In the fall of 2012, the Religious Institute surveyed clergy in the Religious Institute database of progressive religious leaders regarding congregational and personal use of the Internet and social media, with a focus on sexuality issues. The survey responses indicated that while a majority of clergy and congregations have an active social media presence, there are virtually no written policies or national standards on how congregations or clergy are to use these technologies.
An executive summary detailing the results of this survey is available.
Click here to download.
Eight in ten clergy report having a congregational Facebook page, and 92% have a freestanding web page that is actively used for sharing news, prayer requests and more. One in five clergy reported intentionally visiting a sexually explicit website in the past six months. An additional 16% replied that they preferred not to answer the question about their personal use of these sites.
Less than ten percent of congregations have policies on congregational Facebook or Twitter account posting, or policies around online interactions for clergy and staff with congregants. Only 10% had policies around youth and educator online interactions, or an online extension of a “safe sanctuaries” or “safe congregations” policy.
“We believe that congregations need formalized, written policies governing use of social media, web sites, and other Internet technologies,” said the Rev. Debra W. Haffner, President of the Religious Institute. “As more of the work of ministry moves online, these needs are only going to become more urgent. Specific policies governing online interactions between adults and minors are just as necessary as policies governing real world interactions between adults and minors.”
The full press release, plus an executive summary, are available here.
More Than 1000 Diverse Religious Leaders Support Birth Control—
Religious Institute Applauds Proposed Rule on Family Planning Access for All Women
February 6, 2013—More than 1000 religious leaders from across the theological spectrum have joined together to support safe, affordable, accessible, and comprehensive family planning services.
They demonstrated their support by endorsing the new Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Family Planning, which recognizes that all women must have equal access to contraception, and states that “the denial of [coverage for] family planning services effectively translates into coercive childbearing and is an insult to human dignity.” The release of this statement coincides with the recent Obama Administration release of proposed regulations, which affirmed its commitment to assure all women have birth control access without cost or administrative hurdles.
The Open Letter was published by the Religious Institute, a multi-faith organization dedicated to sexual health, education and justice. The Rev. Debra W. Haffner, President of the Religious Institute, said today, “It is a critical misunderstanding to equate the minority of those religious leaders who have fought the coverage of birth control during the past year with threats and lawsuits, with the majority of people of faith in the United States who support access to contraception. Let us be clear that support for religious freedom means that women must have the right to accept or reject the principles of their own faith without restrictions, regardless of their place of employment or geographical location. It is unethical for any single religious voice to claim to speak for all religious people in this debate.”
Read the full press release here.
Read more about the Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Family Planning here.
Protecting individuals vs. institutions
The Christian Science Monitor's View of Dec. 10, "Balancing health and faith," concludes that the Affordable Care Act overreaches in mandating that religious-based employers offering secular services provide contraceptive services as part of employee health insurance.
This debate is about basic respect for individuals' moral agency to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health without government interference or legal restrictions. As part of our nation's commitment to church-state separation, there can be no room for government privileging the teachings of one religion over another on any part of health-care access.
Read the full letter to the Christian Science Monitor by Religious Institute Director of Outreach and Communication Michael Cobb, at this link.
World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.
World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988. Learn more about HIV/AIDS, why this observation is important - and what you can do - here.
New essay from Rev. Haffner on the 2012 election results:
It was a very long tense election night. But ultimately, hope and love won. Misogyny, racism, homophobia lost. The people of the United States voted, and on sexual justice issues, we are the new moral majority.
Sexual justice seeks to uphold the experience and expression of sexuality as life giving and pleasurable, in a social context marked by mutual respect, equality, and accountability. Sexual justice fosters physical, emotional, and spiritual health and accepts no double standards and applies to all persons. It encompasses reproductive justice for women and the full inclusion of women and LGBTQ people.
There are so many ways that sexual justice triumphed on election night. The future of the Supreme Court was likely decided for generations to come, and it will I believe continue to support the precedent of Roe v. Wade and ultimately decide that the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin were roundly trounced from office, following their inane and disrespectful comments about rape victims. Eighteen women were elected to the United States Senate, including several remarkable feminist political leaders and the first out lesbian. Maine and Maryland became the first states where the majority of voters supported marriage equality; Minnesota rejected a ban on same sex marriage; and Washington is likely to support marriage equality as well. Fifty five percent of the voters resoundingly defeated an anti-abortion measure in Florida.
50 Shades of Grace: Jesus' Sexuality
by Rev. Debra Haffner
I wasn’t surprised to read that the Vatican has published a response to the September 18th announcement of a tiny piece of papyrus that includes a dialog where Jesus refers to “my wife.” It is, in their words, a “clumsy forgery.” I only wonder what took them so long.
As you have no doubt read, Dr. Karen King, a professor of early Christianity at Harvard Divinity School, released findings last week regarding a newly found original document that offers evidence suggesting Jesus was married. It was front page news and lit up social media, with some claiming that it provides support for women priests and a married Roman Catholic clergy.
Veracity of the fragment aside, this wasn’t news to those of us who think about sexuality and the church.
On September 13, 2012, thirty-eight national religious leaders from across the theological spectrum have joined together in urging universal access to safe, affordable, accessible, and comprehensive family planning services, including increased U.S. support for domestic and global programs.
“Today, as religious leaders, we are called to support universal access to family planning,” said the Rev. Debra W. Haffner, President of the Religious Institute. “All persons should be free to make personal decisions about their families and reproductive lives that are informed by their culture, faith tradition, religious beliefs, conscience, and community.”
These 38 religious leaders endorsed the new Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Family Planning, published by the Religious Institute, a multi-faith organization dedicated to sexual health, education and justice. It is a multifaith call for religious leaders to support family planning from a faith-based perspective.
“Healthy Sexuality & Caring Connections: Foundations for Prevention” will be offered September 10, 2012. Religious Institute President Rev. Debra Haffner is one of the key speakers for this webinar.
Registration is free and open now, and is expected to sell out soon. You can get more information and register here.
Background: A clear understanding of healthy sexuality, healthy sexual development and healthy relationships offers individuals, families and communities a foundation to talk about a full spectrum of behaviors. More importantly, this foundation offers everyone a major tool needed to prevent child sexual abuse. This web conference focuses on practical information as well as ways to engage families and communities in these conversations. This web conference is fifth in a series of web conferences on ending child sexual abuse, and a collaboration between PreventConnect and Ms. Foundation for Women.
New essay by Marie Alford-Harkey, Religious Institute Director of Education and Training
I have not really wanted to weigh in on the Chik-Fil-A controversy. I have incredibly happy memories of my Grandmother taking me to the CFA in Southpark Mall in Charlotte, NC. The sandwich and the carrot and raisin salad were high on my list of favorite treats. I have friends and family who are very supportive of Chick-Fil-A and I hate making people angry. I’m a people pleaser to my core.
But I have reached my limit. I am saddened by the folks among my friends and family who just don’t “get it.” So let me be as clear as I possibly can. This is where I stand
Read the full essay here, and let her know what you think in the comments.
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