Thursday, June 28, 2007

What's Wrong With These Pictures?

I just read that the Supreme Court decided in yet another 5 -4 decision that school desegregation plans are unconstitutional.

That's the same 5 -4 majority that voted yesterday that schools can limit students' speech, and the same 5 -4 majority that allowed bans on a specific type of medical procedure for late term abortions.

Look at their pictures. Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas -- talk about activist justices! Protestations during confirmation hearings to the contrary, Justices Alito and Roberts don't seem to worry too much about precedents.

Breyer, Ginsburg, Souder, and Stevens have stood up to this majority 22 TIMES this year -- and lost.

I am frightened for America -- and frightened for other sexual justice issues that could come before this court. If you have been feeling impatient about the early start of the 2008 Presidential campaign, take another look at the ages of the people in the bottom row who are working to protect your rights. Get involved.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Connecting Sexologists and Faith Leaders

One of the "hazards" of being a plenary speaker -- and indeed the preacher on a Sunday morning -- is when the material before the speech/sermon takes much more time than had been expected. I've prepared a 20 minute sermon or a 45 minute talk, and after the 10 minute delay getting started, the conference updates on ceu's and bathroom locations, and a lovely but long introduction, I discover that if we are to end on time, I need to cut out 10 or 15 minutes of my prepared remarks.

Which is exactly what happened at the AASECT meeting this past Friday. I quickly glanced at my watch after I had been speaking for a while, and realized that it was getting close to noon and lunch, and to keep the audience with me, I need to end by twelve.

I jumped to the next to the last page to begin the ending of the talk. It was only this morning when I was filing stuff from the conference that I realized that I had left off the part of the speech talking about how sexuality educators, counselors, and therapists could involve faith communities in their work. Here's the crucial paragraph I wish I hadn't cut:

"Our guidebook "Reaching Out to Faith Communities" will give you practical suggestions for involving faith communities in our work. For those of you who are active in faith communities, I hope you will bring your sexuality expertise into that community, offering training for the religious professionals and education for children, youth and adults. To the counselors and therapists, I hope you will talk with your clients about early cradle religious messages and have a mutual referral network with supportive clergy, so that they may send you their congregants with marriage and sexuality issues and you may send them folks struggling with religious messages. I hope you will become involved with the work of the Religious Institute, signing up for our e-newsletter or giving me your card or reading my daily blog on these issues. I hope the administrators here will think about adding faith leaders to your boards of directors and advisory boards. I hope you will explore the connection between spirituality and sexuality in your own personal lives, and I even hope that some of you who have left the faith community might try again."

In other words, there are a lot of ways for faith communities and sexologists to work together. See our web site for more ideas.

Next speech, I'll remember to bracket parts of the talk that I can cut if time is running short!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

There's No Place Like Home

I’m just back from five days on the road, speaking about the connection between sexuality and religion. On Friday, I had the honor of presenting one of the plenary addresses at the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists at their annual meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina. I flew from Charlotte to Portland, Oregon on Friday night, in order to co-lead a workshop on sexual justice at the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association on Saturday and to co-sponsor a reception with the UUA, RCRC, and UU Women’s Federation for UU sexual justice activists.

It was a tiring but fulfilling weekend. At AASECT, it was great to spend time with colleagues and friends, some going to back 25 years, and to share more about my ministry on sexuality and religion with more than 500 sexologists. It was clear to me that many were at best skeptical about how organized religion addresses sexuality issues, but the long standing ovation at the end demonstrated how supportive and encouraged people are to hear a progressive religious voice on these issues. At the Unitarian Universalist Association, a denomination committed to a wide range of sexual justice issues, I shared the workshop with two women in their twenties who are seeking to organize a new generation of sexual justice activists. My role was to present the history and theology of a religious approach to sexuality issues. I shared with the group that I felt for the first time that I was assuming the role as “elder” and that I would need to grow into that!

The most gratifying part of both meetings were the large number of people who knew the work of the Religious Institute and told me in countless discussions in the hall, exhibits areas, and even the ladies room that they are using our publications and materials in our work. I hope you are as well.

It was a good weekend. It’s good to be home.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Not Very Bright, Not Very Nice

On L'il Bush on Comedy Central, the President is portrayed as a not very nice not very bright third grader (along with L'il Condi, L'il Cheney, and so on.)

One could say the program is a bit mean spirited.

But last night, I was so angry at the President's second veto of stem cell legislation that it seemed just right. The legislation was strongly supported by both Republicans and Democrats in both Houses who know how important this research is to millions of Americans and their families. His vote is simply pandering to the religious right base, rather than addressing the very real need and promise that exists for stem cell research of all kinds.

Comedy Central has it about right.

Call your Representative and Senators to urge them to override the veto.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Stories Change Minds...and Hearts

Yesterday, a colleague on a list serv sent around an article on why it was that only 45 out of 150 MA legislators voted to put marriage equality on the chopping block again. The link to the article didn't work, and I'm not sure if it's from the Boston Globe or the NY Times.

But rarely does a news article remind me of a good sermon. This one does. It features interviews with legislators about why they voted for the rights of same sex couples and why they changed their mind.

Here is an excerpt:

Representative Geraldo Alicea, a Democrat from Charlton, is a freshman who once promised to vote in favor of the amendment. But after he was elected, he said, "I thought it was best to be open-minded." He spent many nights over the past five months meeting with gay and straight constituents. They included a couple who had been together for 28 years, and who, before they were married, had not been able to see each other at the hospital when one of them was seriously ill.

He also spoke to a young lesbian couple who had adopted 4-year-old twins, and he said he found it difficult to imagine casting a vote that could hurt that growing family.

Representative Paul Kujawski, a Catholic Polish-American who represents a conservative district in southern Worcester County, switched his vote after months of soul-searching. What changed his mind, he said, was meeting a lesbian couple from his district who helped him understand what it meant to them to get married after more than two decades together. "It was nothing more than that -- wanting people to live happily," he said.>> The couple came to the State House yesterday for the vote and found Kujawski in the crowd after it was over. "There were really no words," Kujawski said. "Just hugs and tears."

Candaras had voted for the amendment when she was a House member... Some constituents wrote saying that they had changed their minds, like the elderly woman who said she> previously asked Candaras to support the ban. "But since then, Gale," the woman wrote, as Candaras told it, "this lovely couple, these two men, moved in next door to me, and they have a couple of children and they're married, and they help me with my lawn. And if they can't be married in Massachusetts, they're going to leave -- and then who would help me with my lawn?" Candaras said that after living with gay marriage for three years, many Massachusetts residents have grown accustomed to it, even those who once had reservations.

God bless the elderly woman with the lawn that needs to be cut and the legislators for opening not only their minds but also their hearts.

Stories make a difference. I invite you to tell your's.


I'm off tomorrow for a long weekend of travel -- keynoting the AASECT meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina and then on to Portland, Oregon for the UU General Assembly. If you will be at either, I hope you'll take the time to introduce yourself. I probably won't again until I'm back on Tuesday, but I hope you take the time to browse through previous entries.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Time for FOX and CBS to Evolve

As my regular readers know, I watch way too much television. If you aren't a TV watcher, you perhaps missed the debut of this clever TV ad by Trojan where pigs in a single bar evolve into caring, attractive men when they purchase a condom.

Or perhaps you were just watching the wrong channel, because CBS and Fox TV have refused to run these ads. According to the New York Times, here's what the Networks said:

"In a written response to Trojan, though, Fox said that it had rejected the spot because, “Contraceptive advertising must stress health-related uses rather than the prevention of pregnancy.”

In its rejection, CBS wrote, “while we understand and appreciate the humor of this creative, we do not find it appropriate for our network even with late-night-only restrictions.”

That's right, the channels that bring us such sexually exploitative fare as the OC and the Victoria Secret specials think that advertising condoms is inappropriate and that pregnancy is not a health concern. (Both however take those ubiquitous erectile dysfunction ads that feature couples mostly too young for viagra and cialis in ridiculous outdoor settings. I've had more than one conversation with teenagers about what that older couple is doing in single bathtubs at the top of the hill holding hands!)

So, older couples having sex in ads and warnings about four hour erections? O.K. Bladder control? O.K. Unnecessary feminine hygiene products? O.K. Ads for anti-depressants that proclaim proudly "no sexual side effects"? O.K. Countless ads with half nude women selling everything from cars to toothpaste? O.K. Not to say anything about the more than seven sexual acts or references per hour on Prime Time television.

But, condom ads that don't mention disease? Nope, just too risque. Listen, if we can answer questions about four hour erections during the Super Bowl, we can handle the teachable moment this commercial might suggest. CBS and FOX, it's time to reconsider.

If you dare, watch the commercial yourself online at

Monday, June 18, 2007

Pride in Connecticut

I spent part of Saturday, a beautiful day here in Connecticut, at the local Pride celebration on the grounds of the local Episcopal Church. It was great to see the rainbow balloons stretched out at the end of the town green, and I smiled as I mingled, thinking about how far even my town has come on these issues. The celebration was low key, filled with families with children, local politicians and church leaders, teenagers to grandparents. I thought of Holly Near singing "We are straight and gay together..." and indeed we were.

I thanked the priests from the local church for sponsoring the event this year. (You could pick them out by their vestaments; I on the other hand was wearing a tunic, leggings, and flip flops on this hot summer day. I'm not sure people believed me when I introduced myself as Rev. Haffner!) As you know, the national Episcopal Church is struggling so with sexuality issues, and this church on the green was definitely taking a position bigger than our town.

How healing though to have church sponsorship for this event, when so many GLBT people still carry the wounds from their religious community. In fact, next week, Soulforce and Beyond Ex Gay are sponsoring the first "Ex Gay Survivor's Conference" in Irvine, California, for people who have undergone so called "reparative therapy" to become heterosexual, therapy that is often encouraged by religious leaders. I have had the privilege of hearing heart-wrenching stories of these experiences by people who have now fortunately found their way to religious homes that affirm their sexuality. If you go to the conference, we'd love to hear a report.

I couldn't wait until tomorrow's blog to share this. Abstinence only proponents once had T shirts that said "Pet your dog not your date." But they have come up with a new product. Here's a blurb from their latest newsletter: "There is nothing wrong with saving sex until marriage. In fact, there are millions of people worldwide who are making that commitment. Check out our No Trespassing Underwear and take your stand for abstinence; even if you are the only one that sees it." I'm not making this up. I'm not giving you the link, because I don't want some of the folks who oppose my positions but read me regularly to support this effort. You'll have to google it yourself.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Welcome to Facebook Readers!

According to StatCounter, last week, I had hundreds of new readers, primarily from -- Welcome! I am delighted that younger readers are finding my blog on sexuality and religion, and I hope you will visit often and tell your friends. It would be great if you could add this blog to your own page, and I hope you will leave your comments and help me make the blog more interactive.

I am the mom of a teenager and a recent college graduate, so I, of course, knew about Facebook. But, what I didn't know was how great a way it was to interest new people in our work for sexual justice in faith communities and society. It's great to know that there are so many of you out there committed to these important issues.

If you'd like to find out more, visit our web site at and sign up to receive our free e-newsletter.

And come back to read more! Again, welcome and I look forward to getting to know you.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Real Common Ground

About twenty years ago, I had the privilege of being the guest of the Swedish government to learn more about Sweden's approach to sexuality issues. On one of the days, the small group of us visited a school, watched a sex education class, and asked the teenagers questions.

In Sweden, like most of Scandanavia and the rest of Europe, teenagers begin having sexual intercourse about the same time as U.S. teenagers but have a fraction of the pregnancies, births, and abortions than our teens do. They have sex education for the primary grades on up and easy access to contraception. I asked the group, "Can you imagine a circumstance where you might not use birth control?"

There was silence.

I thought perhaps they didn't understand. I explained that in the United States, many teenagers didn't use birth control.

They looked puzzled. Finally one said, "But, that would be silly unless you wanted to get pregnant. It would be like driving through a red light. Why would your teenagers do that?"

I've thought about them this week as I have continued to be bothered by Mrs. Clinton's public statement last week "Yes, Yes" she would agree to a policy goal of "reducing the decisions for abortion to zero". She then went on to chide both sides because they had not been willing to seek common ground.

But, Mrs. Clinton knows better than that. The piece of legislation she is sponsoring, Prevention First, is all about that common ground. And that common ground is about preventing abortions by preventing unintended pregnancies in the first place through comprehensive sexuality education and accessible contraceptive services. As we say in our Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Abortion as a Moral Decision, it is precisely because life is so precious, that it should never be created carelessly.

The fact is that abortion must be safe, legal, rare, and accessible (a word that I have talked with Mrs. Clinton and her staff about several times but have failed to get them to adopt.) We must NOT make abortion rarer by making it harder to get. Because contraceptives fail (over half of women who have an abortion had used a contraceptive method the month they got pregnant), because of compromising fetal health issues that don't emerge until well along in the pregnancy and life threatening complications of pregnancy, there will always be some abortions.

But surely we can learn the lessons of other developed countries: provide lifespan sexuality education, provide easily accessible contraceptive services, provide adequate support for pregnant women and their children and abortion rates come down. The abortion rate in Belgium is 7 per 1000 women of childbearing age; in the U.S., it's 21. (But in Peru where abortion is illegal, it's 56.)

And raise our teenagers to become adults who think that having sex without using contraception is silly.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wow -- Blessings Be!

Just in from the Associated Press:

BOSTON - Massachusetts lawmakers voted Thursday to block a proposed constitutional amendment that would have let voters decide whether to ban gay marriage in the only state that currently allows it.

The narrow vote was a victory for gay marriage advocates and a devastating blow to efforts to reverse the historic 2003 state court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.

The proposal needed 50 votes to advance to the 2008 ballot. It got 45, with 151 lawmakers opposed.

Opponents of gay marriage vowed to press on, but Thursday's defeat after more than three years of sometimes wrenching debate could prove insurmountable. Any effort to mount a new ballot question would take years at a time political support in Massachusetts is swinging firmly behind gay marriage.

For gay couples, the vote marked what could be the end of a struggle that began in 2001, when seven same-sex couples, denied marriage licenses, sued in Suffolk Superior Court.
More than 8,500 same sex couples have married in Massachusetts since it became legal in May 2004.

Bravo to the brave legislators of Massachusetts...and may the other 49 states follow suit soon.

Today's Loving

My teenage children find it hard to believe that there was a time not so long ago when an interracical couple could not marry in the United States.

I fervently pray and expect that their children will have a similar reaction to hearing that same sex couples couldn't marry as well.

This week was the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court Decision that made it illegal for the states to ban interracial marriages.

Today, a constitutional convention begins in Massachusetts to debate whether same sex couples should continue to be allowed to legally wed. Yesterday, many such couples witnessed in Boston about what is at stake.

And what is at stake is the same as it was forty years ago...the right of every person to choose a life partner and to have that choice recognized by the state with all its attending benefits and responsibilities.

Mrs. Loving, pictured forty years ago with her husband, offered this statement to Freedom to Marry:

"When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn't to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married. Not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the 'wrong kind of person' for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. I am proud that Richard's and my name are on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about."

You can read the whole statement and see Freedom to Marry's brilliant new ads at their web site. You can read a blog from the Task Force live from the convention today.

I also hope you'll take a moment to pray for the people voting today. What I know for sure is that where there is love the sacred is in our midst, and one day, justice on this issue will prevail -- just like it did for the Lovings and all the couples that came after them.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Show Me State Decides Not To

Nearly twenty-five years ago, I was the Director of Education for Planned Parenthood of Metropolitian Washington. A major part of our work involved going into the public schools in the D.C. area to supplement the meager sex and health education that the schools were able to offer. We were often asked to do one class on contraceptive methods, but our response was always to ask to do multiple sessions so that we could talk with young people about responsible decision making, abstinence, their changing bodies, and their relationships. Our preference was actually to do teacher training so that the schools could have an ongoing ability to handle these issues themselves.

These memories came back to me when I learned yesterday that the legislature of Missouri has now banned Planned Parenthood staff and volunteers from coming into its public schools. Read the article at

Now I admit that I don't know any particulars here, but I'm guessing that this bill passed based on ignorance about what Planned Parenthood educators do in the schools. I can imagine that there were speeches that defamed Planned Parenthood's excellent work and claimed that they pushed birth control and abortions on innocent young minds -- or even encouraged young people to have sex.

How do I know that? Because like so many of my sex education colleagues, I have been accused of all of this and worse during my career. A colleague this week in New Jersey wrote her friends about a smear campaign going on about her. I told her that during the worst of these efforts against my work, I reminded myself of all of the giants of the sex education field who had survived other such assaults.

I'm also willing to bet that not one of the legislators who voted for this bill had actually seen a Planned Parenthood education session in the school. Rather, they voted to deny young people needed information.

Some days its hard to love one's enemies.

Monday, June 11, 2007

This Just In...

The Center for American Progress also published my editorial on the new "Open Letter for Religious Leaders on Sexual and Gender Diversity."

It's featured on their home page.

CAP is one of the nation's leading progressive policy organizations, and I am honored and grateful to have our feature featured this way. They have a great daily e-newsletter that covers a wide range of progressive issues that I highly recommend.

Let me know other ideas you might have to promote the new "Open Letter."

LGBT Persons and Reproductive Justice

Bravo to RH Reality Check for front page coverage of the reproductive health and rights issues of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons.

And a big thank you for featuring an editorial by me on our new "Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Sexual and Gender Diversity."

I was very moved by several of the blog entries posted there, and I learned some things I didn't know about reproductive justice denied. Did you know, for example, that gay men are not allowed to donate to accredited sperm banks because the assumption is that they are HIV positive? (Wouldn't a simple HIV test for all male donors be a good idea?) Or, that assisted reproductive technologies are only covered by most health plans for married women, except that women in lesbian partners can only do that in one state in the country? Or that female to male transsexuals (FTM) still need annual pap tests and mammograms but may have no physician willing to do them?

Check out RH Reality Check this morning. I was glad I did.

Friday, June 08, 2007

And the Children Shall Suffer....

It feels like a Judas moment.

Yesterday, according to a press release from SIECUS,

"The U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations decided to increase funding for the Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) grants despite overwhelming scientific evidence that the abstinence-only-until-marriage programs it supports do not work.

It was widely believed that the programs would be cut or eliminated by the new Congress, but by adding $27.8 million, the House Appropriations Committee is doing President Bush’s bidding and providing $141 million in funding to CBAE. This is almost exactly what the President had requested, and appears to be a ploy by the Democratic majority designed to swing enough Republican votes to make the spending bill veto-proof."

In other words, the House DEMOCRATIC leadership has just INCREASED funding for ineffective, moralistic abstinence-only-until-marriage funding. They have developed a "compromise" about the bodies and futures of America's young people. This, despite, their own Congressionally mandated study, released a few months ago, that these programs don't work to help young people abstain.

It's never really about young people -- or promises of "prevention first." Let's remember that it was the Clinton administration that gave us welfare reform, "don't ask, don't tell", and oh, abstinence-only programs in the first place.

My faith tells me that young people deserve so much more. We have a moral obligation to truth telling, to giving young people life fulfilling and life saving information. How sad that political dealing caused the Democrats in Congress to turn their backs on the nation's young people.

For more background, see my colleague James Wagoner's excellent column at RH Reality Check.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

More on the Open Letter

On Monday, the Religious Institute released its new "Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Sexual and Gender Diversity." Its received a lot of coverage in the "gay press" but not much mainstream coverage - yet.

I've been receiving emails all week from people who have read the Open Letter. Here is one of my favorites:

I just wanted to comment on your orginazation's recent statement about the inclusion and better treatment of LGBT community within the religious enviroment. Everything she said was 100% true and really touched me! I think that your statement was eloquent, thoughtful, and gave nothing but the highest form of dignity to my community.

Someone also wrote to ask me what we meant when we said that LGBT persons could be assets in their faith communities. I first thought about the person who once said to me "if all the gay and lesbian choir directors and organists quit churches that did not welcome them, there would be no music in most of the churches on Sunday morning."

But, no, that's NOT what we meant in the statement. What we meant was that when people can live their God given gift of their sexuality, when sexual and gender diversity is celebrated and not condemned, our faith communities are richer for our being able to live and worship authentically together. When LGBT persons and their families, their parents, their children, their friends, are welcomed into our communities fully, they are able to participate fully as members of the congregation. They are our preachers, our religious educators, our volunteers, our Board members, our ushers, our choir members -- they are US.

I hope you'll read the full Open Letter and visit our newly redesigned web site. And pass it on.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

This Man Could Be Dangerous To Your Health

Quick -- can you name the current Surgeon General of the United States?

It wasn't always like this.

One of my top ten work days ever was the day that I accompanied former Surgeon General Koop in Hollywood. It was probably in 1986, and Dr. Koop had established himself as not only the nation's doctor on the AIDS epidemic but its moral voice. As the Director of Education for the Center for Population Options (now Advocates for Youth), we took Dr. Koop to Hollywood to bring his message to producers, writers, and stars. I still have the picture of Dr. Koop and I on the set of the "Golden Girls" hanging in my office.

As President of SIECUS, I also had opportunities to work with Dr. Joycelyn Elders and Dr. David Satcher, both who used their "bully pulpit" to help America understand that sexual health was part of public health.

I've just learned from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force that President Bush has recently named a new candidate for U.S. Surgeon General. That's him in the's Dr. James Holsinger Jr. from the University of Kentucky. He's being touted for his expertise in obesity.

But what the White House's press release doesn't tell us is that Dr. Holsinger has served on the United Methodist Judicial Council, and voted to keep a lesbian woman from serving as a pastor and to allow another church to deny membership to gay people. More alarming, he founded an "ex-gay ministry" at a local church, a type of therapy derided by every major health and counseling organization. One can hardly imagine what he might do as the "nation's doctor" when it came to health care for LGBT persons. Just a guess, but I think it's reasonable to think he's anti-choice as well.

Now, maybe we shouldn't be surprised that the same White House that made Dr. Eric Kerouac, an anti-family planning fundamentalist, the head of the national family planning program would nominate an anti-gay doctor to be the Surgeon General of the United States...but that doesn't make it any less troubling. No hearings have been scheduled on this appointment. Stay tuned for how you can make your voice heard.

And a free copy of a Religious Institute publication of your choice to the first person who can name the current Surgeon General. (without googling it!)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What's Wrong With This Picture?

I'm struggling with my reaction to last night's 2 hour forum on CNN -- first with the leading Democratic contenders, then with five others -- to discuss faith and politics.

My hats are off to Sojourners and their public relations folks for this media coup to have CNN cover their conference in this way. I'm all for anything that helps the American public see that the Religious Right does not have a monopoly on faith practice. And it was great to see each of the top three contenders have 15 uninterrupted minutes to talk about moral issues.

But, parts of this were troubling. Was it really appropriate for Soledad O'Brien to ask Mr. Edwards what his greatest sin was? Or Mrs. Clinton how her faith helped her deal with her husband's infidelity? And how many times could the CNN pundits and personalities state that abortion and gay issues are not the only moral issues, yet try to focus on them? (And with Mr. Edwards "no" on marriage equality and Ms. Clinton's softball answer on abortion, I'm beginning to feel like the conservative Republicans who don't think they have a candidate who supports their issues.)

But, more troubling to me is that secular CNN gave two hours to covering a program primarily aimed at evangelical Christians and implicitly promoting the idea that personal faith practices are criteria for judging candidates. Does it matter that Joe Biden prays the rosary each day or that Hilary Clinton and John Edwards have turned to faith in their times of great personal trial? Would it matter to our voting if they did not? Surely I trust that George Bush means it when he says he prays to God for advice and that Jesus is his favorite philosopher -- but that doesn't mean that I think his decisions and actions are moral or right for America.

Read the transcript here at and tell me what YOU think.

Monday, June 04, 2007

New "Open Letter on Sexual and Gender Diversity"

This morning, the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing issued an Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Sexual and Gender Diversity that challenges religious leaders to address the complex realities of sexual and gender diversity and to advocate in secular and faith-based contexts for justice and the full inclusion of LGBT persons.

Created by a coalition of theologians from Jewish, Christian, and Catholic backgrounds, this historical multi-faith theological framework, the first of its kind to address gender issues, laments the damage done to gay, lesbian, and transgender people by the silence or, worse, open condemnation of religious leaders. The Open Letter says, “Some have mistakenly called homosexuality sinful when the real issue is heterosexism or the unjust privileging of heterosexuality. Heterosexism devalues gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, just as sexism and male privilege devalue women.” The Open Letter forcefully states that “sexual and gender oppression can no longer be portrayed as virtuous and morally defensible” and that “using the Bible to exclude or attack people violates the very spirit of our traditions and is morally unconscionable.”

The Open Letter urges religious leaders to take action to address the needs of LGBT congregants and their families. Clergy across the country are committed to using the new Open Letter in their Pride Day worship services this June. In the next few days, we plan to distribute more than 20,000 copies of the Open Letter.

Take the time to read the new Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Sexual and Gender Diversity and tell me what you think. Check out our new web site as well.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Why Sexual Justice is Integral to Social Justice

Yesterday, I taped an interview for this Sunday's State of Belief show on Air America.

Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy and I discussed my reaction to the Media Matter's study on which religious voices are covered in the media. (See Wednesday's blog!) Over the last few years, The Interfaith Alliance, the organization Dr. Gaddy heads, has slowly become more vocal about reproductive choice and LGBT rights, especially as they related to separation of church and state issues, and I was very pleased that he asked me to appear.

He asked me, partially as playing "devil's advocate" and partially because I think he really wanted to know, how I would answer so-called progressive leaders who feel that poverty, hunger, homelessness, the war in Iraq, global warming are so important that we cannot let "divisive issues" like abortion and LGBT issues distract us from forming coalitions with evangelicals and Catholics who oppose them.

My answer was threefold. First, these issues are directly related to poverty. It is poor women who suffer most when contraception, emergency contraception, and abortion services are not readily available, both in the United States and around the world. It is poor same-sex couples who are most affected by laws prohibiting the benefits of civil unions and marriage, and poor transgender persons who have no access to medical treatment. The Religious Institute staff is currently working on a fact sheet on how sexual justice and poverty are interrelated.

Second, these issues affect hundreds of thousands of people. More than a third of adult women in the United States have had abortions. More than half a million women die each year around the world because of pregnancy related complications. There are at least 600,000 families headed by gay and lesbian families in the United States alone. According to a new Pew research study, 4 in 10 Americans have a family member or close friend who is lesbian and gay. These issues are NOT about other people -- they are about us.

And finally, I reminded Rev. Gaddy about Martin Luther King's statement: injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Progressive people of faith -- and that includes religious leaders who want to label themselves as progressive -- must stand up against sexual injustice as part of their commitment to social justice. These are not issues of "personal piety" or even about what people do in their bedrooms -- they go to the soul of whether we are all truly recognized as being created in God's image and whether we can celebrate the gift of our sexuality with holiness and integrity.

I hope you'll tune in to State of Belief on Sunday and listen to more of this interview. Check out their web site for times and station in your area or listen online.