Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Project


People of Faith Against Thirteen

The Church Council of Greater Seattle had already created its Task Force on Lesbians and Gay Men by the time Initiative 13 appeared. The Task Force addressed lesbian and gay concerns and examined how the positions regarding homosexuality taken by its member mainstream Protestant denominations and Catholic churches meshed, or didn't, with the rights of gays and lesbians.

The Task Force sent teams of gay/lesbian and supportive straight speakers and ministerial consultants around to any church groups willing to hear them, these discussions often parsing the Biblical "clobber" verses that had been used to justify condemnation of gays. Sometimes the best outcome that could be achieved was an acknowledgment that while moral and theological aspects were still problematic for many, the basic civil rights of gay citizens should be upheld.

This was the stance the Task Force took into the Initiative 13 arena. It created People of Faith Against Thirteen as an entity separate from the Church Council. People of Faith combined the Task Force's methods of engagement with a strong anti-13 message, and the two groups' memberships overlapped. They also trained activists from other anti-13 groups in public speaking.

People of Faith also took out a prominent ad in the Seattle Times, signed by faith leaders and scores of church members, which appeared in the Sunday issue right before the election. While these efforts might not have changed many minds already firmly positioned on either side of the faith line, they served to remind voters that organized religion did not have a monolithic stance on condemning homosexuality. This likely helped to nurture a spirit of tolerance in the secular public's evaluation of the ballot issue.

This segment features two lesbian narrators whose religious upbringing carried them into this groundbreaking and often prickly work. At the time of the Initiative, Cherry Johnson was one of two co-directors of Seattle's Lesbian Resource Center. Her role there entailed management of a peer counseling program as well as networking with city agencies, politicians, non-profit organizations, and other gay and lesbian community leaders. Rita Smith participated in No on 13 doorbelling and liaison with the Church Council. She was a volunteer peer counselor at the LRC at the time, and maintained a lifelong involvement with LGBT organizations in the region.

Images and documents provided by Cherry illustrate various aspects of the work the Church Council's Task Force and People of Faith carried out in the months leading up to the vote.

People of Faith Seattle Times ad

Portion of People of Faith's ad in Seattle Times, probably November 5, 1978
Image courtesy of Cherry Johnson

People of Faith -- Contents

Oral Histories:

Cherry Johnson

Rita Smith

Images and Documents

Examples of religious support ... and opposition

Speakers' resources and other documents

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