Religious Institute to close its doors for good this fall

This made my heart sad when I read it but I get it. Things are tough all the way around for any organizations who depend on donations and outside funding sources. Factor in a global pandemic that is taking giant bites out of everyone’s wallet and you have a recipe for financial disaster. I’ve kept this group on my radar and I knew they were having cash flow problems last summer. There will be many groups and organizations I think that will have to shut down because the numbers just aren’t there. Here is the full statement that was put out by them this morning.

We are writing to you – our longstanding supporters and allies – to share some difficult news about the Religious Institute. After almost a year of deliberation and discussions with partners and supporters, the Board of Directors of the Religious Institute has voted to cease operations this fall.

We came to the painful conclusion after several years of decreasing institutional support for our work. For the last 10 months, we have actively pursued merger and other partnership arrangements with organizations in the movement, and at the beginning of the year we were close to securing a more stable financial home for the Religious Institute. The coronavirus global pandemic put an indefinite halt on those plans and ultimately we will not be able to sustain operations long enough to weather the storm of this once-in-a-century event.

Closing the Religious Institute at this time is more than heart-breaking. This is a devastating loss for the movement at a time when sexual, gender and reproductive health, rights and justice are under great attack. Our opponents are weaponizing the language of religious liberty as a core tactic to ban abortion, strip LGBTQ people of their rights and humanity, and deny basic sexual and reproductive health services to all people. The work of the Religious Institute has always been one of culture shift and bringing a spiritual and moral grounding to the movement. We know there are religious exemptions cases in front of the US Supreme Court this fall and we have no assurance that these will go well. Our work is needed now more than ever, and it is truly unfortunate that support for us and our sister organizations who do this work has significantly eroded.

Over the next three months, a subcommittee of the Board of Directors will work with movement partners and key stakeholders to find an appropriate home for the Religious Institute’s assets and intellectual property so that the work from the past 20 years may be preserved and live on. In the near future, we will bring our beloved family of supporters, former staff, partners, board members and volunteers together to honor this transition, celebrate our twenty years of work, and pay tribute to our co-founders Rev. Debra Haffner and Larry Greenfield.

We – as an organization and as individuals – have always been rooted in faith. Faith in the dignity of every human being as a reflection of the divine image. Faith that all the ways we love one another are sacred. Faith that when each of us strives for justice, we come together in service of something much larger than ourselves. Though our doors may be closing, we also have the faith that the work we have done these past two decades will live on; our vision, for a world of liberation of the body and spirit, will never fade. As you consider this news, we would be glad to speak with you, hear your comments, and answer any questions you may have.

–Religious Institute

The lengthy statement, sent out via their email list, was signed “in gratitude and solidarity” by the following:

Avery Belyeu, Chair
Marvin Ellison, Treasurer
Emily Langowitz, Secretary
Angela Ferrell-Zabala
Deneen Robinson
Sally Steenland
Carol McDonald, Interim President and CEO