Bad news on the Faith-Based Council

Following the announcement of the first 15 members of Obama’s Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnership Council, a number of progressive groups weighed in with the White House, providing names of progressive religious leaders as well as secular leaders who are favorable to sexual and reproductive rights and actually know something about preventing teen pregnancy and in general unintended pregnancy—two issues the Council will address. News reports issued yesterday indicate that these requests are going unheeded in the White House.

Two new nominees have stepped forward and confirmed that they have been asked to join the Council. The first, Harry Knox of the Human Rights Campaign’s faith based program (and an RD advisory council member), is a good choice. His voice will be critical in ensuring that religious groups that receive government funds not receive exemptions from anti-discrimination laws. And I certainly hope that Harry is equally active in protecting a woman’s right to choose and non-discrimination against women on the grounds of their sexual and reproductive lives. We do not need single issue advocates on this Council that is so stacked against progressive religious thought.

The other candidate is very disturbing and should be rejected. Tony Dungy, former NFL coach and staunch opponent of gay marriage. In endorsing an Indiana measure to ban same sex marriage, Dungy noted he was promoting “family values—family values the Lord’s way.”

It would seem that in the remaining ten slots, rather than redressing the already outrageous imbalance among religious members—only two of the ten original religious leaders are even moderately pro family planning, sexuality education or legal abortion; the White House is playing—suddenly—a “balance” game. We get one supporter of gay rights and one homophobe.

This is simply unacceptable and the leaders of the choice movement who have been working with the White House to ensure a modicum of balance need to complain and complain loudly.

fkissling@gmail.com'

Frances Kissling is a visiting scholar at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and former president of Catholics for a Free Choice.