Southern Voice Article: "Falwell Speaks in Favor of Gay Civil Rights"

Conservative leader calls housing, employment for gays "basic rights"

By EARTHA JANE MELZER
Aug. 26, 2005

The Human Rights Campaign has formally thanked Rev. Jerry Falwell for apparently speaking out in favor of gay rights for the first time publicly.

Falwell, the high profile televangelist, founder of the Moral Majority and of the Liberty University, recently discussed potential Supreme Court nominees with President Bush before a pick was named.

On Aug. 5, during an appearance on MSNBC’s "The Situation with Tucker Carlson," Falwell raised eyebrowns when he said he was not troubled by reports that nominee John Roberts had done volunteer legal work for gay rights activists on the case Romer vs. Evans.

In that case, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the state of Colorado could not create laws with the sole intention of discriminating against gay men and lesbians. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas – the judges that President Bush has said best represent his preferred judicial philosophy – along with Chief Justice William Rehnquist, dissented from the majority opinion.

Falwell, who in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, blamed the terrorist attacks on "the pagans, the abortionists, and the feminists and the gays and lesbians," and who describes himself as "very conservative," told Carlson that if he were a lawyer, he too would argue for civil rights for gays.

"I may not agree with the lifestyle," Falwell said. "But that has nothing to do with the civil rights of that… part of our constituency.

"Judge Roberts would probably have been not a good very good lawyer if he had not been willing, when asked by his partners in the law firm to assist in guaranteeing the civil rights of employment and housing to any and all Americans."

When Carlson countered that conservatives, "are always arguing against ‘special rights’ for gays," Falwell said that equal access to housing and employment are basic rights, not special rights.

"Civil rights for all Americans, black, white, red, yellow, the rich, poor, young, old, gay, straight, et cetera, is not a liberal or conservative value," Falwell went on to say. "It’s an American value that I would think that we pretty much all agree on."

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said his group welcomed the apparent softening of Falwell’s position on at least some gay rights.

"Like most Americans, it seems Rev. Falwell has reached the conclusion that everyone deserves basic rights," said Solmonese. "I hope he also supports legislation that would deliver on these values."

Soulforce lobbying pays off?

Falwell was not available this week to discuss his views on gay issues. His office said that he was deluged with requests for comment on fellow televangelist Pat Robertson’s call for the assassination of the Venezuelan president.

Earlier this summer, Falwell spoke at an "ex-gay" conference organized by the Christian group Exodus International. During his sermon he spoke warmly about the efforts of the activist group Soulforce, which seeks to free gays from religious oppression and is based in Lynchburg, Va., near Falwell’s church. Soulforce has done extensive outreach to Falwell.

Falwell also spoke at length about a major heart operation he had had earlier that week.

Soulforce was founded by Mel White, a gay man who had worked closely with Falwell (even ghostwriting his autobiography) and his partner Gary Nixon.

White and Nixon founded Soulforce and moved into a rented house across the street from Falwell’s church in 2001, after they realized that Falwell was not going to change his views and accept gays without long-term persuasion.

"I think last month when he dealt with his heart condition, he got closer to his maker," Nixon said. "And I think he knows in his heart that what he was doing is wrong."

見2005 The Southern Voice

http://www.sovo.com/2005/8-26/news/national/fawell.cfm

Soulforce’s Equality Ride Sends Letter to Naval Academy

Jacob ReitanVice Admiral Rodney P. Rempt
Office of the Superintendent
U.S. Naval Academy
121 Blake Road
Annapolis, MD 21402-5000

August 18, 2005

RE: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Dear Vice Admiral Rodney P. Rempt,

I am the Director of the Equality Ride, a nationwide movement of young adults seeking to bring understanding about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) issues to institutions of higher learning, which ban the enrollment of openly GLBT people.

I am contacting you because I am concerned for the treatment of GLBT midshipmen at the Naval Academy. As you know, because of the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy, GLBT midshipmen at the Naval Academy are forced to live a lie as a condition of service.

The damaging effects of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" are many. First and foremost, the morale of the GLBT servicemember is severely affected, as the ban demands self-denial on top of the already substantial sacrifices expected of uniformed personnel and their families.

Naval Academy Cadets holding flagsSecondly, the readiness of our nation’s military is impaired as a result of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." Since the adoption of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," over 10,000 qualified servicemembers have been discharged from the military. At a time when many military recruitment offices are missing their recruiting goals, we must ask ourselves what the value is in discharging thousands of qualified men and women who are seeking to serve our nation. In fact, a new study by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, suggestions that as many as 41,000 GLBT people would be willing to serve if the "Don’t, Ask, Don’t Tell" ban were lifted.

As a gay man, who myself has thought about joining the J.A.G. program, I ask why my desire to serve is rejected?

As the Superintendent of the Naval Academy, I hope that you will take the time and seriously consider the harm "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" has on your institution.

I am, of course, aware that you have no independent ability to change how the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy is enforced at the Naval Academy. I understand that such a change can come only from an act of Congress and/or a ruling of the Federal Courts.

At the same time, however, I am also aware that the opinions of men and women like you hold a great deal of weight in the halls of Congress and the chambers of our courts. Your words help our elected and appointed officials decide how they will act when choosing whether to lift the ban created by "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." Indeed, it is in large part because of the opinions of men and women like you that the compromise of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" came into being in the first place.

For this reason, I want to request a meeting with you to discuss the harmful effects of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." I would like to hear your opinion on the matter and share with you the understanding I have come to have on this issue.

I hope you will seriously consider my request. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Jacob Reitan
Director of the Equality Ride

Report from the Soulforce Action at the 2005 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Orlando

Soulforce was proud to partner with Goodsoil at the biennial Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in Orlando, August 8-14, 2005. Karen Weldin, Bill Carpenter and others from Soulforce worked diligently with a planning team from all over the country and were joined in Orlando by courageous souls who were eager to do justice. Soulforce, and the other organizations within the Goodsoil alliance, vigiled and gave out leaflets as a powerful witness to the lives that are damaged by unjust Lutheran policies.

On Friday, August 12, 2005, nearly the entire day was used to consider recommendations from the Sexuality Task Force Report of the ELCA.

An amendment that would have given pastors explicit permission to bless same-sex unions failed. Instead, a more ambiguous measure was approved that maintains the ELCA ban on same-sex blessing ceremonies, but says that the church will "trust" pastors and congregations "to discern ways to provide faithful pastoral care" to everyone. Some believe the vote leaves the door open for same-sex blessings by Bishops who are supportive.

Next, the assembly rejected a proposal to allow gay men and lesbians in committed relationships to be ordained as members of the clergy. When the recommendation failed, Soulforce delegates joined Goodsoil as approximately 100 people walked silently to the front of the hall, stood before the stage where Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson was overseeing the meeting and faced the assembly of 1,018 voting members. The group stood quietly for over two hours and did not leave when asked by the Bishop. The action created tension within the hall. Some voting members were angered while others spoke out in tearful and heartfelt support. Pastor Paul Tideman (a voting member of the ELCA) requested that Pastor Anita Hill address the assembly, but the request was denied. Through our nonviolent resistance, the voting members and the visitors in the hall were forced to see our resolve: the church belongs to us, we are not going away, and we demand full and equal participation.

Goodsoil, an alliance of six organizations including Soulforce, issued a statement accusing the church of "sacrificing" gay men and women "on the altar of a false and ephemeral sense of unity." For more detailed information about the action, please go to www.goodsoil.org.

Goodsoil to the ELCA: "Discrimination is Unbecoming. Faithfulness Requires Full Participation"

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SOULFORCE MEDIA ALERT: August 3, 2005
For Immediate Release
Contact: Phil Soucy, 703-980-2038, communications@lcna.org
Laura Montgomery Rutt, 717-278-0592, lmrutt@gmail.com
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(Orlando, FL) -Goodsoil, a Lutheran Alliance of which Soulforce is a partner, is adamant that that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) should change its current policy governing the ordination and rostering of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people and the blessing of covenanted, same-sex relationships. The ELCA currently has two sets of rules: one for GLBT people and another for everyone else. Goodsoil believes that there should be only one set of rules. This will be among the controversial and significant issues to come before the biennial Churchwide Assembly in Orlando, August 8-14, 2005.

The Rev. Jeff Johnson, co-chair of goodsoil, said, “In our Lutheran church, faithfulness requires the full participation of all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. It is time for this discriminatory regime of the current policy to come to an end. We hope that the Voting Members in Orlando will bring to an end this time of open discrimination in our church and change the policy.”

Currently, ELCA policy requires a life-long commitment to celibacy from GLBT persons who seek to be ordained or rostered in this church, a commitment required only of GLBT persons. Additionally, the church does not prohibit or provide for the blessing of covenanted same-gender relationships. In 1991, the Churchwide Assembly urged the full participation of GLBT people in the life of the ELCA, and in 1993 the Conference of Bishops encouraged the exercise of discretion for individual congregations and clergy who chose to recognize and bless same-gender committed unions in the context of the provision of pastoral care.

Ms. Jeannine Janson, co-chair of goodsoil, commented, “Our Presiding Bishop, Mark Hanson, has said it best: ‘We are going to Orlando to be the Body of Christ.’ This means all of us. We are not part of a divided body. The Body of Christ is not divided into first class and second class parts. We are all a part of the same body, and we are not going anywhere. We hope that the Voting Members will make the changes necessary for the full participation of all people in this body, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

About
Goodsoil is an alliance of six organizations seeking justice and equality by full participation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the life of the Lutheran Church. Further information about the goodsoil effort can be found at www.goodsoil.org.