A national gay religious advocacy group said it will hold a nonviolent civil disobedience rally prior to the start of the trial of the Reverend Karen Dammann, an openly lesbian Methodist pastor who admitted to church leaders that she is in a covenantal relationship with another woman. On March 17 the United Methodist Church will conduct the trial in Bothell, Wash., against Dammann, who is being charged with violating the United Methodist Book of Discipline because she is a "self-avowed practicing homosexual."
Soulforce, a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people, said it will try to stop the proceedings. The group will be block the entrance of the church to prevent jurors and church officials from entering. "It is so heartbreaking that the United Methodist Church, my church, is sending a message to the world that if you are gay or lesbian and you lie about who you are and who you love, you can serve in silence, but if you tell the truth, we are going to punish you," declared Marylee Fithian, cochair of the Soulforce United Methodist Denominational Team from California. "We feel we have no choice but to try to prevent the trial from taking place."
Soulforce emphasizes that it teaches and employs the nonviolent principles of Gandhi and Martin Luther King to the liberation of sexual minorities. "It is not a crime to admit to being in a committed relationship," said the Reverend Mel White, founder of Soulforce. "It is not a sin to be homosexual. God's greatest commandment is to love one another. We believe that the crime here is being committed by the United Methodist Church, because the church is denying the worth and dignity of Karen Dammann and all of God's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people."