The Religious Institute offers its prophetic moral voice to the public discourse at the intersection of religion, sexuality, gender, and reproductive health. Below you will find our press releases from 2015 and earlier.
2015 Press Releases
October 20, 2015—Renewing the engagement of religious leaders and people of faith is essential to the progress and long-term success of the sexual and reproductive health and justice movement. That’s the key finding of a new white paper to be published by the Religious Institute titled “A Time to Embrace: Why the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Movement Needs Religion.” Following a year of research, surveys and the deliberations of a national colloquium, the paper reveals a renewed potential among secular and faith organizations to address the morality of sexual and reproductive health decisions.
September 28, 2015—Today, 44 nationally recognized religious leaders released a joint statement supporting Planned Parenthood and urging Congress to resist efforts to deny federal funding to Planned Parenthood’s health centers – which serve 2.7 million people each year. Together, these Christian, Jewish, Catholic, Unitarian Universalist, and Muslim leaders agreed:
“As religious leaders, we urge Congress to resist efforts to deny federal funds to Planned Parenthood’s non-profit health centers that provide crucial reproductive health care. We ask for an end to politically motivated attacks on women’s sexual and reproductive health. We know that Planned Parenthood provides essential lifesaving services to almost three million people each year, including the most vulnerable families in the U.S. As religious leaders, we support family planning as a means of saving lives, improving reproductive and public health, enhancing sexuality, and encouraging intentional parenthood. We stand with people of faith who have supported Planned Parenthood for nearly one hundred years.”
After 15 years, Rev. Haffner will step down April 30, 2016
Westport, CT, September 1, 2015 – Rev. Debra W. Haffner announced today that she will step down as president of Religious Institute at the end of April 2016. Rev. Haffner co-founded the Religious Institute in 2001, and has been its chief executive officer during its first fifteen years. In addition to her work at Religious Institute, Rev. Haffner is the endorsed community minister at The Unitarian Church in Westport, CT and a certified sexuality educator.
Her leadership of the Religious Institute is the culmination of a career in sexuality and ministry that began forty years ago. The Religious Institute’s Board of Directors will launch the search for Rev. Haffner’s successor in mid-September. Rev. Haffner plans to seek a full time parish ministry position for the next phase of her career.
New York— With the U.S. Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments in marriage cases on Tuesday April 28, Freedom to Marry in partnership with the Religious Institute and 18 other religious organizations is hosting the National Weekend of Prayer for the Freedom to Marry. Nearly 300 congregations representing 20 different denominations in 46 states across the country will come together in prayer services and at vigils to pray that the values of values of love, justice, equality, and inclusion prevail over fear and discrimination.
Today, March 6, nearly 2,000 religious leaders urged the United States Supreme Court to rule in favor of the freedom to marry in an amicus, or "friend-of-the-court," brief (click here to read the brief). The Religious Institute partnered with Freedom to Marry to engage religious leaders on this historic case, and our joint efforts garnered nearly 2,000 signatures from religious leaders across faith traditions, geographic locations, and political opinions.
2014 Press Releases
The Religious Institute calls on Faith Leaders to Break Silence About Bisexuality and Fully Welcome Bisexuals into their Congregations
New guidebook helps congregations minister to bisexual people and their families. Order here.
June 25, 2014 – Acceptance of gay and lesbian clergy and same-sex married couples is growing in faith communities across the United States, but faith leaders have long been on their own to understand and welcome bisexual people—until now. The Religious Institute is urging faith leaders to break the silence on bisexuality and fully welcome bisexual people into their congregations. Today, the Religious Institute released a groundbreaking guidebook, Bisexuality: Making Visible the Invisible in Faith Communities.
March 18, 2014 - Today, 45 nationally recognized religious leaders released a joint statement supporting universal access to contraception, and affirming that equal access to contraceptives through insurance coverage is a moral good. The statement comes one week before the U.S. Supreme Court hears two cases by private companies to deny women birth control coverage in their employee health insurance, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
2013 Press Releases
Every United Church of Christ – Affiliated Seminary is Sexually Healthy and Responsible, Lauds Religious Institute
November 5, 2013 - The Religious Institute announced today that all seminaries affiliated with the United Church of Christ (UCC) have now met a majority of the criteria of a sexually healthy and responsible seminary, making the UCC the first Protestant denomination to achieve this distinction.
April 2, 2013—A new survey by the Religious Institute found 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.
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.”
2012 Press Releases
September 13, 2012—Today, 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.
Participating faith leaders include 7 current and former presidents of national denominations including the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black (United Church of Christ), the Rev. Wes Granberg-Michaelson (Reformed Church in America), and Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins (Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)); 6 seminary presidents including Dr. Philip A. Amerson (Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary), the Rev. Dr. Serene Jones (Union Theological Seminary), and The Very Rev. Katherine Ragsdale (Episcopal Divinity School); 13 heads of national religious organizations, including the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good (Dr. Richard Cizik), Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (Rev. Harry Knox), and Catholics for Choice (Jon O’Brien); and prominent theologians from diverse perspectives including the Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo, the Rev. Dr. Larry Greenfield, and Dr. Mary Hunt.
June 28, 2012—The Religious Institute applauds today’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, including contraceptive coverage and the inability to deny insurance benefits to people with pre-‐‑existing conditions, including HIV/AIDS.
“We applaud today’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and the courage of this administration in affirming the importance of reproductive health services as essential preventive care for women, regardless of the religious affiliation of their employer,” said Rev. Debra W. Haffner, President of the Religious Institute. “Our leaders have the responsibility to safeguard individual religious liberty and to help improve the health of women, their children, and families. Women and men can make decisions about their sexuality and reproductive health without governmental interference or legal restrictions. Access to basic health care services is a matter of justice as well as good public policy, and we are pleased that these services will be available to the millions of women and men that need them. As faith leaders, we will continue to speak out for a faith based commitment to sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.”
Religious Institute Statement on The United Methodist Church Decision: “Sexual and gender oppression can no longer be portrayed as virtuous and morally defensible”
May 8, 2012—The Religious Institute, a multi-faith organization dedicated to sexual health, education and justice, has issued a statement regarding The United Methodist Church’s decision General Conference not to remove the doctrinal language that states, “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Twenty-six major mainstream religious leaders have endorsed the statement, which reads: “As religious leaders, we are speaking out against the decision of The United Methodist Church’s General Conference not to remove the doctrinal language that states, “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Using the Bible to exclude or attack people violates the very spirit of our traditions and is morally unconscionable. We affirm sexual and gender diversity as gifts people offer to their congregations and communities. We stand in solidarity with those United Methodists working to transform their denomination into one that celebrates sexual and gender diversity as a blessing that enriches all.
Religious Institute Statement on Bishops’ Rejection of White House Accommodation: “Stop Playing Politics with Women’s Reproductive Health”
February 13, 2012—The Religious Institute, a multi-faith organization dedicated to sexual health, education and justice, has issued a statement regarding the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops rejection of the White House accommodation on birth control access in health insurance, seeing it as further evidence that their concern is not religious liberty, but playing politics with women’s lives.
Major Mainstream Religious Leaders Support White House on Contraceptive Coverage In Health Care Reform
February 8, 2012—Thirty-one major mainstream religious leaders released a statement supporting the January 20, 2012 announcement by the Department of Health and Human Services that contraceptive services must be covered by most insurance policies without deductibles or co-pays, and that only purely sectarian organizations are exempt from this requirement.
February 1, 2012—The Religious Institute, a multi-faith organization dedicated to sexual health, education and justice, has doubled the number of United States seminaries, divinity and rabbinical schools that are preparing the next generation of clergy with the training they need to address sexuality issues in ministry. Twenty seminaries now meet a majority of the criteria for a sexually healthy and responsible seminary, compared to just ten in 2009.
2011 Press Releases
2010 Press Releases