Too often when gays and lesbians think of religion, they think about people like Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed or Jerry Falwell: men who would use the Bible against them. That’s why it’s refreshing when you find a group of people who make it their purpose to fight the lies that these men and others like them spread around the world. Such a group is The Interfaith Working Group.
The IWG, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania believes that the characterization of religion as inherently conservative, and the subsequent portrayal of social debates as disagreements between the religious and the areligious undermine faith in religious institutions and the ideal of religious diversity.
Their mission is to inform the public of the diversity of religious opinion on social issues where it is not widely recognized by providing a voice and a forum for religious organizations, congregations and clergy in the Philadelphia area who favor gay rights, reproductive freedom, and the separation of church and state.
The IWG is just over a year old and already they have accomplished much. Their organization includes two congregations, five religious organizations and thirty-five clergy from twelve faiths and denominations. They’ve sent an average of eight letters a month to newspapers, magazines, TV stations, state and Federal officials, school boards, school officials and the heads of national organizations.
They have written to support gay teachers and gay-friendly school policies and teaching materials, to protest censorship and forced religious participation, to argue against the policies of the Radical Religious Right, to uphold marriage for same-sex couples, to counter the demoralization programs of groups like Concerned Women for America, and to dispute claims that all religious people think alike, or that the extension of privacy rights or the practice of minority religions has led to a general moral decline.
Getting involved is easy:
- If you live in the Philadelphia area, get your congregation, religious organization and/or clergy person to join the Interfaith Working Group.
- If you don’t live in the area, check to see if there’s a similar group where you live. If there isn’t one, start one. Feel free to borrow their organizational structure and ask them for advice.
- They held the Philadelphia Freedom to Marry Conference and a press conference supporting municipal Domestic Partnership which got outstanding media coverage.