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Religious Leaders in Support of Evolution and Tolerance: Reviewing 2016

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The thousands of clergy members from all across the United States who comprise The Clergy Letter Project had quite a year. These men and women from a wide array of religions and denominations, from cities large and small, of all ages, races and ethnicities have come together to make it clear that they support the teaching of evolution in public school classrooms and laboratories. They have articulated the position that nothing in evolutionary theory poses any theological problems. Together these religious leaders are more than 14,000 strong. Although they are deeply religious, they are also men and women of the modern world and see no reason to reject modern science. Beyond evolution, they understand and respect the shared humanity that we all possess and call for an end to hatred and bigotry based on perceived differences.

As I said, they had quite a year. In fact, let’s look at the past 13 months.

• In December, 2015, The Clergy Letter Project condemned Islamophobia saying, “The Clergy Letter Project calls for an end to the abhorrent attacks on Muslims and for members of all religions to be treated with respect and dignity. The Clergy Letter Project urges public figures and private citizens alike to recognize the shared humanity of all people and to work toward understanding and peace.”

• In February, The Clergy Letter Project celebrated the 11th Annual Evolution Weekend. As with all previous Evolution Weekend events this was an opportunity for congregations all over the world to discuss the compatibility of religion and science. The theme selected for this year’s event was “Exploring Ways to Engage in Complex Discussions in a Civil Manner.” More than three-quarters of a million people have participated in Evolution Weekend events to date.

• In May, the United Methodist Church, at its quadrennial General Conference, reaffirmed its support for The Clergy Letter Project.

• In June, The Clergy Letter Project condemned homophobia saying, “Homophobia is wrong, it is divisive and it is both demeaning and hateful… Please stand with the more than 14,000 clergy of The Clergy Letter Project and celebrate our shared humanity.”

• Later in June, the Presbyterian Church (USA), via its 2016 General Assembly, officially endorsed The Clergy Letter Project.

• In October, The Clergy Letter Project made its first ever political endorsement, recommending Hillary Clinton for President. The endorsement came after both the Clinton and the Trump campaigns were offered opportunities to respond to a questionnaire. Secretary Clinton’s responses were fully in keeping with the goals of The Clergy Letter Project. Mr. Trump did not respond.

• In December, The Clergy Letter Project sent an open letter to Betsy DeVos, the Secretary-Designate of the US Department of Education, urging her to respect the religious differences present across the country and not privilege the beliefs of a small minority.

As 2016 comes to a close, members of The Clergy Letter Project are preparing to celebrate the 12th Annual Evolution Weekend – 10-12 February 2017.

If these actions surprise you, I urge you to explore The Clergy Letter Project’s website to learn more. If these actions excite you, I urge you to contact me (mz@theclergyletterproject.org) to be added to our e-mail distribution list.

Finally, if you’re a clergy member who would like to sign one of our Clergy Letters in support of evolution (we have one for Christian clergy, one for Rabbis, one for UU clergy and one for Buddhist clergy) or a scientist who would like to be part of our list of scientific consultants, please let me know (mz@theclergyletterproject.org). Collectively our members welcome your addition and together we are making a difference.

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