“It is our understanding that CNN chose the venue," Brad Luna, communications director for the Human Rights Campaign, told me in an email, when I asked about the appropriateness of Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, and Barack Obama, D-Illinois, who profess to support gay rights, speaking Sunday night at Messiah College where homosexuality is classified as a sin along with adultery, stealing, and sexual abuse.
"It is an unfortunate choice by CNN and we would rather have seen them hold this forum in a more welcoming environment," Luna says. "However, this has no reflection on the steadfast commitment Senators Obama and Clinton have shown for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community."
Do you think the Human Rights Campaign would grant Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., such dispensation? Or since McCain is not as gay-friendly, policy-wise, as Clinton and Obama, is that the precise point?
UPDATE: CNN spox Edie Emery says that "the organizers from Faith in Public Life invited the candidates, selected the venue, and they also invited CNN to telecast the event." Meaning that CNN didn’t sponsor or produce the event.
UPDATE 2: MESSIAH COLLEGE STATEMENT: "One of the reasons that Messiah College was so pleased to be invited to host The Compassion Forum is because it resonates with several of our core educational commitments: to create meaningful conversations about important, complex social issues; to help students think critically about these issues from a faith perspective; and to help students understand that even when we disagree on important issues, we can still converse and treat each other with dignity and respect.
"We acknowledge that members of the broader faith community—and even those within the Christian faith community—have key differences on compassion issues. One of the issues that has recently been raised in light of The Compassion Forum being held at Messiah College is the college’s stance on homosexuality.
"It’s important to understand that the College does not ban students from enrollment based on sexual orientation, nor has any student ever been asked to leave Messiah for this reason. The College does define a wide range of behavior expectations—including both heterosexual and homosexual behavior—for students that are based on its understanding of Scripture. Messiah College believes strongly in the importance of the individual—that all people are created in God’s image, have intrinsic worth and value, and are deserving of respect. In the midst of our differences within the faith community, that is very important common ground.
"It is this search for common ground in the broader faith community that is precisely why opportunities like The Compassion Forum are so essential. As people of faith, we should not let our differences keep us from having these important conversations. Instead, they should encourage us to talk to and learn from each other, and impel us to work together to improve the human condition. This is inherent to Messiah’s mission of preparing students for lives of service, leadership, and reconciliation in Church and society."