Yesterday, 110 members of a gay and lesbian rights group called Soulforce, Inc. were arrested during a protest outside the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC where 300 U.S. Catholic bishops held their annual meeting. The group was protesting the Church’s condemnatory stance on homosexuality, and had staged similar peaceful protests in the past six months at the annual conventions of several Christian denominations, including the United Methodists and the Southern Baptist Convention. On Monday, seven members of another group attempted to take communion at a mass, but the Catholic bishops refused them. The bishops also denied an invitation to hold mass with Dignity USA, a 30-year-old Catholic group that welcomes lesbians and gays.
The National Conference of Catholic Bishops released the first ever Christian Declaration on Marriage, signed by leaders of the Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and the National Association of Evangelicals. The declaration pointedly defines marriage as a union between “one man and one woman.” Southern Baptist Convention leader Richard Land warned against “counterfeit alternative relationships” like same-sex unions and “cohabitation.” The declaration calls on religious leaders and churches to develop programs that prevent divorce, encourage abstinence before marriage, and promote a strictly religious view of sexuality. The document cites abstinence-only programs like “True Love Waits” as examples of positive programs that strengthen marriage. True Love Waits, a group that solicits students to sign a pledge to wait until marriage to begin sexual activity and to uphold “biblical standards of sexual behavior,” is supported by various religious denominations, Christian student groups including the Campus Crusade for Christ, and a number of crisis pregnancy centers.