100 Faith Leaders To Obama: Religious Liberty Shouldn’t Be Used To Discriminate Against LGBT People
A group of more than 100 religious clergy, theologians, and faith leaders sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Tuesday urging him not to include religious exemptions in a forthcoming executive order prohibiting federal contractors from using hiring polices that discriminate against LGBT people.
Soon after President Obama announced in June his intention to issue an executive order protecting the rights of LGBT Americans who work for federal contractors, some religious organizations began pressuring the administration to include an exemption for faith groups with government contracts. They argued that because some faith traditions have yet to fully embrace LGBT equality, they should be able to opt out of the executive order while still using federal funds. But the 100 religious signers of Tuesday’s letter rebuked this position, insisting that the government is called to a higher standard of inclusiveness — especially when taxpayer money is involved.
“As faith and civic leaders dedicated to affirming the sacred dignity and equal worth of every person, we are grateful for your upcoming executive order ending discrimination against LGBT people in hiring by federal contractors,” the letter read. “We urge you not to include a religious exemption in the executive order. In keeping with the principle that our government must adhere to the highest standards of ethics and fairness in its own operations, we believe that public dollars should not be used to sanction discrimination.”
“Furthermore, if selective exemptions to the executive order were permitted, the people who would suffer most would be the people who always suffer most when discrimination is allowed: the individuals and communities that are already marginalized.”
The letter’s signers included several prominent Christian voices and clergy such as the Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral, Bishop Melvin Talbert of the United Methodist Church, and Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Organizers of the letter also noted that among the signers were four former members of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and five members of a presidential taskforce to reform the office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
“It is not right for any person or any corporation to use their religious beliefs, no matter how sincerely held, to trample the rights and beliefs of others,” Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church and a signer of the letter, said in a press release. “Nothing could be more contrary to the Golden Rule, articulated in every world religion.”
The letter also listed the names of many non-Christian leaders who oppose an exemption, such as Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, and Imam Daayiee Abdullah of the Light of Reform Mosque in Washington, D.C.
The move is a counterpoint to several other letters penned by faith leaders who favor a religious exemption. On June 25, a group of 140 conservative religious leaders asked the president to include an exemption to assist groups who “simply desire to utilize staffing practices consistent with their deep religious convictions.” The following Tuesday — the day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that closely held for profit corporations could ignore the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate on religious grounds — another group of 14 Christian leaders relatively close to the administration sent a letter to the White House favoring a way for faith groups to ignore the executive order. Then, last Thursday, Buzzfeed reported the existence of a private letter to the president penned by Jim Wallis, head of Christian activist group Sojourners, that was circulated among many prominent clergy and also endorsed an exemption.
Despite these efforts, progressive people of faith remain firmly opposed to a religious exemption. An online petition blasting the proposed exemption posted last week by Faithful America, a progressive Christian online advocacy group, has already garnered more than 30,000 signatures by people of faith. Many prominent religious voices — including several that signed today’s letter — have also publicly opposed any religious exemption that would allow for the discrimination of LGBT people. In addition, a February 2014 poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute found that solid majorities of both political parties and every major religious group support workplace nondiscrimination laws for gay and lesbian people.
And while many religious and secular groups endorsed similar religious exemptions written into the Employee Nondiscrimination Act, LGBT groups such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund are now opposing those as well. This mirrors the increasingly pro-LGBT perspective of the general public: a June poll conducted by the First Amendment Center found that a majority of Americans do not see an inherent conflict between recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples and “religious freedom.”
Very well put. Too many people pick and choose which Bible verses they want to adhere to. Thank you for the well thought out posting.
NO, to put it short.
Westboro Baptist Church have hit the headlines over the last few years, coming to my notice first a few years ago through a Louis Theroux documentary. Fred Phelps and his followers have promoted a hate-filled charge at homosexuality, using the funerals of fallen US soldiers as a medium to spread the idea that these men died because God clearly hates gays. A sign saying ‘God hates fags’ being held by a small child is clearly wrong on so many levels, but these men and women believe to their very cores that they are justified in spreading these opinions, despite the media attention that very probably acts as a medium to give them more notice than they deserve. Do they have a point though? Is there a way of justifying the hatred of homosexuality? Can you use the word of God to stop this?
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Glenn Beck: LGBT Groups ‘Are Becoming Nothing But A Terrorist Organization’
Glenn Beck says he’s now afraid he will lose his job. After the resignation of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich over his anti-gay stance on Prop 8, Beck, the former Fox News host who now is the owner of The Blaze website and cable TV network, says he’s unsure if he should call LGBT people “gay,” “queer,” or “homosexual,” and fears a pink slip if he uses the wrong term.
According to Forbes, Glenn Beck makes $90 million a year, more than Donald Trump, Ellen DeGeneres, Lady Gaga, or even Oprah Winfrey.
“It’s being celebrated that somebody who donated a $1000 six years ago has lost their job now,” Beck falsely attacks. Brendan Eich did not “loose his job,” he resigned from the position of CEO. He is not leaving the company he co-founded — he just won’t be its CEO.
“So,” Beck continues, ramping up, “in addition of a ton of outrage by a gay groups and activists over Eich’s donation — by the way I hope that ‘gay’ is currently the accepted term. I don’t know if it’s ‘homosexual,’ I don’t know it’s ‘queer.’ If it was ‘queer’ I feel uncomfortable because it was drummed in my head that ‘queer’ is a slam, and I know now people use ‘queer,’ I don’t know if I’m allowed to use ‘queer’ I don’t know if ‘homosexual’ — it was not supposed to be ‘gay’ because that was a slam. And so everyone was trained use the word ‘homosexual.’
“But now everybody’s being trained that I think, I think the by accepted word is ‘gay’ — I don’t know anymore because you keep changing all the rules depending on how you feel. Or is it is not that you feel that way it’s that these groups are becoming nothing but a terrorist organization that just by changing the language I can lose my job if I say ‘homosexual’ or ‘gay’ or ‘queer’ I could lose my job and so you never know and so you keep everyone in fear. Is that what it is or is it because something is really wrong here?”
Something is definitely wrong, but it’s not over here Mr. Beck.
byon April 4, 2014
Although our country continues to “evolve” with still have a long ways to go. I really thought that by 2010 we could have came further as a species/race. I wish we would have had flying cars and living the Star Trek life. Instead we have rampant racism, sexism and homophobia.
And have to wonder, what is anyone really afraid of? Homophobia is the phobia or fear of homosexuals. Does anyone really believe that my gay love hurts another person’s relationship? How is divorce and hatred more detrimental to the fabric of society? But what does this fear come from? As I ponder this, I came read a great article by Zach Howe, which is below.
To be a homophobe in 2014 is, increasingly, to find oneself on the fast track to social scorn. In an environment of growing acceptance, we condemn homophobic feelings, particularly in men, because we think they come from inside the individual and are thus his full responsibility. A man who says hateful things about gays is “backward.” He’s protecting his social status, or maybe he’s secretly gay himself. He needs to grow up or come out already.
However, the continued existence of homophobia—despite the obvious downsides—raises questions about its basic nature: Do psychological theories like those above really explain why gayness, specifically, evokes such fear, the kind that can sometimes even lead to violent speech and action? Do they account for why homophobia is such an easy bulwark against masculine insecurity? Why does coming out seem so impossible to some men? The only way to answer these questions is to stop thinking of homophobia as a personal choice and understand it as the inevitable and deliberate result of the culture in which American men are raised.
Clearly, men in America have grown up learning to be scared of gayness. But not only for the reasons we typically think—not only, in the end, because of religion, insecurity about their own sexuality, or a visceral aversion to other men’s penises. The truth is, they’re afraid because heterosexuality is so fragile.
Heterosexuality’s power lies in perception, not physical truth—as long as people think you’re exclusively attracted to the right gender, you’re golden. But perception is a precarious thing; a “zero-tolerance” policy has taught men that the way people think of them can change permanently with one slip, one little kiss or too-intimate friendship. And once lost, it can be nearly impossible to reclaim.
Put another way, the zero-tolerance rule means that if a man makes one “wrong” move—kisses another man in a moment of drunken fun, say—he is immediately assumed to be gay. Women have a certain amount of freedom to play with their sexuality (mostly because society has a hard time believing in lesbian sex at all). Male sexuality, on the other hand, is understood as unidirectional. Once young men realize they are gay, they become A Gay Person. We don’t hear about gay men discovering an interest in women later in life, and we rarely believe men when they say they are bisexual—the common, if erroneous, wisdom is that any man who says he is bi is really just gay and hasn’t admitted it yet.
The result of all this is that men are not allowed “complex” sexualities; once the presumption of straightness has been shattered, a dude is automatically gay. That narrative does not allow much freedom to explore even fleeting same-sex attractions without a permanent commitment. I knew a guy who, straight in high school, hooked up with dudes for the first semester of college. He was then in a monogamous relationship with a woman for the rest of college; in the weeks before graduation, I would still hear people express confusion about the existence of their relationship.
The zero-tolerance policy is legitimately scary, then, not just because it sticks you with a label, but also because it erases a lifetime of straightness. One semester of experimentation was worth more than every other hook-up and romance of this guy’s life—both before and afterward.
Indeed, such erasure is scary even if homosexuality itself isn’t a bad thing. Even if religion and Esquire didn’t teach men to be scared of each other’s bodies, they would still be afraid of the way a brush with gayness can so suddenly erase the rest of their sexuality. With so much on the line, it’s no surprise that men take up the job of policing this boundary themselves, lest it be policed by someone else, to their detriment.
It’s worth noting that men confront their fear with brilliant creativity. High-schoolers accuse each other, their activities, and even objects of being gay with precisely the zero-tolerance attitude that they themselves are navigating. A popular game in high school was “fag tag,” where boys slap each other’s packages with the back of their hands. In college they played chicken, where two guys each slide their hand up the other one’s inner thigh. Whoever gets freaked out first loses—or wins, really. These games aren’t just grounded in disgust with homosex; they are playing out exactly what society has taught men about heterosexuality: One wrong move, and you’ll be permanently marked.
Homophobia, then, is precisely a fear, and one that these men are not at all foolish for entertaining. The behavior it engenders is a perceptive response to a sick system, rather than a sickness itself. That’s why I don’t hold a grudge against the kids in high school who said “fag,” or the occasional bartender who makes a weird comment about my date—they’re understandably more scared of me than I am of them.