Assessment of White House Faith-Based Council Members

[caption id="attachment_7705" align="alignright" width="159" caption="Harry Knox"]
Harry Knox
[/caption]On April 6, the White House released the full list of people on the Council of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Among the 25 selected are two openly gay men, Harry Knox, director of religion and faith for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and Fred Davie, Senior Adviser of Public/Private Ventures in New York.
Fred Davie

Fred Davie

The council, which is comprised of various religious and secular leaders, also includes other gay rights supporters such as:
  • Nancy Ratzan, Board Chair of National Council of Jewish Women in Miami. Her organization publically supports civil liberties for LGBT people.
    Nancy Ratzan

    Nancy Ratzan

  • Rabbi David N. Saperstein Director of Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism with an LGBT rights program that is challenging Prop. 8 in California
  • Dr. William J. Shaw, President of National Baptist Convention, USA. Shaw opposed a constitutional ban on marriage for gay couples but does not believe the Bible supports it. The NBC web page says most members are against gay people.
  • Rev. Jim Wallis, Executive Director of Sojourners. Wallis sometimes speaksout against homophobia and condemns violence against gay people, but prioritizes poverty, peace and environmental issues over LGBT concerns.
    Rabbi David Saperstein and Hillary Rodham Clinton (L)  Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images

    Rabbi David Saperstein and Hillary Rodham Clinton (L) Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images

  • Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of Disciples of Christ Church. Disciples of Christ's LGBT group lauded Watkins for her commitment to "inclusion and acceptance" but Watkins is not outspoken on LGBT issues.
While the new faith-based council also includes leaders who are viewed as opponents of LGBT rights-Dr. Frank S. Page, Pastor Joel C. Hunter, Richard Stearns and Bishop Charles Blake-social progressives like Dr. Arturo Chavez, Diane Baillargeon, Eboo S. Patel, and Melissa Rogers may turn out to be supportive. Historic Black church leaders like Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Rev. Otis Moss, and Dr. William J. Shaw may be supportive out of their prophetic justice traditions but may feel constrained by constituents who do not support LGBT rights. Catholic priest, Larry J. Snyder, will have to decide whether to follow the majority of US Catholics who accept same-sex relationships and the Vatican's official stance. Big Brothers and Big Sisters CEO, Judith N. Vredenburgh, works with a backdrop of debate a few years about gay volunteers but they emerged with a non-discrimination policy. Former NFL coach and anti-gay evangelical Tony Dungy was invited to participate on the council but declined Obama's invitation due to scheduling conflicts. His nomination to the council caused an outcry from groups like People for the American Way because of his campaigning for a ballot initiative in Indiana that banned same-sex marriage. For the full list of the advisory council's members, visit the White House's official website.