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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
March 2005


Repent America on the Loose

As you probably read in the newspaper all charges against Michael Marcavage and other individuals from Repent America stemming from the incident at Outfest were dismissed.

The Family Research Council’s email report on the trial outcome referred to the charges as “trumped up” and concluded “Too often, in places that have what in practice is ‘thought crime’ legislation--such as Canada and Sweden or cities like Philadelphia and New York--it is Christian morality that is in the dock. “ The article was followed by a link titled “What can I do to prevent ‘hate crimes’ from becoming law?” Rev. Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition said, “This case is a clear example of the danger that hate crime laws pose to religious freedom and free speech when Christians can be charged with a felony for preaching from the Bible.” He also called for a federal investigation into the case, saying, “There is reason to believe that the homosexual civil rights attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice worked with homosexual activists to violate the right of peaceful Christian protesters in this case.”

A bill has been filed in the state house to remove sexual orientation from the ethnic intimidation law. Michael Lieberman of the Anti-Defamation League was quoted in the AP story about the filing of the bill saying “This is not the kind of situation or conduct that hate crime laws are intended to address.” Stacey Sobel, director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights and author of the 2002 amendment that added sexual orientation was quoted in the same story: “You can’t just go after speech. There has to be some underlying criminal act.” As we have noted in previous issues of Keeping the Faith, the problem with Repent America is the harassing and intimidating manner in which the speech is delivered.

Marcavage’s suit against the city remains, and it is difficult to predict what will happen at Sunday Out, the Pride Parade, or Outfest in 2005, and what level of police presence the city will be able to provide. We are not currently aware of any efforts to organize a non-violent presence but we encourage you to volunteer for such efforts if the opportunity should arise.

NGLTF Releases Philadelphia Study

Based on an analysis of 2000 Census data, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute concluded that Black lesbian households in Philadelphia are more likely than Black married mixed-gender couple households to include children and are four times as likely to report serving in the military; that Black same-gender couples are more likely to work in the public sector, and that on average they earn less than married Black couples in Philadelphia and significantly less than White gay or lesbian couples. As a result of these and other factors, Black same-gender couples have more to gain from legal recognition of their relationships and more to lose when states pass amendments banning marriage and other forms of partner recognition.

According to NGLTF:

  • Philadelphia ranks sixth among U.S. cities in number of Black same-gender households, behind New York and Atlanta and ahead of Houston, Detroit, San Francisco, and Miami.
  • Philadelphia Black female same-gender households parent at rates higher than Black married mixed-gender couple households. Nearly three in four Black female same-gender households (74%) have at least one child. Sixty-six percent of Black married mixed-gender couple households have at least one child.
  • On average, in Philadelphia, Black same-gender couples earn nearly $6,000 less per year than Black married mixed-gender couples, and more than $30,000 less than White same-gender couples
  • Individuals in Black same-gender households in Philadelphia work in the public sector at a higher rate than those in White same-gender households (12% vs. 10.7%). Pennsylvania does not offer domestic partner benefits to state employees. Consequently, Black same-gender couples not only make less money than their White counterparts, but also have less access to healthcare benefits.
  • Fifty percent of Black same-gender couples report living in the same residence as five years earlier, a key indicator of relationship stability.
  • Black women in same-gender households in Philadelphia. report serving in the military at four times the rate of Black women in married mixed-gender households (9% vs. 2%). Nationally, Black women are discharged under the military’s ban on lesbian and gay service members at rates far exceeding their representation in the armed forces: although they make up less than 1% of the military, they represent 3% of all discharges.

Commenting on the report H. Alexander Robinson, Strategic Director of the National Black Justice Coalition said, "Anti-gay leaders and organizations have long sought to divide the Black and gay communities, speaking as if there are no Black lesbian and gay people experiencing discrimination under key family policies. In fact, this study clearly identifies a large population of Black same-sex couples in the U.S., more than half of whom are raising children. These families should be offered the same protections and opportunities to benefit from state and federal programs designed to promote family formation, stability, home ownership, and other values that contribute to community strength and the common good."

UCC Challenges NBC and CBS Licenses

The United Church of Christ has challenged the renewal of licenses for one NBC-owned and one CBS-owned station in Florida based on the networks’ refusal to air the first of the denomination’s two pro-inclusion ads. The UCC Office of Communication has set up a new web site, www.accessibleairwaves.org for material relating to the network’s rejection of the ads (in addition to the denomination’s main ucc.org, and the site for the ad campaign itself: stillspeaking.com). The site includes a message of support from the Oregon-Idaho Reconciling United Methodists, a commentary from the Rev. William Sloane-Coffin titled “It’s clear that homophobia is the reason for the ad’s rejection” and a commentary from the Rev. Bernice Powell Jackson, Executive Minister for Justice and Witness Ministries, comparing the license challenge to the one organized by the UCC forty years ago against WLBT in Jackson, MS for not airing programs that included Dr. Martin Luther King. The denomination has raised over $500,000 to support the ad campaign and is planning on spending over a million dollars to air them during Lent.

Anti-Gay Adoption Bills

The Family Pride Coalition reported on the following pending bills. Alabama: Senate Bill 57 would prohibit "homosexuals" from adopting. Arkansas: in response to a recent court ruling that overturned the state's regulation that banned lesbian or gay people - and anyone living in a household with a gay or lesbian adult - from being foster parents, HB 1119 would have prohibited the state from placing children in "homosexual homes." A house committee dropped any mention of homosexuality amending it to prohibit a child from being adopted by, or placed in a foster home with, any unmarried adult who is cohabitating "in a relationship that is not a legally valid and binding marriage" under the state constitution. Indiana: SB 580 would only allow married couples of the opposite sex to adopt. SB 585 would prohibit “homosexuals” from adopting or serving as foster parents. Oregon: House Bill 2401 would require the State to exercise a preference for married, heterosexual parents over same-sex parents. Tennessee: SB 829 and HB 543 would create a ban on adoption by lesbians and gay men. HB 775 and SB 1615 prohibit adoption by "homosexuals," and deny non-gay parents the ability to designate a "known homosexual" as the adoptive parents of their children. SB 1930 "prohibits homosexual persons from being eligible to adopt another person."

Soulforce Going to Dobson

On Sunday, May 1, in Colorado Springs, Soulforce, Inc. will be confronting the claims of James Dobson and celebrating all types of families at a national event called “Mayday Mayday”. Hundreds of individuals, couples, and families are expected to participate in this event to challenge “the misinformation about GLBT individuals, couples and families that flows to millions of people daily through James Dobson's radio broadcast, website, e-mail alerts, video, audio, and print materials."

Soulforce’s documentation of false claims by James Dobson about GLBT people, entitled, "A False Focus on My Family: Why every person of faith should be deeply troubled by Dr. James Dobson's dangerous and misleading words about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community", is available online at www.soulforce.org/televangelists/dobson/booklet.shtml.

"James Dobson is not my enemy, but his spiritually violent, misleading, and untrue rhetoric is. The false accusations and claims made against LGBT people not only hurt my family, but hurt society as a whole," stated family counselor and psychotherapist Jeff Lutes, author of the Soulforce booklet on Dobson, and chair of the Soulforce Action in Colorado Springs.

Events on Sunday, May 1 include a rally, press conference, picnic, nonviolence training, and concert. According to a Soulforce flyer about the event, those participating are also invited to stay through Monday, May 2, when Soulforce and their supporters hope to "take the truth about our families directly inside Focus on the Family, holding hands as we walk through their building and eat in their lunchroom."

More information, registration and updates are available on the web at www.soulforce.org.

Sock Puppets?

The Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) has started referring regularly to “Religious Left Sock Puppets” specifically mentioning Sojourners, Call to Renewal, and the Clergy Leadership Network as tools of a particular political party and/or George Soros. Oddly the TVC lists “the normalization of homosexuality in our culture” as one of the goals of these organizations even though none of them have taken strong positions on GLBT issues, and have largely characterized reproductive freedom and sexual orientation as distractions to what they view as more important issues. TVC’s February 15 church bulletin insert was actually titled “The Religious Left: Sock Puppets for Atheist George Soros?”

Media Reports on Pro-GLBT Religious Rallies

The Madison, WI Capitol Times reported on a rally against the proposed state marriage amendment by Christians for Equality in Wisconsin. According to the article 200 people attended the rally and 30 pastors spoke at a press conference. The article included extensive quotes from the Rev. Bob Voss of Lake Edge Lutheran Church in Madison ("I am here on behalf of members of my congregation who could experience devastating effects on their families if this bill is passed. I am also here representing an ever-increasing large portion of Christianity who believe after prayerful study of scripture ... that the spirit of God has called the Christian community to recognize their brothers and sisters as full participants in the life of the church and as citizens in this state to be treated fairly and justly under its laws."), the Rev. Todd Smith Lippert of the United Church of Christ in Dodgeville ("We are discouraged by the way the words of Scripture are being misused. Messages of love throughout carry the most weight."), and Rev. Jennifer Thomas of Lake Park Lutheran Church in Milwaukee ("People fear what is different from them, and fear leads people to hate. ... We are tired of hearing fear, hate and intolerance preached in our name. ... God does not hate homosexuals. God does not hate anyone.").

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on an interfaith (“Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Unitarian”) pro-marriage rally in Olympia, WA attended by 700 people. The article quoted a married lesbian Jewish couple (“"We're people, we're parents, we believe in God. It's not a sin to have the family we have."), Rev. Stephen D. Jones of Seattle First Baptist Church ("We have allowed the far-right fundamentalists to distort the truth. God loves each and every one of you, all of us, and reaches out to us with acceptance and love. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.") and the Rev. Monica Corsaco, Campus Minister at the University of Washington (“We’re here to talk about love. Not the mushy kind ... this is the kind of love that stands in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square. This is the kind of love that says, 'I will not sit in the back of the bus.'").

Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Presbytery of Milwaukee voted 104-20 to approve More Light Presbyterians board member Eily Marlow for ordination as a Minister of Word and Sacrament. She is one of only a few openly lesbian candidates to be approved since the 1978 ban on the ordination of "practicing, self-affirming homosexuals."

RCA Seminary President Fired

The Rev. Norman J. Kansfield, President of the Reformed Church in America’s New Brunswick Theological Seminary, was fired for officiating at his daughter’s wedding in Massachusetts, and is expected to be bought up on charges at the RCA General Synod meeting in June, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. Kansfield’s daughter, Ann, is an unordained graduate of the seminary and works at an RCA church in Brooklyn.

The Holland (MI) Sentinel had previously reported the firing as a retirement following a reprimand and noted that the board of directors voted to endow the Mary and Norman Kansfield Chair in Old Testament, and that the general secretary of the RCA “expressed his thanks to Kansfield for his long and continuing service to the church and the seminary.”

The firing was picked up by news media around the country with such headlines as “Theologian ousted over gay wedding” (Chicago Tribune) and “Seminary ousts cleric who presided at gay daughter’s vows” (Philadelphia Inquirer).

Civil Marriage Update

According to Focus on the Family, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has agreed to hear an appeal of their own pro-marriage ruling, possibly as early as April.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan ruled that the New York State Constitution guarantees basic freedoms to lesbian and gay people and that the couples represented by Lambda Legal must be given marriage licenses. An appeal is expected.

Liberty Counsel announced the launch of a ballot initiative effort to amend the Florida Constitution to read, “Inasmuch as marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.”

Church and State

Americans United and the Pennsylvania ACLU have filed suit against the Firm Foundation program at the Bradford County Correctional Facility for proselytizing and hiring only Christians. Over 90% of the budget for the program comes from federal, state and local funds. "Ministries have a right to spread their religious message, but they have no right to pass the collection plate to taxpayers," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, of Americans United. "Programs with a 'Christians-only' hiring policy should not be eligible for public funds.”

A Federal Judge ordered the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from the lawn of the Gibson, County Indiana courthouse. According to the Family Research Council, Congressman John Hostettler asked the President to order the U.S. Marshall’s office not to comply with the order.

McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on March 2. The case will decide the constitutionality of the Foundations of Law display in the McCreary and Pulaski County courthouses and possibly the display of versions of the Ten Commandments in all courthouses and government buildings throughout the country. The pro-entanglement position will be argued by Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Counsel.



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