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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
April 2000

CCAR Approves Blessings of Same-Gender Couples

By an "overwhelming vote," the Central Conference of American Rabbis adopted a resolution stating in part that "the relationship of a Jewish, same gender couple is worthy of affirmation through appropriate Jewish ritual." Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President, Union of American Hebrew Congregations, said in part: "...the historical and religious significance of this resolution is indisputable. For the first time in history, a major rabbinical body has affirmed the Jewish validity of committed, same gender relationships...I cast my ballot in favor of the resolution....our gay and lesbian children, relatives, and friends are in great need of spiritual support....the Torah's prohibition of homosexuality can reasonably be understood as a general condemnation of ancient cultic practice....loving, permanent homosexual relationships, once difficult to conceive, are now recognized as an indisputable reality; and... whether or not we see them as ‘marriages,' it is surely true that God and holiness can be present....if there is anything at all that Reform Jews do, it is to create an inclusive spiritual home for all those who seek the solace of our sanctuaries....if this Movement does not extend support to all who have been victims of discrimination, including gays and lesbians, then we have no right to call ourselves Reform Jews." Interviews with Reform rabbis have started appearing in papers around the country.


On March 7, by a vote of 61 to 39%, Californians passed Proposition 22 (the "Limit on Marriages Initiative"), reinforcing existing gender discrimination. There was significant religious opposition and support. The Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) said: "Churches of all denominations and ethnic backgrounds became activated and worked hard to inform their communities about the importance of the proposition by praying, creating bulletin inserts, yard signs and stressing the benefits of marriage from the pulpit, on the radio and on television." The TVC's Lou Sheldon said the vote "put a dent in the big lie of separation of church and state."

The San Jose Mercury News called the debate "one of the primary's most emotional campaigns," saying: "the battle over the campaign became increasingly bitter, as gays and lesbians said they felt personally attacked by the 550,000 Protect Marriage signs that popped up in neighbors' yards and were posted at businesses throughout the state. Supporters, meanwhile, were upset about their yard signs being stolen, defaced and set on fire. One Sacramento supporter said his sign had been stolen 17 times." Various reports linked two suicides to the vote. Editorials, columns, and letters about the vote were still being published on March 24.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the Rev. Tom Reinhart-Marean, of First United Methodist Church of Orange, was asked to resign after conflicts with his congregation over his public support of El Modena High School's Gay-Straight Alliance and opposition to Proposition 22. On March 23, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown held his annual commitment ceremony for 88 same-gender couples. Signatures are being collected for a November ballot initiative in California to explicitly allow marriages between two people of the same gender.


The Vermont legislature is still considering how to comply with a ruling of the state Supreme Court saying same-gender couples are entitled to "the same benefits and protections" as mixed-gender couples. Despite initial claims by opponents of legal recognition of same-gender marriage that they were merely trying to protect the name, they seem not to have been mollified by the separate system that passed the House called "Civil Unions."

Randall Terry, formerly of Operation Rescue, has set up an office in Vermont to "defend marriage." Numerous letters in papers such as the Rutland Herald have criticized religious leaders who support same-gender marriage. A story in the New York Times quoted a town meeting participant: "I believe it's against our constitutional rights to have government and legislation change the word 'marriage' to mean something as ill and as foul as same-sex partners." According to the Rutland Herald, 10,000 postcards have been sent to the lieutenant governor (a million were printed) by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property (a right-wing York, PA Roman Catholic organization).

Dr. Laura Update

The Horizons Foundation web site lists many religious organizations and individuals who have signed an open letter to Dr. Laura Schlessinger expressing "...our deep concern for the detrimental effects your anti-gay commentaries are having on America's children." Signers include the Interfaith Working Group; Equal Partners In Faith; The Interfaith Alliance; Soulforce; California Council of Churches; American Friends Service Committee; United Church of Christ; Unitarian Universalist Association; UFMCC; The Ecumenical Catholic Church; The Presbytery of Denver (PCUSA); Jewish Women International; the President of American Jewish World Service; Pacific Central West Council, Union of American Hebrew Congregations; Tikkun Magazine; St. Louis Rabbinical Association; twenty-three individual rabbis, including the Executive Vice President of CCAR [see page 1] and Orthodox Rabbi Steven Greenberg. Other clergy include Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong and Father Robert Nugent, and a number of other Episcopal and Roman Catholic priests and Presbyterian, Lutheran and Baptist ministers, as well as twenty-two congregations from a variety of faith traditions, including Riverside Church (NYC), Glide Memorial UMC of San Francisco, and St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle.


The governor of Indiana has signed a bill allowing schools and other government buildings to display the Ten Commandments "as part of an exhibit displaying other documents of historical significance that formed and influenced the United States legal system," reinforcing the notion that United States law is based on the Ten Commandments. He has also announced the construction of an official state monument on the statehouse lawn featuring the Ten Commandments, the preamble to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The Indiana-based Cummins Engine Company announcing that they will start offering domestic partnership benefits sparked an angry reaction from some employees in Columbus, Indiana. According to the Indianapolis Star, CEO Tim Solso said the policy will help "attract and maintain a strong and diverse workforce."

An employee responded by issuing a news release saying that "attracting homosexuals to Columbus will bring grave changes to our community. The curriculum of our schools, the contents of our library, the ordinances of our city will begin to reflect the unbiblical values that homosexuals stand for."

The Seymour Tribune reported that 1,400 people gathered outside Cummins headquarters to listen to "speeches from local ministers who said Cummins' new policy attacks the nuclear family." The Columbus Republic reported that Rhea Murray and the Rev. Howard Warren spoke to 150 Cummins supporters elsewhere. Fifty-six clergy and religious professionals from across the state released a statement (published on the IWG religion list) supporting Cummins, which said in part: "...the idea that gay people are, or will soon be, descending upon Columbus from the outside is wrong. Studies consistently show that a certain percentage of children will grow up to be gay, regardless where they were born. Cummins' policy is not about attracting outsiders; it's about protecting gay people who already work there, most of whom were born and raised in southern Indiana."

Fox Family Channel Update

According to a March 14 Soulforce press release, Fox Family Channel executives met and agreed to negotiate with the Committee to Bring Truth to Pat Robertson and to the Fox Family Channel. A scheduled March 24 protest and civil disobedience have been postponed; another meeting be on that date instead. For more information, go to http://www.soulforce.org/foxaction.html.


SPARC has announced speakers for IGNITE 2000, including: the Rev. Steven Baines (Equal Partners in Faith, Washington, DC), Chris Purdom (Interfaith Working Group), Rev. Jim Zeisloff (Faith Groups for Justice, Harrisburg), Rev. Eva O'Diem (Harrisburg MCC of the Spirit), Rev. Jacquie Rucker (Christian Churches United), Rabbi Carl Choper (Temple Beth Shalom, Mechanicsburg), the Rev. Tim Wagner, and Rev. Jim Brown (Market Square Presbyterian Church). A bus will leave Philadelphia at 8 am from the William Way Community Center at 1315 Spruce St. The bus begins the return trip from Harrisburg at 5 pm (ETA in Philadelphia is 7 pm). To reserve a seat, email Erin (SPARC_ONE@hotmail.com) or call Charles at the Center for Lesbian & Gay Civil Rights at 215-731-1447. Bus fare and a T-shirt cost $15, but no one will be turned away for economic reasons.

Staten Island

Two billboards in Staten Island were rented anonymously by a minister for ads that had various translations of Leviticus 18:22. Following extensive complaints to the billboard owner, the owner covered the ads, citing the right to refuse anonymous advertising. After the ads were covered, a prayer vigil was held in front of one of the billboards, in which speakers celebrated the removal of the ads and pledged to be vigilant; Rev. George McClain, former executive director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action spoke, and a statement of support from the Staten Island Rabbinical Association was read. Soon after that another prayer service and rally were held in favor of the ads, and a speaker at that rally pledged $2,000 to put the ads back up again. Letters, columns, and articles about the billboards appeared in the Bergen County (NJ) Record, the New York Post, and the Staten Island Advance.

Florida Schools

Florida's private school voucher program, the first statewide voucher plan passed in the United States, has been ruled unconstitutional by a state court.

In a separate action, Florida education officials have responded to the January 13 report from People for the American Way on its year-long investigation of the state's "Bible History" courses [see February 2000]. The Department of Education announced that it is withdrawing state approval of the unconstitutional high school courses and creating two new humanities courses that conform to the constitution, if implemented properly by the local school districts.

Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse

Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse, by Dr. Rembert Truluck, is now available from Chi Rho Press. Truluck has a Doctor of Theology from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY, 1968. He was a Southern Baptist pastor from 1953-1973; Professor of Religion at Baptist College of Charleston, SC, 1973-1979. He joined First MCC Atlanta in 1981, as a Bible teacher, writer and preacher and was Senior Pastor at Golden Gate, MCC, San Francisco and MCC Nashville, TN. His web site, www.truluck.com, has had over 2 million hits since 1997. Call 301-926-1208, or mail@chirhopress.com.

Letterhead Addition

Rev. Jay R. Newlin of Drexel Hill United Methodist Church will be added to the letterhead with the next printing. As always, if you would like to be listed on the letterhead, please call.









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