February/March Religion News Summary

Hindus in the LGBT community are receiving increased publicity since the release of The Truth About Me- A Hijra Life Story, by A. Revathi. Identified among people of South Asia as a third gender, hijras are physiological males who use female pronouns and embrace feminine gender roles and presentation. Revathi’s autobiography reaches into her personal and sometimes traumatizing experiences as a hijra in hopes of raising awareness of the dominant prejudices against her community. Novelist Anne Rice denounces her relationship with the Catholic Church and explains to her gay son, Christopher Rice, the moral fallacies she found within it. Rice’s research of Catholic theology led her to believe that the church suppresses LGBT people and is a major critic of the LGBT community. Gay and lesbian students in a Toronto Catholic school district celebrated a small victory when the Halton Catholic School Board rescinded its exclusive “Equity and Inclusion Education” policy which ignored LGBT students in anti-bullying efforts and banned them from creating student groups on the grounds that they were “not consistent” with the teachings of the Catholic Church. After a year-long unsuccessful student attempt to establish a Gay Straight Alliance, the newly elected school board voted 6-2 to finally redesign the policy. “We need to listen to the voices of our students,” commented education director Michael Pautler of the initiative. A new survey conducted by The Public Religion Research Institute shows that a record majority of American Catholics are supportive of LGBT issues. In Baptist news, Harvard University’s Rev. Peter J. Gomes died at the age of 68 on February 28. The openly gay minister presided at the opening ceremony of the inauguration of former President George H. W. Bush, and gave the benediction at his predecessor Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration.  Gomes was once a conservative black pastor but courageously came out in front of students and other faculty in 1991 during a protest of homophobic articles written in a conservative magazine, calling himself a “a Christian who happens as well to be gay”. Students, faculty and Cambridge residents continue to mourn the death of Rev. Peter J. Gomes. Overseas, a number of “gay- free zone” stickers were found on buildings and streets close to LGBT friendly areas on London’s East End. The city’s Tower Hamlets council recently received praise for its acceptance of the lesbian and gay community, but advocate Peter Tachell says that there continue to be a series of threats and assaults toward LGBT people. Some spectators believe that the stickers were placed by radical Muslim fundamentalist groups that remain in the London area. Police forces are aware of the hate crime and are requesting that citizens report any new sightings or additional information. In NYC, Palestinians are outraged when the city’s LGBT center decides not to participate in apartheid week, an event intended to promote awareness of the Palestinian struggle. Early February marked the beginning of a gay inclusive event called the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival--the largest film festival in the city of Atlanta to date. The festival is expected to last three weeks and will include a variety of LGBT themed films including “Gay Days”, which traces the evolution of the gay and lesbian movement from the early 80’s to the late 90’s. Meanwhile, in Israel, rabbis are attempting to perform marriages between gay men and women in an attempt to convert them to heterosexuality. Director and Screenwriter Paul Haggis talks to the New Yorker about his decision to leave the Church of Scientology. He announced his resignation after repeatedly asking the church’s spokesperson to denounce the actions of the San Diego church when a staff member signed its name to an online petition supporting Proposition 8.