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


Ninety-one Names

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 list of 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. IWG supporter Rabbi Sue Levi Elwell, IWG coordinator Barbara Purdom, and Sue Cassidy of PFLAG are also pictured, and IWG, PFLAG, and Catholic Parents Network signs are clearly visible. Rabbi Elwell and IWG supporter (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 of the 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.

Kansas

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

The 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 Oregon Christian 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 the BSA 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.

Dr. Laura

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 IWG supporter 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, the Alliance for Tolerance and Freedom, Equal Partners in Faith, Metropolitan Community Church Philadelphia, COLOURS, Inc., Dignity/USA, The Magnus Hirschfield Center for Human Rights, Statewide PA Rights Coalition, Bucks County National Organization for Women, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, StopDrLaura.com, and the Philadelphia and 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 quoted IWG supporter 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 seventy Soulforce 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 Integrity 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."

Conservative Anglicans

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 recovered addicts.

Episcopal News Service reports that the conservative Anglican organization First Promise will be renamed Missionary Congregations of Rwanda, and the Association of 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.

NRLR

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.

Coatesville

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; Religious Liberty; 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.

WOW!

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.

Book Covers

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.


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