The mission of Faith In America is four-fold: a) to educate the public about the harm caused to gay Americans,especially LGBT youth, when religion-based bigotry and prejudice is used to justify condemnation, discrimination and violence; b) to aggressively challenge such oppression by anyone who promotes it or attempts to justify it; c) to aggressively confront the social respectability and acceptability afforded to Americans who cite religion-based bigotry to oppress gay Americans; and to promote and support LGBT youth nonviolent movements to leverage the power of their social networking and media resources to confront, resist and eliminate the oppression and resulting harm of religion-based bigotry.
There is a uniquely insidious nature of religion-based bigotry, hostility and prejudice because it places a moral and religious stamp of approval on the oppression of LGBT individuals, especially young gay and lesbian teens. This points to why studies have shown gay and lesbian youths reporting high levels of at-school victimization report higher levels of substance abuse, suicidality and sexual risk behaviors than heterosexual peers reporting high levels of at-school victimization.
The notion that such oppression and resulting harm is morally acceptable or justifiable by any means can not be tolerated and Faith In America will challenge it with sustained and vigorous opposition. Religion-based bigotry causes enormous harm to LGBT people, especially young, vulnerable teens. There can be no compromise or nuancing the message on this point when we engage those who are harming innocent youth – it’s gone on for too long, too many are suffering as a result and it has to stop.
Sadly, many ordinary, decent Americans of good will deny the harm and devastation to LGBT Americans caused by religion-based bigotry and continue to delude themselves that it is respectable and acceptable to hold and espouse religious justifications that result in rejection, condemnation and oppression of other Americans based on their personal religious beliefs.
Religion-based bigotry today is no different than the religion-based bigotry in America’s history of racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism, which were all rooted in biblical and religious texts and eventually rejected by Americans who believe in fairness, equality and justice for everyone.
Religion-based bigotry must not be allowed to trump equal protection under the law and religion-based prejudices must not be tolerated and codified into laws and statutes that deny equality, justice and equal civil rights for LGBT Americans.
Justice, equal protection and equal civil rights for LGBT Americans will not be achieved until the acceptance and respectability of religion-based bigotry is vanquished in America society, just as racism, sexism and anti-Semitism are not tolerated today.
In challenging religion-based bigotry and hostility, Faith in America utilizes media strategies and programmatic activities to present three basic truths:
- Religion-based bigotry and prejudice brings personal, social and spiritual pain and trauma to bear on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and that such harm is particularly oppressive to gay youth. This harm is brought to bear on gay Americans solely on the basis of sexual orientation and is most often justified and promoted by misguided religious teaching that is disguised as religious truth.
- History illustrates how in the past bigotry and prejudice disguised as religious truth has caused immense harm to people of color, women, interracial couples, religious minorities and society as a whole. The attitudes of condemnation and discrimination that once were produced by religion-based bigotry and prejudice toward minorities in the past have been rejected as wrong and morally indefensible.
- It has been established by both science and common sense that a person’s sexual orientation is an unchangeable and essential aspect of the human personality. Sexual orientation is as natural and innate as skin, eye and hair color, left- or right-handedness, and gender and therefore cannot be justified as a reason to subject a person to condemnation, discrimination and violence.
The ultimate goal of Faith in America is to create a social climate in which gay Americans are fully accepted as good, decent and hardworking Americans who deserve and are worthy of the same rights as all Americans.
Faith In America is working in schools, churches, state legislatures, the halls of Congress and with the media to educate mainstream America about the immense harm brought to bear on gay Americans, particularly gay youth.
Our organization is not a religious organization. It does not take a theologian or religious background to understand that religion-based bigotry and prejudice brings condemnation, discrimination and violence to bear on its victims.
We point to history as the arbiter of social justice. In all past examples of when church teaching has been misused in to justify discrimination and violence, America has judged those examples of religion-based bigotry as morally corrupt.
We have faith in America doing no less in respect to the discrimination and violence toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans that is most often promoted and justified today with misguided church teaching.
Turning to History…and our Hearts
About 500 years ago there was a fledgling movement afoot led by among others Martin Luther who believed individuals have the ability – and the right – to interpret Christianity’s religious texts for themselves.
It was a radical but heartfelt idea at the time for it meant that the religious/political establishment had been teaching some things about religion that a growing number of people knew in their hearts just wasn’t founded in the Bible, such as a requirement that priests couldn’t marry or that one’s salvation could be purchased. There was a feeling among Luther and others that certain church teachings were being used to oppress the masses instead of liberating them. The movement was able to sustain itself and a new era would be ushered in as this new concept would in essence democratize religion.
Some individuals during this period realized that there was a potential negative side in that allowing people to interpret the Bible for themselves might create opportunities where people might get their interpretation of Scripture wrong and that those interpretations again could be used to cause harm.
As Americans, we can look back today and see how indeed those misgivings proved true when we consider segments of our own history when interpretations of Scripture were used to justify oppression and bigotry in the areas of slavery, segregation and subjugation of women – all episodes where good Bible-believing Christians were taught that certain Scripture justified treating African-Americans and women as inferior. Many then knew in their hearts it just wasn’t right to use the Bible to justify such discrimination.
Our American forefathers, who were not that far removed from the world-shaking religious ideas of Luther and others, foresaw the potential negative aspect of all the different interpretations of religious texts and took great care in drafting a Constitution that made sure no one group’s interpretation would ever be state-sanctioned or state-aproved.
Yet 200 years later, our society is beset by yet another form of religion-based oppression and bigotry against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals and it is causing severe oppression.
It also seems many Americans have lost sight of the inherent danger in using government to impose one group’s interpretation of religious text on society through our laws. Throughout the land we see certain religious/political groups who are advocating that their interpretation of the Bible is sufficient grounds to oppose equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans – whether it is the right to serve openly in the military or the right to marry the person they love and want to journey through life with.
Faith In America since 2005 has been sounding the alarm bells of history by asking Americans to closely examine how religion-based discrimination, bigotry and oppression are still at work today in our society in regards to gay and lesbian Americans – just as it was in other episodes of our past.
It has been allowed to flourish in our society for so long primarily because certain political and religious groups 25 years ago decided that playing upon the fear and prejudice within faith communities would be an effective way to garner votes from those communities. So while some preachers and religious/political commentators have pounded home a theme of rejection and condemnation toward gay and lesbian people, their influence in political circles increased as they continued to bring in votes.
But something else was happening at the same time – people were hurting and many were dying. So just as the ground shakers of the 15th century were correct in challenging misguided religious teaching in their day, Faith In America is asking Americans of faith to examine any interpretation that promotes attitudes of rejection, condemnation and to place it along side the religious ideals of love, compassion, acceptance and respect that are found not only in Christian teaching but the teachings of all great religions.
And for those persons who still believe a Scripture-based message of rejection, condemnation and discrimination is compatible with the teachings of Christ, we simply ask you to consider how unconstitutional it is to ask our government to make laws based on an interpretation of religious text.
We have faith in American’s ability to understand that we all should strive to be best that we can be and also to question just how far we have missed the mark in the way we have treated our fellow gay, lesbian bisexual and transgender citizens.
It’s a question we must as ourselves today – not tomorrow. Too many people, especially young gay teenagers, are suffering the effects of oppression for us to wait another day.
Bringing change to this social injustice isn’t complicated nor should it be a long-term endeavor. It simply takes a brief look back on history, being honest about what we feel in our hearts and just enough humility to admit we’ve been misled.