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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
February 2001


Reform Judaism and the Boy Scouts of America

On January 5 Rabbi Dan Polish and Judge David Davidson, the director and chair of the UAHC-CCAR Joint Commission on Social Action, sent a memo to UAHC congregations regarding further participation in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), which says in part:

"In light of the Supreme Court decision, many congregations have asked us for further guidance in responding to the latest developments. While we maintain our hope that the Boy Scouts of America will abandon its discriminatory policies, its lack of response to the many expressions of disagreement and disappointment with the policies gives us little basis for optimism. Therefore, and with pain, we must recommend that congregations sponsor ing/housing troops/packs withdraw sponsorship of a troop/pack and/or stop housing one.

"If a congregation or congregational affiliate that sponsors or houses a Boy Scout troop/Cub Scout pack shares our conclusion that working from within the Boy Scouts of America is no longer a viable or productive option, it may wish to sever those ties as incompatible with our consistent belief that every individual--regardless of his or her sexual orientation--is created in the image of God and is deserving of equal treatment. If it does so, we encourage the congregation or congregational affiliate to make the action and the rationale known to the Boy Scouts of America and to the public as a means of education on this issue.

"In addition, we recommend that parents with children in non-Reform affiliated troops withdraw their children from troops/packs. We recognize the difficulty of this parental decision, yet we also understand that many individuals find it impossible to reconcile the Boy Scout's discriminatory policy with our Reform Jewish values regarding gay and lesbian equality. Parents' decisions may be influenced by the response of the leadership of the troops/packs to which their children belong to the position of the BSA."

The memo lists eight other possible responses, including: publicly amend the local charter; withdraw financial support of the BSA; continue official protests to the BSA; continue personal protests to the BSA, renounce personal ties with the BSA; publicly create programs for Boy Scout troops/Cub Scout packs and for congregations as a whole to combat the message sent by the BSA; create and work within coalitions; and encourage participation in other groups instead of the Boy Scouts.

Media Reaction to the Reform Judaism BSA Memo

A New York Times article called the dispute "a clear culture clash between a traditional organization that views homosexuality as a threat to 'family values' and a minority religious group that sees discrimination against gays as a violation of civil rights," and noted that Rabbi Paul Menitoff, executive vice president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, was "one of several Reform rabbis" who have returned Eagle Scout badges. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times interviewed local Reform rabbis. The Miami Herald ran a story on Temple Judea in Coral Gables, FL, which "voted to sever ties with its 49-year-old Boy Scout troop unless its leaders reject the national organization's stance on gay membership."

Church of Latter Day Saints

In December, a petition signed by more than three-hundred gay and lesbian Mormons and their family members appeared as an ad in the Salt Lake City Tribune. The text of the petition (also on Affirmation's website):

Because of the pain, indignity, humiliation and despair being endured by hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian Mormons and their families, AND Because virtually all options extended to gay and lesbian members by church leaders are demeaning, inhumane and in some instances outright destructive, namely, 1) stay in the church and live a life of fear, anxiety and frustration as a "closeted" gay or lesbian member, 2) stay in the church as an "out" homosexual, remain celibate and be denied one of life's most basic needs--an intimate, loving, caring, sharing, committed relationship with another human being, 3) leave the church, 4) be excommunicated, or 5) commit suicide, AND Because the primary cause for the suffering and disillusionment of this large segment of our church community is the position taken by current church leaders regarding homosexuality and the policies that are directed toward gay and lesbian members of the church, WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, PETITION YOU, THE GENERAL AUTHORITIES OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS TO RECONSIDER AND THEN CHANGE PRESENT CHURCH POLICIES AS THEY PERTAIN TO HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE STATUS OF GAY AND LESBIAN MEMBERS.

Civil Unions - Civil Rights

On January 15, the Civil Unions-Civil Rights Movement began eight days of protest actions to support justice and equality for GLBT Hawaiians, with a Martin Luther King Day tribute and candlelight vigil at the state capitol, followed by an eight-day march starting at the Mohandas Gandhi statue in Waikiki and concluding with a rally, demonstration and mass commitment ceremony in the park next to the State Attorney General's office.

Soulforce Stage II

Soulforce has announced the second stage of their "Stop Spiritual Violence Campaign," based on the words of Gandhi and King: "It is as much our obligation not to cooperate with evil as it is to cooperate with good." Soulforce is asking GLBT people, friends and allies not to give tithes, gifts, or special offerings to congregations that are not GLBT friendly, but to give notes explaining why they can no longer financially support untruth and injustice, and to give the money to a GLBT-friendly congregation or organization, or open a savings account to be given to the congregation when they eventually do become GLBT-friendly. Sample notes and a more detailed explanation are available on www.soulforce.org.

Soulforce and Dignity/USA

Twenty-one people from Soulforce and Dignity/USA held non-violent direct actions in Rome January 3-6, wearing shirts that said "God's Gay Children Bring Gifts...Bless Them." On January 3-5 they brought gifts for orphans, AIDS patients, and battered women, waiting at the Vatican for a priest to bless them, as is the custom, and as they had requested. (No one did.) On January 6 (Epiphany), the end of the Church's Jubilee Year and the ceremonial closing of the Jubilee door, they peacefully approached the creche in St. Peter's Square to leave pictures as gifts (as thousands of other pilgrims did) and deliver a list of demands to Cardinal Ratzinger. GLBT activists carried pictures of themselves; Jimmy Creech carried a picture of Alfredo Ormando, a gay man who died of self-immolation outside the Vatican to protest its policies in 1998. They could not reach the creche because police surrounded them for three hours, while they repeated their requests to continue, told stories, sang songs, and passed out leaflets explaining their presence. Afterward they shook hands with police and left.

United Methodist Church

Leaders of Good News, the Confessing Movement and UMAction filed a complaint with the UMC's financial agency accusing the Board of Church and Society of violating UMC policy against using funds to promote the "acceptance of homosexuality" because the Nov./Dec. Christian Social Action featured articles characterized by a Board executive as asking "for fuller inclusion of homosexuals in the life of the United Methodist Church" according to United Methodist News Service (UMNS).

Reporting on Duke University's allowing same-gender weddings in their chapel, the UMNS quoted Bishop Charlene P. Kammerer (Western North Carolina Conference) and Bishop Marion M. Edwards (North Carolina Conference). Kammerer said the policy "reflects an open spirit of hospitality and pastoral care to the wider Duke University community." In an official statement, Edwards said: "While acknowledging the sacred worth of homosexual persons and calling for their basic human rights and civil liberties, I uphold the teaching of the church that marriage is between one man and one woman."

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the Virginia Annual Conference of the UMC decided to stop funding the interdenominational Campus Christian Community at Mary Washington College because "the group is too accepting of gay and lesbian students."

Rainbows in Michigan

On Dec. 19 the Traverse City (MI) Record-Eagle reported that a new diversity logo bumper sticker, including a six-stripe rainbow flag, would be placed on city vehicles, and that a city commissioner proposed the idea after seeing residents remove rainbow stickers from their cars after attacks on gays and other minorities. On Dec. 30, a columnist reported that the American Family Association had taken an interest in the stickers, the mayor was "having second thoughts," and the police chief was "against 'endorsing a certain lifestyle.'" On Jan. 3, the AP reported that the stickers had been removed and the mayor "had no idea [rainbows] had anything to do with the gay community." On Jan. 5, the Lansing State Journal editorialized in favor of the stickers and compared the city government's reversal to the Lansing city government's reversal on an anti-discrimination ordinance. On Jan. 7, a Detroit Free Press columnist wrote in favor of the stickers claiming there was nothing inherently gay about the rainbow flag; she also mentioned that some groups, "even churches that celebrate the stickers' intended message, might buy the remaining 5,000 from the city to distribute on their own." WorldNet Daily reported on Jan. 16 that the opposition had been organized by a police officer who "told a local Christian radio station he found it 'offensive driving a vehicle proclaiming [the homosexual] lifestyle;'" that a Human Rights Commission investigation of the officer was called off when a lawsuit against the city was threatened; and that the stickers had been removed "on advice of the city attorney, who said their presence on city-owned property would require the government to allow stickers from other groups of people as well." And finally, WorldNet Daily also reported that an anti-gay ballot initiative was being circulated in response to the stickers, and had been announced on Martin Luther King Day, because "gay rights" policies discriminate against people of faith.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

On December 3 St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church (St. Paul, MN) approved constitutional changes allowing the them to call a pastor outside the guidelines of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (which bans ordination of gay or lesbian candidates living in committed relationships). The congregation voted 176-0 to authorize the Congregational Council to ordain and install Anita Hill. The ELCA rejected Hill's application for call and ordination despite meeting all other requirements under ELCA guidelines. The resolution approving the call says: "...our congregation can no longer, in good conscience, comply with the ELCA's policy because it is unjust, at odds with the message of the Gospel and has been a source of suffering since its adoption, both for gifted gay and lesbian candidates for ordination as well as all church members who are deeply offended by the 'second class' status implicit in the ELCA's policy which allows ordination of only celibate gays or lesbians."

Metropolitan Community Church

Two same-gender couples married by Rev. Brent Hawkes at MCC of Toronto were issued licenses under an Ontario law that lets houses of worship issue licenses if an announcement is read three times before the wedding. The Toronto Sun says the Ontario government announced that they will not register the marriage, though "the Ontario marriage act does not specify that marriage must be between a male and a female." The story was widely reported and debated in Canadian newspapers.

Boy Scouts of America, Mormons, and the NCCJ

The Las Vegas Sun reported that local Mormons may pull out of the National Conference for Community and Justice after the NCCJ issued a statement against the Boy Scouts of America's discrimination. The paper reported that the statement said in part: "NCCJ believes that the Boy Scouts should not receive further support from the government until they change their policies towards gays, and that the millions of alumni and current members of the Boy Scouts need to stand up and speak out against their organization's stance on gays."

Plan Ahead!

Each year we have a service on Martin Luther King Day, a concert in late May or early June, the Pride Parade in mid-June, and the AIDS Walk in October. Most years we cosponsor two or three other events as well. If you send us your email addresses and fax numbers, we will send you four to seven advance notices a year.

You Can Help!

Purchases of XL IWG-logo T-shirts ($15 by mail) and tax-deductible donations are always appreciated.

Creationism in Pennsylvania?

Americans United and the ACLU of PA issued warnings that religious belief could be taught as science under new proposed PA science education guidelines letting schools "analyze the impact of new scientific facts on the theory of evolution" and present theories that "do or do not support the theory of evolution." The Philadelphia Inquirer quoted State Rep. Samuel Rhorer: "Evolution is a religious tenet--it's a tenet of secular humanism, and of Marxism and Communism." The IWG letter to Dr. James Gallagher, chair of the State Board of Education, said: "Teaching tenets of faith as fact in public schools is a clear violation of the establishment clause of the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Teaching religious views of creation will require selecting a subset of religious beliefs to teach, thus favoring or appearing to favor those religions chosen. Emphasizing the creation stories of those religions will present an inaccurate and biased view of those religions to the students. Science teachers are not trained to teach religion, and will either do a bad job of it, or stick to religions they themselves know best. Teaching religion in science classes takes time away from teaching science. Equating faith and scientific method is a disservice to faith, to science, and to the students the schools are supposed to be educating." Rev. Barry Lynne (Americans United) wrote to Gallagher: "If local school districts follow these standards --and alter their curriculum to conform to religious tenets --lawsuits are certain to result. We strongly urge you not to give bad advice to school administrators and science teachers through poorly worded science standards."


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