April 2001 - A declaration from religious officials endorsing homosexuality and other forms of sexual liberation continues to attract new signatories, now claiming more than 2,000 mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, Jews, Unitarians, New-Agers, humanists and self-professed pagans. During the last year, the declaration's list of endorsers has more than doubled.
Mark Tooley is a research associate with the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington.
The overwhelming majority of signatories come from Christian or Jewish groups. But the declaration declines to explain how believers from those traditions can ignore their own scriptures and endorse the sexual revolution's latest fads.
The Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing, first released to the public more than a year ago, endorses same-sex unions, abortion rights and an end to sexual and social injustice. It was organized by the New York-based Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), which advocates more permissive attitudes toward sexuality.
SIECUS is a 37-year-old organization that advocates acceptance of homosexuality and pornography, full abortion rights and the provision of contraceptives to underage youth, without parental permission if necessary. SIECUS wants to ensure that all people -- including adolescents, the disabled, sexual minorities and the elderly -- have the right to affirm that sexuality is a natural and healthy part of their lives.
According to a denominational analysis by writer and analyst Lee Penn, Unitarians are the largest religious group supporting the signatories. United Church of Christ members rank second, followed by Episcopalians, Reformed Methodists and Presbyterians.
Leaders of the religious left who support the declaration include Barry Lynn, head of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and Diana Eck, head of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, who received an award from President Clinton for her advocacy of a multicultural America. Other signatories are Rabbi David Saperstein, president of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, a Jewish lobby group for liberal causes in the nation's capital, and Carlton Veazey, head of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, an abortion-rights lobby group to which some mainline Protestant denominations belong.
Eleven of the signatories identify themselves as Roman Catholic. They include abortion-rights activist Frances Kissling and the Rev. Thomas Orians, who heads Dignity, a pro-homosexuality caucus for Catholics.
Twenty-two Episcopal bishops signed, including the denomination's former presiding bishop. Four United Methodist bishops signed, along with 26 professors from United Methodist seminaries. The presidents of the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association also signed.
Pagan signatories came from the Celtic Reconstructionists, the Covenant of the Goddess, the Inner Light Coven and the Aisling Association of Celtic Tribes.
The declaration calls for inclusion of sexual wisdom from often-silenced peoples; the full inclusion of "sexual minorities" in congregational life, including their ordination and the blessing of same-sex unions; and sex education for all ages from religious leaders and schools.
It also offers support for persons who challenge sexual oppression and work for justice within their denominations; the advocacy of sexual and spiritual wholeness in society; faith-based support for voluntary abortion, contraception and HIV/sexually transmitted diseases prevention and treatment; and religious leadership to combat sexual and social injustice.
The declaration seems to represent a new initiative by SIECUS to enlist religious allies in the battle for sexual liberation, with a strong emphasis on issues of homosexuality. It is important for religious institutions to minister and allow full religious participation to individuals who are gay, lesbian or bisexual, according to SIECUS.
Much of the organization's religious declaration aims to energize pro-homosexuality activists working to overturn the traditional teachings of their own religious bodies. SIECUS, like many other voices for sexual liberation in our culture, seems to view legitimization of homosexual behavior as a powerful instrument for overthrowing all societal taboos against nonmarital sex. In its vision of sexual utopia, only consent and health concerns will govern what is right and wrong about sexual practices.
No doubt the signatories to the religious declaration view themselves as being on the cutting edge of fashionable religious trends in the United States. But, nearly all of them come from dying or declining denominations. Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists, independent evangelicals, Pentecostals and Orthodox Jews are largely absent.
The statement may provide some religious cover to SIECUS' radical sexual agenda. But, for the religious officials who signed on, this statement only further advertises their growing irrelevance within America's still largely traditional religious demographic.
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