Statement of Rabbi Marc Israel, Director of Congregational Relations, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Response to the Religious Right's Anti-Gay Media Campaign
July 15, 1998
Press Conference in Response to the Religious Right's Anti-Gay Media Campaign Washington, DC July 15, 1998
I stand here today on behalf of the Reform Jewish movement to affirm our belief that all people-gays, lesbians, bisexuals, straight men and women-are created b'tselem elohim, in the image of God and that all people-gays, lesbians, bisexuals, straight men and women-are equal recipients of God's love. We condemn any and all campaigns by those who, in the name of God and under the cloak of religion, preach intolerance, hatred, and bigotry.
In recent days, we have seen a resurgence of anti-gay propaganda in the form of newspaper advertisements, celebrity statements, and, most sadly, homophobic comments from our elected officials. We stand today with other religious partners, and in solidarity with the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community, to maintain that God loves and accepts love from all people, regardless of sexual orientation. If you want to see faith in action, just walk steps from here on any Friday evening to Congregation Beit Mishpacha and observe hundreds of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered people, and straight people, joined together in worship, celebrating the Jewish Sabbath.
Rather than standing idly by while others try in vain, and in the name of God, to "cure" gay people, or to become "cured" themselves, we must join together to proclaim that there is nothing immoral, abhorrent, or deviant about homosexuality. We must continue to strengthen our efforts to extend to the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community the basic human rights enjoyed without thought by the rest of America.
In this vein, we applaud President Clinton in his continuing efforts to protect the civil rights of gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans through the amendment of Executive Order 11478, and to denounce the vitriolic measures, such as the "Hefley amendment," to undermine the effort to extend basic rights to all Americans. The addition of "sexual orientation" to the list of protected classes in the federal non-discrimination policy through Executive Order 13087 is an attempt to bring a measure of uniformity to the various policies held by different branches of the government. It creates no new laws, extends no special rights or privileges, and provides no legal recourse for victims of discrimination based on sexual orientation. It is a simple clarification of policy, but it is sends also a loud and clear message that such discrimination will not be tolerated. It is a step towards equality, a step towards justice.
We are taught: "You must not oppress your neighbor" (Leviticus 19:13), yet, in forty states, it is legal for private employers to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
We are taught: "You must judge your neighbor justly" (Leviticus 19:15), yet, only ten states and the District of Columbia have taken steps to ensure that workers are hired and fired based on ability and job performance, rather than on their sexual orientation.
We are taught: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18), yet gays, lesbians, and bisexuals continue to be attacked in the media, in the government, and in the streets.
We must not allow the Religious Right to be the only religious voice speaking out on this issue. We have a responsibility to combat their efforts to define homosexuality in opposition to true faith and love from God. We must stand up and proclaim that there is room in every heart for God, regardless of sexual orientation. That is what it means to "stand for truth."
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.