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Faith in America's five-city campaign to educate public about religion-based bigotry

Faith in America (FIA) held a conference call today to discuss its five-city “Call to Courage” campaign. The initiative will consist of direct mail, paid advertisements, grassroots organizing, and Town Hall Meetings to educate the public on the parallels between historical precedents of religion-based bigotry and today’s struggle for full and equal rights for LGBT citizens.

The initiative targets states that are early presidential primary states. Faith In America kicks off the campaign on May 6th in Ames, Iowa, and will move on to Reno, Nevada; Manchester, New Hampshire; Greenville, South Carolina; and Colorado Springs, Colorado— all held between May and the end of November 2007. Colorado Springs, you may remember is the home of Focus of the Family.

The organization is working on the project with local and national organizations, including the Metropolitan Community Church Worldwide, Soulforce, Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

More background is after the jump.From my notes taken during the call (a summary, not a transcript).

Mitchell Gold, founder of Faith In America (and co-founder and chair of NC furniture powerhouse Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams), spoke about his personal coming out experience as a teenager, and how he relates to the discrimination, pressure and homophobia that young people still are experiencing today.  As we fight for our rights, he notes that even our purported allies in the Democratic party have been tentative about open support for equality. He also said:

“We’re asking Americans to be courageous and to join us in a stand against discrimination in all forms. As a nation, we have exhibited such courage in the past by rejecting the use of religion to sanction slavery and the subjugation of women. This campaign is a first step toward putting an end to bigotry disguised as religious truth and creating a just world where everyone will be allowed to flourish in America without prejudice.”

Jimmy Creech, executive director of Faith in America, talked about the historical misuse of religion, both in that sphere and in public policy to enforce religious-based bigotry. The “Call to Courage” campaign is meant to put the relationship between religion and politics in context, and how discrimination has been fomented time and again.

Today marks an important day in the shared history of America’s religious and GLBT communities. For a long time we’ve stood on separate sides of an impasse. But through this education campaign we will begin a deep and sustained dialogue, to bridge the gaps of tolerance and understanding in this country.”

Rev. Dr. Cindy Love, Abilene, TX of MCC, notes that today is the National Day of Prayer and that if the Right believes the U.S. is a Christian nation, then they need to look at the words and example of Jesus Christ. We will be successful as a Christ-centered nation, she said, when we no longer discriminate against women, minorities or those who are different from us. Jesus, she said, would have included LGBT people at the table with him — for all we know they were there with him. Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, and the scriptures that do address homosexuality have been misinterpreted and mistranslated over the centuries, and even so, the bible has been used to justify slavery and the subjugation of women, and Love knows that if people can undo those mistakes, those views held about homosexuality can change.

Jean-Marie Navetta of P-FLAG, hopes that the call to clergy and straight allies to engage in the Faith in America campaign will bolser them, give them the courage to come forward, speak out and show that there is a positive role religion can play in being inclusive.

In Ames there will be a full-page ad in the Ames Tribune, and on May 31, a town hall meeting in Ames, as well as a canvassing of neighborhoods to discuss the initiative with the community.

A caller from Families in Focus (arm of FotF) asked about the Colorado Springs visit, and why oh why where they picking on Daddy D — basically wondering what Focus on the Family has done to deserve a visit by FIA. Boy that’s rich. Jimmy Creech pointed out the laundry list of anti-gay activity by the organization, including its support for a federal marriage amendment and against any gay-affirming legislation.

In terms of the presidential campaign, the focus is getting the candidates on the record regarding their personal religious belief in relation to discrimination, how those beliefs inform their political positions, and to challenge them on the historical and current use of religion to discriminate against minorities, women and gays.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding