Faith leaders speak

Media Release from People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, Jews for Justice, and the Commonwealth Coalition

November 2, 2006

RICHMOND – More than 280 clergy from across Virginia released a signed statement today announcing their opposition to Virginia’s Ballot Question #1 in a press conference at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Richmond. The clergy urged Virginia’s voters to vote “No” on Ballot Question #1.

Ballot Question #1 will appear on the Virginia ballot on November 7. The proposal would amend the Virginia Bill of Rights to bar state agencies and courts from recognizing relationships or enforcing contracts between unmarried persons that would provide benefits associated with marriage. It also would add to the Bill of Rights Virginia’s existing law limiting marriage rights to one man and one woman.

The Rev. Dr. Davis Yeuell, President of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia and former Executive of the former Presbyterian Synod of the Virginias, reading from the Clergy Statement, said that Ballot Question #1 “violates the call to justice and fairness that is a moral imperative shared by our faith traditions.” The clergy emphasized that as clergy they believed that the proposed amendment “will not protect any marriages. It will cause undue hardship and harm to the families of unmarried couples in Virginia.”

“As religious leader,” Yeuell said, “we affirm the dignity of all persons and value the welfare of all loving and committed families regardless of their legal status. … There is no place in our faith communities or within our Commonwealth for an amendment that punishes — punishes — unmarried couples and their children.”

The Rev. Kelly Sisson, pastor of Glade Church (United Church of Christ and Alliance of Baptists) in Blacksburg said, “The Religious Loud have trumpeted a hollow message of fear and threats that would have us believe our marriages and our faith are in jeopardy. … A marriage that is so fragile it needs this Marshall/Newman Amendment to offer that marriage security needs counseling, not a change in a 220-year-old document.”

“Ballot Question #1 is bad law supported by bad theology,” stated The Rev. Dr. David Ensign, pastor of Clarendon Presbyterian Church in Arlington. “To support the amendment in the name of a narrow and restricted understanding of marriage drawn from an impoverished reading of scripture is bad theology,” he continued.

“Why are we being asked by our government to focus on this issue when there are so many other issues that require our attention?” asked The Rev. Canon Alonzo C. Pruitt, Rector of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Richmond. “We have so many issues other than this one that truly affect marriage.”

In the Clergy Statement and in their individual remarks, the clergy also noted their pastoral concern about Ballot Question #1’s effects on families in times of crisis who may be excluded from certain legal protections because they are not headed by a married couple. They expressed concern that courts may be unable to adequately protect unmarried victims of domestic violence or to enforce child custody and visitation agreements among unmarried couples. They also cited concern about challenges to advanced medical directives and the likelihood of extended legal battles over rights at times of acute need.

“I think of a couple who have lived in a monogamous committed relationship for more than three decades but as one partner faces his last hours in a hospital room, the other is held outside denied access while a court decides if the law applies to him.” Rev. Kelly Sisson said.

The clergy who signed the Statement represent diverse traditions and every corner of the state. Among the signers were clergy from Presbyterian, Episcopal, United Methodist, Baptist, United Church of Christ, Unitarian, Jewish, Lutheran, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Metropolitan Community Church, Mennonite, and Brethren traditions.

The press conference was sponsored by People of Faith for Equality in Virginia and Jews for Justice. People of Faith for Equality in Virginia was formed in 2005 to fight discrimination and work for equality in local faith communities and across Virginia, particularly with regard to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons. Jews for Justice has been working to educate the faith community and Virginians generally about efforts such as Ballot Question #1 to undermine legal protections for vulnerable families and individuals in Virginia. Both organizations are members of the Commonwealth Coalition.

Speakers at the press conference included the following clergy:

  • Rev. Dr. Davis Yeuell, President, People of Faith for Equality in Virginia; former Executive of the former Presbyterian Synod of the Virginias
  • Rev. Canon Alonzo C. Pruitt, Rector, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Richmond
  • Rev. Kelly Sisson, Pastor, Glade Church (United Church of Christ and Alliance of Baptists), Blacksburg
  • Rev. Dr. David Ensign, Pastor Clarendon Presbyterian Church, Arlington
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6 Responses to Faith leaders speak

  1. The only clergy that we need to here form is Pastor Ted Haggard.

    WOOOOOOOW check this press relese out


  2. Let’s try that again,

    “The only clergy we need to hear from is Pastor Ted Haggard”.

    Sorry,I will never again blog at 2:30 AM

  3. Jonathan says:

    Thanks Phyllis!

    A few of interesting points. First, this story has nothing to do with the Ballot Question #1. If you’re saying that adultery is a big issue, I agree and would consider stricter adultery statutes. Although adultery is probably the greatest threat to marriage prohibitory statutes should not be constitutionalized.

    Second, Pastor Haggard never admits to the sin of adultery. He admits that he lied and was guilty of “sexual immorality”.

    The fact is, I am guilty of sexual immorality, and I take responsibility for the entire problem.

    Third, his remedy is to seek help from Dr. Dobson. I’ve attended Dr. Dobson’s “Love Won Out” conference. The reprogramming won’t help Pastor Haggard. He’s already tried and failed.

    I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I’ve been warring against it all of my adult life. For extended periods of time, I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach.

    Prediction: after reprogramming, Ted will reappear as an anti-gay zealot. This sad story will continue. Pastor Haggard’s experience will be used to harm this innocent community.

  4. Jonathan,

    The point I was trying to make is this.

    Ted Haggard is (was) one of leading evangelistic leaders in the country. He has a church of 14 thousand and leads (lead) an organization of 30 million.

    He has been a leading voice against anything and everything homosexual, and for years he’s been having a gay relationship. Not just committing adultery but actually with a man.

    I’m not sure if people listen to clergy anymore because unfortunately they sometimes, not often but sometimes, prove to be such hypocrites on this subject.

    I have said before and will say again, as a Christian this is an issue that often confuses me and give me pause. I have prayed about it more than once.

    But if I am a Christian leader who happens to be gay, yet speaks against gay issues that’s a whole different story. It would be like Col. Sanders telling people not to buy chicken.

    Again I say, UNREAL

  5. David says:

    I understood what you were saying. Will there be no end to the evidence that homophobia harms people? My heart breaks for this poor jerk, believe it or not. And his wife, and his kids, and everyone else who has been affected by his fraudulent, self-hating life.

    And yes, no doubt his experience will be turned on its head by charlatans like Dr. Dobson, and used to harm yet more people, making it harder to accept the way God made them. And the cycle will continue, with a revolving door of supposed “ex-gays” who will turn into “ex-ex-gays” on a rather predictable schedule. The counseling Pastor Ted needs is not the counseling Pastor Ted is likely to get.

    Rick Sincere reasonably asked one of our resident anti-gay obsessives whether he thought that encouraging his daughter to marry a gay man would bring her a lifetime of happiness. I think the correct answer to that question is “no.”

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