A panel representing four religions discussed how their faiths
view premarital sex and homosexual marriage, among other spiritual
and sexual topics, last night at the Michigan League.

Janna Hutz
Christian Scientist David Stevens speaks about religion, spirituality and sexuality during an interfaith dialogue in the Michigan League yesterday. (JEFF LEHNERT/Daily)

Christian Scientists sponsored the event, which featured Islam
with Mucahit Bilici from the Muslim Graduate Student Association,
Buddhism with Robert Senger from Brown University, Judaism with
Hillel Rabbi Shoshana Dworsky, and the Christian Science movement
with David Stevens.

During the course of the night, the panelists were asked three
formal questions by Christopher Deline, an Engineering graduate
student who helped to organize the event. Between the questions
were 10-minute breaks during which audience members could ask their
own questions.

A recent Massachusetts court ruling legalizing gay marriage and
the ordination of a gay Episcopal bishop made the topic of
homosexuality and religion especially relevant.

“It is viewed as unnatural … it is a sin,”
Bilici said about the Islamic view of homosexuality.

He added he supports the Rainbow Coalition, a gay support group,
but his religious beliefs are in conflict.

Stevens, Dworksy and Senger expressed no direct conflict between
their beliefs and homosexuality or homosexual marriages.

“Sex is not strictly prohibited as long as there is no
mental or physical harm. There is no checklist to say if it (or
other sexual practices) are condoned or not. The decision to have
sex rests in the individuals involved,” Senger said.

In addition to religious views on homosexuality, premarital sex
was also discussed extensively, although only one of the panelists
expressed strong disapproval.

“Sexuality is restricted to marriage. It is considered
sacred, never depreciated, and (within the confines of marriage)
considered natural, healthy and useful for spiritual
benefits,” Bilici said. Bilici went on to say that Islam
actually celebrates sexuality in marriage and talks about it
explicitly, with actual books of Islamic erotica suggesting various
sexual positions for married couples to try.

Stevens echoed his comments that premarital sex is wrong, saying
that in Christianity marriage is a protective institution in which
sex can be expressed.

But the importance of confining sex to married couples was not
as highly stressed in comments from Dworsky and Senger.

Dworsky said in Judaism, the sexual urge is important and should
be cultured and elevated. However, she never made any direct
reference to the importance of sex within the framework of
marriage.

“The energy inherent in something like sex drive can be
supplemented into an energy of rich love and mutual
self-perfection,” said Senger in reference to Buddhism.
“There is no sex license. Morality is relative; we teach
basic universal truths. There is less emphasis on moral codes,
because they vary between societies,” he added.

Liana Reading, a former Christian Science believer who converted
to Islam, said after the event the only speaker to answer the
questions directly was the Muslim representative.

“All the other panelists totally avoided the issue,”
LSA senior Reading said.

She specifically criticized the Christian Science speaker for
not taking a stronger stance on homosexuality. Reading said
Christian Science does not condone homosexual practices.

But Deline said he was happy with the outcome of the event.

“Originally our plan was to expose people to other
religions,” besides his own religion, Christian Science, he
said. He added that he was glad to see that people are thinking
about spiritual issues.

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