Cal-Nev Member of Clergy Among Four Arrested in Act of Civil Disobedience
May 26, 2009 - Four clergy members on the faculty and staff of Pacific School of Religion (PSR) were arrested near City Hall in San Francisco, today, in acts of civil disobedience following the California Supreme Court's decision to uphold a constitutional amendment that denies the full equality of same-sex couples under the law.
The four are: the Rev. Jeffrey Kuan, associate professor of Old Testament at PSR, a clergy member of the California-Nevada Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, appointed to extension ministry; Rev. Deborah Lee, program director of PSR's PANA Institute (Institute for Leadership Development and Study of Pacific and Asian North American Religion); Rev. Nicole Naffaa, director of recruitment and admission for the multidenominational Christian seminary; and Rev. Roland Stringfellow, who serves as a program coordinator at PSR's Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS).
They, along with other PSR faculty, staff, students, and alums, had marched behind a banner stating, "Faith demands justice! Marriage Equality Now!" at a rally held in advance of the court ruling.
Just after the court's announcement, PSR issued the following press release, under the headline, "PSR denounces California Supreme Court decision denying marriage rights of same-sex couples":
"The president of Pacific School of Religion, and the executive director of the seminary's Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry, spoke out today against the California Supreme Court decision to uphold a constitutional amendment that denies the full equality of same-sex couples under the law and writes discrimination into the California state constitution.
"'Just over a year ago, the California Supreme Court ruled that the right to marry the person of one's choosing, regardless of gender, is one of the fundamental rights embodied in the California Constitution,' said Bill McKinney, president of PSR. 'Now the court has declared that this fundamental right can be overturned by a simple majority vote. This has grave consequences for all Californians, who must now wonder if their fundamental rights can be voided at the ballot box. This is a situation that cries out for justice to be restored.'
"Mary A. Tolbert, executive director of CLGS, said, 'The court has done a grave injustice not just to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, but to all the people of California. We continue to pray for the prophetically predicted day when 'justice rolls down like water, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.'
"PSR encourages clergy and worship leaders to address the theological, social, and emotional effects of the court decision during upcoming worship services, and encourages all faith communities to continue to work to affirm the civil rights of all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals.
"'There's a critical difference between marriage as a civil contract and marriage as a religious covenant,' Tolbert said. 'Every faith community, regardless of stance on religious recognition of same-sex relationships, has a stake in securing equal access to the benefits of this civil contract. California should not tolerate second-class status for any of its citizens. Neither should people of faith. Ultimately, it's a question of equal rights, not religion.'
"The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry provides training and education to help faith communities that work for full inclusion of same-sex couples in religious celebrations of marriage. A number of faith traditions currently bless same-sex relationships, including Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the United Church of Christ, the Metropolitan Community Churches, some congregations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), some Episcopal churches, and some Baptist churches. The Web-based CLGS Marriage Project (www.clgs.org/marriage) is designed to assist religious communities in these important efforts."