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News Release

Community Discussion and Film at Moravian to Examine Hate in Society

Talk by Matthew Shephard Foundation director to kick-off The Laramie Project; Award winning film “For the Bible Tells Me So” reconciles homosexuality and Biblical scripture

Bethlehem, Pa., March 4, 2008—Thomas B. Howard, education director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation will present “Erasing Hate:  A Community Discussion” on Thursday, March 13, at 4 p.m. in the Haupert Union Building’s UBC Room. Howard will lead a discussion that seeks to gain understanding and replace hate with compassion, understanding and acceptance.  This Symposium on Hate series event at Moravian serves as an introduction to The Laramie Project, the Moravian College Theatre production that depicts the events surrounding the death of assault victim Matthew Shepard.

The FBI estimates that more than 7,000 hate crimes occur in the United States each year. “We hear about them in the news, or read about them in the paper,” says Thomas B. Howard.  “They become external.  Many of us do not acknowledge what role hate plays in our everyday lives nor do we acknowledge how we contribute to the problem or what we can do to change it.” 

“This discussion will lead participants on a journey that will help them identify how hate manifests in their everyday lives,” Howard notes. “We will discuss how we contribute to the problem and what we can do to forward the process of replacing hate with compassion, understanding and acceptance.”

Thomas is a graduate of the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston. After high school he spent a year as a Corps Member in the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps in Charleston, South Carolina and then a year as an AmeriCorps*VISTA with the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago Disaster Services. After two years of dedication to National Service, Thomas completed his undergraduate degree in Social Work at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. While at Augsburg Thomas worked as a field outreach/researcher at the University of Minnesota Youth and AIDS Projects, planned large scale events on campus and was a Ronald E. McNair Scholar. He then returned to the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps as a Team Leader at the Capital Region in Washington D.C., where he lead a team of young adults who  traveled around the area working on national and community service projects.

He then pursued graduate studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where he earned a Master of Education in Adolescent Risk and Prevention. While at Harvard, he conducted research with Dr. Michael Nakkula and was awarded the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus Summer Fellowship, which provided support for the Small Bear Big Dreams project. For the past two and a half years he has coordinated the AmeriCorps Education Awards program at Catholic Network of Volunteer Service. He is proud to join the staff of the Foundation as we work to replace hate with acceptance and understanding.

As part of its ongoing Symposium on Hate program, Moravian College will present a nonfiction film by Daniel Karslake titled For the Bible Tells Me So on Tuesday, March 18, 7:30 p.m. in Prosser Auditorium, Haupert Union Building. A discussion will be held immediately following the film.

Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Seattle International Film Festival, Karslake’s provocative, entertaining documentary brilliantly reconciles homosexuality and Biblical scripture, and in the process reveals that Church-sanctioned anti-gay bias is based on almost solely upon a significant (and often malicious) misinterpretation of the Bible.  As the films notes, most Christians live their lives today without feeling obliged to kill anyone who works on the Sabbath or eats shrimp (as a literal reading of scripture dictates).

Through the experiences of five very normal, very Christian, very American families —including those of former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson— viewers discover how insightful people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child. Informed by such respected voices as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard's Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech, the film offers healing, clarity and understanding to anyone caught in the crosshairs of scripture and sexual identity.

All programs are free and open to the public.  For more information, please contact 610 625-7847. Program Sponsors including Office of Institutional Diversity, SPECTRUM, Student Life, Moravian College Theatre Company, Moravian Theological Seminary Diversity Committee.

Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America's sixth-oldest college. Visit the Web site at www.moravian.edu.