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

Alabama Supreme Court Decision

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled 9-0 not to overturn a lower court's ruling denying a lesbian mother custody of her children. Although eight justices signed an opinion that focused on issues other than her orientation, Chief Justice Ray Moore wrote a separate opinion in which he said: "...homosexual conduct is, and has been, considered abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of Nature's God upon which this nation and are laws are predicated." He also wrote: "The State carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not encourage a criminal lifestyle." He concluded: "The common law adopted in this State and upon which our laws are premised likewise declares homosexuality to be detestable and an abominable sin. Homosexual conduct by its very nature is immoral, and its consequences are inherently destructive to the natural order of society. Any person who engages in such conduct is presumptively unfit to have custody of minor children under the established laws of this State."

The decision was issued just before both an Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee vote to add sexual orientation to the state's hate crimes law and the third anniversary of the murder of Billy Jack Gaither.

Alabama Supreme Court Protest

Religious leaders from local, state, and national interfaith and denominational groups and advocacy organizations gathered on the steps of the Alabama state courthouse to hold a press conference on February 22 which drew approximately one-hundred fifty supporters and dozens of television cameras and newspaper reporters. The event was sponsored by the Alliance for Civility and Tolerance of Alabama, Equal Partners in Faith (EPF), Equality Begins at Home of Central Alabama (EBHCA), and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF). Approximately sixty faith leaders attended and faith traditions represented included Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Metropolitan Community Church, Presbyterian, Unitarian Universalist, and United Methodist. A representative of EBAHCA read the Interfaith Working Group statement. [see next article]

Lorri L. Jean, Executive Director of NGLTF said in part:
"I am here on behalf of millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and our families and friends all over the nation who are appalled that the Alabama Supreme Court purports to be a fair and just tribunal. There is no justice in the Alabama Supreme Court for gay people. In an opinion that is stunning in its hatred and ignorance, Chief Justice Moore has branded an entire class of people as abhorrent, immoral, detestable, evil. It's bad enough that he has sought to impose his personal religious beliefs upon all Alabamans - in clear violation of our constitutional mandate of separation of church and state. But he has even gone so far as to write that the state should jail and execute homosexuals simply because of whom we love. In so doing, he has proven he is unfit to serve as a judge, and he should be removed."

IWG Statement Read In Alabama

We believe that Judge Ray Moore's decision in D.H. v. H.H. was in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, which all judges swear to uphold. As an individual opinion written by the Chief Justice in concurrence with the unanimous majority, this decision is insufficiently distinguishable from official state legal opinion. Judge Moore's conclusions are based not on American law, but on such concepts as "sin," "immorality," and "natural order." Neither Alabama nor any other state has any business deciding what is and is not "sin."

By referring to his own personal religious beliefs and using language and scriptures specific to Jewish and Christian traditions, Judge Moore has established a religion over and against those citizens of the state who are neither Jewish nor Christian as well as the many Jewish and Christian citizens who are not in agreement with him on matters of sexual orientation, sexual behavior, gender, and family structure.

Judge Moore's comment on the possible use of state violence to defend the supposed supremacy of heterosexuality would be disturbing in any context. As part of a court opinion, rife with religious content, and issued from the Alabama courthouse on the third anniversary of the murder of a gentle gay Christian named Billy Jack Gaither, it was completely irresponsible.

Pediatricians Support Second Parent Adoption

On February 4 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement saying that children who are born to or adopted by one member of a gay or lesbian couple deserve the security of two legally recognized parents. A new AAP policy statement supports legal and legislative efforts that provide for the possibility of adoption of those children by the second parent or co-parent in same-gender relationships.

Not too surprisingly, reaction from the Religious Right has been very negative. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission said, "It would seem to me that the only way you could say that being reared with such relationships is okay is if you don't see anything abnormal or unhealthy about same-sex relationships per se. That is a judgment, or lack of judgment, that the vast majority of Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians would reject." A Focus on the Family commentary said that the AAP has "neutered parenting." The Culture and Family Institute reported that the Christian Medical Association mailed letters to 1,000 pediatricians urging them to challenge the decision. And the American Family Association urged people to complain to the AAP's president (we wrote a thank you letter).

Media response was generally positive, with many supportive editorials and columns and articles about local same-gender couples who have adopted children appearing in papers around the country.

Media Response to Judge Moore and the Protest

A Washington Post editorial compared Judge Moore unfavorably to Alabaman Olympic Gold Medalist Vonetta Flowers, saying that his "display of blatant bigotry warrants his removal from the court." Editorials in the Montgomery Advertiser and the Birmingham News both made comparisons to interracial relationships. An editorial in the Mobile Register concluded that it wasn't worth asking whether "a homosexual person in Alabama [has] any hope of being treated fairly and impartially by the court over which this chief justice presides."

The Birmingham News gave good coverage to the protest in an article entitled Gays, others rally for less of Moore, quoting Laura Montgomery Rutt of Equal Partners in Faith: "Forty years ago, the laws of Alabama were used to justify oppression and segregation based on race, and progressive people of faith were speaking out about it. Today, people of faith are again speaking out about the injustices here, this time based on sexual orientation...I am here to say, Justice Moore, enough is enough." The News also quoted from a statement by Episcopal Bishop Henry N. Parsely Jr.: "Such statements...can lead to fear, prejudice and violence that tear at the fabric of our life together;" they also quoted the executive director of the Christian Family Association, who was present to protest the protest, and who said that clergy who "condone the homosexual lifestyle...need to get another job."

Presbyterian Amendment Defeated

More than eighty-seven Presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (USA) have voted against a proposal to completely lift the ban on the ordination of non-celibate gay, lesbian, and transgender people. The ban will continue to be part of the Book of Order for at least another year, although voting on the proposal will continue until all presbyteries have weighed in.

The Presbytery of Philadelphia voted against the amendment, 221-176. The 44% vote for removing the ordination ban was a slight improvement over the 1997 and 1998 votes. The Presbytery of West Jersey continued a pattern (seen in several other presbyteries) that makes characterization of the voting problematic. This marks the fourth consecutive time West Jersey has voted down a GLBT-related amendment (this time it was 83-80). Two of the amendments were pro-GLBT and two were anti-GLBT.

Increased media coverage of the confluence of GLBT rights and religion was seen in the last month as papers reported on local presbytery votes. The AP story entitled Group Wins Fight Over Gay Clergy was reasonably accurate about the actual amendment, but misidentified presbyweb.com as the official denominational website, said the vote was solely a fight between "liberals" and "conservatives" for control of the PCUSA, and never identified the "group" to which the headline referred. The Philadelphia Inquirer headline incorrectly said: Presbyterians Ban Gay Leaders.

The First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto issued a press release that concluded with a quote from a church elder: "We want the people of the Bay Area to know that despite the way this vote went, there are still many congregations holding their doors wide open to Lesbian and Gay people. God calls us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, provide shelter for the homeless, lift the spirits of those who are mourning, and speak out against injustice. Those calls are found over and over again in the Bible. I want everyone to know that any who are called by God to do that work will be welcomed by More Light Churches like ours and the thousands of other welcoming organizations found within every single mainstream Protestant denomination."

The statement from More Light Presbyterians concluded: "[We] will continue to bring before the PCUSA a vision of a church and world that accepts and affirms all people as created in God's image. We will continue to faithfully live into that vision and encourage the church to become all that God would have us be."

United Methodist Church

The Reconciling Ministries Network announced that forty United Methodists from across the country convened in Atlanta on February 8 and 9 to launch the Church Within A Church (CWC) movement, which is committed to "create and support faithful communities of grace, mercy and justice where all persons are empowered to live as God created them;" and will "embody a theological foundation within the Wesleyan tradition," "grow a network," "create resources," and "start new local churches and revive present ones."

More Trembling

Trembling Before G-d is getting good media coverage and has even influenced coverage of other Jewish groups with no discernible connection to the film. The Washington Post [Feb. 13] ran a story about the 100th Anniversary convention of the Conservative Movement, and even though there were no GLBT-related items on the agenda, the article focused on the rabbis' reaction to the film, and summarized the various policies of the movement in regard to same-gender-attracted people, including membership, a ban on ordination, opposition to anti-gay violence and support for full civil equality.

St. Louis in June with Soulforce

Soulforce will again confront the discriminatory policies of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) at the SBC's annual meeting, to be held this year in St. Louis. The "Journey to St. Louis" will include the Soulforce Institute for Nonviolent Change, June 7-9, which will include training in the principles and techniques of non-violence, and will be taught by Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, the Rev. Dr. Mel White, co-founder of Soulforce, and civil rights leaders from the '50s and '60s.

"Sharing Our Stories," in which Baptists will describe their faith journeys, will be held the morning and afternoon of June 10.

That evening, Soulforce's "24 Hours of Justice" will begin with continued training in the techniques of non-violence and direct action, and resume the next day with prayerful vigils at the America's Center, where the SBC annual meeting will be held.

Soulforce invites people to publicize this event, participate, or contribute financially. Contact Karen Weldin, co-chair, Journey to St. Louis, at 1-877-705-6393 or (918) 452-2761 or email her at karen@soulforce.org.

Judge Moore and Rev. Kennedy

A week before the ruling in the Alabama custody case, Americans United issued a press release regarding Moore's relationship with the Rev. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries and the Center for Reclaiming America. The AU release notes that Kennedy announced he will be hosting a summer cruise to Alaska (starting at $1,200) featuring Moore, who will be sharing his ideas on "America's Christian heritage," and that Moore offered Kennedy an exclusive opportunity to film the after-hours installation of his two-ton Ten Commandments monument at the state courthouse. Kennedy offered tapes of the installation for a suggested donation of $19, and announced he was planning to raise $200,000 for Moore's legal defense.

Rev. Troy Perry's Response to Judge Moore

"...[T]here are six predominantly gay MCC churches across Alabama. I have frequently visited these churches and I know these congregations. I have observed first-hand the many GLBT parents in Alabama who are raising wonderful, loving, healthy children -- and the thousands of GLBT citizens of Alabama who seek nothing more and nothing less than equality under the law..."

Marriage in Connecticut

Marriage and civil union bills are under consideration by the state legislature in Connecticut. The Hartford Courant published an article about marriage that was one of the best we've seen (minus the unfortunate phrase "gay marriage"), entitled, Clergy is Divided on Gay Marriage Bill. An accurate distinction was drawn between civil and religious marriage, and clergy on both sides of the issue were quoted: the rector of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in South Windsor, the pastor of the First Church of Christ in Wethersfield, and Rabbi Daniel Lapin of Toward Tradition (all opposed to the bills) and the pastor of First Baptist Church in Bridgeport and the Rabbi of Congregation Mishkan Israel, a reform Synagogue in Hamden (supporting the bills).









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