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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Pro-Harassment Court Decision
The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals invalidated
the State College Area School District's
Anti-Harassment Policy as "unconstitutionally
overbroad." Under the policy, "harassment means verbal or
physical conduct based on one's actual or perceived race,
religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation,
disability, or other personal characteristics, and which has
the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with a
student's educational performance or creating an
intimidating, hostile or offensive environment." The
plaintiff, a Penn State professor represented by the
American Family Association (AFA),
children are religiously required to "witness" to sexual
minority students that "homosexuality is a sin and is
harmful," and that the policy prevented this. The
decision and policy are online:
Stories appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer and
State College Centre Daily Times. The Inquirer quoted
the AFA's Bryan J. Brown, who said it was overturned
for not distinguishing between "free speech about
controversial issues that some may find offensive" and
"individualized targeted harassment that disrupts a
student's ability to learn" ("witnessing" to specific
students about their orientation somehow doesn't
qualify). The Centre Daily Times focused on the free
speech and religious free exercise aspects, ignoring the
problems of those who can now be freely harassed by
proselytizing peers, and leaving the odd impression that
the AFA has an interest in upholding all forms of free
speech. Neither paper had reactions from sexual
minority or other minority students, their advocates, or
people of faith who disagree with targeting public school
students for proselytizing.
An article in the
Traditional Values Coalition
Message to Pastors and Lay Leaders was headlined: "Professor
wins key victory against homosexual agenda," and said
that the decision "will have nationwide repercussions as
pro-family activists challenge pro-homosexual speech
policies on other campuses." It also urges readers to
"study this legal victory and work to challenge anti-free
speech policies in your own school district."
story said: "People who
promote the biblical truth about homosexuality received a
boost recently..." and finished up with quotes from the
plaintiff: "If any American institution should teach about
our constitutional rights and our sacred First
Amendment, it is the public school," and a criticism of
the "school board's twisting and bending of the
Constitution to fit their own personal political agendas."
Service in Allentown
United Church of Christ,
Metropolitan Community Church and
Mennonite clergy officiated at a commitment service for
thirty-three same-gender couples at Bethlehem's
Unitarian-Universalist church, according to the
Allentown Morning Call.
Focus on the Family
Focus on the Family continues to publish articles
attacking pro-GLBT and minority religious groups and
individuals. The January 31 issue of CitizenLink, in a
report on Duke's decision to allow commitment services
for same-gender couples in the chapel, quoted a Duke
student: "Where tolerance has gone evil, and where it is
now a stronghold of Satan on campuses, is that we now
tolerate all forms of morality as being equal." Citizen
Magazine featured a
story called: "Sex, Lies, and
Scripture," in which they attempt to warn readers about
Balm in Gilead,
the United Church of Christ,
the Unitarian Universalist Association,
and Pagans. Family
News In Focus included three anti-gay-advocacy stories:
a story headlined: "Schism Opens in Episcopal Church,"
in which the Rev. David Moyer of Rosemont's Church of
the Good Shepherd calls the Episcopal Church "very
sick," and refers to Bishop Charles Bennison as "a real
champion of the full homosexual agenda;" a
complaining about an unnamed "gay advocacy video" broadcast
to "thousands of schools across the country" by the
NEA which quotes a
United Church of Christ pastor that
"school is not a safe place for any kid who happens to be
the least bit different;" and a
story in which the
Family Research Council's
Bob Knight argues against President
Bush's appointment of Massachusetts Governor Cellucci
to be ambassador to Canada by calling him "morally
unfit to serve," and adding that "he may not be homosexual
himself, but he has promoted the homosexual agenda
and he's done it in a way that should make most Americans
angry. He's done it peddling this stuff to children."
UFMCC and the California Council of Churches
Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (UFMCC)
that the Rev. Dr. Gwynne
Guibord, Chief Officer of the UFMCC's Office of Ecumenical
and Interreligious Concerns, has been elected
President of the
California Council of Churches.
The Council represents 1.5 million church members from
nineteen Protestant denominations including UFMCC,
which was voted into its membership in 1997 and has a
mission "to be a prophetic witness to the Gospel by
proclaiming justice, equity and fairness in the treatment of all
peoples without regard to physical characteristics, ideology,
faith or sexual orientation, and to encourage, equip
and empower local congregations to live the Gospel by
defending the most vulnerable in our society."
On January 31, the Associated Baptist Press (ABP)
reported that the Atlanta Baptist Association had "voted
overwhelmingly to defeat a motion to dismiss two
homosexual-friendly churches from membership and fellowship
in the association." The two churches,
Virginia Highland Baptist,
were expelled from the
December, 1999]. A news release from the
Atlanta Baptist Association
said: "In affirming their
continued membership in the association, the association
does not condone or support homosexuality. It affirms
the long-standing Baptist polity of local church
autonomy." The ABP article quoted Robert White of the
Georgia Baptist Convention: "The issue that concerns me
is that it sends a signal not only to Atlanta and Georgia,
but to the nation, that a group of Baptist churches in
Atlanta has moved to affirm homosexuality."
An editorial in the Baptist Press (BP) called the
decision, "one small step for homosexual-affirming
churches and one giant leap for homosexual activists,"
and claimed that "what the naive do not understand is
that homosexual activists do not desire to live and let
live. They will not rest easy until every aspect of society
bows in submission and validates their lifestyle."
On February 8 the ABP reported that the Georgia
Baptist Convention and Southern Baptist Convention
North American Mission Board had announced plans to
withdraw funding from the Atlanta Baptist Association.
On February 9 The Atlanta Journal Constitution
reported that two churches were preparing to leave the
Call Us On It
Accurately representing the interests of
religious organizations, congregations and clergy from
sixteen different traditions is not easy. We try hard, but
we only stand a chance is if you tell us when we get
things wrong. Helping us do a better job is as supportive
as time, money, and thank-yous, and we appreciate it.
Welcome to the Rev. Cynthia Jarvis,
Church of Chestnut Hill! To be listed on the letterhead,
please call 215-235-3050 or you may send email to
We will call to confirm your request or answer any questions.
On February 14,
Marriage Equality California
held rallies and protests at marriage license bureaus (same-gender
couples applied for and were denied marriage
licenses) in Eureka, Beverly Hills, Sacramento, and San
Francisco, with between fifty and eighty people at each
location. The next California protests are scheduled for
April 16. Marriage Equality organizations have also been
New Jersey and
Presbyterian Church (USA)
In the Presbyterian Church (USA),
all of the presbyteries are voting either to adopt or reject Amendment
O, which would ban same-sex union ceremonies, but is
worded in such a way that it could be used to ban any
pro-GLBT event. Many observers are comparing this
vote to the 1997 vote on "Amendment B" (banning
ordination for non-celibate unmarried individuals) since that
was the most recent GLBT-related measure to pass.
voted not to adopt the same-sex
union ban, 221-218. As of February 28, fifty-two
presbyteries had voted for the amendment, while seventy-four
voted against it. One-hundred twenty-six presbyteries
have voted so far, which is almost three-fourths of
the total. Eighty-seven presbyteries must vote yes for it
to pass. Twenty-one presbyteries that voted for the
ordination ban voted against the same-sex union ban,
while only four presbyteries had flipped the other way,
and one-hundred voted the same as they did in 1997.
On January 24, the PCUSA News Service said that
the vote would be close, and that
Together', an offshoot of the conservative
Coalition, published a 60-page booklet, 'Amendment O
The Presbyterian Layman,
[including] essays on the proposed amendment and related
issues, sample speeches for use by presbytery commissioners,
talking points to use in debates, timetables for
churches to use in making their positions known in the church
and public media, an outline for a prayer vigil, and a
curriculum outline for a Sunday School class." On February
9 the PCUSA News Service reported that the amendment
was "likely to pass or fail by the skin of its teeth."
Soulforce Tampa held a
vigil outside the Tampa Bay Presbytery's February 24
meeting where the amendment was debated.
Tampa Bay Presbytery
voted for Amendment O, 140-100.
They voted for the ordination ban by 188-82.
UU Church in Sudbury, MA
The AP and Boston Globe reported on the drawing of
swastikas on two church signs with rainbow triangles at
First Parish of Sudbury on
Holocaust Memorial Day, and the theft of a rainbow flag
at the same church. The Metrowest Daily News interviewed
Roman Catholic, Jewish, Presbyterian and
Swedenborgian clergy opposed to the vandalism, including
the Rev. Michael Bova Conti of
Our Lady of Fatima
Catholic Church, who said, "...something like this
shouldn't happen in a civilized society." Rev. Conti also
encouraged his parishioners to attend a vigil against hate
organized by the Sudbury Clergy Association, and sent a
letter of solidarity to First Parish. The article closed with
a quote from Rabbi Liza Stern of
Congregation Beth El:
"It underscores how important it is to be supportive.
One day I'm the victim, the next day you're the victim.
We all need to be tuned in and responsive when anything
happens to any of us....You can't think 'It's not about
me.'" The Boston Globe reported that nearly one
thousand people attended the vigil.
A wide variety of faith-based and other organizations
have expressed reservations and problems with the
notion of a federal Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. The
Associated Baptist Press quoted Phil Strickland, director
Texas Baptist Christian Life
"Government funding will neuter the passion for churches to
support their own ministries. Churches will find little
passion for giving or serving when they become
Baptist Joint Committee
Administrator Wanda Henry said: "...charitable choice
threatens to make religion the servant of the state, rather
than its conscience."
Lutheran Services in America
(self-described as the nation's largest non-profit) issued a
press release quoting president and CEO Joanne Negstat:
"...without follow-up and funding that continues
government's partnership with organizations such as ours, too
many people will continue to go without food or a
home." Rev. Steven Baines of
Equal Partners in Faith
said the initiative "shows an arrogant insensitivity to our
constitutionally-protected right to religious freedom." A
United Methodist News Service story noted that "the
church's 2000 Book of Resolutions says that public funds
should be used only in the best interests of the whole
society." The Washington Post reported that Pat
Robertson, appearing on the
700 Club, "warned that such
groups as the Unification Church, the Hare Krishnas and
the Church of Scientology 'could all become financial
beneficiaries of the proposal to expand eligibility for
government grants to religious charities.'"
a list of ten reasons they oppose the plan:
The plan violates the separation of church and state.
Federally funded employment discrimination is unfair.
Religion could be forced on those in need of assistance.
The plan opens the door to federal regulation of religion.
The vitality of our faith communities will be hurt.
The plan pits faith groups against each other.
Some religions will be favored over others.
There's no proof that religious groups will offer better
care than secular groups.
Both liberals and conservatives are concerned about the plan.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
National Religious Leadership Roundtable
The National Religious Leadership Roundtable, coconvened
by Equal Partners in Faith
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force,
held its sixth semi-annual
Foundry United Methodist Church
in Washington, DC. Major topics of discussion included anti-Semitism
in interfaith organizing and the
Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. Co-coordinator Chris Purdom
represented the IWG at the meeting, which concluded his two
year term on the Steering Committee.