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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Charitable Choice Letter
On April 24, Americans United for
Separation of Church and State
released this letter to the President
and Congress signed by 850 clergy, including Rabbi
Rebecca Alpert, Rev. Marcia Bailey, Rabbi Sandy Parian,
and Rev. Marcus Pomeroy (IWG letterhead). If
you are a member of the clergy and would like to add
your name, please contact Rena Levin,
and copy your email to email@example.com.
We welcome the goal of empowering communities of faith to
work effectively with government and other civic institutions. As
leaders from traditions representing the diversity and breadth of
the religious landscape in our nation today, we affirm the critical
role of faith as a source of healing in our society. Whether by
commandment from Holy Scriptures or lessons from prophets and
messengers, we share a calling to care for those who are suffering,
to help those who have been left behind and to embrace those who
have been forgotten.
It is out of our commitment to the success of such faith-based
enterprises that we are writing today to express our serious
reservations about the provisions commonly referred to as
"Charitable Choice" in the Administration's Faith-Based Initiative.
The "Charitable Choice" proposals would inject government
dollars and bureaucratic oversight directly into houses of worship
and other pervasively religious organizations. We believe this
portion of the Faith-Based Initiative poses numerous dangers to
both religion and government.
These provisions would entangle religion and government in an
unprecedented and perilous way. The flow of government dollars
and the accountability for how those funds are used will inevitably
undermine the independence and integrity of houses of worship.
Allowing government officials to pick and choose among religions
for limited government funds will foster an unhealthy competition
between religions and could lead to an insidious form of political
abuse. Exempting government-funded religious initions from
employment laws banning discrimination on the basis of religion
weakens our nation's civil rights protections for those seeking to
provide assistance to those in need.
Such new legislation is not necessary. For decades many houses
of worship have set up separate religiously affiliated institutions to
perform government-funded social services, a system that has
protected both the autonomy of houses of worship and the
integrity of government programs.
Partnerships between religion and government must be
undertaken with great caution so as not to undermine the very
integrity and freedom that allows both the followers and the
institutions of religion to practice and keep faith in our nation.
We urge you to protect the sacred role of religion in our nation
by rejecting this avenue of infusing government funds into
America's religious institutions.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Bishop Paul W. Egertson, Bishop of the Southern
California West Synod, wrote a
letter to inform Presiding
Bishop H. George Anderson that he had "accepted an
St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church, St.
Paul, MN, to participate with others in the ordination of
Anita Hill." The ordination was attended by over
one-thousand, with a laying on of hands that included more
than two-hundred clergy "from Roman Catholics to
Presbyterians and Baptists--even a rabbi and a Buddhist,"
according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
In Egertson's letter (available at
writes, in part, "...I know that I am crossing an implicit
and explicit boundary line of trust within this church.
That is what makes my heart heavy. But that is also the
point. I do this consciously and conscientiously in
protest of a church law I perceive as unjust. I do so in both
fear and faith. My fear is that this action may stimulate
forces of resistance to new levels of reaction and move
the cause backward rather than forward. My faith is that,
in the long run, this action will help our church more fully
become the inclusive fellowship we intend it to be. Until
gay and lesbian people in committed relationships are
fully accepted in our pews and pulpits, that outcome will
never be realized."
Marriage in Massachusetts
Seven same-gender couples from five Massachusetts
counties, recently denied marriage licenses at their city or
town halls, filed a joint suit in Suffolk Superior Court on
April 11 seeking the right to marry in Massachusetts. The
plaintiff couples are represented by New England's
& Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). The
defendant is the Department of Public Health, which has the
ultimate responsibility for enforcing all state laws governing marriage.
United Methodist Church
In All Things Charity, the national ministry of
Chicago's Broadway United Methodist
Church that was
led by the Rev. Greg Dell, will be turning its work and
resources over to the
Reconciling Ministries Network.
The United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity
and Interreligious Concerns have requested $200,000
from the General Council on Ministries for a "series of
dialogues on homosexuality and church unity," according
to an April 23 United Methodist News Service report.
Responding to D. James Kennedy
Rev. D. James Kennedy
met with gay Christian activist Richard Murphy after
Murphy's Easter weekend prayer vigil outside Coral
Ridge Presbyterian. This was his second vigil outside
Coral Ridge, preceded by a published open letter to
Kennedy and Coral Ridge appealing to them to "reopen
dialog...jointly appoint a blue-ribbon panel [and] place an
immediate moratorium on the oppression and holy war
presently being waged by Kennedy and Coral Ridge
Ministries against God's gay children." According to
Murphy, Kennedy agreed to reopen dialog with gay Christian
advocates and their allies and begin searching for willing
participants from his ministries to take part in a joint
"blue-ribbon" panel to discuss untruths, false witness,
inflammatory language and spiritual violence.
Presbyterian Church (USA)
In response to the defeat of Amendment O and other
recent disagreements within the
Presbyterian Church (USA),
the Presbyterian Lay Committee has
the creation of a Confessing Church Movement. It is
unclear what relationship this might have to the
in the United Methodist Church, other
than a similar theological outlook to the UMC
movement concerning issues of sexuality and gender. The
conservative movements in the mainline denominations are
linked through the
Institute on Religion and Democracy's
Association for Church Renewal, and on April 12 the
Layman published a story
which called the United Methodist Confessing Movement a sister movement.
An April 18 PCUSA News Service story entitled
"Battle over PC(USA) ordination standards is expected
to dominate General Assembly," noted that the
Presbyterian Lay Committee is "calling for a loyalty oath that all
Assembly program staff members would be required to
sign, endorsing three 'essential confessions:' the
infallibility of Scripture, Jesus Christ as the only way to
salvation, and heterosexual marriage as the only permissible
form of sexual expression."
In stark contrast is the just-announced Affirmation
2001, a movement to "reclaim the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.) for the principles and person, Jesus Christ, on
which it was founded."
(Go to www.auburnspirit.org.)
The Butler (PA) Eagle reported that the pastor of
Glade Run United Presbyterian
Church left the denomination (presumably over the defeat of Amendment O)
and took two-hundred parishioners with him.
In Florida, a state legislator reportedly told a group of
visiting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students,
"God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, and he is going
to destroy you and a lot of others;" and also said, "I don't
understand why the gay population is becoming so vocal.
You are going to cause the downfall of this country that
was built on Christian principles." The story has received
extensive media coverage. A letter in defense of the
legislator to the editor of the Orlando Sentinel from the
Executive Director of the
Christian Coalition of Florida
concluded, "If people want to 'blame' someone for
helping others understand God's commands, perhaps they
should take it up with Him."
Focus on the Family and Bible Clubs
Focus on the Family
recently issued an alert claiming
that the California Board of Education has adopted new
regulations "requiring Bible clubs to grant membership
privileges to homosexual students." They quoted the
President of the
Pacific Justice Institute
(with the ellipses): "The assumption by many is that homosexual
activists would stay away from a Bible club, but the
actual agenda trend in the homosexual movement these
days is to infiltrate . . . society."
Boy Scouts of America
Steven Spielberg announced that he is resigning from
the advisory board of the
Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
In April, United Church News published a story about
the reactions that four different
UCC congregations had
to the Scouts controversy. On April 1, the New York
Times reported on a decision by a United Church of
Christ congregation in Cornwall, CT to drop sponsorship
of its Cub Scout pack. On April 16, the Raleigh News
and Observer reported that the BSA refused to renew
the sponsorship charter of Olin T. Binkley Memorial
Baptist Church of Chapel Hill, NC because the church
wanted to honor its own non-discrimination policy. On
April 23, the Journal News of White Plains, NY reported
on deliberations at two
Reform synagogues. On April
reported that the Communication Workers
of America has ended their relationship with the BSA,
and on April 25 the Santa Barbara News-Press reported
that "Jewish leaders have ousted the county's only Jewish
Boy Scout troop from the annual Santa Barbara Jewish
The search committee of the St. Thomas Episcopal
Church in Park Hill, CO, resigned after Colorado Bishop
Jerry Winterrowd "ruled that no gay clergy would be
hired in the diocese," according to the Denver Post. The
paper quoted local
Director Jack Finlaw: "There
is nothing in canon law to prohibit a gay person from
being a pastor."
School Bullying in Washington State
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer said that an
anti-bullying/harrasment bill failed in Washington's legislature
"after Christian Conservatives complained that it amounted
to a gay rights measure."
The state Christian Coalition
website cites the PA State College case
Alliance of Baptists
has asked the
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's
Coordinating Council to "rescind a
new 'organizational value' that forbids direct funding of
groups that condone gay and lesbian relationships"
according to a report in the Associated Baptist Press.
Public Schools and Bibles
The ACLU of Louisiana filed a lawsuit in Alexandria
LA, on behalf of an 11-year-old Muslim girl who was
given a Bible by the principal of her public school, who,
when the girl initially declined the offer, told her to "just
take it." The girl was also allegedly called a "Jesus hater"
by some classmates; the teacher responded that the girl
"believed in Jesus, just 'not the same Jesus.'"
Southern Poverty Law Center
Southern Poverty Law Center's
Spring Intelligence Report has a feature on
Fred Phelps and his home
city of Topeka (KA), entitled: "A City Held Hostage," as
well as a report about an attempted takeover of the
Presbyterian Church in America
by the League of the South,
a pro-Confederate, pro-slavery, theonomist organization.
A coalition of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and
allied spiritual people from diverse communities are
planning an day-long conference in Philadelphia on October
6. The coalition has three committees (agenda, finance,
outreach) all of which would welcome new members. To
join a committee, contact Kathy Stayton, by sending
email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The New York Court of Appeals will hear the case of
gay students who have been barred from
Yeshiva University's housing for married students. According to the
Jewish World Review, the students are supported by the
the Union of American Hebrew Congregations,
the National Council of Jewish Women,
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice,
the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund,
the Asian American Legal Defense and Educational Fund,
and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund.
GLAAD and TVC
recent announcement of AM/FM Activism
described it as "a community resource program that
builds on the success of last year's highly successful
Local Laura Activism: Step by Step, enabling local activists
to combat defamatory radio programming in their own
communities." On the other hand, it was characterized
Traditional Values Coalition
as "a nationwide spy
network to target conservative or Christian talk show
hosts for harassment."