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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Since last issue we have added
Central Baptist Church,
Rabbis Richard Hirsh and Myriam Klotz of the
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Rev. Dr.
Herbert J. Snyder of
Drexel Hill United Methodist
Church, and Rabbi Elyse Wechterman of the
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation
to the letterhead. In
March 1995, the first letterhead had ten names. The
supporters now has twenty-two congregations and
religious organizations and sixty-nine clergy from sixteen
religious traditions. But there's still room for more!
Boy Scouts of America
On Monday, August 21,
Boy Scouts protests all over
the country received significant coverage, though many
reports focused on the mostly small numbers. The
Philadelphia Inquirer had a long story on the front page
of the Metro section with a color photo of Alan
LaPayover putting a Scout bandanna in the footlocker
where other attendees also placed Scout mementos as a
symbolic way of severing ties with the organization.
Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell,
Barbara Purdom, and Sue Cassidy of
PFLAG are also
pictured, and IWG, PFLAG, and Catholic Parents
Network signs are clearly visible. Rabbi Elwell and
(and former scout) Rev. Tim Thomson-Hohl
both spoke, and
IWG supporter Rev. Paul Heubner
(another former scout) also participated.
H.R. 4892, which would revoke the Federal Charter
Boy Scouts of America,
has been introduced in the
U.S. House of Representatives. Essays for and against
continued government and United Way funding of the
BSA have appeared around the country. The Wall Street Journal
reports that Knight Ridder has dropped their financial support.
Religious Right opponents of evolution lost control of
the Kansas State School Board in recent elections.
"These results indicate that Americans want quality
science, not religious fundamentalism masked as science,
taught in public schools," said the Rev. Barry Lynn,
executive director of
Americans United for Separation of
Church and State.
Oregon Citizens Alliance
has managed to get a
measure on the state ballot that says: Notwithstanding
any other law or rule, the instruction of behaviors
relating to homosexuality and bisexuality shall not be
presented in a public school in a manner which
encourages, promotes or sanctions such behaviors. The
AP quoted Betty Cole, who oversees counseling
programs in Portland's public schools: "We have never
encouraged, promoted or sanctioned any kind of sexual
behavior." They also quoted the
Coalition's Lou Beres: "Even liberals...don't want their
children to be taught this is a normal lifestyle." The
Oregonian quoted the
Family Research Council's Peter
LaBarbera, saying the "gay school issue is hot everywhere;"
and a 19-year-old said the "biblical perspective on
homosexuality is totally trashed in schools." A press release
from Basic Rights Oregon
quotes Bruce Samson, former
General Council for the Portland Public School District:
"Public schools have a duty to create a welcoming,
inclusive and safe environment for all children. If this
measure passes, a teacher or counselor could not say to a
student, 'It is OK to be homosexual,' that would be
considered 'sanctioning' homosexual behavior. The message
of this measure to our children is clear and devastating:
It's OK to be of color...to be male, female, Jewish,
Christian or disabled, but it is not OK to be homosexual."
Responding to the Boy Scouts of America
Scouting for All
suggests that letters requesting that
rescind its policies of discrimination be sent to
Mr. Roy L. Williams, Chief Executive Scout, National
Office, Boy Scouts of America, PO Box 152079, Irving
TX 75015-2079; and to Mr. Ed Whitacre Jr., President,
Boy Scouts of America, Southwestern Bell, 175 E.
Houston Street, San Antonio, TX 78205
According to the Anti-Discrimination Support
Network, Steven Spielberg is a contributor to the Boy Scouts
of America and a member of their Advisory Council.
Letters to Mr. Spielberg encouraging him to help change
policies or to support a non-discriminatory organization
can be sent c/o DreamWorks, 100 Universal Plaza,
Bungalow 477, Universal City, CA 91608.
If you are looking for alternatives for participation
and/or donation, the
Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil
Rights notes that the Girl Scouts,
the Boys and Girls Clubs,
the National 4-H Council,
and the Campfire Boys and Girls
do not discriminate.
The Interfaith Working Group is one of several
organizations sponsoring Stop Dr. Laura Philadelphia, just
one of many such protests around the country. Protesters
will assemble at 5:30 pm on September 11 at Welcome
Park (2nd St. above Walnut) and walk from there to
KYW TV (5th & Market) for the 6:00 pm press
conference and rally. Scheduled speakers are
Rev. Jim Littrell, writer Maralyn Lois Polak, Michael
Hinson (executive director of COLOURS, Inc.), and Bill
Stayton (director of the human sexuality doctoral
program at Widener University and past president of the
American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and
Therapists and the
Sexuality Information and Education
Council of the United States).
Other sponsors include the
Center for Lesbian and
Gay Civil Rights,
Alliance for Tolerance and Freedom,
Equal Partners in Faith,
Metropolitan Community Church Philadelphia,
The Magnus Hirschfield Center for Human Rights,
Statewide PA Rights Coalition,
National Organization for Women,
Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation,
Northeastern Pennsylvania/Wilkes Barre Chapters of
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians & Gays.
We invite you to join us with banners and signs.
According to the StopDrLaura.com website,
corporations that have discontinued their business
relationships with Dr. Laura include Radio Shack, Motel 6,
Procter & Gamble, Priceline.com, Natrol, Red Lobster,
Gateway Computers, EchoStar/Dish Network, Skytel,
Geico Insurance, Xerox, ToysRUs.com, More.com,
BoxLot, the Ohio State Lottery, United Airlines AT&T,
American Express, Kraft, Kroger, Amica Insurance, TCF
Bank and SAAB.
Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia
The Jewish Federation
of Greater Philadelphia has
hired as president Harold Goldman, an openly gay man,
who will start in October. According to a story from the
Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Goldman will be the first
openly gay chief executive of a major Jewish federation.
The article quoted a rabbi from a suburban Orthodox
congregation, who said, "...for the position he occupies
it's no problem as far as I'm concerned." The article also
Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell, who noted
that there is "yet one more place in the Jewish community
that is open to all Jews."
Episcopal Church, USA
The Episcopal Church, USA General Convention met
in Denver in early July. Bishop Charles Bennison
(Pennsylvania) introduced a resolution calling for pastoral
teaching and a study guide on the sin of heterosexism,
defined as a systemic injustice. The resolution was
amended in committee, combined with another one, and
ultimately defeated in the house of deputies, but it forced
discussion and debate and the use of the word
"heterosexism" in denominational statements and publications.
Retired Bishop Otis Charles of Utah was one of
protesters arrested outside the
Convention, which was reported nationally. The Episcopal News
Service reported that singer Judy Collins canceled her
appearance at a concert to benefit the presiding bishop's
Fund for World Relief because "the Episcopal Church, of
which I'm a member and in which I was married, does not
have an official national policy allowing ministers to
officiate at same-sex unions or ordain openly gay people."
The convention did pass a resolution recognizing the
existence of same-gender couples, to which
responded: "...with the passing of this Resolution by both
Houses, the question is no longer whether our
relationships exist or are of God. The question is how they
should be celebrated. Noting the overwhelming support
for this Resolution...the trajectory...is clearly toward full
acceptance and celebration, and we thank our friends and
supporters in both Houses for their support."
An American Anglican Council
press release announced the launch of a "provocative and groundbreaking
new campaign" called "God's Love Changed Me,"
intended to link homosexuality and abortion with racism
and "drug, alcohol, and pornography abuse" by featuring
testimonies of ex-gays and "a woman who had an
abortion" in the same program with reformed racists and
Episcopal News Service reports that the conservative
First Promise will be renamed
Missionary Congregations of Rwanda, and the
Anglican Congregations on Mission will be known as
Missionary Congregations of South East Asia, with
permission from the Bishops of Rwanda and South East Asia
to "plant" new congregations in the USA, primarily
because of the very limited actions taken by the General
Convention of the Episcopal Church, USA regarding gay
and lesbian church members.
On July 25, the National Religious Leadership Roundtable met in Miami
(IWG coordinator Chris Purdom is a
Steering Committee member). They held a long-range
planning session, business meetings, and an interfaith
service at Greater Bethel AME Church focused on the
intersection of racism, sexism, and homophobia.
The Coatesville School District has passed a
resolution mandating a moment of silence at the start of the
day. The Philadelphia Inquirer quoted board president
Ronald M. Scott Jr., who said, "It is important for our
children to understand that spiritual connection with a
higher power regardless of religion. This is a moment of
silence, this is not dictating to anyone to pray to God or
Allah. We are not pushing anything on anyone." Scott
apparently does not realize that "a spiritual connection
with a higher power" is an inherently religious concept.
Brochures, We Have Brochures
The following brochures are available free to
congregations and organizations in the Philadelphia area:
Religious Support for Equal Marriage Rights;
Guide to Welcoming Congregations;
and general brochures for the Interfaith
Working Group and iwgonline.org. Let us know what
and how many you'd like.
In early August, over a thousand lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender Christians and their families, friends and
allies gathered to claim and proclaim their rightful place in
church and society at the Witness Our Welcome 2000
gathering. Recognizing the potential of this ever-growing
ecumenical welcoming church movement, WOW2000
participants contributed and pledged over $40,000 to
support the planning of another WOW event and other
ecumenical welcoming resources.
Conservative Christian groups have been distributing
covers for textbooks with the Ten Commandments
printed on them to public school students. The covers are
constitutionally-protected individual religious expression
unlike an officially-posted copy of the commandments
(which is religious endorsement). Unfortunately, the
Chicago school district endorsed distribution of the covers,
sent an Assemblies of God minister to represent the
district at a rally for the book covers, and released a
statement from the district CEO who called the
Commandments "history's value statements" and said that they are
"certainly universally accepted." In Grand Prairie, TX, the
school board found that because they allowed the covers,
they must allow covers from a local atheist group as well.