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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
February 2002


New Pamphlets

We are pleased to announce the publication of two new "introduction to the issues" pamphlets, Religion and Reproductive Freedom and Religion and Sexuality, plus updated versions of Religious Support for Equal Marriage Rights and Religious Liberty.

California Civil Unions

Concerned Women for America (CWA), the Family Research Council (FRC) and Focus on the Family (FoF) helped lead a coordinated attack on the California Civil Unions Bill (AB 1338) which was eventually withdrawn. CWA's Culture and Family Institute (CFI), run by former FRC employees (who reportedly quit because FRC was insufficiently anti-gay) warned that the bill would add the phrase "or spouse in a civil union" to every mention of "spouse" in the California legal code, and quoted the Campaign for California Family criticism of the governor for saying "God" four times in the state of the state address without mentioning marriage. CFI also reported that CWA "helped arrange for pastors from thirty churches in the San Diego area to place a Focus on the Family insert in their church bulletins explaining the threat posed by AB 1338," and noted that Dr. James Dobson devoted an entire broadcast of his national Focus on the Family radio show to the California civil unions issue with FRC president Ken Connor as his featured guest.

In their alerts and articles, FoF repeatedly emphasized Hispanic opposition to the bill, and quoted the Capitol Resource Institute's claim that the bill offered "no authentic religious exemptions, and every church, synagogue and religious organization will be forced to offer homosexual couples all the same benefits that they currently extend to married couples." Following the shelving of the bill an FRC press release (entitled: "California Families 1 - Homosexual Activists 0") quoted Ken Connor: "As goes California, so goes the nation. For the sake of marriage as we know it, it's imperative that Californians remain vigilant, to see to it that the will of their vote is not overturned by homosexual activists."

Under the title "Gay rights issue reveals sharp divisions in religious views," the Los Angeles Times published letters opposed to legal recognition of same-gender couples from the pastor of the Calvary Chapel of the Chino Valley, the priest of Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church in Claremont, and the director of the Islamic Education Center in Walnut, CA; and letters in favor of legal recognition and/or benefits from the pastor of the Chino United Methodist Church, the Rabbi at the Hillel Foundation of the Claremont Colleges, and the senior minister of the Claremont Church of Religious Science.

Breaking the Code in Lansing

According to an AP story and letters to the editor in Lansing-area newspapers, the Catholic Diocese of Lansing, MI informed the Lansing Civic Players that they could not perform a play about Alan Turing ("Breaking the Code") in a Catholic high school auditorium because Turing was gay. The diocese also objected to the Triangle Foundation (a statewide GLBT group) selling tickets to the dress rehearsal. The Players were informed of this months after the venue had been arranged and only weeks before the play was to be staged. Turing was the British mathematician who helped defeat the Nazis by breaking the German Enigma code, and who set some of the first guidelines for the development of modern computers.

GLBT Muslims in the News

Since September 11 there has been a noticeable increase in media coverage of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Muslims. On January 13, the New York Times ran a long article about the difficulties faced by GLBT Muslims, with extensive quotes from Al-Fatiha executive director Faisal Alam. So far the stories have not done an especially good job of placing the difficulties faced by GLBT Muslims in the context of the difficulties faced by GLBT people in other religious traditions. The February episode of In the Life will also include a segment with Faisal Alam. In the Philadelphia area the episode can be seen on WHYY (11 pm, Mon., February 4 and on WYBE (9 pm, Wed., February 6).

Religious Funding in Wisconsin

A federal district court in Wisconsin has struck down government funding of a religiously-based social service program. According to an Americans United press release, on January 8, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ordered Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Development to stop funding Faith Works, a Milwaukee agency that assists men with drug and alcohol addiction. The agency operates within a Christian framework, providing religious counseling, Bible study, chapel services and daily prayer time. The judge held that a state grant. "...constitutes unrestricted, direct funding of an organization that engages in religious indoctrination" in violation of the church-state provisions of the First Amendment. This is the first federal court decision striking down federal aid to religious groups under the "charitable choice" provisions of the 1996 federal welfare reform law.

Columbine United Church

Columbine United Church, a federated church of the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ with about one-thousand members in Columbine, CO, suffered extensive anti-gay vandalism on January 17. According to the Denver Post, bleach was poured over the phones, computers, and carpets in several offices and anti-gay slurs were written on the walls with felt tip pens. The church is not listed as Reconciling, More Light, or Open and Affirming in the three denominations with which it is affiliated. The church's pastor speculated that the vandalism occurred because the church's minister of music is gay.

A joint statement was issued by Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr., resident bishop of the Denver Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church (UMC); Rev. Janet Schlenker, stated clerk of the Presbytery of Denver, (PCUSA); Rev. Kenneth Leischner, judicatory executive of the Rocky Mountain Conference of the UCC; and Rev. Dr. Jim Ryan (Disciples of Christ) and Rev. Gary M. Keene (UMC) the executive director and the president, respectively, of the Colorado Council of Churches. The statement said in part:

"The hate was aimed not only at gay persons, but also the congregation, which has welcomed the leadership and the participation of all lay people, including gays, in the life of the church. Therefore, this was psychological and spiritual vandalism against the very foundation of the church's identity.

"That identity is grounded in three faith communities that have collaborated in forming this congregation... Through these, Columbine United Church is deeply rooted in the great tradition of Christian grace and hospitality, the roots of which are Jesus himself. It was Jesus who persisted in welcoming and being with those whom his culture insisted were unclean and unworthy of God's compassion. It was Jesus who touched lepers, ate with tax collectors, and made hypocrites and prostitutes a part of his ministry. This grace and hospitality is at the core of what it means to follow in Jesus' way, and this church has been attacked for living out its identity as a community following Christ."


Christian Coalition

In December, founder Pat Robertson resigned as president of the Christian Coalition (CC) and is now Founder and President Emeritus. Former Executive Vice President Roberta Combs has been elected CC president. Since the change, Combs has been quoted in CC press releases, but Robertson's picture is still on the front page of the web site. The CC is still very active in anti-GLBT activism in some areas, though Americans United notes that its budget has dropped from $25 million to less than $3 million amid numerous top staff turnovers.

Presbyterian Church (USA)

On January 2, the Layman reported that Circleville Presbyterian Church in Circleville, NY voted 72-2 in favor of leaving the denomination to affiliate with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, because they object to the Hudson River Presbytery's policy in favor of holy union ceremonies. According to the Layman, the church took out a full-page ad in the local newspaper to distance themselves from congregations performing the ceremonies.

Materials from anti-GLBT Presbyterian organizations and publications do not consistently recognize that while a majority of those in the denomination appear to hold anti-GLBT beliefs, many people's beliefs are not easily definable along such lines, and there are presbyteries within the denomination in which those with pro-GLBT beliefs are in the majority. The Layman web site has both an article about a church leaving the PCUSA ecause it is pro-GLBT and letters complaining that the small minority of officially pro-GLBT churches should face disciplinary action or be asked to leave as suggested in the Presbyterian Coalition's vision statement. Meanwhile, on the presbyweb.com web site, debate continues as to whether the denomination should split peacefully.

On January 4 the Presbyterian News Service (PNS) reported that the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the denomination, wrote a letter to the stated clerks of the presbyteries and synods to "'share his concerns" about "some in the church" who "seem to be less than vigilant in upholding the provisions of our constitution." In addition to objecting to church officers who are advocating seceding from the denomination or withholding funds, Kirkpatrick specifically warned (possibly in response to Katie Morrison's ordination [KTF, Nov. 2001]) that G-6.106b (otherwise known as amendment B, 'Fidelity and Chastity,' or the anti-ordination clause) must be upheld, and that the judicial process of the church must not be politicized.

As of January 27, the amendment to completely overturn the ordination bans was losing by 57-23. It was defeated in the Donegal Presbytery in Lancaster, PA by 118-77. The Philadelphia Presbytery vote is scheduled for February 26, and the West Jersey Presbytery vote for February 19. Please keep those who will be participating in the debate and voting on those days in your thoughts and prayers. This summer's General Assembly will be considering an overture to require a two-thirds majority for all amendments to pass, which could further prolong the ordination ban if lifting it is eventually contingent on getting such a large majority of the vote.

United Methodist Church

In December, following a Judicial Council ruling that Bishops must make a complaint against clergy who are open about their homosexuality, Bishop Elias Galvan of Seattle filed complaints against the Rev. Karen Damman and the Rev. Mark Edward Williams, pastor of Woodland Park United Methodist Church, both of whom came out last year. The congregation issued a statement in October: "Woodland Park continues to stand behind our pastor, Rev. Mark Williams, and continues to affirm its support of the ordination of openly gay men and lesbians."

In our September issue we reported on the Clergy Alliance's mission to create a Professing Church Movement. The Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) has an announcement on their web site for a laity/clergy convocation in Atlanta (February 8-9) to organize the "Church within a Church." In January, the Culture and Family Institute (CFI) distributed an article entitled "Homosexual 'Fifth Column' Invades United Methodist Church" which refers to the Church within a Church as a "secret initiative." The CFI article does not distinguish between the Professing Church Movement and the RMN and appears to base the "secrecy" charge on the RMN's policy of not revealing its membership lists, a fairly standard practice among many organizations, and an especially sensible precaution in a denomination where openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender clergy are likely to be fired.

GLBT Orthodox Jews in the News

The film Trembling Before G-d, which opened at the Ritz at the Bourse in January, has been getting good reviews as well as spawning articles and letters about the movie, the audiences, and GLBT Orthodox Jews. An article in the Melville, NY Newsday included interviews with women from the book club of an Orthodox synagogue, an Orthodox rabbi, and filmmaker Sandi DuBowski; it also mentioned the popularity of the movie in New York's Jewish community. A favorable article appeared in the Boston Globe, which has historically taken a dim editorial view of pro-GLBT religion. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution printed a letter from a Christian claiming that it was impossible to be a gay Orthodox Jew. In her review in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Carrie Rickey called the film "an unexpectedly moving family portrait of cousins we didn't know we had."

House of Worship Political Speech Protection Act

There is a bill in the U.S. House to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to permit churches and other houses of worship to engage in political campaigns. According to an Americans United press release, the Religious Right is pushing for a March, 2002 Ways and Means Committee hearing date. As we note in our Religious Liberty pamphlet: "When religious organizations become involved in elections, rather than focusing on stating their beliefs about the issues, they are in danger of losing their moral authority, as well as alienating their members. And when elected officials start feeling that they are indebted to a particular religious group, everyone's religious liberty is threatened."

American Family Association v. San Francisco

In November of 1999, we reported that the American Family Association filed suit against the City and County of San Francisco because the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution urging local television stations to reject the anti-gay ads from the Center for Reclaiming America.

In January 2002, law.com reported that the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of San Francisco, saying that their condemnation of the ad campaign was not a violation of church/state separation. Two of the three judges ruled that religious hostility was not the primary effect of the city's actions. The dissenting judge compared the city's actions to a hypothetical city council condemnation of Islam following September 11. The City Attorney issued a press release that said, "Cities have the right to state their views on human rights just like anyone else."

Soulforce in Oklahoma

On January 6, more than fifty GLBT people and allies stood outside the Village Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, conducting the first of six planned monthly vigils during Sunday School and services. Soulforce in Oklahoma, Inc. organized the vigils after the pastor refused to meet face to face, or to agree to a joint study group with members of the congregation using "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Resource for congergations in dialogue on sexual orientation," published by the Baptist Peace Fellowship and the Alliance of Baptists. Face-to-face meetings have already been held with the pastor of First Baptist Church of Tulsa.


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