Minister urges GLAA to reconsider opposition to abstinence-only grant
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Minister urges GLAA to reconsider opposition to abstinence-only grant

Letter to GLAA from DC Black Church Initiative


Note from Rick Rosendall
GLAA Vice President for Political Affairs

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Friends,

Please see the letter below from Rev. Anthony Evans, a Baptist minister and chair of the DC Black Church Initiative. On Monday morning, April 28, I returned a call from him, after which he sent me the letter (which he has asked me to disseminate widely). He said that GLAA is blocking their abstinence-only HIV education grant. He cited my testimony on the subject for GLAA from David Catania's oversight hearing on grants, which is online at:
http://www.glaa.org/archive/2003/glaaonabstinence0217.shtml

Let me say at the outset that we at GLAA don't believe we have the power to block grants single-handedly simply by testifying against them. But I will summarize my conversation with Rev. Evans.

Rev. Evans wants to see if compromise language can be agreed upon so the grant money can be released to them. He says that many young lives are at stake. That much I agreed with him about: I said that we have seen many young gay people die under circumstances where they are abandoned and condemned by their families and then are further condemned from the pulpit at their own funerals. He actually claimed not to be aware of the latter ever happening. I note that Washington Blade reporter Lou Chibbaro witnessed one example of this at the funeral of Alexander Gray in 2001.

Evans said that he cannot approve of homosexuality because he believes in the Bible, but that he considers me his brother in Christ and would like for us to have a breakfast meeting and see if we can work something out. I said I am happy to meet with anybody, but that I didn't feel respected by someone who says I should abstain from sex until marriage and then opposes my ever being able to marry. I suggested he was being highly selective in the Biblical passages he cares about, and pointed out the pro-slavery references in Ephesians and Galatians (to name just two of many), which he acknowledged but said that clergy are uniquely empowered by God with the role of interpreting Scripture. (I mentioned this to my ex-boyfriend Robert, who was raised in the National Baptist Convention, which is African American, and he says that this claim by Evans is false: the Baptist faith has a long tradition of recognizing the primacy of the individual conscience and each person's relationship with God. This contrasts with the Catholic faith in which I was raised, which is much more centralized and controlling -- and which is why the Roman Church was not the first to translate the Bible into the vernacular; they wanted people to have to go through them.)

In response to my claim that he was picking and choosing which Biblical passages he was concerned about, Evans said that if I was going to try to teach him theology, it was a non-starter. (In other words, he can tell me but I can't tell him.) I told him that GLAA and I are strong supporters of the First Amendment, and that the bottom line is that he can preach however he likes as long as he keeps his hand out of the public till. He said that if we can't reach an agreement that will allow the grant money to be released, he and his colleagues will launch an aggressive effort that will set our movement back ten years. I pointed out that our major victories over the years, including Domestic Partnership in 1992 and Sodomy Law Repeal in 1993, were achieved despite strong opposition from some of the city's leading ministers. I also cited friendly ministers like Rainey Cheeks and Candace Shultis, who are now serving on the Mayor's Faith Advisory Council (or whatever they're calling it now) because of our behind-the-scenes efforts against attempts by the Mayor's former religious affairs liaison (Rev. Robinson) to violate the Establishment Clause and the DC Human Rights Act.
http://www.glaa.org/archive/2001/williamsreligiousliaison0307.shtml

Rev. Evans tried to sound conciliatory, despite the fact that he was making a threat. He said they want to send out some kind of document on abstinence-only (I'm not sure if it's a brochure or what) to something like 520,000 people in the District, and that we are blocking that by our opposition to the abstinence-only grant.

I told Rev. Evans that I didn't realize that GLAA was able to block the grant single-handedly, but that I was glad to hear we are so powerful. He said he is afraid that "we" (including himself) will lose all the gains we have made over the years -- which in his case don't sound like much, as far as gays are concerned. He did say that he didn't think we should be put to death for our homosexual acts, which I said was generous of him.

In the words of former GLAA President Bob Summersgill, who takes the lead for us on AIDS issues:

"The abstinence-only, or more specifically the abstinence-until-marriage grants are bound by compliance with the Social Security law SEC. 510. [42 U.S.C. 710] which can be viewed online at
http://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/ssact/title05/0510.htm.

"Those provisions are on their face a violation of the DC Human Rights Act on the basis of both sexual orientation and marital status. I have been meaning to file a complaint with the Office of Human Rights on just that point.

"Additionally, as I am sure we all agree, teaching abstinence without a comprehensive sex education is quite harmful, and a separate abstinence-only program does nothing but undermine the safer-sex education that is otherwise being advocated to prevent HIV transmission.

"How an abstinence-until-marriage program can be structured to comply with both federal and local requirements is a mystery to me. I don't believe that it is possible.

"I am amused that the Rev. Evans thinks that GLAA is powerful enough to keep him from feeding off the government's teat. I think it is far more likely that the we are simply good at pointing out the obvious.

"I would be willing to meet the Rev. Evans for breakfast, as he has promised not to kill me."

GLAA stands behind our testimony opposing the District's participation in abstinence-only grants, and our position is widely held within the AIDS activist and health-care communities. We are always willing to talk to people, however, so we will contact Rev. Evans about scheduling the meeting he requested, to which we will want to invite other activists and officials as appropriate.

Sincerely,

Rick Rosendall
Vice President for Political Affairs
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance
www.glaa.org



----- Original Message -----
From: "DC Black Church Initiative"
To: equal@glaa.org
Sent: Monday, April 28, 2003 11:39 PM
Subject: DCBCI's response

Rick

We are looking forward in working with GLAA.

God bless

Rev. Anthony Evans

-------------

DC Black Church Initiative
P.O. Box 65177
Washington, DC 20035-5177
Tel: (202) 636-5339
Fax 202-429-5289
DCBCI@mailcity.com

April 25, 2003

Mr. Rick Rosendall
Vice President for Political Affairs
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, DC
P.O. Box 75265
Washington, DC 20013

Dear Mr. Rosendall:

We at DCBCI have obtained a copy of your written testimony, delivered to the DC Council Committee on Human Services, concerning your opposition to the abstinence-only grant. First of all, let us express our sincere love for all gays and lesbians worldwide. The Scripture teaches us to love everyone, without exception. The Scripture never qualifies whom we should love.

I am an honest man, and I would never lie to you. I will never tell you that I accept the homosexual choice as consistent with the Scriptural understanding of how one should live their life. We are commanded by God to stand on his Word, but we are never commanded to hate anyone, even those who are opposed to his Word, or even those who interpret his Word differently. We accept you, and I hope that you will accept us, as brothers beloved. We will treat you with the same amount respect that we show to everyone else. Your humanity, and the fact that God created you, compels us to always see you, and any person, in the most loving and kind light. We would never discriminate against you or anyone from your community. We would be the first ones to defend your constitutional right in this democracy to choose whatever lifestyle you deem legitimate. We would defend you or your community from any malicious attack, whether physical or verbal. And we are sure that you would do the same for us.

But because we respect your right to choose, please do not ask us to embrace that choice when it goes against our understanding of God's Word. You can choose whatever you want. I hope that you understand that we can agree to disagree on the merits of theological claims without hatred, mean-spiritedness, malicious intent, or callousness.

Now let's address the issue at hand. We look forward to working with your organization to resolve the differences concerning the abstinence-only grant that the DOH is obligated to implement in this community. It is our sincere goal and objective to foster an effective relationship with the gay and lesbian community and to join with you to eliminate AIDS in our lifetime through various legitimate preventive measures such as abstinence or safe sex. We will abide by all federal rules pertaining to the abstinence grant. This is a common and consistent practice of DCBCI, never to violate any grant rules whether they come from the District or from federal authorities. We would never ask your organization to violate any of their rules regarding your non-profit status, and I am sure that you would afford us that same right not to violate any federal rules that afford us the same status.

We would like to invite you to discuss this matter at length over breakfast, and to talk about the content of both of our arguments as laid out in the enclosed document. We hope and pray that we will come out of that discussion with an understanding like that which DCBCI has forged with Our Brothers' Keepers. As you know, Our Brothers' Keepers is an openly black, gay, bisexual, and lesbian group with whom we have attempted to write a federal grant to attain funding to stop the spread of AIDS. Like we have forged a relationship with them, we would like to forge that same relationship with you as we reach out to reconcile our differences. Please do not let our differences of faith prevent us from working together to stop the tragedies of AIDS, STD's, and unplanned pregnancies that plague our communities.

We are looking forward to hearing from you concerning the matter at hand.

Sincerely, your humble servant,

Rev. Anthony Evans
President

Cc: Rev. Carlton Pressley
Senior Advisor to the Mayor for Religious Affairs

Ms. Wanda Austin [sic]
Director of the Gay & Lesbian Office
Office of the Mayor

Mr. Kevin [sic] Robinson
Chief of Staff
Office of the Mayor

Ms. Carolyn Graham
Deputy Mayor for Youth, Children and Elderly

Mr. James Buford
Director
Department of Health


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