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defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...

Jews On First!

... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind

Organizing to oppose theocracy

Topics on this page include: Faith in America launches "Call to Courage" campaign | Faith in America asks "Would Jesus Discriminate?" | First Amendment First | Soulforce's 2006 March to Colorado Springs | Texas Clergy Push Back Against Religious Right | Ohio Clergy Challenge Political Activities of Columbus Christocrats | Jews opposing the religious right | Christians resisting the religious right | Democrats resisting the religious right | Jews discuss resisting Christianization |

Faith in America launches "Call to Courage" campaign

National campaign challenging religion-based bigotry against gays starts in Iowa

Faith In America "Call to Courage" campaign using ads, mail and house visits to educate against discrimination

by JewsOnFirst.org, May 8, 2007

Faith In America has launched a five-city campaign to challenge religion-based bigotry against LGBT people, according to the organization's leaders who announced the campaign with a telephone news conference on May 3rd.

The cities are: Ames, Iowa; Reno; Greenville, South Carolina; Manchester, New Hampshire; and Colorado Springs. The first four are in states with early presidential primaries.

Faith In America is a civil rights organization focusing on ending religious discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Continue.

Furniture CEO Brings Gay-Rights Fight Into America’s Living Room

Jim Baxter, Forward, May 11, 2007

As the CEO of a furniture company in North Carolina that boasts annual sales of more than $100 million, Mitchell Gold knows a thing or two about making customers feel comfortable. These days, however, he is working to unsettle people.

Gold, in addition to his day job, is the founder and primary funder of Faith in America, an organization that seeks to “educate Americans about the misuse of religious teachings to discriminate and isolate gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.” This week, the organization launched a multi-city campaign aimed at people who live in the early presidential primary and caucus states. Continue.

Faith in America asks "Would Jesus Discriminate?"

Interview with Mitchell Gold
Leader of the Faith in America campaign challenging religious bigotry against gays and lesbians talks with JewsOnFirst

by JewsOnFirst, July 27, 2006

"Religion-based bigotry. Let's end it now and forever," say ads running in Indiana and North Carolina. The ads are talking about bigotry against homosexuals. Mitchell Gold, who is leading the ad campaign through the Faith In America organization he founded, told JewsOnFirst that the ads will keep running until they work. Continue.

Campaign seeks a dialogue between gays, Christian conservatives

By Ken Kusmer, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), July 14, 2006

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- "Would Jesus discriminate?"

The question has been popping up on billboards, yard signs and in newspaper ads around conservative central Indiana lately in a new, Bible-based appeal for acceptance of gays and lesbians. It's a campaign organized by a predominantly gay and lesbian denomination - Metropolitan Community Churches - and a Jewish gay activist.

Organizers say the effort is the first in a planned series of campaigns across the country aimed at getting people to take a fresh look at the social justice passages in the Bible. Continue

First Amendment First

Group takes on religion, state ties
Walter Cronkite, Church Leaders Attend S.J. Event

By Kim Vo, Mercury News (San Jose, California), February 24, 2007

Former CBS news anchor Walter Kronkite talks with Gloria C. Duffy, president of the Commonwealth Club of California, during one of the club's meetings held at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in San Jose Friday, Feb. 23, 2007. Cronkite gave his views on the separation of church and state in America.

Faith-based initiatives. Intelligent design. Gay marriage. Terri Schiavo.

Alarmed by what they see as religious groups' growing influence on government policy, a consortium has launched a public awareness campaign to defend the First Amendment's vow that ``Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.'' Continue.

Soulforce's 2006 March to Colorado Springs

Soulforce Protests Focus on the Family
The 1000 Watt March, Vigil, and Concert: Shedding the Powerful Light of Truth on the Anti-Gay Dishonesty of Focus on the Family

In July 2006 Soulforce, a non-profit civil rights organization campaigning for "freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance," marched from Denver to Colorado Springs to confront Focus on the Family, a homophobic powerhouse of the religious right.

We have collected some photos and links to reports so you can experience a little bit of the successful event. Continue

Texas Clergy Push Back Against Religious Right

Texas clergy organize to protect religious space
Response to "patriot pastors'" political use of houses of worship

by JewsOnFirst.org, July 5, 2006

Over 100 Texas clergy launched a campaign last week to push back against the partisan use of houses of worship by religious right groups.

Their call their campaign Respect Our Faith. It follows the establishment of the Texas Restoration Project, which recruits conservative evangelical "patriot pastors" to mobilize their congregations for right-wing causes. We talk with Rabbi Neal Katz, who helped announce the campaign. Please click here for our report.

Ohio Clergy Challenge Political Activities of Columbus Christocrats

Please also see Ohio Clergy Challenge Political Activities of Columbus Christocrats

Clergy cite key role of religion in politics

By Marilyn H. Karfeld, Cleveland Jewish News, October 27, 2006

Karfeld reports that since a group of Ohio clergy complained earlier this year to the IRS about Parsley and Johnson using their churches for partisan political purposes, the two "patriot pastors" have not been seen publicly together. She reports: "According to [Rev. Tim] Ahrens [a leader of the liberal clergy organization "We Believe Ohio"], Blackwell and Parsley have not been seen together in public since the complaint was filed. 'Money has dried up,' Ahrens added. 'We Believe rattled them. They thought they were the only ones allowed to speak (in the public square.) Now we're on the playground.'" Click here, please.

We Believe Ohio to Challenge Christocrats' Monopoly on Public Space

By JewsOnFirst.org, May 11, 2006

Under the banner of "We Believe Ohio," mainstream clergy in Columbus are organizing their communities to reclaim the public space that two powerful religious right leaders have crowded with anti-gay "moral" issues. Founded late last year, the organization has grown rapidly to include more than 110 Christian and Jewish congregational leaders. We interview three of them for our report. Please click here.

Ohio Christian and Jewish clergy challenge Christocrat pastors

In January 2006, a group of Columbus clergy complained to the IRS about the pro-Republican political activities of "patriot" pastors Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson, who are credited with helping President Bush eke out a narrow victory in 2004. Please click for our coverage, which includes a live newsfeed and the case documents.

Clergy leaders try to counter religious right
Group emphasizes housing, education instead of abortion and gay marriage

By Mark Naymik, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 18, 2006

More than 100 religious leaders from Northeast Ohio threw themselves into statewide politics Wednesday, launching a campaign to counter the influence of religious conservatives.

At an event punctuated by prayers, songs and cheers from hundreds of people, the mix of ministers, rabbis and other clergy kicked off We Believe Cleveland, a coordinated effort to promote discussion among their congregations on issues such as housing, health care and education rather than gay marriage and abortion. Continue

Columbus clergy complaint about pastors alleges forbidden political activity, IRS partiality
It is important to encourage Christians, a Columbus rabbi tells JewsOnFirst

by JewsOnFirst.org, April 27, 2006

A group of Columbus, Ohio clergy has filed a second complaint with the Internal Revenue Service over partisan political activities of Columbus area pastors Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson. The two pastors are prominent leaders of the religious right. They have been widely credited with turning out the vote to help President George Bush eke out a narrow victory in Ohio in 2004.

The former director of the IRS division overseeing tax-exempt organizations, Marcus Owens, recently began representing the group of clergy. Continue to our report, which includes our interview with Rabbi Harold Berman of Congregation Tifereth Israel, one of several rabbis who signed the complaint. Click here

Jews opposing the religious right

Jewish Women Lobby the Missouri Legislature on Church-State Issues

by JewsOnFirst.org, May 4, 2006

Forty-five Jewish activists from St. Louis traveled to Jefferson City on May 2nd to express concern to members of the Missouri legislature about a number of measures that threaten religion-state separation. Led by the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW)-St. Louis Section, Hadassah, St. Louis Chapter, and the Advocacy Coalition of the Jewish Community Relations Council, the group met with legislators of both parties. Continue

Activists Prepare for New Church-State Battles

By E.J. Kessler, Forward via AStandForJustice.org, March 17, 2006

"As a liberal advocacy group tries to link prominent conservative Christian leaders to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Jewish activists at both ends of the political spectrum are organizing for the next round of battles in the fight over church-state separation.

"A veteran left-wing activist and a Reform-trained rabbi recently launched a Web site, JewsonFirst.org, in order to expose what they argue is the "intimidation" practiced by right-wing Christian groups that are agitating for a conservative judiciary and culture. The Web site describes such conservative efforts as a danger to First Amendment-guaranteed religious freedoms. Click here for the report.

"Sex Ed is a Mitzvah!" program hosted by Maryland synagogue
Focus on Jewish values and the fundamentalist Christian effort to control sex education in local school district

As the religious right wages a nationally watched struggle against their local school district's sex education curriculum, concerned citizens and congregations members attended a December 4, 2005 program about sex education at Temple Shalom in Bethesda. They heard from leaders in the effort to secure comprehensive sex education and learned about Jewish values regarding sex education from Rabbi Michael Feshbach, Temple Shalom's senior rabbi. In that Reform congregation, said Feshbach, they endeavor to "teach our children and adults to be serious, liberal, modern, religious Jews." Where sex education is concerned, he said, they combine traditional and modern values and "build a bridge between sexuality and theology." Click here for the report.

National Council of Jewish Women Pledges to Lead Fight to Uphold First Amendment Rights
In email marking Chanukah, NCJW president places resisting religous right in Jewish tradition

Email from Phyllis Snyder, President of National Council of Jewish Women, December 15, 2005

In her Chanukah email, National Council of Jewish Women President Phyllis Snyder notes that much in Jewish history is about surviving adversity. She sees the growing power of the religious right as ominous and promises that "NCJW is resolving to be a leader in the fight to uphold the minority rights protected by our Constitution."

Click here to read NCJW's email. We also encourage you to click here go to the NCJW's website at www.ncjw.org and learn more about their important campaigns.

Stop Bush Funding of Pat Robertson
National Jewish Democratic Council launches campaign to stop "faith-based" funding of Pat Robertson, other divisive figures

National Jewish Democratic Council, January 25, 2006

Federal funding for Pat Robertson's "Operation Blessing" has risen from $108,000 to $14.4 million annually. The NJDC is collecting signatures to urge the Bush administration to stop "faith-based" funding to the operations of such "divisive" figures. Click here for the campaign..

Christians resisting the religious right

Book Review: Getting on Message
Challenging the Christian Right from the Heart of the Gospel, by Rev. Peter Laarman, Editor

Reviewed by Claire Gorfinkel for JewsOnFirst.org, May 4, 2006

As American Jews, the notion that "we live in a Christian country" is filled with complexity and irony. Christianity pervades our lives like the air we breathe, and some times - particularly Christmas and Easter times - we can't avoid being overwhelmed by the blurring of Christianity with mainstream commercialism...

But in the 21st Century, with the Christian Right appropriating our text while seeking our conversion and relishing our destruction in the Armageddon that they welcome, it is no longer sufficient to duck out of town (or go to a Chinese restaurant) during their holidays. We are called upon to be more vigilant, for ourselves and for others who are victimized by their pervasive, self-righteous, authoritarian, militaristic acquisitiveness and their demonization of poor people, immigrants, gays and lesbians, women, liberals, and everyone else who does not identify as "born again."

Thus it is with great hope and pleasure that we may turn to Getting on Message; Challenging the Christian Right from the Heart of the Gospel edited by Rev. Peter Laarman. Here, we Jews who care for the First Amendment - and presumably the expansion of economic justice and human rights - can discover our counterparts in opposition to an increasingly Christianized right-wing country. Continue

Please note: Rev. Laarman is executive director of Progressive Christians Uniting.

Reviewer Claire Gorfinkel's publishing company, Intentional Productions, focuses on "stories of courage ... human responses to adversity and evil."

Democrats resisting the religious right

Leading Democrats get warm welcome from group of evangelicals

By Ely Portillo, The Mercury News (San Jose, California), June 28, 2006

WASHINGTON - A convention of evangelical Christians gave standing ovations this week to Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill.

And that's news, because pro-choice, pro-gay rights Democrats aren't usually favorites of evangelicals. But that could be changing as the Democratic Party tries to reconnect with so-called "values voters," and some evangelical leaders try to extend religious debates beyond gay marriage and abortion. Continue

Jews discuss resisting Christianization

Regarding the conversation here on the Christian Right:

by Rabbi Stuart Federow, spiritual leader of Shaar Hashalom in Houston, March 8, 2006

HOUSTON. What bothers me most about the Christian Right is not their agenda for what they consider to be the End Of Days, ultimately our mass conversion. This part of their eschatology is no less unBiblical than the rest of their Christian theology.

What bothers me is their most recent response to the Jewish community. Members of the Jewish community were objecting to now Supreme Court Justice Alito's appointment, and making statements against his anti-abortion stance and his other Conservative political attitudes. Members of the Christian Right began to make statements threatening withdrawal of support for the State Of Israel, if the Jewish community did not silence these objections, and stop fighting the Christian Right on such Conservative Issues. Continue...

Officials Strategize Over Religious Right

By Nathaniel Popper, Forward, December 9, 2005

"At a meeting called to strategize about the political and cultural challenges posed by Christian conservative activists, Jewish communal officials disagreed about the extent of the problem. They left with no concrete plans or strategy.

"The meeting was convened by the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, who warned in a major policy address last month against the growing campaign to 'Christianize America.' A few weeks later, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, also spoke out, condemning 'zealots' on the 'religious right.'" Click here to go to the report.

Attack On Right Reveals Fault Lines
Jewish groups differ on Evangelical 'threat' as they try to hash out consensus going forward.

By James D. Besser, The Jewish Week, December 9, 2005

"A meeting of Jewish leaders called to hash out common strategies for dealing with the Christian right instead pointed to Jewish factions that are moving in opposite directions on the issue.

"Still, participants said Monday's session, called by Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman as part of his controversial blast at groups he said were using the government to help "Christianize" the nation, may have clarified where Jewish leaders agree on relations with the Evangelicals - and where they disagree." Click here to read the report.

Jewish Leaders to Devise Strategy

By Julia Duin, Washington Times, December 5, 2005

Right-wing publication previews meeting on response to Christianization called by Anti-Defamation League. The paper's quotes of critics of the move map the opposition to organizing a Jewish resonse to theocratization Click here to read the report.

ADL's Foxman warns of efforts to `Christianize America'

By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz, November 6, 2005

"Institutionalized Christianity in the U.S. has grown so extremist that it poses a tangible danger to the principle of separation of church and state and threatens to undermine the religious tolerance that characterizes the country, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, warned in his address to the League's national commission, meeting in New York City over the weekend." Click here to read the report