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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Interfaith Working Group Online
We now have our own domain: the Interfaith Working Group Online
(www.iwgonline.org; send email to
The stationery will be
updated! For the moment, the old URL will take you to the new domain, and the
old email address is forwarding mail to the new address.
Much of the information on the website is useful regardless of where you
live, and it attracts visitors from around the country and beyond.
There is ten times as much storage space, and we will add new
sections and features. The Calendar
will have information from all over the country. We also invite
volunteers to create local IWGs around the country, doing the
kind of work we have been doing in the Greater
Philadelphia area, using the new domain to list local
Please visit the new website, and tell us what you think.
National Religious Leadership Roundtable
The National Religious Leadership Roundtable met in Colorado Springs
this August and agreed on a mission statement
[see page 2], participation
and membership guidelines, and operating procedures. Convened by the
Policy Institute of the
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
and Equal Partners in Faith, the
Roundtable includes representatives from forty groups
(including the IWG).
The meeting included a public event:
"Spirituality and Sexuality, In the Image of God,"
which attracted a crowd of about two-hundred and included remarks
and prayers from
the Rev. Patti Ackerman (Integrity);
the Rev. Jimmy Creech;
Rabbi Stephen Foster
the Rev. William Johnson (Office of LGB Concerns,
United Church of Christ);
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum
(Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, NYC);
the Rev. Troy Perry
(Universal Fellowship of
Metropolitan Community Churches);
Rev. Elder Nori Rost
Metropolitan Community Church);
and the Rev. Carlton Veazy
(Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice).
A public request to James Dobson of
Focus on the Family "to hear our
case, and together to begin a process of seeking truth about homosexuality
and hoosexuals," was signed by representatives from twenty-two
[ see page 2].
The meeting was covered by the New York Times,
Associated Press, and Colorado Springs Gazette.
There were front page stories in the Gazette
two days running, a mention on CNN headline news, a favorable editorial in the
a syndicated column by Frank Morris Susa, and stories
in the New York Times,
Washington Post, and even the London Guardian.
A half-page advertisement in the Columbus Dispatch
calling for justice for
sexual minorities, including access to domestic-partner benefits and full
participation in churches, listed the names of four-hundred clergy, laity,
congregations and organizations.
National Religious Leadership Roundtable Mission
The National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR) is an interfaith
network of leaders from pro-gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT)
faith, spiritual, and religious organizations. We share resources, support
one another, and work in partnership with other justice seeking groups to:
- Amplify the voice of pro-GLBT faith organizations in public discourse
- Promote understanding of and respect for GLBT people within society at
large and in communities of faith
- Promote understanding and respect within GLBT communities for a variety
of faith paths and for religious liberty
- Achieve commonly held goals which promote equality, spirituality, and
NRLR Petition to James Dobson
We the undersigned members of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable,
gathered in Colorado Springs, August 22-24, 1999, express our concern about
the false and inflammatory rhetoric against homosexuality and homosexuals
that flows regularly from Dr. James Dobson and his
Focus on the Family organization.
We support Dr. Dobson's right to preach his conscience about homosexuality
but we condemn his dangerous and untrue rhetoric against homosexuals.
Focus on the Family's anti-homosexual campaign leads directly and
indirectly to broken families, to divided churches, and to suffering
and death for God's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.
Like Dr. Dobson and his colleagues, we are people of faith committed to
empowering whole and healthy families. In that spirit we ask Dr. Dobson
to meet with us, to hear our case, and together, to begin a process of
seeking truth about homosexuality and homosexuals.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
According to the ELCA News Service, the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's
Churchwide Assembly voted to not "propose at this assembly any
change in the standards for rostered ministry related to non-celibate
gay or lesbian persons." Amendments to suspend enforcement of current policy
and to hold a consultation proposing "strategies which might allow for the
ordination of non-celibate lesbian and gay persons" were defeated.
During the Assembly, thirteen gay and lesbian pastors and pastoral
candidates were honored and unofficially rostered to Lutheran ministry at
St. Paul Lutheran Church in Denver;
Rev. Steve Sabin, of
Lord of Life Lutheran Church (Ames, IA)
preached. "Rostering is a new word in the life of the church," Sabin
said. "We are not commissioning, we are not ordaining, we are not installing.
But we are a listing of people who have a call to ministry. In extraordinary
times you need extraordinary measures."
Boy Scouts of America
The New Jersey Supreme Court's unanimous decision
Boy Scouts of America
are a public accomodation under state law and cannot discriminate
against James Dale based on orientation has inspired a huge national media
response. Commentary was pro or con on discrimination, the morality of
non-heterosexual orientations, the right to free association,
and/or justices making
moral proclamations. A letter from
Focus on the Family's Mike Haley
said: "This assault on the Boy Scouts by gay activists should leave no doubt
in anyone's mind what the gay rights agenda is...it's not about tolerance
or civil rights, but forcing private institutions to promote the
acceptability of homosexuality to the next generation;" and, "If gay
activists want to start their own Scouting program, more power to
them...they should not be legally empowered by pro-gay judges to
hijack a 90-year-old institution that morally objects to having
homosexuals as role models."
Four points related to church/state separation, religion, and orientation were
sporadically addressed. The Scouts' have ties to all levels of government
(sponsorship by government-related agencies and recruitment access to public
schools, inappropriate for religious organizations). They have encouraged
sponsorship by religious organizations with other views about morality of
non-heterosexual orientations or discrimination based on orientation
(contradicting claims of a general consensus on the meaning of "morally
straight," and that they only associate with like-minded people on the
issue). Scoutmasters are not to discuss religion or sex with scouts,
referring them to clergy or parents. And a friend of the court brief
supporting Dale's case was filed by the Diocesan Council
of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark,
Friends Committee on National Legislation,
Union of American Hebrew Congregations,
and Unitarian Universalist Association.
It refers to affidavits and certifications from
Lutheran and Presbyterian pastors, and Roman Catholic and UMC bishops.
The Chicago Tribune reported that a Cook County (IL) judge ruled the
Scouts cannot discriminate on the basis of orientation, but can deny
employment to anyone the organization "'reasonably believes' is using
the organization to 'discuss issues regarding sex.'" Some papers reported
a Rhode Island scoutmaster was dismissed for using James Dale's
picture for target practice on a Scout camp rifle range. And
in California, the city of San Luis Obispo raised rent on the
Scouts' office from $1 a year to $800 a month beginning in February.
Kansas Schools and Evolution
The Kansas State Board of Education's decision not to require teaching
evolution by local school districts because it offends the religious
many people was generally derided in editorials around the country. The
printed a letter in favor of science education and against
the decision from the Rev. Patricia Pearce of
Tabernacle United Church.
letters printed were anti-evolution. According to the AP,
the publisher of a junior-high Kansas-oriented science text plans to
delete much of its first chapter, so it can sell in
non-evolution-teaching districts; the text mentioned an inland sea
that covered ancient Kansas, and the mosasaur, an extinct sea lizard
on display in a Kansas museum.
Roman Catholic Church
The Vatican announced that Fr. Robert Nugent and Sr. Jeannine Gramick,
New Ways Ministries,
have been barred for life from ministering to
gays and lesbians.
responded, "Wouldn't Catholics feel proud if
Church leaders condemned anti-gay violence each time they mention
homosexuality, instead of mentioning homosexual acts as they usually do?
Wouldn't lesbian and gay Catholics feel the beginning of reconciliation in
this year of jubilee if we, as a Church, asked forgiveness from our lesbian
sisters and gay brothers for our silence and complicity in the face of their
United Methodist Church
On August 27, Linda E. Enger and Eleanora N. Piombino of Houston were
united in front of
United Methodist Church (Houston) by Rev.
Troy Plummer. Rev. Marilyn Meeker-Williams and Rev. Dr. Bruce Felker served
Holy Communion in the church afterward. Rev. Plummer, an Orthodox Catholic
priest, is an employee of Bering Memorial. In February, senior pastor Rev.
Meeker-Williams announced her decision not to conduct marriage services until
she could do all types. Bering Memorial UMC will hold no weddings in the
sanctuary while the UMC bars clergy from officiating at "homosexual unions." The
service used for Enger and Piombino will be available for all couples seeking a
wedding service at Bering Memorial.
The Oregon anti-marriage bill lost; no such bills passed this year (twelve were
blocked, five are pending). Hawaii and Vermont court cases are pending.
The California anti-marriage ballot initiative scheduled for March is already
making the news, after an official
LDS (Latter-Day Saints) Church
letter asked Mormons to
donate "means and time to assure a successful vote."
American Baptist Churches
American Baptist Churches USA
regions have requested adjudication
with the General Board after it rejected the appeals of four Welcoming &
Affirming California churches disfellowshipped by American Baptist Churches of
the West and expelled by the General Board (July 1999). The
congregations had asked to be
cooperating churches of American Baptist Churches USA but not the regional
body; usually churches must be recognized by regional bodies.
Ohio Voucher Program
According to the Washington Post,
a federal judge issued an injunction
halting Cleveland's tuition voucher program for violating the First Amendment's
establishment clause. "I think it will bring the whole voucher thing to a
screeching halt nationwide," said Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director,
Americans United for
Separation of Church and State. "These programs do advance religion, and
taxpayers should not fund religious schools."
Individual vs. State Religious Displays
defended a Jewish Mississippi student's right to wear a Star of
David (supposedly a gang symbol) in high school.
Coral Ridge Ministries
is campaigning to put Ten Commandments displays in public schools; its flyer
blames teen pregnancy, suicide, violent crime, divorce, and declining SAT
scores on Supreme Court rulings against religious displays in the schools
(which they blame on the ACLU). The school board in the Mississippi case
is now allowing the student to wear his Star of David.
Faith in Our Families: Parents, Families and Friends Talk About Religion
a newly revised booklet from
Parents, Families and Friends of
Lesbians and Gays
highlights the experiences of families upon learning that a loved
one is gay and addresses how families nationwide reconcile their faith with
acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender loved ones. To order,
Christian Coalition and Religious Liberty
We reported that the
was among the groups supporting
the boycott of the Army called by the
Free Congress Foundation
because Army Wiccans have free exercise of religion. Immediately after
that report, the Coalition
was removed from the list.
Military Pagan Network
notes that the
reported on their religious-freedom-in-the-military rally, and that Pat
Robertson said, "I'm not worried about a little coven of Witches...Rather than
suppress us all, we might give them freedom."