Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tyler Clementi's Suicide Must Be A Teachable Moment on Homophobia

Dear readers: I wrote this letter this morning to the Today Show, who ignored the reason behind Tyler Clementi's suicide, concentrating only on Internet bullying. Please consider writing them as well at And please talk to your children! Tell them nothing is worth taking their life over, that you love them, and that sexual diversity is part of God's gift to us. PLEASE.

Dear Today,

Your piece on Tyler Clementi's suicide focused almost exclusively on the dangers of webcams and internet posting, rather than addressing what drove Tyler to take his life.

If Tyler had been kissing a girl, this tape wouldn't have been made. If made, it wouldn't have been twittered and posted.

But, he wasn't. He was kissing another boy, and even in today's world, that made him the subject of ridicule and hate. And his shame at being outed drove him to end his life.

Homophobia and hate caused his death, and you inadvertently add to the problem when you don't even mention it.

Tyler's death is one of five gay teens and young adults in the last few weeks. Can we count on you for a segment on gay teen suicide? Can we count on you to get the word out about GLSEN, or It Gets Better, or the Trevor Helpline?

Let's make sure that Tyler didn't die in vain. Help us make this a teachable moment for parents and teens. Please call on me if I can be of help as you prepare this segment on the real issue that is causing so many young people to take their lives -- and how parents can make sure that their children know that they are loved and accepted without regard to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Reverend Debra W. Haffner

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New London Clergy Commit To Addressing Sexuality From the Pulpit

This coming weekend, more than 20 clergy in New London, CT will address sexuality from their pulpits. In Jewish, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Unitarian Universalist, and Muslim faith communities, congregants will hear that sexuality is sacred.

My colleague, Dr. Kate Ott, Deputy Director of the Religious Institute, has been a resource to the New London clergy association for the past three years.

The local paper, The Day, featured op eds from a variety of religious leaders on sexuality this past Sunday. You can read them here

I'm excited to see this commitment by the New London clergy to bring sexuality into their churches, synagogues, and mosques. Let us know if we can help you!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Speak Out Against Maternal Mortality Worldwide and For Universal Access

The Religious Institute is committed to working towards a just, equitable, and inclusive world. On September 15th, as part of that global commitment, the Religious Institute is releasing its first internationally focused theological framework, the new Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Maternal Mortality and Reproductive Justice.

The Open Letter is being released to coincide with the United Nation’s High-Level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals. In 2000, the leaders of 189 countries agreed to eight goals to eradicate extreme poverty. Goal Five calls for improved global maternal health by reducing maternal mortality by three quarters and achieving universal access to reproductive health.

Every year, more than 340,000 women and girls die as a result of the preventable complications from pregnancy and childbirth, almost all in developing countries. According to the Guttmacher Institute and the United Nations Population Fund, maternal mortality could be reduced by more than 70 percent by improved access to reproductive health services, including contraception, treatment for pregnancy and birth complications, and strategies to prevent or manage abortion related complications.

The new Open Letter recognizes that this is not just a public health crisis but a moral one. As the letter states, “the sacredness of life is best upheld when women and men create life intentionally, and women are able to have healthy pregnancies and childbirths.” Surely, people of faith from diverse perspectives can agree to work to create a world where no woman loses her life to create a new one.

The Open Letter calls on all religious leaders to:
• Educate themselves and their faith communities about the crisis of maternal mortality.
• Publicly advocate for increased support for maternal health and reproductive health services, domestically and globally.
• Work within their traditions to make the reduction of preventable maternal mortality a social justice issue.

You can help. If you are a religious leader, please become one of the endorsers of the new Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Maternal Mortality and Reproductive Justice. Become involved with the Religious Institute’s Rachel Sabbath Initiative. As a person of faith, join the U.N. Millennium Campaign.

The Open Letter ends, “We are called to bear witness to the harsh reality that without comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, women and girls around the world suffer illness, violence and death. Our mission as faith communities compels us to work together to assure that all may flourish. We renew our call to sexual and reproductive justice. We make a solemn commitment to help create a just and equitable world where no woman will die giving birth to the next generation.”

May it be so.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Let There Always Be Light

I offered this chalice lighting at our homecoming services yesterday.

The first words spoken in the Hebrew Bible are, "Let there be light."

Let there be light today as we once again gather in community.

Let us feel the light of each others' lives.

Let us feel the light of the New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and the end of Ramadan.

Let us remember those we lost on September 11th.

Let this light remind us to bring our light into the world-our search for truth, appreciation of diversity and full inclusion.

Let it remind us to witness against those who would burn sacred texts, commit acts of terrorism, or deny that every one of us has inherent dignity and self worth.

Let this chalice represent what brings us back to our beloved community-the gifts of friendship, of wisdom, of insights, of encouragement, or support. Let this light remind us of our history, our knowing, our shared silence and our shared laughter, our shared tears, and our shared hopes for our futures.

May our lights be rekindled - as individuals, as friends, as family, as a church community.

Let there always be light.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

La Shana Tova -- Rosh Hashanah 2010

The Days of Awe begin with us tonight.

May the next ten days be days of reflection, introspection, and peace.

May we prepare ourselves for the changes in the year to come.

May it be a good year.

May it be a healthy year.

May it be a year of peace for all of us, in our homes, in our communities, all around the globe.

May it be a year of peace within ourselves.

May we live our lives with integrity, service, and love.

May we be blessed with the strength of this community, of our families, of our friends.

May we remember what it truly important in life and may we remember to be grateful every day.

May we all be inscribed another year in the Book of Life.

La Shanah Tovah!