Three fundamental concerns are driving the formation of the new citizens organization:
I. The negative impact of special rights initiatives on all businesses and property owners, with a particularly negative impact on faith- based and faith-inspired businesses and property owners.
II. The negative impact of special rights initiatives on every citizen's constitutionally protected rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly.
III. The negative impact of the practice of homosexuality on the individuals who practice it and on the rest of the society.
The main multifaceted emphasis of the group is to defend Traditional Marriage as 'between one man and one woman', to respond to the controversy at the University of Notre Dame regarding homosexual activism at several levels, to respond to 'special rights for homosexuals' ordinances as they come forward in the Region and to facilitate help and ministry for those suffering from the ill effects of the homosexual lifestyle.
Calls to faith arm gay rights foes and supporters in South BendBoth sides claim religious devotion informs their view on city ordinance.
July 10, 2006
SOUTH BEND -- South Bend Equality, an organization that supports adding "sexual orientation and gender identity" to the city's nondiscrimination ordinance, maintains on its Web site that the issue is not a religious one.
Yet, faith seems to play a key role for people on both sides of the debate over whether to specifically ban discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people in housing, employment, education and public accommodations.
The Common Council is expected to vote today on the proposed Human Rights Ordinance amendment.
"Regardless which side of the issue we may be on, we can all agree on this much -- religious debates don't belong in the workplace," states the SBE Web site. "Nor should the religious views of some be imposed on others. This is not a religious issue. This is not a conservative or liberal issue. It's an issue of basic fairness... and of economic sense."
SBE advises supporters who may attend Common Council meetings, "There are a wide variety of opinions from religious perspective and most people hold very strongly to theirs. Discussing the religious aspect only invites controversy and offense."
But No Special Rights, an organization formed to oppose an addition that it believes would confer special rights to an already protected group, calls on "every citizen with faith" to actively oppose the amendment.
"This is not an issue of tolerating what people do in the privacy of their own home. This has become an aggressive attempt to force the moral acceptance of homosexual acts as normal on the entire population," reads NSR Web site.
Along with this call comes the admonishment that each citizen with faith should be learning how to reach out to homosexuals.
The "love the sinner, hate the sin" approach is "the best offer the Church can make while being true to the Scriptures," the NSR Web site states. "For people of Faith opposing sinful acts as defined in God's Word is a matter of intellectual honesty and holiness. Extending the promise of mercy to those willing to repent is the highest expression (of) God's Grace and Love."
Opponents of the amendment cite Romans 1:24-27 when maintaining the sinful nature of homosexuality.
Responding to questions from The Tribune about the role of faith, the Rev. Owen Cayton of First Christian Church, writes in an e-mail:
"Human rights are always important for the Christian Faith," he states. "One of the first confessions that we have in the biblical text is that human beings, both male and female, are created in the image of God. Then, we confess, that God calls everything good (Genesis 1:26-31)...
"To deny someone the rights that another has is a denial that they are created in the image of God. Further, denying rights to any particular group is a denial of our obligation to love our neighbor."
Cayton also cites God's desire to protect the vulnerable. GLBT people in the community are among the vulnerable, Cayton says. They often are discriminated against with little, if any, recourse. Many fear that being "discovered" could mean losing their jobs, being harassed or possibly being threatened.
Churches on both sides of the issue have used their bulletins and newsletters to address the matter.
The Cathedral of Saint Matthew reprinted a statement by the Most Rev. John M. D'Arcy, bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, against the proposed amendment.
In his statement, D'Arcy decries "any type of violent action or hateful speech aimed at homosexual persons.
"At the same time, we must be very cautious lest we validate in law lifestyles and behaviors to which many of our citizens are deeply in conscience opposed," he concludes.
Without comment or urging action, the bulletin then listed the names of Mayor Stephen J. Luecke and members of the Common Council, along with their contact information.
The First Unitarian-Universalist Church urged readers of its newsletter to support the amendment by writing to Common Council members, sending an e-mail or attending a common council meeting to show their support.
Religious organizations would be exempt from the ordinance where its protections may "affect the definition, advancement of the missions, practices or beliefs" of that group.
SBE supports the exemption, saying they want to be respectful of people's religious beliefs.
NSR maintains faith-based and faith-inspired businesses and property owners still will be adversely affected.
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