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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Day of Silence
According to the
Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network
students on approximately 1,900 campuses participated in this year's
Day of Silence (April 10).
According to the
Day of Silence web site,
the event "institutes a visible silence," during which those participating
protest anti-LGBT discrimination and abuse and reflect on the power of
silence to "make our own voices stronger and to begin to stop silencing
ourselves." Religious organizations endorsing the Day of Silence include
Omaha Unitarian Universalists for Tolerance;
Ravenna United Methodist Church,
American Catholic Church in
National Council of Jewish Women;
and (soon) the IWG.
The event was a huge success in terms of media focus on conditions faced
by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students. The Religious Right put
out numerous alerts and press releases, which may have helped generate some
publicity, but created the unfortunate impression that religious reaction was
only negative. Fortunately, most media outlets ignored them. Despite
Religious Right calls for widespread counter-protests, the only serious
conflicts seem to have occurred in Wisconsin, where the
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that students at fourteen schools
were harassed by, and some clashed with, members of
Wisconsin Christians United,
who carried signs saying, "Got AIDS Yet?" The Tacoma News Tribune
reported as many as 250 students at Emerald Ridge High School cut school or
were kept home by parents to protest the protest.
Religious Right Reaction to the Day of Silence
Culture and Family Institute's,
Peter LaBarbera confused individual students with advocacy organizations,
saying: "This movement has budgets in the millions of dollars, very powerful
lobby groups, they're over-represented in legislatures all across the country
in terms of the influence they have relative to their tiny numbers. So it's a
big stretch to say this is a victimized movement."
The American Family Association
sent out an alert urging people to make "the Christian response" to the Day of
Silence: "Truth Without Interruption Day."
The Family Research Council's
Ken Connor spoke on the same theme, saying: ""the pro-family movement and the
church have a golden opportunity to speak the truth about homosexuality and
have it be heard." And Linda Harvey of
said: "We want to take advantage of this opportunity while the other side
is silent for a day to get the facts out there to kids."
The most bizarre reaction came from Rabbi David Eidensohn, director of the
Non-Sectarian Council of Pro-Family Activists,
who called the Day of Silence "an assault on our school system by terrorists."
He called on religious groups to file for court orders of protection for
children of "biblical inclinations" to protect them from the sponsoring
"hate groups," and said: "We must sue them
immediately. We must demand compensation for every nickel of taxpayer money
that was lost because of their campaign of agitation against the lawful
school system. We must claim damages in lowered earning skills for all
students who could not learn because of the homosexual activists and their
The Traditional Values
Coalition highlighted the National Non-Sectarian Council of
Pro-Family Activists and
Wisconsin Christians United,
and claimed that the real objective was to "establish policies that will
silence opposition to the spread of sodomy among teenagers."
Media Coverage of the Day of Silence
On April 4, a Tacoma News Tribune
editorial highlighted students' "well-established constitutional right to
express even controversial beliefs in a non-disrup-tive way," and
Puyallup School District's ban on promotion, endorsement, or sponsorship of
Favorable articles about participation were in the Tennesean,
Juneau (AK) Empire,
Albany (NY) Times Union, Kalamazoo (MI) Gazette,
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,
Santa Cruz Sentinel, Cincinnati Enquirer,
Arizona Republic, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
Kansas City Star, USA Today,
Eugene (OR) Register-Guard,
Santa Fe New Mexican and The Technique (GA Tech).
The AP distributed a mostly-favorable story about events around the country
but concluded with a quote from
Robert Knight of the
Culture and Family Institute
about staying quiet indefinitely.
The San Francisco Chronicle
reported on events at various Bay Area schools, including a principal joining
participating students in the lunchroom after other students threw food at
them. They also mentioned protests by
Wisconsin Christians United
but omitted the altercations reported in the
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and they concluded with the AP Knight quote.
The Bucks County Courier Times ran an article about observances at
the George School, a private Quaker institution.
Presbyterian Church (USA)
The PCUSA News Service reports that Paul Rolf Jensen has filed charges against
two more clergy for violating their ordination vows, one in the Presbytery of
Twin Cities (MN) and one in the Presbytery of New York City. Jensen has filed
charges against fifteen ministers and one elder in nine presbyteries.
First Presbyterian Church of Sebastian, FL has appealed the ruling preventing
it from applying its own ordination standards. As part of its April 14 ruling
in Wier v. Second Presbyterian, Fort Lauderdale, the General Assembly
Permanent Judicial Commission included guidelines for future complaints under
G-6.0106b. According to an analysis from
TAMFS (That All May Freely Serve),
complaints must be specific, sin must be self-acknowledged, governing bodies
are in the best position to examine a candidate's quailfications and determine
whether the "self-acknowledgement is plain, palpable, and obvious," and GLBT
individuals may not be singled out for different questioning without
Chestnut Hill UMC and Drexel Hill UMC
Drexel Hill UMC
Chestnut Hill UMC
on their recent votes to become Reconciling congregations.
According to an announcement from the
Reconciling Ministries Network,
members of Drexel Hill UMC spent six weeks studying the
denominationally-approved "The Church and Homosexuality" study before
voting to become a Reconciling congregation in response to their grave
concerns about the hurtful actions taken by the 2000 General Conference
toward GLBT people.
According to a press release, ninety-two percent of Chestnut Hill UMC's
members voted to become a Reconciling congregation after six months of study,
including seventeen events focusing on issues of faith and sexual orientation.
Chestnut Hill's pastor,
IWG supporter Rev. Dr. Hal Taussig,
noted that the Reconciling designation "includes advocacy for gay ordination,
affirmation of services celebrating the sacred union of same sex couples, and
the elimination of any intimation that homosexuality is a sin."
"This study has actually brought us much more than clarity on the issue of
faith and sexual orientation. It has also built important new levels of trust
in the congregation. We learned to talk with one another on a deeper level
about other topics, because we took on this difficult subject," said Leslie
Cheeseman, chair of Chestnut Hill's Reconciling Congregation Task Force.
"We believe that God loves persons of all sexual orientations equally. We see
the history of discrimination against gays and lesbians in churches as a
violation of this love of God. We hope that we and the larger
United Methodist Church
can continue to learn how to become freer of the homophobia that has so long
scarred both churches and gays and lesbians," said Joy Bergey, the church's
Chestnut Hill UMC has approximately twenty openly-GLBT persons attending
worship. This is only one of the increasing population segments of the church,
which has been growing slowly and steadily for the past ten years. "Since we
already welcome people of all sexual orientations, some persons have wondered
why we needed to take this official step to declare our welcome," said Rev.
Linda Noonan-Ngwane, the church's other pastor. "Our congregation felt this
was necessary because of the United Methodist denomination's stand against
full GLBT participation. This vote helps people understand that this
particular congregation is a welcoming one."
Another Minister's Marriage Policy
Rev. Rhett D. Baird, of the
Fellowship of Fayetteville, AR, became the latest minister to officially
stop performing civil marriages by issuing this personal proclamation:
Based upon my experience, my well considered deliberations and the values
which shape my life, I have come to believe that the state of Arkansas has no
right to withhold the legal protections of the status of marriage to persons
because of their gender.
I have come to believe that the state of Arkansas has no right to say that a
love that exists between two adults has no standing in law because the gender
of one of the persons is not pleasing to the state.
I have come to believe that love does not come into being nor thrive
and grow and sustain the lives of people to please the state.
The state, I believe was created and exists to serve the people - all of the
people - and to promote life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - of all
Therefore, effective July 1, 2002, I will impose a one year moratorium on my
acting as an agent on behalf of the state. During that period, I will
honorably and joyfully create and officiate at religious ceremonies that honor
and celebrate the love between two people, but I will not sign marriage
certificates legalizing a bond that is not accessible to all persons, without
regard to gender. Couples eligible for such legal sanction may choose to seek
out the nearest civil office to do the duty of the state.
During this self imposed moratorium and protest against what I have come to
believe are unjust laws in this state on this subject, I shall function only
in my ecclesiastical role as an ordained minister in the
tradition and shall respectfully refrain from acting as an agent of the state.
This is a thoughtfully considered private act of conscience, a symbolic
gesture of values held that must be lived out, and is not intended to
represent any other person or group other than my authentic self.
According to the Allentown Morning Call, Allentown is now the
two-hundred and twentieth municipality in the country to list sexual
orientation in its non-discrimination ordinance and the first city in
Pennsylvania to explicitly list gender identity.
Other School News
The Torrence (CA) School District voted to ban
a Beverly Hills-based GLBT educational organization, from speaking at the
annual North High Human Relations Convention. The
considered boycotting the event because of the ban, according to the
Torrence Daily Breeze.
The American Family Association
reports that the
Pacific Justice Institute
is representing three teachers in Hayward, CA who were required to attend
in-service staff development programs that "promoted" GLBT teenagers; the
teachers claim that attendance violated their civil rights. A
Hayward Daily Review editorial said: "...we're very concerned about
using religion to defend one's right to insensitivity."
The Gilbert, IA school district voted against adding sexual orientation to
its anti-harassment policy. According to the
Des Moines Register, seven parents "questioned whether school policy
should have moral values different from those of a student's church,"
According to an AP story, all five members of the
Three Bay County School Board in Panama City, FL declared that homosexuality
was a sin, and one board member stated in a public meeting that the board was
"morally, ethically and Christian based."
The Broward County (FL) School Board ratified a pact with
GLSEN to provide
district employees with material and training "to expand their understanding
of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students." The decision was a
reversal of a vote taken last October, and was opposed by
Rev. D. James Kennedy's
Center for Reclaiming America,
headquartered in Coral Gables, FL.
United Methodist Church
The Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious concerns heard a report
on reaction to their intent to conduct a series of dialogues "on issues
related to homosexuality and the unity of the church" according to the
United Methodist News Service (UMNS). The UMNS article outlined five
reactions: distress that the conversation about homosexuality would be kept
alive following a strong vote for current policy in 2000; anger and resentment
against being asked to engage in discussions that deepen pain and woundedness;
distress that heterosexuals would discuss gays and lesbians as an "issue;"
gratitude that the commission seeks to maintain unity; and confusion that so
much effort is being focused on this one issue.
According to the ELCA News Service, the Church Council of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
has approved $1.15 million for a six year project to study "several topics
related to homosexuality and human sexuality."