UPDATE: Tony Dungy withdrew from consideration for this board and among the names announced, only one is potentially a member of a non-Abrahamic faith. While I’m glad that an anti-gay activist is no longer included, and more than one individual who is friendly to LGBTQ issues have been named, I am concerned that the meaning of Interfaith apparently doesn’t include members of religions such as Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, indigenous traditions, and other numerous spiritual traditions.
NOTE: Last summer, I participated in efforts to ensure that the Interfaith Alliance included spiritual other than the Abrahamic traditions at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. We were alarmed that Pagans, Zoroastrians, and others were not being included in the dialogue. We felt we had achieved a small victory when the benediction at Invesco Field included an open, inclusive, participatory prayer. The following story however, is discouraging to those of us who fought for inclusion and those of us who believe in Civil Rights and Equality for all of our citizens.
The day before the Inauguration, I was one of several pagan clergy who spoke at the Jefferson Memorial, honoring the beginning of the Obama administration and included prayers for healing, blessings, and hope for meaningful participation by all citizens. I’m sharing this story with you because I’m concerned that the White House is not only inviting an individual who has actively campaigned against the LGBTQ community, but also has not indicated further inclusion of non-Abrahamic faiths in the Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. While I’m very supportive of the administration, I do want to be sure that our diverse voices and needs are included.
According to media reports, the White House has invited anti-gay activist and retired NFL Coach Tony Dungy to join its Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Dungy actively campaigned for an anti-gay ballot initiative in Indiana that banned same-sex couples from being civilly married.
“President Obama was given a mandate to bring people together,” said Tanya Clay House, Director of Public Policy at People For the American Way. “But his selection of Tony Dungy is extremely divisive. Dungy campaigned specifically to discriminate against a particular group of people, and heâ€™s been closely aligned with the far-right Indiana Family Institute.”
As part of its campaign to ban same-sex couples from getting civilly married, The Indiana Family Institute pushed dishonest, over the top rhetoric about gay and lesbian Americans, posting on their website: “The enemies of [legislation to ban marriage for same-sex couples] are far more dangerous than the media and even most Christians realize. They not only want to destroy marriage and create a society free from any and all sexual boundaries, they will spare no effort to attain their ultimate goal of silencing all those who oppose them.”
At a 2007 banquet sponsored by the Institute, Dungy declared, “IFI is saying what the Lord says. You can take that and you can make the decision on which way you want to be.”"There’s a Constitutional way for the government to work with religious groups, and it’s appropriate for it to do so,” said House. “But the Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships council shouldn’t be used to reward voices of intolerance like Tony Dungy. If President Obama is looking for a religious leader to offer counsel and advice there are better people to fill the role.”