WASHINGTON (BP)–A recent news release from The Interfaith Alliance (TIA) announced that its board had affirmed the Massachusetts court decision on same-sex “marriage”; however, one Southern Baptist board member questions that characterization. David R. Currie, coordinator of Texas Baptists Committed (TBC), serves on the 24-member TIA board and told Baptist Press that the statement — which he said related to civil rights — was agreed upon a full week prior to the court ruling and “clearly did not endorse homosexual marriage.”
In a Nov. 18 news release headlined “National Interfaith Organization Affirms Massachusetts Decision on Same-Sex Unions,” the board was described as issuing a statement in communication with TIA President C. Welton Gaddy.
The TIA board “spoke with one voice in issuing the following the statement,” the release stated. It also noted that the board “thanked the court for demonstrating a commitment to basic civil liberties.”
The TIA statement followed: “People of faith and good will are bound together by shared principles of compassion, civility and mutual respect for human dignity for all people, branches of a pluralistic society that weave a common thread through the fabric of our nation. The Interfaith Alliance is committed to the guarantee of civil liberties and religious liberties, though they do not always coincide.”
The statement continued, “Today’s court ruling on same-sex unions has affirmed what kinds of interpersonal associations are subject to the protection of law within its jurisdiction, civil liberties that should rightly be extended to all Americans. The Interfaith Alliance has neither standing nor intent to evaluate the theology and practice of any particular faith tradition, but affirms its respect for the religious liberties that honor the diversity of approaches to marriage.”
When asked about the ruling, Currie replied by e-mail, “The Interfaith Alliance clearly did not endorse homosexual marriage in their statement, which was agreed upon on November 12, 2003, a full week prior to the court ruling and not discussed with the TIA board after that. Thus, I do not understand the release from The Interfaith Alliance that says TIA ‘affirms’ the Massachusetts decision and ‘thanks’ the court for the decision,” he stated. “I personally neither affirm the ruling nor do I thank the court for it.”
Massachusetts’ highest court ruled Nov. 18 that same-sex couples within the state have the right to “marry.” The Supreme Judicial Court stopped short of immediately legalizing same-sex “marriage” and stayed its ruling to give the legislature 180 days to act in a way “it may deem appropriate.”
TIA spokesman John Peterson declined to comment directly regarding Currie’s reaction, stating, “The only statement is the press release. This was brought to its final form after considerable discussion by the board.” Regarding the timeframe of the discussion held a week prior to the court ruling, Peterson said, “The board knew this would be coming to the forefront. The board chose to struggle with this and come up with this as a statement.”
Several years ago Currie objected to a characterization of his involvement with TIA as evidence of his personal support for pro-homosexual causes. After Missouri Baptist Layman’s Association leader Roger Moran made the accusation, Currie was quoted in a March 1, 2000, Associated Baptist Press report as saying that homosexuality had never been mentioned in the four years that he had attended TIA meetings. Instead, the focus was placed on issues that the diverse group agreed on, such as the need to encourage civility in religious discourse.
Currie reiterated his position in the interview with Baptist Press, stating, “It is well known by all persons who have read previous statements of mine, as well as by my fellow Interfaith Alliance board members, that I believe homosexual activity to be contrary to the teachings of Christian Scripture and thus sinful behavior.”
He added, “To my knowledge, TIA has never in its history addressed the issue of homosexuality, and I am pleased we simply took no position once again. TIA’s role, as I understand it, is to encourage civility among persons of different faiths and different opinions. Thus I enjoy very much my work with TIA even though I disagree theologically and politically often with some others on the board. I believe it is a valuable organization working to see that religion is a healing influence in American society.”
Currie concluded, “In a free society, even persons who disagree with my beliefs and theology are still entitled to full civil rights. As a Christian, there are innumerable actions or behaviors with which I personally disagree, but which I must disapprovingly accept in a pluralistic society. However, it would be unfair of anyone to equate my acceptance of such behavior with my approval.”
The Interfaith Alliance is described on its website as “a non-partisan, clergy-led grassroots organization dedicated to promoting the positive, healing role of faith in civic life and challenging intolerance and extremism.” The organization claims more than 150,000 members drawn from more than 70 faith traditions, including “those with none at all.” Efforts are directed at safeguarding religious liberty, ensuring civil rights, restoring good government, strengthening public education, eradicating poverty and championing a safe and clean environment.
“We actively challenge those, such as the Religious Right, who foster intolerance and degrade the value of a multi-faith nation,” the TIA website explains. Currie’s leadership with Texas Baptists Committed is described by TIA as “an organized, educational effort to resist takeover of the Baptist General Convention of Texas by fundamentalist, politically conservative groups.” Currie also serves on BGCT’s board of consultants for the Christian Life Commission. He is a frequent speaker at Cooperative Baptist Fellowship workshops and serves as a consultant for the “Mainstream Baptist” network.
The TIA board also includes members who are Muslim, Jewish, Unitarian, Episcopal, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, National Baptists, Presbyterian (U.S.A.), United Methodist and leaders within the National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches.
Conservatives are pushing for a constitutional amendment protecting the traditional definition of marriage, and one such effort — the Federal Marriage Amendment — already has some 100 cosponsors in the House of Representatives. On Nov. 25 the amendment was introduced in the Senate. To become law it would require passage by two-thirds of the House and Senate and three-quarters of the states. If passed, it would trump the Massachusetts ruling as well as any other such ruling by a court.
Regarding the Federal Marriage Amendment recently introduced in Congress, Currie said, “I have not decided whether I can fully support the constitutional amendment on marriage as currently drafted. Many conservative scholars whose opinion I often respect, such as George Will, have voiced serious concerns regarding this amendment and its potential implications. Therefore, although my sentiment and theology would support such an amendment, I need to further study all of the potential constitutional implications of such an amendment.” He further stated, “I would encourage others to carefully study the implications as well, since good decisions are based on careful study, not emotion.”