Soulforce Witness to Take Place in Washington, D.C. During Catholic Bishops Meeting Nov. 11-15 Outside Hyatt Regency

Vigilers Protest the Catholic Church’s Discriminatory and Outdated Teachings and Policies against Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals

Soulforce Press Release, November 7, 2001
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell: 717-278-0592

(Washington, DC) – Dozens of supporters of Soulforce, Inc. will be standing together outside the Hyatt Regency (400 New Jersey Ave, NW) in Washington, D.C., during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (UCCB) as part of the group’s commitment to the process of relentless nonviolent resistance. By conducting prayerful vigils during this event from November 11 – 15, 2001, Soulforce supporters say they are giving a face and a name to the suffering of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) individuals both inside and outside the Catholic church.

"Last year we were on the sidewalk of the Hyatt during the UCCB meeting, and this year we will be too, conducting four days of prayerful witness and vigiling," said Richard Murphy, co-chair of the UCCB action for Soulforce. "We are committed to ending the spiritual violence and suffering caused by the Catholic church’s discriminatory and outdated teachings and policies against GLBT individuals. We even went all the way to the Vatican earlier this year."

Soulforce is an interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Soulforce supporters from across the United States work together to teach truth in love relentlessly through the non-violent principles of dialogue, negotiation, and direct action as taught by Gandhi and King, while challenging policies in the churches that lead to spiritual violence.

In light of recent events and the climate in Washington, D.C., surrounding the terrorist attacks on September 11, Soulforce decided to continue with its plan for this nonviolent action at the UCCB, which will be different from direct actions conducted in the past. There will be no civil disobedience. There will be no arrests. And only those who have taken part in previous Soulforce direct actions and trainings in nonviolence will participate.

Additionally, each person participating has tried to dialogue with a bishop in the Catholic church. Two letters have been sent to Bishop Fiorenza, current president of the UCCB, and Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, current vice-president and anticipated president-elect. Soulforce has also written an open letter to all 294 bishops, which will be distributed to them during the conference. While in Rome earlier this year, attempts were made to dialogue with the Vatican, and representatives of the Vatican refused. The purpose of these letters was to open dialogue regarding teachings of the church that discriminate against GLBT people.

"The authority to teach is derived from the capacity to listen," said Kara Speltz, Catholic co-chair of the Soulforce UCCB Action. "To date, the church has not listened to any gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people. We call on the church to listen to us and change their teaching, just as they have in the past around slavery."

MEDIA NOTES: To arrange pre-event interviews, call 717-278-0592. Vigils will also take place during the Bishops Mass, November 12, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on NE Michigan Ave. from 5-7pm.