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


Ten Good Long Years

In May of 1995 the first issue of Keeping the Faith was published by what was then the Interfaith Working Group of the Fight the Right Network with ten names on the letterhead. This issue, May 2005, is the last.

Gandhi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then you win.” The mainstream media, which are steadily losing influence anyway, have gone from ignoring GLBT people and progressive people of faith, to treating us as a joke, to being either openly friendly or openly hostile. The Religious Right has gone from pretending GLBT people are a small minority and progressive people of faith do not exist, to claiming we are major threats requiring drastic changes to the law. Education was an excellent response to being ignored, and a good response to being made fun of, but it is not an effective response to attacks.

Ten years ago there was little recognition in the major news media that there was any organized religious support for the rights of GLBT people, for reproductive freedom, or for separation of church and state, and the Radical Religious Right’s claim to represent all people of faith went unchallenged. GLBT issues are now regularly covered; especially since the canonization of Bishop Gene Robinson, they are reported as a subject of controversy among people of faith, and since the 2004 elections there have even been many stories about “red” and “blue” religion. Where progressive people of faith are still ignored it is typically as a matter of policy, such as CBS and NBC refusing to air the UCC’s ad campaign

The Religious Right has gone from chastising Fred Phelps to providing legal and public relations assistance to Michael Marcavage; and from ignoring and then making fun of religious progressives and GLBT people to classifying us as threats to American society, “sock puppets” for billionaires and tools of political parties. They are currently concentrating their attacks on an independent judiciary that sometimes manages to put equal protection of the laws over anti-gay Biblical interpretation; they continue to recruit athletes, prisoners, military personnel, veterans and the employees of companies with pro-gay policies (resulting last month in Microsoft’s decision to rescind their support for equal rights legislation); and they continues their boycotts (resulting in last month’s decision by Procter and Gamble to rescind their support for equal rights legislation). The admirable efforts of Soulforce confronting James Dobson (with the support of many other religious groups); the UCC ad campaign; the Unitarian Universalist Association’s high profile support for equal marriage rights in Massachusetts; and the local MCC congregations’ collaboration with Soulforce Philadelphia on non-violence training are all appropriate responses to attacks.

We believe the mission of the IWG has been accomplished, hopefully at least partially by our efforts. The organizations and clergy on the letterhead who so wonderfully agreed to support our work are still here, and we trust will continue to speak out loudly and directly for the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of all people.

Looking Back

Operating with less than a handful of volunteers, and considerably less than $5,000 a year, the IWG and its web site were cited in web directories, textbook supplements, and several college course syllabuses. In addition to producing ten to twelve newsletters a year, we produced and distributed four brochures, put on three concerts, organized a same-gender marriage conference and a series of press conferences around the Life Partnership hearings, found clergy speakers for many events including the hearings, spoke at several others, served on the Steering Committee of NGLTF’s National Religious Leadership Roundtable, walked in the Philadelphia Pride Parade handing out welcoming congregation brochures, and had a small AIDS Walk team. We found interview subjects, studio guests and guest opinion writers for five newspapers and five television news programs. We were interviewed by and/or quoted in seven newspapers and three magazines, including Christianity Today, and were on three radio talk shows and two television talk shows.

For most of the last ten years we wrote somewhere between two and twenty letters a month on IWG letterhead. Our letters were published in the Philadelphia Daily News, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Au Courant, the Philadelphia Gay News, the Philadelphia Forum, the Philadelphia Weekly, the Atlantic City Press, the Centre Daily Times of State College PA, the Delaware County Daily Times, the Lancaster New Era, the Lancaster Intelligencer, the Lancaster Sunday News, Main Line Life, The Morning Call of Allentown PA, the York Daily Record, American Biology Teacher, American School Board Journal, Billboard, the Christian Science Monitor, Education Week, Teaching Tolerance, U.S. News and World Report, the Wall Street Journal, the Aberdeen (SD) American News, the Akron Beacon Journal, the Amarillo Globe-News, the Anchorage Daily News, the Argus Leader of Sioux Falls, SD, the Athens (GA) Banner Herald, the Bakersfield Californian, the Bergen Record (NJ), the Birmingham (AL) Post-Herald, Boston Globe Magazine, the Brookings (SD) Register, the Charleston (WV) Daily Mail, the Charleston (WV) Gazette, the Charlotte Observer, the Chicago Tribune, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cumberland (MD) Times-News, the Daily Oklahoman, The Daily Star of Oneonta, NY, the Des Moines Register, the Deseret News, the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, the Duluth (MN) News Tribune, The Eagle of American University, the Fargo (ND) Forum, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg, VA, the Freeport (IL) Journal-Standard, Garden Island (HI), the Grand Island (NE) Independent, the Greensboro (NC) News & Record, the Harvard Crimson, the Honolulu Star Bulletin, Iowa State Daily, the Kansas City Star, the Knoxville News-Sentinel, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Las Vegas Sun, the Lincoln (NE) Journal Star, the Manchester (NH) Union Leader, the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, the Mississippi Press, the News and Observer of Raleigh, NC, the News-Leader of Springfield, MO, The Olympian of Olympia, WA, the Omaha World-Herald, the Orange County (CA) Register, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Prince George's Journal of Lanham, MD, the Providence Journal-Bulletin, the Rocky Mountain News, the Rutland (VT) Herald, the San Luis Obispo County (CA) Tribune, the Schenectady Daily Gazette, the Shreveport (LA) Times, the South County Journal of Kent, WA, the South Idaho Press, the Southwest Times Record of Fort Smith, AR, the Standard-Examiner of Ogden, UT, the Times-News of Hendersonville, NC, the Tulsa World, the Ventura County (CA) Star and the Washington Blade.

Looking Forward

If you are on our mailing list and would like to be on the mailing list of other local organizations, or are a local organization that would like the mailing list, please send email to christopherwilliampurdom@yahoo.com. We will remove the names of anyone we do not hear back from within a month, and will pass the remaining names on to like-minded organizations that have requested the list.

If you are interested in a meeting of letterhead entities (and organizations that have worked with the IWG in the past) to consider next steps or future organizational structures, please send email to Chris Purdom at the same address. If there is enough interest we will try to schedule a meeting in the next month or so.

If you are interested in a large box of IWG t-shirts that were donated to the organization and never sold, please send email to the same address.

We are looking for an organization that is interested in maintaining and distributing our various brochures, especially the Philadelphia-area Welcoming Congregations brochure. If you are interested in the Word master and/or the HTML for the Welcoming Congregations, Equal Marriage Rights, Religious Liberty, Reproductive Freedom, and/or Religion and Sexuality brochures, please let Chris know.

Many Thanks

Thank you to all the organizations and individuals who contributed financially, both those who were publicly listed on the web site and those who chose to remain anonymous. We are especially indebted to Tabernacle United Church for providing approximately 1/3 of our budget, and to several anonymous individuals who contributed regularly and generously.

Thank you to all of you who put your names on the letterhead with no editorial control. Without you there would have been no organization.

Thank you to all of those who volunteered their time and talents, expertise and information, especially Jim Gerhard for his graphics work, his participation in the parade, and his general assistance to the Coordinators.

Other Organizations

If you are looking for other non-faith-specific local organizations with missions in related areas to support, we suggest the following, though we are sure there are other organizations in the Philadelphia area that are doing good work: YES! Coalition: kstayton@aol.com; Soulforce Philadelphia: soulforce.org; Americans United Delaware Valley: dvau.org, Alliance for Tolerance and Freedom: alliancefortolerance.org.

Repent America at Sunday Out

Repent America was at Sunday Out with approximately ten people. They were followed and surrounded at all times by a group of about the same size from Anti-Racist Action, and for two hours in the afternoon and for an hour outside the service at Christ Church by another twenty to thirty people from Imago Dei MCC and MCC Philadelphia, including Revs. Fleshman and Jordan.

Rev. Beth Stroud Wins First Round of Appeals

On April 29 the Northeast Jurisdictional Committee on Appeals refrocked the Rev. Beth Stroud, ruling 8-1 that while there was no doubt that she was in a relationship with Chris Paige, the phrase “practicing homosexual” was sufficiently vague to constitute a denial of due process under United Methodist rules. The decision received very thorough national and local media coverage.

“Americans for Truth” Part 2

Peter LaBarbera, the former Washington Times reporter and anti-gay writer for the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America who also ran an anti-gay side organization called Americans for Truth which he gave up when he became executive director of the Illinois Family Institute (the Illinois wing of Focus on the Family) has teamed up with Michael Heath, head of the Christian Civic League of Maine, to resurrect Americans for Truth at americansfortruth.com. The organization’s first press release was an “April Fool’s” response to GLSEN’s Day of Silence, calling for a “decade of silence” from gay activists.

ADF Counters Day of Silence

The Alliance Defense Fund organized a Day of Truth to follow GLSEN’s Day of Silence. Participants handed out cards that read, “I am speaking the Truth to break the silence. I believe in equal treatment for all, and not special rights for a few. I believe in loving my neighbor, but part of that love means not condoning detrimental personal and social behavior. I believe that by boldly proclaiming the Truth, hurts will be halted, hearts will be healed, and lives will be saved.”

Marriage in the UCC

The United Church of Christ General Synod will consider three resolutions pertaining to marriage at its meeting in July. One calls for full equality in civil and religious marriage, one defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, and one calls for prayerful study of the subject. The seven-page resolution for full equality can be found at http://www.ucc.org/synod/resolutions/gs25-7.pdf.

Soulforce in Colorado Springs

The Summit Daily News reported that 500 people came out in light snow for Soulforce’s protest at Focus on the Family. The AP distributed a slightly edited version of that story which, according to Google News, had appeared on the web sites of twenty-seven mainstream media outlets around the country within an hour. On May 2, Soulforce Youth Director Jake Raitan and his parents were arrested for trespassing as they crossed police lines to deliver a letter to Focus on the Family. A copy of the letter is online at soulforce.org.

Presbyterian Church (USA)

Debate over ordination has been guaranteed for the 2006 General Assembly, as the Presbytery of the Heartland approved an overture to remove anti-gay wording from the Book of Order and declare previous definitive guidance null and void.

Civil Marriage Update

The California Court of Appeals ruled that the Domestic Partnership Act, which grants all state rights and responsibilities of marriage to Domestic Partners, does not violate Proposition 22, since Proposition 22 only addressed the word “marriage” and not a relationship with a different name. Meanwhile several reports on the Internet indicate that the Roman Catholic judge who ruled i n favor of granting the name “marriage” to same-gender couples has been receiving enormous amounts of hate mail, including death threats.

Kansas became the 18th state with an anti-gay constitution. NGLTF’s Matt Foreman responded: "Our nation is continuing to witness something that has not happened since our constitution was first ratified in 1791 — essentially a national referendum inviting the public to vote to deprive a small minority of Americans of rights that the majority takes for granted and sees as fundamental. Not only are these amendment votes unjust and immoral, so is the silence and inaction of so many people who see themselves as enlightened, unprejudiced, and supporters of equal rights for all people. As the cascade of lies pours forth from the America's Anti-Gay Industry, we need, we expect, and morality demands that people of faith and good will all across the nation to speak out in the same way and with the same vehemence as they would if it was another minority under attack. If they do not, they will look back 20 or 30 years from now with deserved shame." An editorial in the Emporia (KS) Gazette reprinted in the Kansas City Star said in part “Well, it's done. Kansas has put religion into the state constitution. By a clear majority vote of the people - nice people, for the most part, who were acting from the very best motives - the state now has the right to tell the churches of Kansas - Christian and all others - what is and what is not a sacrament. The government has also been given the power to deny basic rights to law-abiding citizens. As of the close of the polls (last) Tuesday, marriage is no longer a sacrament in the state - it is just a contract, a piece of legal boilerplate."

Focus on the Family reported on a meeting of 150 clergy at King’s College in New York City designed to organize them to prevent marriage equality in the state. The Rev. Joseph Mattera, president of the City Action Coalition was quoted: "We are actually changing the paradigm, and going from escapist theology of non-engagement to a real theology of social engagement which, I believe, is a more biblical position."

The Oregon Supreme Court invalidated approximately 3,000 marriage licenses issued by Multnomah County last year in light of the marriage amendment passed by voters in the state earlier this year. The Family Research Council responded: “When the people are given a voice on this important issue, accountable judges cannot help but acknowledge the will of the people and the rule of law. The people of Oregon have clearly supported marriage as a sacred institution, and one in which same-sex couples are not able to participate.”


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