Are the Churches Finally Going to Get It?

Russell Powell, an associate law professor at Seattle University School of Law, writes “Are We Complicit?”  questioning the role the church is playing in the recent suicides of 6 gay youths in the last few weeks.  He states, “It has also caused me to reconsider the possi[b]le benefits of anti-bullying legislation even if it were to serve a largely symbolic function.”

Some (not all) within the religious community who have fought against the inclusion of the LGBT community, who have fought against anti-bullying legislation, and who have fought against gay marriage, are apparently waking up to their role in some of the problems the LGBT community faces.

Tony Perkins, Focus on the Family, and Bill Donovan with the Catholic League disagree.

Donovan writes, “All of these deaths are tragic, but it is factually wrong to say that all were the result of anti-gay bullying. Worse, it is libelous to suggest that because Christianity (and Judaism and Islam) is opposed to homosexuality that somehow it should be held responsible for whatever bullying did go on. Indeed, to suggest culpability is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to stifle religious speech.”

Perkins writes, “In recent weeks there have been several suicides of teenagers who either said they were, or were believed to be, homosexuals. The intense media coverage of these events has led some people to lay the blame for these tragedies not on the actual bullies, but on Christian churches, conservative politicians, and public policies such as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and Proposition 8. It’s shameful that some pro-homosexual activists would exploit the personal tragedies of these families to promote a political agenda. FRC unequivocally condemns the behavior of anyone who would physically or verbally abuse another person–especially a child–because of his/her sexuality or any other reason. This is a complete violation of Jesus’s commandment to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

The most compassionate thing we can do for people struggling with this lifestyle is to debunk the lie that they’re born “gay” and can never change. Instead we should assure them that change is possible for those who seek it.”

I would never expect these two to accept any responsibility for their roles in demonizing gays.  It’s who they are.  While I believe Donovan is probably a true believer, I’m guessing Perkins has collected millions over this and other issues.

The most recent deaths are list below.  Some of them were “perceived” to be gay and were bullied.

13-year-old Seth Walsh in California

Asher Brown, also age 13, an eighth-grader in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Texas,

Billy Lucas, age 15, in Greensburg, IN

Tyler Clementi, age 18, the New Jersey college freshman who was humiliated when two other students secretly videotaped and broadcast on the Internet his tryst with another man, has cast a harsh light on the scourge of bullying

Raymond Chase, age 19, was openly gay and bullying has not been determined to be a factor to date.

Jeheem Herrera, age 11

The Safe Schools Improvement Act, promotes bullying prevention in schools addressing harassment related to sexual orientation.  Focus on the Family believes the anti-bullying legislation would promote homosexual activity.

Some facts about LGBT suicide from The Trevor Project:

  • Nine out of 10 LGBT students (86.2%) experienced harassment at school; three-fifths (60.8%) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation; and about one-third (32.7%) skipped a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe (GLSEN National School Climate Survey 2009).
  • LGBT students are three times as likely as non-LGBT students to say that they do not feel safe at school (22% vs. 7%) and 90% of LGBT students (vs. 62% of non-LGBT teens) have been harassed or assaulted during the past year. (GLSEN From Teasing to Torment 2006)
  • Sexual minority youth, or teens that identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, are bullied two to three times more than heterosexuals. (Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, OH 2010)
  • Almost all transgender students had been verbally harassed (e.g., called names or threatened in the past year at school because of their sexual orientation (89%) and gender expression (89%) (GLSEN: Harsh Realities, The Experiences of Transgender Youth In Our Nation’s Schools 2009).
  • LGBT youth in rural communities and those with lower adult educational attainment face particularly hostile school climates (JG, Greytak EA, Diaz EM – Journal of Youth & Adolescence 2009)
  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual adolescents are 190 percent more likely to use drugs and alcohol than are heterosexual teens (Marshal MP, Friedman MS, et al – Addiction 2008).
  • It is estimated that between 20 and 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (2006 National Gay & Lesbian Task Force: An Epidemic of Homelessness). 62% of homeless LGB youth will attempt suicide at least once—more than two times as many as their heterosexual peers (Van Leeuwen JMm et al – Child Welfare 2005)

In a recent discussion with a friend who opposes gay marriage, I was asked why would a gay couple want to get married?  My response was, “For the same reasons straight couples want to get married, to show their love and commitment to one another.”  Not to mention the legal advantages of marriage.

I’m not gay, but my heart tells me what is being done to the LGBT community is unfair.  The Declaration of Independence states we “are created equal.”  Amendments to the Constitution, have given both women and minorities equal rights under those documents after decades of struggle.

Court decisions have ruled marriage between races is unconstitutional. This is no different.

There is nothing in any of these documents we hold dear that separates “the gay” from “the rest of us.”

If we are a nation ruled by laws, as we claim to be, then we cannot continue to allow the religious community to hold these laws hostage to their beliefs. And they KNOW they are – otherwise there would be no need to demand a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage – the law would already be clear.

It’s long past time to give this community the respect they deserve.  Repeal DOMA and DADT – or wait for the courts to rule them unconstitutional as they are beginning to do now.  Either way, they will end.

And it’s long past time to apply the Golden Rule here – treat others (regardless of who they are) with the same respect with which you wish to be treated.  And teach your children to do the same.  We cannot continue to lose any more of these children to bullying.

I’m hopeful that many of these religious leaders are re-evaluating their positions and will put their parishioners on the path to at least tolerance, if not acceptance.

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