Current Affairs

Congregation evicted over gay talk

PinkNews Staff Writer November 24, 2006
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A gay activist is demanding an apology from a US Diocese after a congregation’s lease was terminated over disagreement of a talk he was due to give at the venue.

The Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, leased space for three years to the Unitarian Unversalist Congregation of the South Jersey Shore, but the congregation has been forced out of their leased space without warning for arraigning gay activist Marc Adams to speak at a Sunday service.

Mr Adams, was scheduled to share his personal story and speak about HeartStrong, a non profit educational organisation providing outreach and support to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students from religious educational institutions earlier this month.

“We find what Father Lavin and the Diocese of Camden have done to be completely unacceptable,” HeartStrong executive director Marc Adams said.

“We refuse to allow them to imply that my message and the message of HeartStrong is wrong, sinful or unacceptable. They may be able to attempt to try to intimidate or silence those who subscribe to their beliefs, but they can’t silence or intimidate HeartStrong.”

The programme sparked a wildfire of resistance and anti-gay Catholic positioning which ignited on November 2 and is now just beginning to burn full force.

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Jersey Shore leased space from the Campus Catholic Ministry Center at Stockton College in Pomona, New Jersey, since February 2004.

On Thursday November 2 2006, Father Pat Lavin of the Catholic Campus Ministry Centre called Betsy Searight, church administrator for the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Jersey Shore.

Father Lavin reported that he had received numerous phone calls from the Knights of Columbus expressing their disapproval of Marc Adams’ programme. Father Lavin said he was concerned that he would be fired if the Sunday service with Marc Adams as guest speaker as publicised in a local newspaper.

The Board of Directors for the UUCSJS choose to go forward as planned with the Sunday service.

On Friday November 3 2006, a lawyer for the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, stating that the UUCSJS’ lease was null and void and the service would not be permitted to go on as scheduled.

After a direct response from the church’s lawyer, the Diocese backed off temporarily indicating a fear of public scrutiny of their actions. The church has since been directed that their lease is still terminated. The church is investigating the legality of the termination as well as the anti-gay discriminatory position against the message of Marc Adams and HeartStrong.

HeartStrong has provided outreach and support to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered students from religious educational institutions for ten years. Marc Adams’ is a co-founder and volunteer executive director.

“There is nothing wrong with our message,” Adams states. “For over ten years we have provided hope and help to many people from religious schools. About one-third of the students who come to us for assistance are from Catholic schools. They are victims of the same intimidation tactics that have been used here against the UUCSJS.”

While the UUCSJS pursues legal options, Adams and HeartStrong demand an apology.

“A letter has been sent to both Lavin and the Archbishop requesting their public apology,” Adams continues. “We will be relentless in our pursuit for these apologies. Their actions and implications regarding our message and work are wrong and we do not tolerate misrepresentation. We don’t anticipate that they will do the right thing but that won’t stop us from pursuing this.”

© 2006; All Rights Reserved.

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