Soulforce Joins with Religious Leaders and Organizers from Across the U.S. in Montgomery, Alabama

February 22, 2002

On Friday, February 22, 2002 in Montgomery, Alabama, a press conference for religious leaders and faith-based organizations was held on the steps of the Alabama Judicial Building concerning an anti-gay "legal" opinion issued by Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore in a case against a lesbian mother. The following statement issued by Soulforce, Inc., was read at the press conference by Soulforce supporter Rev. Richard Barham, pastor of the MCC Church in Huntsville, Alabama.

Justice Moore’s concurring "legal" opinion called for the state to use its power to prohibit homosexuals from raising children through physical penalties, including execution. In a long opinion based on religious rhetoric that cited passages from the biblical books of Genesis and Leviticus, Moore called homosexuality "sinful", and "abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature’s God."

The press conference, which drew approximately 150 supporters and dozens of TV cameras and newspaper reporters, was sponsored by Alliance for Civility and Tolerance of Alabama, Equal Partners in Faith, Equality Begins at Home of Central Alabama, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.


Soulforce Statement:
February 22, 2002
Montgomery, Alabama

"IF YOU ARE GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL, OR TRANSGENDER – GOD LOVES YOU JUST THE WAY YOU ARE!"

Here we stand again in Montgomery Alabama, working to free minorities from oppression and discrimination. As Martin Luther King stated, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

The ruling and opinion of Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore is an excellent example of the cross over of religious teachings and civil laws: religious teachings that demean and demonize GLBT people are transformed into civil laws which discriminate against, persecute and seek to legitimize physical violence.

Unfortunately, Justice Moore’s words are more than hate-filled rhetoric; his legal interpretation has the force of law, which will incite some to physical violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. So clearly does this illustrate the relationship between a general hostility towards gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and the lack of civil rights protections. This also clearly indicates that misguided religious policies and teachings are the basis for discrimination and cause suffering and death.

Soulforce, an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people, has trained over 1000 people in the principles of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience as taught by Martin Luther King. Over 500 people were arrested during nonviolent civil disobedient protests at major denominational meetings of United Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopal, and Southern Baptist, while applying these to the liberation of sexual minorities.

Soulforce supporters in Alabama and across the United States will continue to relentlessly challenge misguided religious teachings until they can no longer contribute to a climate of hostility in this country against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. This means challenging Justice Roy Moore, and the spiritual and physical violence his ruling incites.

As people of faith, the leaders of Soulforce wish to say again, "IF YOU ARE GAY, LESBIAN, BISEXUAL, OR TRANSGENDER – GOD LOVES YOU JUST THE WAY YOU ARE!"

Soulforce Leaders Go to St. Louis to Recruit Participants for June 2002 Direct Action

Soulforce Institute for Nonviolent Change and 24 Hours of Justice to take place in St. Louis during the Southern Baptist Convention to protest anti-gay policies

Soulforce Press Release
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell: 717-278-0592
email: soulforcemedia@aol.com

(Laguna Beach, CA) – Soulforce will be on the front lines of the Southern Baptist Conventions (SBCs) annual meeting for the third year in a row to confront anti-gay policies and teachings when the SBC meets in St. Louis this summer. Workshops, vigils and a possible civil disobedience are planned. Soulforce is an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people.

Leaders of Soulforce will be in St. Louis from February 15-19 to gather support and recruit participants for the June action. The Rev. Dr. Mel White, Soulforce co-founder and executive director, and Karen Weldin, director of operations, will attend meetings with press and local officials, and meet with activists and religious leaders to familiarize them with the principles of Soulforce and seek their participation in June.

Saturday, February 16 at 7pm, Rev. White will speak at a meeting of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) at The Ethical Society, 9001 Clayton Road.

Sunday, February 17 at 11am, Rev. White will speak at the Sunday service of the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater St. Louis. Services are held at St. Johns United Methodist Church, 6000 Washington Avenue at Kings Highway.

Rev. White and Ms. Weldin will also attend a reception hosted by a St. Louis resident and meet with city officials regarding Soulforces mass prayer vigil and possible civil disobedience to take place in June during the SBCs annual meeting. Both Rev. White and Ms. Weldin are available for interviews February 18-19.

The residents of St. Louis have been welcoming and supportive of our efforts to confront the anti-gay policies and teachings of the Southern Baptists, said Rev. White. We look forward to working together for the next four months to proclaim to the Southern Baptists, to St. Louis and to the world, that God loves gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people just the way they are!

From June 7-9, the "Soulforce Institute for Nonviolent Change" will take place at Centenary United Methodist Church, 55 Plaza Square. Supporters of Soulforce from across the United States and Canada will join with residents of St. Louis to take part in nonviolence trainings and workshops. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, will be the keynote speaker on June 8 and facilitate a workshop on nonviolence for those attending the Institute.

Then, on June 10-11, Soulforce is sponsoring "24 Hours of Justice" designed to bring truth and justice to the Southern Baptists. Vigils will take place throughout the night in front of Americas Center, where the SBC meeting will take place. On Tuesday, the vigils will continue, and additional activities will include a march, media event at the Americas Center, and a direct action and possible civil disobedience and arrests.

MEDIA: For interviews, please contact Laura Montgomery Rutt at 717-278-0592.

For more information about Soulforce, the Soulforce Institute for Nonviolent Change and "24 Hours of Justice" and how participants can register, see http://www.soulforce.org.

Help Soulforce Recruit for St. Louis

Join with Soulforce to encourage your friends, the members of your church/faith group or other membership organizations to join Soulforce in St. Louis by downloading or copying prewritten promotional materials and publishing them in your bulletin or newsletter. Feel free to use the materials in the way that best suits your needs.

Promotional Materials are provided in both Adobe Acrobat format and a text version for those of you who wish to copy and edit these materials. For the text version, highlight the text that you wish to copy and then paste into your own text document and edit as needed.

Journey to St. Louis recruiting brochure
For this brochure to look good and fold correctly, you’ll need to download the PDF file and take (or email it) to a copy center and have it printed directly from the file onto 8 1/2" x 14" paper. The brochure can be printed onto regular-sized paper, but it won’t fold properly, and the print itself will be smaller and harder to read.

  • Journey to St. Louis recruiting brochure – PDF (only) file 389K

[church/faith group goes to this section]
Use these as many times as you can within your church/faith group publications.

  • brief announcement:PDF or text version
  • short article:PDF or text version
  • longer article: PDF or text version
  • church bulletin insert: PDF or text version

[membership organization goes to this section]
Use these as many times as you can within your membership organization or other publications.

  • newsletter article:PDF or text version

["BRIEF" FOR CHURCH NEWSLETTER]

Gandhi Grandson to Lead Workshop

Arun Gandhi, Mahatma’s grandson, will offer training in the techniques of nonviolence at the Soulforce Institute of Nonviolent Social Change,June 7-9, in St. Louis, MO.

For more information, visit www.soulforce.org or contact Karen Weldin, co-chair, Journey to St. Louis, at 1-877-705-6393 or (918) 452-2761 or via e-mail at karen@soulforce.org.


["SHORT" CHURCH NEWSLETTER ARTICLE]

Help to Confront Discriminatory Southern Baptist Policies

The policy of the Southern Baptist Convention calls homosexuality a "very poor and sinful choice" and homosexual relationships "always sinful, impure… and perverted." Those words lead to ruined lives, divided churches, suffering and even death.

Soulforce, an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against GLBT people, is confronting the SBC’s discriminatory policies at the SBC’s annual meeting, held this year in St. Louis.

The "Journey to St. Louis" will include the training in nonviolence techniques taught by Arun Gandhi, Mahatma’s grandson, and civil rights leaders from the ’50s and ’60s (June 7-9) and then applying those techniques to bring truth and justice to the Southern Baptists (June 10-11).

Interested? Contact Karen Weldin, co-chair of the Journey to St. Louis, at karen@soulforce.org, 1-877-705-6393, or (918) 452-2761.


["LONG" CHURCH NEWSLETTER ARTICLE]

Optional First Paragraph:

Our church has taken important stands for justice in the past. Now we have the opportunity to support an action to help change the hearts and minds of leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) during the SBC annual meeting in June.

Help to Confront Discriminatory Southern Baptist Policies Gandhi’s grandson to lead workshops in St. Louis

The Southern Baptist Convention continues to wreak havoc on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) individuals and their families both inside and outside the church with policies that call homosexuality a "very poor and sinful choice." The SBC also describes homosexual relationships as "always sinful, impure… and perverted." Those words lead to ruined lives, divided churches, suffering and even death.

Soulforce, an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against GLBT people, is again confronting the SBC’s discriminatory policies at the SBC’s annual meeting, held this year in St. Louis.

The "Journey to St. Louis" will include the Soulforce Institute for Nonviolent Change, June 7-9, which will include training in the principles and techniques of nonviolence taught by Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, the Rev. Dr. Mel White, co-founder of Soulforce, and civil rights leaders from the ’50s and ’60s.

"Sharing Our Stories," in which Baptists will describe their faith journeys, will be held the morning and afternoon of June 10.

That evening, Soulforce’s "24 Hours of Justice" will begin with continued training in the techniques of nonviolence and direct action, and resume the next day with prayerful vigils at the America’s Center, where the SBC annual meeting is being held.

There are a variety of ways to participate in this important event, including helping to publicize it, signing up to participate or making a financial contribution.

Want to hear more? Contact Karen Weldin, co-chair, Journey to St. Louis, at 1-877-705-6393 or (918) 452-2761 or via e-mail at karen@soulforce.org.


[CHURCH BULLETIN INSERT]

Soulforce invites you on a Journey to Justice St. Louis, Missouri, June 7-11, 2002 … including the Soulforce Institute for Nonviolent Change followed by "Twenty-Four Hours of Justice"

Soulforce is an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Southern Baptists teach that homosexuality is a "choice … a very poor and sinful choice" and describe homosexual relationships as "always sinful, degrading, and perverted." These words lead to ruined lives, divided churches, suffering and even death.

Be trained in the nonviolent principles that Gandhi and King used to work for justice. Apply the principles to bring the truth about homosexuality to the Southern Baptist Convention.

For more information, visit www.soulforce.org or contact Karen Weldin, co-chair, Journey to St. Louis, karen@soulforce.org, (877) 705-6393 or (918) 452-2761.


[MEMBERSHIP ORGANIZATION ARTICLE]

Soulforce to Confront Discriminatory Church Policies at Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, June 7-11 in St. Louis

Soulforce, an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, will continue to challenge discriminatory church policies at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in St. Louis, June 7 – 11, 2002.

Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and founder of the MK Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, will be keynote speaker and a workshop leader, along with the Rev. Dr. Mel White, co-founder and executive director of Soulforce, during the Soulforce Institute for Nonviolent Change. The Institute, which will offer training in the principles of nonviolent resistance, will be held June 7-9.

"Sharing Our Stories," in which Baptists will describe their faith journeys, will be held the morning and afternoon of June 10. That evening, Soulforce’s "24 Hours of Justice" will begin with continued training in the techniques of nonviolence and direct action, and resume the next day with prayerful vigils at the America’s Center, where the SBC annual meeting is being held. The purpose of these vigils is to put a face and a name on the suffering that Southern Baptist discriminatory policies and teachings have caused to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals and their families. There is the possibility of a direct action on June 11, with acts of civil disobedience and arrests (people are always free not to take part in the arrests).

Hundreds of Soulforce supporters, from many spiritual paths and denominational affiliations, have taken part in vigils, trainings in nonviolence and direct acts of civil disobedience at national denominational conventions over the course of the last few years, including those of the United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Episcopal Church in America, Presbyterian Church (USA), and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

This will be the third year that Soulforce has been present at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. The actions at the SBC have taken place after attempts have failed to dialogue with Dr. James Merritt, president of the SBC, and other SBC leaders.

As an ever-expanding movement, Soulforce is asking people of all faith paths to come together in St. Louis to show Southern Baptist leaders that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals can live with honesty and integrity and be healthy, whole, and happy children of God.

Already, many people have come to realize the importance of supporting one another in confronting Christian homophobia, regardless of faith or creed. Advocacy groups from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, including the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, Lutherans Concerned/North America, Wingspan, and Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries, have pledged their support and commitment for this action. Individuals from PFLAG, Equal Partners in Faith, Metropolitan Community Church of Greater St. Louis, and former Southern Baptist ministers and other free and faithful Baptists are joining together with many others to support one another in this important event.

Over the past two years, Soulforce has helped mobilize and motivate thousands of people to action, and those who have participated say their lives were transformed by the experience. For more information, contact Karen Weldin at karen@soulforce.org, (877) 705-6393 or (918) 452-2761. To register to participate in the event, visit the Soulforce website at http://www.soulforce.org.


If you need help or have questions about how to use these promotional materials, please contact Laura Montgomery Rutt at laura@soulforce.org or (717) 278-0592.

Arun Gandhi to Lead Training in Principles of Nonviolence

"Soulforce Institute for Nonviolent Change" and "24 Hours of Justice" to take place in St. Louis during the Southern Baptist Convention, June 2002

Soulforce Press Release
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell: 717-278-0592
email: soulforcemedia@aol.com

(Laguna Beach, CA) – Soulforce, an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people, will once again be on the front lines of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC’s) annual meeting. The SBC’s annual meeting will be held at the America’s Center in St. Louis this year. Soulforce was also present at the SBC meetings in Orlando in 2000 and New Orleans in 2001 to protest the SBC’s antigay policies and teachings.

From June 7 -9, the "Soulforce Institute for Nonviolent Change" will take place at Centenary United Methodist Church, 55 Plaza Square in St. Louis, Missouri. Supporters of Soulforce from across the United States and Canada will join with residents of St. Louis to take part in nonviolence trainings and workshops.

Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, will be the keynote speaker on June 8 and facilitate a workshop on nonviolence for those attending the Institute. Civil rights leaders from the 1960’s will also participate, as will other experts in the field of nonviolent resistance.

Then, on June 10-11, Soulforce is sponsoring "24 Hours of Justice" designed to bring truth and justice to the Southern Baptists, beginning with GLBT Southern Baptists sharing their struggles and faith journeys. Those planning to participate in the "24 Hours" of vigils and/or direct action are required to participate in specialized nonviolence training on June 10. Vigils will take place throughout the night in front of America’s Center, where the SBC convention is being held. Tuesday, vigils will continue, and additional activities will include a march, media event at the America’s Center, and a direct action and possible civil disobedience and arrests.

Throughout the five days, additional options will be available to youth over 18 interested in the principles of nonviolence. Soulforce will also introduce its new Youth Coordinator, Jacob Reitan, who has been a significant and instrumental part of the planning of these events.

Advocacy groups from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, including the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, Lutherans Concerned/North America, Wingspan, and Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries have pledged their support and commitment for this action. Individuals from PFLAG, Equal Partners in Faith, Metropolitan Community Church of Greater St. Louis, and former Southern Baptist ministers and other free and faithful Baptists are also participating in both the Institute and the ""24 Hours of Justice".

"On several occasions, we have attempted to dialogue with Dr. James Merritt, president of the SBC. He responded that he refuses to enter into dialogue about the issue, and will not change his position that homosexuality is a ‘sinful lifestyle’," said Mel White, Executive Director and co-founder of Soulforce, Inc. "Therefore, Soulforce will continue its relentless campaign to challenge the homophobia and untruths perpetuated by Southern Baptist religious policies and teachings. And we will not stop until every gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Southern Baptist knows that God loves them just the way they are."

Read the letters sent to Soulforce by Dr. Merritt and his response.
For interviews, call 717-278-0592.