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Monday, December 16, 2013

Celebrity bishop Gene Robinson in town

Bishop Gene Robinson at the Center for American Progress/Patricia Leslie
Retired bishop Gene Robinson, whose homosexuality spawned the departure of some conservative members from The Episcopal Church in 2003 when he was nominated for the episcopate, was in Washington last week where he attended a religious liberty presentation at the Center for American Progress.

The discussion centered on the creeping growth of religious expression which threatens to usurp civil rights and is increasingly found in legislation on state and federal levels to discriminate against gays, for example.  Panelist Sarah Warbelow of the Human Rights Campaign said religious liberty exemptions would give license to bully those who are different. 

The Rev. C. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance said he was "so proud of the ACLU because they are taking on the Catholic bishops," referencing  a case in Michigan where a pregnant woman at a Catholic hospital was given insufficient information leading up to the miscarriage of her fetus. Panel member Eunice Rho of the ACLU provided elaboration.

Sitting in the rear of the audience, Bishop Robinson was recognized by a panel member who asked him for a comment. 

Robinson, whose national identity and honesty have helped increase Americans' acceptance of gays, said to combat discrimination "nothing works better than personal stories…. [and] getting people to tell stories about spiritual pain."

Said Mr. Gaddy: "You can't substitute anyone's holy book for the Constitution because the Constitution protects everyone."

Lissy Moskowitz from NARAL Pro-Choice America was another panelist.  CAP's Sally Steenland served as moderator, and Tom Perriello made opening remarks.

A report by CAP's Joshua Dorner which outlines the current debate, Religious Liberty for Some or Religious Liberty for All?, was available at the meeting.

According to the report, almost 70 percent of Americans believe civil rights trump religious beliefs and that business owners, for example, should not be permitted to discriminate against those whose lifestyles do not match their own.

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