"Taking a Chance on God" at the Woodstock Film Festival

Brendan Fay’s upcoming film, Taking a Chance on God, tells the story of Father John McNeill, a New York native who was a German prisoner during World War Two, became a Jesuit priest, protested the Vietnam War, and was kicked out of the Jesuit order for living his life as an openly gay man.

Father McNeill’s dedication to human rights and equality for LGBT people started early in his career as a priest. In 1970, he published three articles in The Homiletic and Pastoral Review, a publication for Roman Catholic clergy that addressed what he saw as the church’s doctrinal failings when it came to the treatment and acceptance of LGBT people. In 1972, those three articles would become the basis for the original Dignity Statement of Position and Purpose. That same year, Father McNeill convened the first meeting of a Dignity chapter in New York, which drew over 200 people. In 1976, he published The Church and the Homosexual, a groundbreaking book that led to television appearances in which Father McNeill argued for the dignity of LGBT people. He also came out in front of millions of people as a guest on the Today Show. Throughout the early 1980s, Father McNeill worked within his order for equality for LGBT people, including those living with HIV and AIDS. In 1987, his work led to his expulsion from the Jesuit order.

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Despite his sadness and pain at being expelled from the Jesuit order, John McNeill continues to work for LGBT equality. In 2008, he and his partner of over 45 years, Charles Chiarelli, were married in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. McNeill continues to write in support of the LGBT community and has published four additional books on Christianity and LGBT people since The Church and the Homosexual came out in 1976. At age 86, he still stands as a pillar of the LGBT faith community for his groundbreaking work as a priest in the 1970s and 80s and for his continued dedication to LGBT equality.

Taking a Chance on God will premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival on September 24, 2011. GLAAD commends John McNeill for his continued work on behalf of the LGBT community and Brendan Fay for this wonderful film.