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SBC resolution rebukes Clinton for 'gay pride' proclamation
--By Tom Strode
    ATLANTA, June 16--A resolution rebuking President Clinton, a fellow Southern Baptist church member, for issuing a historic proclamation designating a "Gay and Lesbian Pride Month" was adopted by messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 16 in Atlanta.
    The proclamation, which was announced by the White House June 11, is a first for a United States president. In it, Clinton designated June 1999 as "Gay and Lesbian Pride Month" and encouraged Americans to observe the month with fitting ceremonies and to remember the homosexuals who have contributed to the life of the country. It came at the 30th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in New York City that is regarded as the birth of the homosexual rights movement in this country.
    The resolution, which messengers approved with near unanimity, called upon the president to rescind the proclamation. It deplored the president's "most public endorsement of that which is contrary to the Word of God." It also rebuked him for forcing millions of Americans to choose between "denying a presidential proclamation or rejecting their own deeply held religious convictions."
    After being amended from the floor, the resolution also called on Clinton to pull his recent appointment of James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg. Hormel now is the first openly homosexual U.S. ambassador.
    In the resolution, the messengers affirmed their love for the president and "for people enslaved in sins of all types, including homosexual sins" but said that love "compels us to rebuke him."
    The resolution also proclaimed "forgiveness of and freedom from homosexuality" is found in Jesus. It denounced violent attacks against homosexuals and expressed "abhorrence of the teaching that God hates any person on account of an immoral lifestyle."
    Richard Land, president of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Commission, said after the vote the messengers "rightly identified the problem." The problem was the president went beyond calling for diversity or tolerance, he said.
    The proclamation was "a call for the American people to affirm and approve behavior that tens of millions of Americans believe, by the definition of their most sacred religious convictions, to be deviant, immoral behavior, and that's an abuse of the office of the presidency," Land said.
    Though Clinton has supported homosexual rights throughout his presidency, Southern Baptist still were stunned by the proclamation, he said.
    "They were shocked even for this president to do something that was so out of bounds for what they expect out of their president," Land said, "and for the president to be identified with the Southern Baptist Convention as the president who did this was something that Southern Baptists felt overwhelmingly that they needed to address."
    News of the proclamation spread to SBC leaders and convention-goers as they gathered for the annual meeting. Evidence of the recognition of Gay and Lesbian Pride Month in Atlanta confronted messengers in the form of 600 rainbow-colored banners on city light poles. In recent decades, homosexuals have celebrated June as "pride month."
    Upon learning of the proclamation on the eve of the meeting, SBC President Paige Patterson called on the president's home church, Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., to discipline him. Patterson called the proclamation "entirely inconsistent with [Clinton's] confession as an evangelical Christian and certainly as a Southern Baptist." Clinton has been a member of Immanuel since 1980, according to church records.
    Messengers introduced on the first day of the convention three separate motions responding to the proclamation.
    A motion directing Patterson to express to Clinton the SBC's disapproval of the proclamation was to be considered in June 16 evening session. The other two were ruled out of order. One called on Immanuel to discipline Clinton or face being disfellowshipped at the 2000 convention. The other requested Immanuel to say whether it agrees or disagrees with the president's position on homosexuality.
    Rex Horne, Immanuel's pastor, has said he has told Clinton of his opposition to homosexuality. Horne had not been aware of the proclamation and declined to comment, a church staff member said June 15.
    Immanuel, like many Southern Baptist churches, has not practiced discipline, including the removal of members, in recent decades. Immanuel has handled each moral transgression as a private matter between the individual and a minister, a staff member said.
    Messengers approved the amendment on the Hormel nomination by a vote of 63.8 percent to 36.2 percent.
    A proposed amendment striking the language expressing "abhorrence of the teaching that God hates any person on account of an immoral lifestyle" failed by an overwhelming vote.
    On the first day of the convention, members of a Topeka, Kan., church protested outside the Georgia Dome. Bearing signs saying God hates homosexuals, the small group from Westboro Baptist Church, which is not affiliated with the convention, protested against the SBC for the memberships of Clinton and Vice President Al Gore in Southern Baptist churches, as well as practices by some churches and institutions affiliated with the convention.
    It is not the first time attempts have been made at the convention to deal with Clinton and Immanuel because of his policies on such issues as homosexuality.
    In 1993, the convention, responding to Clinton's support of homosexual and abortion rights, passed a resolution separating itself from his policies. An attempt was made at the same meeting to prevent Immanuel's messengers from being seated, but the credentials committee rejected the effort, ruling a church could not be held liable for the beliefs of a member.
   

At the 1998 meeting in Salt Lake City, messengers approved a resolution decrying a Clinton executive order issued the month before. His order added "sexual orientation" to the list of categories, such as race, gender and age, already protected against discrimination in the federal civilian workforce. The resolution opposed attempts to "provide government endorsement, sanction, recognition, acceptance or civil rights advantage on the basis of homosexuality." A proposed amendment to the resolution called on Immanuel to discipline Clinton, but it failed by a 52-48 percent vote. The church has no messengers at this year's SBC meeting.
    The proclamation is the latest in a series of Clinton administration actions furthering homosexual rights.
    A week before, Clinton announced Hormel's appointment. The president took the action while Congress was in recess, using a little-known constitutional provision to avoid the normal requirement of Senate confirmation. Senate opponents of Hormel's nomination prevented a vote in the last Congress. Hormel, an heir to the meat company fortune, is a frequent financial supporter of homosexual causes.
    In April, Clinton affirmed his endorsement of a bill in Congress that would extend protection under hate-crimes legislation to "sexual orientation," which includes homosexuality. Current law covers violent crimes motivated by bias based on color, national origin, race or religion. Clinton also announced a partnership between his administration and some private firms and organizations to teach tolerance programs, which will include homosexuality, in middle schools.
    Only days after taking office in 1993, Clinton announced an attempt to overturn the ban on homosexuals in the military, but his effort was thwarted. He appointed a liaison to the homosexual community and has named several open homosexuals to posts in his administration. In 1997, he became the first president to speak at a homosexual rights event, when he addressed the national dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, the country's largest homosexual political organization.
    Clinton also has repeatedly affirmed his support for the Employment Non-discrimination Act, legislation that would make discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation" illegal in both the public and private workforce.    

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