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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
We are pleased to announce the publication of two new "introduction to the
Religion and Reproductive Freedom
and Religion and Sexuality,
plus updated versions of
Religious Support for
Equal Marriage Rights and
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Unions Bill (AB 1338) which was eventually withdrawn.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
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
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
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
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."
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
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
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
vote is scheduled for February 26,
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
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
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
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
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.