LGBT Religion News Roundup - January 3, 2011
As 2010 came to an end, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was defeated despite the opposition of Evangelical chaplains. Jewish leaders helped the shift in policy by talking about opening the military to all who want to serve and how gay soldiers serve openly around the world.
The Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) garnered very positive media coverage as Stephanie Mott, a transgender woman, found a home in the MCC and told her story through the Topeka Capital Journal. MCC minister, the Rev. Dwayne Johnson, was profiled in the Washington Blade. And, an article focused on the architecture of the Cathedral of Hope in The Wall Street Journal noted that it is the country’s “largest gay congregation,” founded by MCC and now a United Church of Christ congregation.
Decriminalization took a twist in Uganda as a key religious leader faces court charges for blackmailing another minister with fabricated stories of abuse. At the United Nations, grassroots and US State Department pressure resulted in the reinstatement of sexual orientation as an identity that should be protected from extrajudicial and arbitrary executions. The UN secretary-general stated that culture should not override LGBT rights. Anglican Bishop Senyonjo continues to help LGBT people in Uganda and spoke to Episcopal bishops in D.C. and New York. In another outreach effort, a Kenyan Methodist straight ally, Rev. Makokha met with church leaders in the US to talk about LGBT concerns and what they could do.
Among mainline Protestants, a United Methodist Church in Detroit celebrated 200 years of social action and is expanding its LGBT ministry. In North Carolina, a gay man will lead the statewide Council of Churches. Inclusive Christmases in Durham and Washington, D.C. made the news. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is doing well despite a small percentage of churches leaving the ELCA after a year and a half of allowing full equality. A columnist in Tampa lifted up a United Church of Christ congregation as a sign that anti-gay policies are on the way out. Obama, still a member of the UCC, said his belief around marriage for gay and lesbian couples is “evolving.”
Earlier in the month, Jessie Jackson called for marriage equality as Prop 8 is still being contested through complex legal actions. In other efforts, Maryland may approve marriage for gay and lesbian couples next year. Outgoing NY Governor Paterson worked for marriage equality and will pick it up after he is out of office. Catholics in Illinois voted their consciences and passed civil unions despite heavy-handed pressure from church officials. In D.C., anti-LGBT Cardinal Wuerl was just given two Vatican positions, and he is continuing his campaign against marriage equality. Surprisingly, he said the church has no position on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
In other anti-LGBT actions, a work of art with an ant-covered crucifix, commentary on the neglect of the HIV/AIDS epidemic by many churches, was targeted by anti-LGBT voices. The National Portrait Gallery removed the work but when other artists protested and demanded that their work also be removed, the curators refused. Another conservative coalition placed a biased survey based on the ‘Manhattan Declaration’ in the App Store, but under pressure from GLAAD and other groups, Apple took it down.
The ubiquitous Westboro Baptist Church brought their message of hate to Elizabeth Edward’s funeral, but pro-LGBT people turned out to challenge their message. Westboro Baptists also protested a staging of “The Laramie Project” in Framingham, Massachusetts, and were met by Unitarian Universalists holding signs saying, “Standing on the Side of Love.”
Mormon leaders invited LGBT leaders to attend Mormon Christmas concert. Many people are trying to decide if the LDS church is actually easing up on its anti-LGBT stances. The guidance they are giving Mormon families with LGBT children is somewhat more compassionate. As always, some people who are Mormon and gay make peace with themselves and their faith tradition. In a one-man hit show, “Confessions of a Mormon Boy,” Steve Fales talks about how some part of him will always be Mormon.
Openly gay Muslim, Faisal Alam, founder of al Fatiha, spoke to California students about gay Muslims and the diversity of Islam. It was not an easy year for Muslims and being gay can be a challenge. After writing a pro-gay article a Malaysian gay man received death threats and is garnering international media attention. In the US, a Christian radio host in Minnesota made the strange accusation that a Muslim US Congressman's support of LGBT equality will lead to Shariah law.
Actions to eliminate bullying are continuing as Jewish youth movements launch anti-bullying campaign and researchers assess risks among gay young people and look at the behaviors of teachers as well as peer bullies. A recent study shows that gay teens face harsher punishments in school and courts than their straight peers.