Coalition web page recently featured Hate Crimes Legislation commentary, portraying hate crime legislation and prevention programs as anti-Christian, and including an illustration of a scale with a cross on one side and a pink triangle on the other.

Brochures Available

"Religious Support for Equal Marriage Rights" is a new Interfaith Working Group brochure available online at www.iwgonline.org/marriage or on paper. Sections include Many Meanings of 'Marriage', Civil vs. Religious Marriage, Religious Diversity, Entanglement and Discrimination, and Religious Support for Equal Rights. The online version has an extensive linked bibliography.

"Religious Liberty: an Introduction to the Issues" covers organized school prayer, Ten Commandments displays, religious displays on public land, marriage, school vouchers, and voter guides and political endorsements. It is online (www.iwgonline.org/liberty/) and on paper.

"The Interfaith Working Group Welcoming Congregations Brochure" lists forty-nine congregations and religious organizations in the Philadelphia area that welcome participation by sexual minorities and allies. We plan another printing during October. Please consider adding your congregation! (Call us ASAP.) The online version is www.iwgonline.org/welcoming/. Call for copies.

Urban Family Council and Mission Media

The Urban Family Council, which unsuccessfully led the opposition to Life Partnership bills in Philadelphia City Council (and which had anti-gay activist Alveda Celeste King speaking at their recent annual banquet) is the parent organization of Mission Media. The Mission Media web site says they have a church referral service with a toll-free phone number and radio ads, and over onehundred member churches from twenty-five Christian denominations (but it doesn't actually list any).

National Church/State Conference in Philadelphia

On Friday, October 22, there will be a conference about the intersection of religion and government at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, 3400 Sansom Street, Phila., sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League and the Law School. Conference Fee is $35, including meals and materials. A limited number of scholarships are available. Confirmed speakers include: Elizabeth Coleman, Anti-Defamation League; Nathan Diament, Orthodox Union; Barry Lynn, Americans United for Separation of Church and State; Elliot Mincberg, People for the American Way; Rev. Eugene Rivers; Melissa Rogers, Baptist Joint Committee; Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; and Nadine Strossen, American Civil Liberties Union.

Issues addressed include: the role of religious institutions in providing social services and an exploration of the constitutionality/feasibility of "Charitable Choice;" how Government can best support the vitality of religious institutions; whether vouchers violate the Establishment Clause and are good public policy; and how Establishment Clause jurisprudence has changed over the last decade, and whether it is going in the right direction.

Letterhead News

Congratulations to Rev. Jim Littrell, now Rector at St. Mary's-Hamilton Village, and Rev. Susan Minasian, now pastor at Disciples United Community Church, a new Open and Affirming United Church of Christ/Disciples of Christ congregation in Lancaster. We still have room for more religious organizations, congregations and clergy in PA, NJ, and DE. Call if you're interested in being listed.

Speaking Out

IWG Cocoordinator Chris Purdom recently spoke on "The Religious Gay Rights Movement" at the King of Prussia Men's Social Club, and will be on a panel at the SPARC conference in State College on Saturday, October 9, and reporting on the National Religious Leadership Roundtable on October 10 after the 11:00 am service at Tabernacle United Church in Philadelphia. If you would like one or both of the the coordinators to speak to your group, please call.

Unborn Victims of Violence Act

The U.S. House passed (254-172) the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which defines an unborn child as "a member of the species Homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb." An alternative bill to "increase the criminal penalties for certain acts of violence against pregnant women" was defeated. The Justice Department called the bill "constitutionally suspect and unprecedented as a matter of federal statute." Rev. Carlton Veazey, of the Religious Coaltion for Reproductive Choice, said it "could put the woman and fetus in conflict and could place the health, worth and dignity of women on a lower level."









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