Faith in America to Lead Resistance Against President Trump's Newest Executive Order

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: 
BStrider@eleisongroup.com

Robert Hoffman Issues Statement on the Most Cynical and Constitutionally Damaging Executive Order Ever Signed By An American President

Hickory, NC – The media is reporting that on Thursday, President Donald Trump will sign an executive order with sweeping consequences for the nation regarding religious freedom. The executive order would open the door to widespread discrimination inside America's religious-based organizations. Robert Hoffman, Co-Chair and Interim CEO of Faith in America, an organization dedicated to fighting bad players in the faith community who are against the freedoms of LGBT Americans, released the following statement:

"The reported Trump executive order is not about religious freedom, but rather about political exemptions.  Exempting people from the Constitution for political favor is not an American value. This would be the most cynical and constitutionally damaging executive order ever signed by an American President. The American faith community holds a broad set of civic and political views. When our nation would protect the constitutional rights of pro-life Christians, for example, over those of pro-choice Christians, then the so-called protection is unconstitutional. And, that's what this executive order does. And, it does it across the board.

Americans who are LGBT stand to greatly suffer. We already live in a nation where LGBT teens and kids are 8 times more likely to kill themselves as compared to their straight friends. This is because of the condemnation received from their faith and their families influenced by condemning faith. Depression and self-hate is an outcome of religious practices that demean LGBT citizens. This executive order would not only set up LGBT teens and kids to face discrimination and fewer services but it would serve to send a signal of what America is and what's okay, and our nation would move backwards, with diminishing freedoms and attitudes. This reported executive order is bad. Faith in America urges President Trump to reconsider, and if it is signed we will fight back with all we have.”

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Mitchell Gold Takes Aim at North Carolina's HB2 in Statement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact:
BStrider@eleisongroup.com

Faith in America calls on North Carolina legislators to leave religious beliefs on LGBT people at the door

Hickory, NC -- Mitchell Gold today released a statement opposing North Carolina's Legislators and NC clergy and churches that offer despair and exclusion to NC LGBTQ youth. HB2 must be repealed and North Carolina's youth must be embraced:

I'm writing today as Co-Founder and CEO of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Home Furnishings, and Co-Founder and Co-Chair of Faith in America to express my support for a FULL repeal of HB2 immediately.  As leaders in our state it would immediately signal that NC is open for business to everyone, and more importantly send a lifesaving message to the vulnerable LGBT teens in North Carolina that you care about their lives.

Today in North Carolina, you can still be fired, denied housing, or refused service simply for being gay or transgender.  It's bad for the economic sustainability of North Carolina.  We have close to 1 million SF of manufacturing and warehouse facilities and over 600 employees in western North Carolina where we proudly make all our upholstered products. We can't afford to have barriers in place when it comes to attracting and retaining the top talent we need to succeed.  Especially for senior level talent, competitors in other states already have these protections in place, giving them a distinct advantage in recruitment and attraction.  Recent decisions by the NFL, NCAA, and NBA to move or not award big events to places lacking equal protections has made this issue even more salient when it comes to North Carolina’s reputation and economic sustainability.  

The principles of non-discrimination are rooted in core conservative values of fairness, equality, and opportunity.  Everybody should have the chance to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families.  Nobody should have to live in fear that they can be legally fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance.

I want to state clearly that the issue of risk associated with transgender people using the restroom of their choice is an irresponsible and reckless witch-hunt.  If you are concerned about safety for a problem that has not existed (and believe me, transgender people have been using the restroom of their choice for years), then implement stronger harassment or peeping Tom laws. But don’t underestimate the immense harm you are causing to vulnerable transgender people. Put yourself in their shoes! Have compassion for a transgender teen who suffers mental anguish from the pressures of their everyday life.

Finally, those who would like to be able to discriminate do so with a foundation in religious beliefs that LGBT people are sinners and consequently immoral and not deserving of full equality.  These kinds of outdated religious teachings are extremely harmful to the over 1.5 million LGBT teenagers in America.   LGBT teens are 4-6 times more likely to suffer immense mental anguish, attempt or commit suicide, or abuse drugs and alcohol than their straight peers.  In conservative or anti-LGBT religious homes and churches, these numbers jump to 8 times.  You can bet that is the statistic in North Carolina. Equal rights legislation says to these precious individuals that the state recognizes their worth. I know from personal experience such leadership saves lives.

As you might be faced with opposition to full repeal, please look carefully into who and why they are opposed to treating LGBT people with dignity. We know from history that using religious teachings to cause harm or marginalize others was mistaken.  Please don’t allow yourself to fall prey to their pressure.

Thank you for your commitment to a North Carolina that respects, protects, and celebrates all who live, work, and play in this great state.

Sincerely,

Mitchell Gold

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Gorsuch Must Answer Key Questions on Corporate Religious Freedom

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Media Contact:
CJechura@eleisongroup.com

Faith in America Encourages Senators to Explore Faith & Corporate Discrimination in Hearings

Hickory, NC—As Senators prepare questions to better understand Neil Gorsuch’s legal views, Faith in America is asking them to make sure to fully explore the potential ramifications of his Hobby Lobby decisions to the rights of LGBT individuals.  Judge Gorsuch attends a strongly LGBT-affirming church, but his Hobby Lobby decision opens the door for extreme corporate discrimination which he needs to clarify in upcoming hearings.  

“Religion has been a force for much good in society, but it has also been used as a justification for actions of condemnation and exclusion that have caused great harm to different minority groups in the past and to LGBT youth in America today,” said Mitchell Gold, Co-Chair of Faith in America.  “Judge Gorsuch laudably attends an affirming church, but his Hobby Lobby decision raises dangerous questions he needs to address about how corporations might use faith as a shield for significant harm and discrimination.”

Faith in America has published a list of questions for Senators to probe how Judge Gorsuch would apply his legal theories on Hobby Lobby in the context of discrimination against groups and individuals, and whether corporations should be held to a higher standard in how they can apply their “faith,” given the greater influence they exert over the lives of employees and customers. 

LGBT kids from religiously condemning households are 8 times more likely to commit suicide and make up nearly half of America’s homeless teen population.  Faith in America’s mission is to equip LGBT advocates and directly engage with religious leaders and congregations to confront and address this crisis, building from the shared belief that no child should ever be made to feel they are better off dead or on the streets than with their families at home. 

Faith in America Questions:

“Under your interpretation of the Constitution, would the religious freedom protections granted to corporations under Hobby Lobby allow them to deny service or employment to customers based on their faith, gender, or sexual orientation?  Could McDonalds claim its ‘faith’ prevented it from serving burgers to gay people, Wells Fargo use religious freedom as a justification for not placing women in leadership roles, or Mayo Clinic claim treating Muslims violates its faith?”

“Given the greater influence and power corporations hold in society and over the lives of American citizens they employ, should they be held to a higher standard before claiming religious freedom protections from laws?”

“How should the courts balance the rights of individuals who can be directly harmed by a corporation’s exercise of religious freedom and the rights you believe corporations have to not follow laws or recognize the rights of others if doing so violates their “faith?”  When it comes to a choice between an individual worker or customer’s rights and a corporation’s, what rules would you apply to deciding which should prevail?”

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Faith in America Rounds Out Distinguished Board of Directors with Nation's Leading Consulting Group

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Media Contact: 
BStrider@eleisongroup.com

Noted LGBTQ Leaders Turn Attention to Protecting LGBTQ Children and Youth as Anti-LGBTQ Religious groups become Emboldened through Trump Administration

Hickory, NC -- Faith in America (FIA) today announces, in conjunction with distinguished board members, the Eleison Group, a leading consulting firm, has joined increased FIA efforts to protect the nation’s LGBTQ children and youth.

Faith in America (FIA) is a non-profit dedicated to educate the public about ongoing harm caused to LGBTQ persons, especially children and youth, by religious-based prejudice. FIA seeks to change hearts and minds of religious communities on the nature of sexual orientation and gender identity, removing it permanently from “the sin list.”

In the United States, the rate of suicide attempts is 4 times greater for LGBTQ youth than that of straight youth, and 4-6 times more likely to succeed. Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives. 1-in-4 have tried. LGBTQ youth from condemning religious families are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than LGBTQ peers from affirming families. Approximately 520,000 (40% of all) homeless children are LGBTQ.

FIA, through the 3-year project, “Save yOur Kids”, will challenge bad players in the religious community, hold religious colleges and universities accountable for meeting all accreditation standards, and inform and train media on the facts and challenges facing LGBTQ children and youth.

FIA’s Board of Directors will steer this essential program.

“The Faith in America Board is made up of some of the most distinguished and noted leaders of the LGBTQ community,” said Mitchell Gold, co-founder and Board President of FIA. “Children and youth, our teens, who are LGBTQ need our voices and our help. And, to have this board recognize this and turn their attention to our youth is substantial.”

Along with the board, Faith in America has engaged one of the nation’s leading consulting firms that works at the intersection of faith, values, and culture. The Eleison Group, LLC, is a Washington DC-based firm that has spent a decade working with such noted organizations and people as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, The Riverside Church, The National Cathedral, American Bridge for the 21st Century, various ballot initiatives, environmental causes, and political candidates across the nation.

The Eleison Group, LLC is founded and ran by Burns Strider and Eric Sapp. Strider is a former senior advisor to Clinton and Pelosi, Policy Director for the U.S. House Democratic Caucus, and considered one of the ten most influential progressives in the American faith community. Sapp, a graduate of Duke Divinity School, has worked for the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy and Congressman David Price of North Carolina. Sapp is a legislative specialist and analyst who has been crucial in the ongoing battle for affordable health care.

“This is clearly one of the most meaningful projects we’ve ever been involved with” said Burns Strider. “Faith in America is willing to bring into the open a conversation about harmful religious teachings that many are hesitant to discuss. From advocacy groups to many in the media to everyday people in the pews, discussions about religion are complicated and need careful delivery.  The time is now to end harmful teachings that cause far too many innocent, vulnerable children and teens immense mental anguish.”

Eric Sapp continued, “There are just too many who are too afraid to have these conversations, but the plight of these abandoned kids requires nothing less.  We are truly impressed by FIA’s courage and heart. We are committed with FIA to assemble the voices and the materials to literally save young people’s lives.”

“Eric and Burns bring enormous capacity to Faith in America and the “Save yOur Kids” project,” added Robert Hoffman, FIA Board Co-Chair. “Their understanding of the multi-layered religious community is substantial. They bring a perspective that is much needed and the skills and tools to empower this board and FIA to make a clear and resounding statement on behalf of our nation’s LGBTQ children and youth. We are going to make lives better for our kids and teens.”

Over the last decade, Faith in America has seen people change their attitudes towards LGBTQ people. FIA believes people can and do change once they are afforded the opportunity to know the facts.  This article is a perfect example of prominent voices who have changed:

The Faith in America Board of Directors:

Mitchell Gold: In addition to running one of America's most prestigious home furnishings manufacturing and retail businesses, Mitchell is co-founder of Faith in America.

Robert Hoffman: Co-Chair and Interim CEO for Faith in America. A former Fortune 500 Apparel Executive, Robert now works professionally as Managing Partner of Piedmont Counseling and Development Group and teaches undergraduate psychology at Lenoir Rhyne University.

Sherri Jaquays: Co-Founder of Lauren Jaquays LGBTQ Youth Alliance, formerly High Country (NC) LGBTQ Youth Alliance; successfully assisted in placing GSA in ‘conservative’ country schools.

Roberta Kaplan: Litigation partner at Paul, Weiss LLP. One of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers” in the United States. Represented Edith Windsor in landmark civil rights case leading to Supreme Court mandating marriage equality nationwide two years later.

Shannon Price Minter: Legal Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights. Argued successfully before California Supreme Court for same sex couples. A transgender man, he is recognized as a leading expert of transgender legal issues.

Kris Perry and Sandy Stier: Paved the way for marriage equality through leadership in the landmark Supreme Court Case Hollingsworth v. Perry, leading to the defeat of California’s Prop 8 and ultimately making marriage equality the law of the land. Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund.  FIA’s first board couple.

Howard Vine: Former Partner, Public Policy and Law, Dickstein Shapiro, LLP. Founding member of FIA BOD; Howard’s partner is well known talk show host, Randi Rhodes.

Phil Wells (Council): Former BOD member of Equality NC and BOG HRC. Prior to joining Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams as Corp. Counsel, he practiced at NC law firm Williams Mulllen and was Corp Counsel for Compass Group.

Bob Williams: Co-founder, President of Design, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. Served on Equality NC BOD, Chair of Hickory Museum of Art, and other non-profits.

Chely Wright: Country Singing sensation, author and activist, mother of gorgeous twin boys, married to Lauren Blitzer.

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Open Letter to President Trump and Attorney General Sessions Concerning Transgender Children and Youth

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: 
BStrider@eleisongroup.com

Presidential Executive Order Harmful to Transgender Children and Youth Prompts Faith in America Board to Send Letter to President Trump and Attorney General Sessions

Hickory, NC -- Faith in America (FIA) today releases the attached open letter, signed by the board of directors, sent to President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions regarding a Presidential Executive Order that, if enacted, will bring undue stress and pain to many of America’s children and youth.

Faith in America (FIA) is a non-profit dedicated to educating the public about ongoing harm caused to LGBTQ persons, especially children and youth, by religious-based prejudice. FIA seeks to change hearts and minds of religious communities on the nature of sexual orientation and gender identity, removing it permanently from “the sin list.”

The Save yOur Kids project is the most assertive project by FIA to date. SYK will bring to light the public health crisis facing America’s LGBTQ children and youth community. This executive order concerning transgender children and youth and their treatment within public spaces is an example of what SYK will fight against.

Faith in America has one of the strongest and most noted boards in America dedicated to protecting our children and youth, including signing the letter attached to this release:

Mitchell Gold: In addition to running one of America's most prestigious home furnishings manufacturing and retail businesses, Mitchell is co-founder of Faith in America.

Robert Hoffman: Co-Chair and Interim CEO for Faith in America. A former Fortune 500 Apparel Executive, Robert now works professionally as Managing Partner of Piedmont Counseling and Development Group and teaches undergraduate psychology at Lenoir Rhyne University.

Sherri Jaquays: Co-Founder of Lauren Jaquays LGBTQ Youth Alliance, formerly High Country (NC) LGBTQ Youth Alliance; successfully assisted in placing GSA in ‘conservative’ country schools.

Roberta Kaplan: Litigation partner at Paul, Weiss LLP. One of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers” in the United States. Represented Edith Windsor in landmark civil rights case leading to Supreme Court mandating marriage equality nationwide two years later.

Shannon Price Minter: Legal Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights. Argued successfully before California Supreme Court for same sex couples. A transgender man, he is recognized as a leading expert of transgender legal issues.

Kris Perry and Sandy Stier: Paved the way for marriage equality through leadership in the landmark Supreme Court Case Hollingsworth v. Perry, leading to the defeat of California’s Prop 8 and ultimately making marriage equality the law of the land. Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund.  FIA’s first board couple.

Howard Vine: Former Partner, Public Policy and Law, Dickstein Shapiro, LLP. Founding member of FIA BOD; Howard’s partner is well known talk show host, Randi Rhodes.

Phil Wells (Council): Former BOD member of Equality NC and BOG HRC. Prior to joining Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams as Corp. Counsel, he practiced at NC law firm Williams Mulllen and was Corp Counsel for Compass Group.

Bob Williams: Co-founder, President of Design, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. Served on Equality NC BOD, Chair of Hickory Museum of Art, and other non-profits.

Chely Wright: Country Singing sensation, author and activist, mother of gorgeous twin boys, married to Lauren Blitzer.

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Open Letter to U.S. President Trump and U.S. Attorney General Sessions

Thursday, February 23, 2017

RE: Transgender Students in Public Schools

President Trump and Attorney General Sessions:

We, the board of Faith in America are writing to publicly implore you to heed the guidance of your Secretary of Education regarding the draft executive order regarding transgender students in public schools.  In fighting not to overturn the current protections, it’s clear that Secretary DeVos recognizes the severe risk faced by transgender youth each day they travel the halls of the schools for which she has been tasked with providing oversight.  

The stigma attached to transgender identity creates a profound public health crisis for these kids.  One-in-four transgender youth attempt suicide and at least half struggle with suicidal ideation.  And, they are 8x more likely to succeed at taking their own lives than their straight peers.  A rule that focuses on whether this is a matter for the states or federal government misses the point. Historically, civil rights have not been adequately protected by “state’s rights.”  In fact, a “states rights” strategy has aided and abetted opportunities for bad actors in the religious community to discriminate, or encourage discrimination, within the public.

The first question we must be asking is whether we are keeping our kids safe, and that must be the lens through which we decide whether states or the federal government are better at doing so.  The canard that these laws protect a young woman from having perverted men in the bathroom or locker room is extremely misleading. There are laws against indecent exposure and harassment.  In all the media hoopla, there is little mention of the real needs of these vulnerable transgender youths.  Who will protect them?  We must.  Recent studies show dramatic decline in suicide rates among LGBT kids prior to Obergefell in states that passed marriage laws compared to those that did not. Certainly, this is an indication why we need to tackle these issues as a nation, rather than allow piecemeal protections by states. 

Such sobering statistics are well accounted for by the Meyers Minority Status Stress Model which recognizes the role stigma plays in inordinately higher rates of suicide, homelessness, serious mental illness and substance use disorders.  Fear of discrimination and violence are legitimate concerns on the part of the Secretary.  Research supports that 65% of these students encounter derogatory terms such as “faggot” or “dyke” on a daily basis, 85% have been verbally harassed in the last year, and 30% have missed at least one day of school due to feeling unsafe. 

The insufficiency of the additional verbiage the Secretary of Education resigned herself to, “Schools must ensure that transgender students, like all students, are able to learn in a safe environment,” grossly fails to grasp the unique challenges to safety these students face each day.  For this reason we ask in the strongest possible terms:  if you decide to replace the protections enacted by the previous administration for LGBT kids in our public schools, please ensure that they are replaced with measures that will be applied nation-wide and serve the protections of our transgender youth with commensurate force. 

Sincerely,

Mitchell Gold

Robert Hoffman

Sherri Jaquays

Roberta Kaplan

Kris Perry

Shannon Price Minter

Sandy Stier

Howard Vine

Phil Wells

Bob Williams

Chely Wright

Board of Directors, Faith in America

Faith in America Announces New Board of Directors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: 
rhoffman@faithinamerica.info

Distinguished, Committed New Board Members Join Co-Founder and Co-Chairman, Mitchell Gold, Along with Current Board Members as Faith in America Launches New Project to Save American LGBTQ Children and Youth  

Hickory, NC -- Faith in America (FIA) today announces new board members, Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, and showcases the entire board of distinguished, dedicated and visionary members.

FIA, co-founded in 2006 by board co-chair, Mitchell Gold, and former Methodist minister Jimmy Creech, is a non-profit dedicated to educate the public about ongoing harm caused to LGBTQ persons, especially youth, by religious-based prejudice. FIA seeks to change hearts and minds of religious communities on the nature of sexual orientation and gender identity, removing it permanently from “the sin list.”

“As Faith in America launches our most significant project to date, Save yOur Kids (SYK), I am profoundly honored and delighted to share the news of Kris and Sandy joining our board,” says Mitchell Gold. “After several meetings with these two significant voices in modern marriage equality, Sandy and Kris both decided to be on our Board. It is the first time we’ve had a couple! The leadership we have amassed on this board is substantial. These are people who have been changing hearts and minds for a long time. And, now, through Faith in America, we will all be changing lives together…and forever.”

Our board is made up of people who have played pivotal roles in advancing marriage equality for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.  History will record their sacrifices and accomplishments. Founding FIA board member Shannon Minter argued and won the first case before the California Supreme Court and later represented married same-sex couples from Tennessee in Obergefell v. Hodges.  Kris and Sandy accepted putting themselves on the line and paved the way for marriage equality through their leadership in the landmark Supreme Court Case Hollingsworth v. Perry, leading to the defeat of California’s Prop 8 and ultimately making marriage equality the law of the land.  Roberta Kaplan, one of America’s 100 most influential attorneys, successfully argued on behalf of Edie Windsor at the Supreme Court overturning DOMA and, last year, successfully challenged Mississippi’s HB1523, which would have permitted the misuse of religion to justify discrimination against LGBT people and women.

It is both symbolic and energizing to have such leading marriage equality icons joining the FIA board because they have come to recognize that full legal and spiritual equality is still a distance to go, and the primary hurdle is people using their religious teachings to marginalize and discriminate against LGBTQ people. Especially vulnerable and innocent children and youth.

The Save yOur Kids project is the most assertive project by FIA to date. SYK will bring to light the public health crisis facing America’s LGBTQ children and youth community.

In the United States, the rate of suicide attempts is 4 times greater for LGBTQ youth than that of straight youth, and 4-6 times more likely to succeed. Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives. 1-in-4 have tried. LGBTQ youth from condemning religious families are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than LGBTQ peers from affirming families. Approximately 520,000 (40% of all) homeless children are LGBTQ.

SYK will work toward informing media and all Americans about LGBTQ children and youth. And, bringing change in the religious community working with medical professionals, clergy, and dedicated leaders who are already opening doors and addressing specific issues within the religious community and inside religious colleges and universities. Real statistics, medical evidence, and facts will be used.

“The religious community in our nation should not be a vestige of a hate and anger that defines children and youth in ways that bring them such mental and personal anguish. And, we believe many in the religious community don’t want that, either,” added Robert Hoffman, FIA Board Co-Chair. “So, with Sandy, Kris and our entire board along with FIA’s unique mission addressing religious communities we are ready to move forward with Save yOur Kids.”

The Faith in America Board of Directors:

Kris Perry and Sandy Stier: Paved the way for marriage equality through leadership in the landmark Supreme Court Case Hollingsworth v. Perry, leading to the defeat of California’s Prop 8 and ultimately making marriage equality the law of the land. Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund.  FIA’s first board couple.

Roberta Kaplan: Litigation partner at Paul, Weiss LLP. One of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers” in the United States. Represented Edith Windsor in landmark civil rights case leading to Supreme Court mandating marriage equality nationwide two years later.

Chely Wright: Country Singing sensation, author and activist, mother of gorgeous twin boys, married to Lauren Blitzer.

Sherri Jaquays: Co-Founder of Lauren Jaquays LGBTQ Youth Alliance, formerly High Country (NC) LGBTQ Youth Alliance; successfully assisted in placing GSA in ‘conservative’ country schools.

Shannon Price Minter: Legal Director, National Center for Lesbian Rights. Argued successfully before California Supreme Court for same sex couples. A transgender man, he is recognized as a leading expert of transgender legal issues.

Howard Vine: Former Partner, Public Policy and Law, Dickstein Shapiro, LLP. Founding member of FIA BOD; Howard’s partner is well known talk show host, Randi Rhodes.

Bob Williams: Co-founder, President of Design, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. Served on Equality NC BOD, Chair of Hickory Museum of Art, and other non-profits.

Robert Hoffman: Co-Chair and Interim CEO for Faith in America. A former Fortune 500 Apparel Executive, Robert now works professionally as Managing Partner of Piedmont Counseling and Development Group and teaches undergraduate psychology at Lenoir Rhyne University.

Phil Wells (Council): Former BOD member of Equality NC and BOG HRC. Prior to joining Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams as Corp. Counsel, he practiced at NC law firm Williams Mulllen and was Corp Counsel for Compass Group.

Mitchell Gold: In addition to running one of America's most prestigious home furnishings manufacturing and retail businesses, Mitchell is co-founder of Faith in America.

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More in-depth board bios: http://www.faithinamerica.org/about-us/

Faith in America website: http://www.faithinamerica.org/

Faith in America on Twitter: @faithinamerica

Faith in America on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/faithinamerica/

Save yOur Kids website: www.saveyourkids.info

Kinky Boots Opens In North Carolina, Supports Faith In America

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact:
eliel@faithinamerica.org

New York, NY, August 31, 2016 – Kinky Boots, the smash-hit musical that brings together four-time Tony® Award-winner Harvey Fierstein (Book) and Grammy® Award-winning rock icon Cyndi Lauper (Tony Award-winner for Best Score for Kinky Boots), will return to DPAC September 13-18 as part of the Encore Broadway at DPAC series.

Kinky Boots is proud to support the North Carolina LGBT community during its return engagement, with the opening night performance supporting Faith in America, an organization whose mission is to end religious discrimination against LGBT persons.

North Carolinian's can purchase tickets benefiting Faith In America using the CODE: KINKYFUND on Ticketmaster. Tickets benefiting Faith In America include entry to an after party with Kinky Boots cast and producers, Faith In America's Executive Director Eliel Cruz, and gay businessman Mitchell Gold. 

“It’s absolutely fabulous that Kinky Boots will be stomping down to North Carolina,” Eliel Cruz, Executive Director of Faith In America said. “The state of North Carolina has lost an estimated $87 million in funding due to their prejudiced HB2, with another 481.2 million potentially lost in the future, which severely limits the civil liberties of LGBT North Carolinians. Through this legislation, Governor Pat McCrory and the legislators would like to eliminate LGBT people from the public sphere. Kinky Boots’ heart-warming message of tolerance and inspiration combats that notion and is the perfect message for our state at this crucial time.”

Hal Luftig, producer of Kinky Boots said, “We felt the story was a must-see in North Carolina this year more than ever.  All of us were disappointed in the passing of HB2.  It is our pleasure to make opening night a benefit for Faith in America. We believe our show’s message of being true to yourself and accepting others for who they are is exactly in line with Faith In America’s mission to end discrimination against LGBT people in our country.”

Mitchell Gold added, “I saw Kinky Boots shortly after it opened and immediately recognized what an important story it was. You have to know people on a personal level to better understand their differences. One of my greatest pleasures was bringing a young, gay 13-year-old North Carolina boy and his mother to see the show last year. It gave me such joy to watch his excitement at seeing a major Broadway show about a subject that he was so emotionally torn about only the year before. I’m thrilled to be involved in the benefit on the opening night of the play coming to North Carolina during this pivotal year. We’ve invited Governor McCrory and the leaders of the legislation as our guests in the hopes they too can learn the important lessons of acceptance.”

For more information go to faithinamerica.org and follow on Twitter.

About Faith In America: Established in 2006, Faith In America is a non-profit organization whose ultimate goal is to end decades and centuries of using religious teachings to justify marginalizing and discriminating against others.  We are dedicated to influencing media and faith community narratives on religion and sexuality. Our goal is to move the needle forward on LGBTQ equality in the pews and in our legislation. Our Mission is to educate the public about the ongoing harm caused to LGBTQ persons, especially youth, by religious-based prejudice. Our dream is to change the hearts and minds of religious communities on the “sinful” nature of homosexuality. To remove it permanently from “the sin list.”

About Kinky BootsKinky Boots is Broadway’s huge-hearted, high-heeled hit! With songs by Grammy® and Tony® winning pop icon Cyndi Lauper, this joyous musical celebration is about the friendships we discover, and the belief that you can change the world when you change your mind. Inspired by true events, Kinky Boots takes you from a gentlemen’s shoe factory in Northampton to the glamorous catwalks of Milan. Charlie Price is struggling to live up to his father’s expectations and continue the family business of Price & Son. With the factory’s future hanging in the balance, help arrives in the unlikely but spectacular form of Lola, a fabulous performer in need of some sturdy new stilettos. With direction and choreography by two-time Tony® Award-winner Jerry Mitchell (Legally Blonde, Hairspray) and a book by Broadway legend and four-time Tony® Award-winner Harvey Fierstein (La Cage Aux Folles), Kinky Boots is the winner of 6 Broadway Tony® Awards including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Choreography. Take a step in the right direction and discover that sometimes the best way to fit in is to stand out.


 

“Religious Freedom” Argument Against Transgender Rights Lacks Theological Backing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: eliel@faithinamerica.org


“Religious Freedom” Argument Against Transgender Rights Lacks Theological Backing


New York, NY, August 26, 2016 – Last week a Michigan federal judge ruled that a funeral home has a defense against the federal nondiscrimination protection Title VII, effectively allowing the firing of a trans employee, simply for being trans, due to their sincerely held religious beliefs. Similarly, a law suit in Texas aims to overturn the nondiscrimination clause in Obama’s Affordable Care Act, including the trans inclusive health provision, citing that employers have a religious opposition to trans identities. What none of these objections to trans identities cite is any actual theological backing to their sincerely held religious beliefs. 

“There are Christians operating in the public arena attempting to disguise their anti-trans beliefs with religion,” Eliel Cruz, executive director of Faith In America said. “There is not a single verse in scripture that discusses trans identities. Instead, Christians have decided that trans identities are bad and that the bible is condemns them. It is their own transphobia that they’re basing their theology off of instead of scripture.”

The ruling has far reaching consequences as the decision in Michigan relies on the sex-stereotyping aspect of Title VII. This precedent could affect not just the trans community but anyone who doesn’t adhere to strict binary gender norms. 

Roberta Kaplan, attorney and Faith In America board member, notes the ramifications of this decision while also pointing to the conservative group behind it.

“As the dissenters warned in Hobby Lobby, RFRA is now being used to deny the fundamental dignity of LGBT people,” Kaplan said. “And it's no surprise that it is the same repeat player, Alliance Defending Freedom, that drafted the bigoted religious exemption law HB 1523 in Mississippi, that represents the employer in this case. The implications of this decision are truly disturbing since presumably, just as there are religions with anti-LGBT views, there are also people with the "sincerely-held" religious belief that the races shouldn't mix or that women should not be able to work outside the home."


For more information go to faithinamerica.org and follow on Twitter.

About Faith In America: Established in 2006, Faith In America is a non-profit organization whose ultimate goal is to end decades and centuries of using religious teachings to justify marginalizing and discriminating against others.  We are dedicated to influencing media and faith community narratives on religion and sexuality. Our goal is to move the needle forward on LGBTQ equality in the pews and in our legislation. Our Mission is to educate the public about the ongoing harm caused to LGBTQ persons, especially youth, by religious-based prejudice. Our dream is to change the hearts and minds of religious communities on the “sinful” nature of homosexuality. To remove it permanently from “the sin list.”


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Illinois’ Pastors Sue For Right To Perform Conversion Therapy, Harm LGBT Youth


Media Contact: Eliel@faithinamerica.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


New York, New York, August 15, 2016 – Earlier this year, Illinois became the fifth state to ban conversion therapy for minors. Now, a group of pastors in Illinois are attempting to overturn a historic conversion therapy ban ruling by claiming it infringes on their religious freedom.

"Conversion therapy is an act of violence against LGBT persons, especially LGBT youth,” Eliel Cruz, executive director of Faith In America said. “Any pastor willing to promote conversion therapy, which has been debunked by all leading medical professionals, is actively promoting harm against the LGBT community. This is not about religious freedom. Sexual orientation is natural and as scripture says we are 'fearfully and wonderfully made.' These pastors are trying to fit their outdated theology into the narratives of LGBT people. It hasn't worked in the decade’s past, it doesn't work now."

The lawsuit filed aims to exclude clergy from the ban on conversion therapy. Of course, the majority, if not all, conversion therapy comes from religious communities. It is only through a religious lens that sees homosexuality as something to be fixed that conversion therapy is performed. An exclusion of clergy from the conversion therapy ban would make the ban completely useless.

“Pastoral advice and support is one thing; conversion therapy is another. As a pastor, same-gender attracted man, and former president of the world’s largest ex-gay ministry, I have never seen one instance where sexual orientation has changed,” Alan Chambers, former president of Exodus International, the now defunct ex-gay group. “Over the course of 25 years, I have seen countless lives and families damaged by simply telling someone they can “change” from gay to straight. This is not about religious liberty, it is about ensuring teenagers aren’t subjected to a faulty and archaic opinion that God’s love and acceptance is conditional. Sexual Orientation Change Efforts promote shame, fear, and a culture of death.”

All leading medical professional organization have condemned these practices. Anyone that offers counseling – licensed or not, religiously affiliated or not – should not be able to cause harm to their patients. Conversion therapy, in all of its forms, is harmful to the recipient.

“The key issue here--that clergy members also be held responsible for conversion therapy damages--is an important milestone in legislation aimed at banning this practice,” Garrard Conley, conversion therapy survivor and author of Boy Erased: A Memoir On Conversion Therapy said. “The most extensive damage I suffered as a victim of conversion therapy was at the hands of pastors, in private offices, and within a methodology that often felt more clinical and loveless than that of my 'ex-gay' counsellors’. All states should adopt bans that also prevent churches from inflicting harm against LGBTQ youth.”

Faith In America supports a nationwide ban on conversion therapy for minors.

For more information go to faithinamerica.org and follow on Twitter.

About Faith In America: Established in 2006, Faith In America is a non-profit organization whose ultimate goal is to end decades and centuries of using religious teachings to justify marginalizing and discriminating against others.  We are dedicated to influencing media and faith community narratives on religion and sexuality. Our goal is to move the needle forward on LGBTQ equality in the pews and in our legislation. Our Mission is to educate the public about the ongoing harm caused to LGBTQ persons, especially youth, by religious-based prejudice. Our dream is to change the hearts and minds of religious communities on the “sinful” nature of homosexuality. To remove it permanently from “the sin list.”


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Roberta Kaplan Joins Faith In America Board

Press Contacteliel@faithinamerica.com FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Roberta Kaplan Joins Faith In America Board

New York, NY, April 12, 2016 – On the heels of winning the historic case in Mississippi ending the ban on same-sex couples right to adopt, Faith In America is proud to announce Roberta Kaplan will be joining our board. “Roberta Kaplan is the real deal. She cuts through all the noise and understands what’s at stake for the LGBT community,” Eliel Cruz, Executive Director of Faith In America. “Now, more than ever before, we need to respond to anti-LGBT religious based bigotry without skirting around religion. Our movement needs to meet anti-LGBT religious narratives head on. Kaplan has already done so much for our community with her landmark marriage equality case and the recent Mississippi adoption case. Her drive to do even more is inspiring. It is an honor that she accepted the invitation to serve on our board.” Kaplan joins Faith In America board just a month after Executive Director, Eliel Cruz was brought on to guide Faith In America into its next chapter. “As we enter our second decade, I couldn’t be more excited to welcome Roberta Kaplan to our board. When I co-founded Faith In America ten years ago, I spoke about the need to combat religious based bigotry because that’s what’s hurting our LGBT youth the most,” Mitchell Gold, Board Chair and co-founder of Faith In America said. “It’s the message that says you’re sinful for loving who you love or for being comfortable in your own body that sends kids to suicide. The face of our movement can’t just be well moisturized white gay couple, they should be about the LGBT youth who have internalized these anti-LGBT religious messages.” A few of the next battles for the LGBT movement are combating anti-LGBT RFRAs, securing a ban on conversion therapy, and working on LGBT homelessness. All of these hurdles are based on using anti-LGBT religious dogma. “I have long believed that our community needs to engage with anti-LGBT religious messages directly," Roberta Kaplan, noted civil rights Lawyer and LGBT activist said. “Religious people are not only on one side of this issue. Many religions, including my own, believe that every human being was created in the divine image and that means that everyone has equal dignity under the law. Too many Americans employ their religious beliefs as weapons to justify discrimination against and hatred of others.  That is not only wrong, but inconsistent with the values on which our great nation was founded.  I’m honored to join the Board of Faith In America to support their important work." For more information go to faithinamerica.org and follow on Twitter.

About Faith In America:  Established in 2006, Faith In America is a non-profit organization whose ultimate goal is to end decades and centuries of using religious teachings to justify marginalizing and discriminating against others. We are dedicated to influencing media and faith community narratives on religion and sexuality. Our goal is to move the needle forward on LGBTQ equality in the pews and in our legislation. Our Mission is to educate the public about the ongoing harm caused to LGBTQ persons, especially youth, by religious-based prejudice. Our dream is to change the hearts and minds of religious communities on the “sinful” nature of homosexuality. To remove it permanently from “the sin list.”

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"Lance Bass Speaks Out Against Mississippi 'Anti-LGBT' Bill"

Lance Bass, the former NSYNC pop star, joined Faith In America to speak out against Mississippi's anti-LGBT bill (HB 1523), which would allow individuals to deny LGBT persons services, housing, and even employment. Our statement was recently featured on Billboard (magazine).

“I’m disappointed in my home state of Mississippi for allowing this awful piece of legislation to hit the Senate floor. This is nothing more than religious homophobia as legislation,” Bass wrote in a press release for Faith in America. “Earlier this year, Mississippi lost Mercedes Williams, a 17-year-old trans girl murdered because she was trans. What is Mississippi’s Senate doing to protect the trans community? Instead of serving all of their constituents, Mississippi is prioritizing the sensitivities of the religious 'wrong' over the lives of LGBT people. I know Mississippi’s community is better than this. It is imperative that Governor Phil Bryant vetoes this bill immediately.”

Read the full story here: Lance Bass Speaks Out Against Mississippi 'Anti-LGBT' Bill

Lance Bass: “Mississippi Anti-LGBT Bill Is Religious Homophobia As Legislation”

Press Contacteliel@faithinamerica.com FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Mississippi, April 4, 2016 – While all eyes have been on North Carolina’s draconian anti-LGBT legislation, the Mississippi House introduced House Bill 1523 (HB 1523), which would allow individuals to deny LGBT persons services, housing, and even employment.

HB 1523 is a response to the gains in LGBT equality across the country, including last summer’s historic marriage equality win at the Supreme Court. Really, this legislation is fueled by misguided religious narratives that say offering services for LGBT people somehow goes against their religious beliefs.

“The theology doesn’t add up,” said Eliel Cruz, Executive Director of Faith in America. “We’ve seen many times -- a florist, photographer, or baker claim ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’ to deny LGBT people services. Yet, what exactly are those sincerely held religious beliefs? Where is the scriptural backing to equate a picture or a cake to a sexual act? These individuals are masking their homophobia and transphobia as ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’ with absolutely no theological foundation that holds any water. All the while giving themselves, and unrightfully so, spiritual authority to ‘condone’ another person’s life. The only being that can condone anything is God and as I argued in Religion News Service last year –Jesus would bake the cake.

Mississippi Senate is prioritizing so called religious beliefs against serving LGBT people at the cost of LGBT people. This isn’t about a cake, it’s about equality. LGBT people shouldn’t have to be inconvenienced and humiliated because of someone’s outdated and misguided religious teachings.

“I’m disappointed in my home state of Mississippi for allowing this awful piece of legislation to hit the senate floor. This is nothing more than religious homophobia as legislation,” said Lance Bass, actor and musician. “Earlier this year, Mississippi lost Mercedes Williams, a 17 year old trans girl murdered because she was trans. What is Mississippi’s Senate doing to protect the trans community? Instead of serving all of their constituents, Mississippi is prioritizing the sensitivities of the religious “wrong” over the lives of LGBT people. I know Mississippi’s community is better than this. It is imperative that Governor Phil Bryant vetoes this bill immediately.”

Board Chair and co-founder of Faith In America, Mitchell Gold, expresses his outrage over HB 1523. “Does Mississippi really want to go down the same path as Indiana, Georgia, and soon, North Carolina? Indiana and Georgia faced extreme backlash over their anti-LGBT legislation that cost them millions,” Mitchell Gold said. “North Carolina is currently facing this same backlash and I’m certain Governor McCrory will soon come to his senses, veto HB2, and apologize to the LGBT community. As a North Carolina gay business man with stores across the country -- including Mississippi -- this is not the southern hospitality we are known for. Mississippi needs to not go do down a dangerous path that will take the state back to the dark ages.”

The bill was expected to go to the governor today. Faith In America joins other local and national LGBT equality advocates in calling on the governor to veto this bill.

For more information go to faithinamerica.org and follow on Twitter.

About Faith In America: Established in 2006, Faith In America is a non-profit organization whose ultimate goal is to end decades and centuries of using religious teachings to justify marginalizing and discriminating against others. We are dedicated to influencing media and faith community narratives on religion and sexuality. Our goal is to move the needle forward on LGBTQ equality in the pews and in our legislation. Our Mission is to educate the public about the ongoing harm caused to LGBTQ persons, especially youth, by religious-based prejudice. Our dream is to change the hearts and minds of religious communities on the “sinful” nature of homosexuality. To remove it permanently from “the sin list.”

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"North Carolina 'Religious Freedom' Law Makes Some Reconsider Moving There"

Faith In America Founder and Board Chair Mitchell Gold was a guest on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday and discussed the recently passed anti-LGBT law in North Carolina, which restricts cities from passing nondiscrimination laws and prevents trans people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity.

"I'm concerned about a 15- or 16-year-old kid. When I was 15, 16 years old, I was scared. I was tortured. I cried myself to sleep every night because I thought I was broken. I thought God didn't love me. And that's - that's who I'm worried about..."

Read or listen to the full interview here: North Carolina 'Religious Freedom' Law Makes Some Reconsider Moving There 

"Does human rights campaign open letter impact business?"

Faith In America Founder and Board Chair Mitchell Gold was a guest on CNBC's Closing Bell and discussed the recently passed anti-LGBT law in North Carolina, which restricts cities from passing nondiscrimination laws and prevents trans people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity. Watch the full interview here: Does human rights campaign open letter impact business?

"I’m a transgender Christian in North Carolina. My faith should not stop at the bathroom door."

Faith In America worked to place an Op-ed in the Washington Post by Adam Plant, about his experiences as a transgender Christian in North Carolina.

"In my journey, the voices of support have been mixed with a few powerful voices of condemnation. Early on in my transition, a pastor told me that his heart was breaking for me because of the apparent step I had taken away from God’s plan for my life.

As he was talking, all I could think was, “I’m sorry that your heart is breaking for me, but my heart is just beginning to heal.”

Those fragile pieces of my heart which I feared had crumbled to dust, leaving me as empty as I felt, were being brought to life again by a God I had never felt was this real or this close until She breathed life into a body that I never thought was mine."

Read the full Op-ed here: I’m a transgender Christian in North Carolina. My faith should not stop at the bathroom door. 

"It Takes Faith to Challenge Religious Bigotry"

Faith In America Founder and Board Chair Mitchell Gold authored a guest post in The Advocate about religious-based bigotry in North Carolina.

“Some fundamentalist Christians just can’t accept the idea that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are good and decent folks.

They call our community “sinners,” which causes serious spiritual and emotional harm, particularly to LGBT youth, who hear this and start feeling like they are broken. Some conservative faith leaders, like Pastor Kevin Swanson, have even been so reckless as to suggest that LGBT people are “worthy of death.” This violent rhetoric is disgusting and has no place in or outside of our faith communities. The LGBT community is entitled to full legal and spiritual rights, which is something my nonprofit, Faith in America, works to advance."

Read the full Op-ed here: It Takes Faith to Challenge Religious Bigotry

"Bathroom Bills Aren’t About Religious Freedom"

Faith In America Executive Director Eliel Cruz wrote an Op-ed in The Huffington Post about the so-called religious freedom bill and law passed in North Carolina.

"North Carolina passed the most dangerous piece of anti-LGBT legislation in the country that might provoke violence towards transgender people, all in the name of so-called “religious freedom.” How exactly will binary gendered bathrooms threaten the religious freedom of others? I’m not certain. Neither are the folks who are claiming transgender individuals using the bathroom infringes on their religious freedom....

These bathroom bills aren’t about religious freedom. These bills are actually ignorance manifesting itself in transphobia. It’s clear North Carolina legislators not only don’t understand what it means to be transgender but they also aren’t aware on how to back their anti-trans stance in scripture."

Read the full Op-ed here: Bathroom Bills Aren’t About Religious Freedom

Watch this very moving film at the petition "Being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is not a sin!"

I believe the time has come to end the harmful teachings by some religious denominations that being gay (LGBT) is a sin, or whatever words they use to demean, call evil, and cause enormous pain to LGBT people, especially our youth. More and more people are changing their minds….from evangelicals to Presbyterians to Catholics to Conservative Jews. Our understanding of human sexuality, and the natural place of same-sex love in it, has evolved!

History has proven that using religious teachings to cause enormous harm to innocent people is wrong. I have faith in America to be better to all its citizens – but especially innocent, vulnerable youth.

Please join us in asking religious leaders to end the harm. Make your voices heard by signing Faith in America’s petition on change.org, asking faith leaders and those who teach that same-sex orientation is a sin to stop.

Get a more personal understanding of the stakes involved by watching our short film, "Not a Sin," presented by Faith in America with the Ali Forney Center, the nation’s largest organization dedicated to homeless LGBT youth, and share it with both those you love and those who can learn from its powerful message.

And learn more and offer your support by visiting www.FaithinAmerica.org and www.AliForneyCenter.org.

Julian Bond will be missed as a leader in LGBT Civil Rights Movement

"Marriage is a civil ceremony that apportions some rights and responsibilities to both parties. I ought not be denied that simply because of someone else's religious bigotry. If for some reason you don't want me to marry in your church, that's okay, it's your church. But don't bring your religious bigotry into city hall."

Julian Bond

Faith In America's June 11, 2007 Freedom To Marry Celebration, Washington, D.C.

Video produced by Faith In America and National Black Justice Coalition

N.C. 'Christian leader' compares LGBT individuals to excrement

Welcome to the "Christian" group lobbying

for N.C.'s bigotry-filled RFRA measure

Tuesday, April 6, 2015

Faith In America News Release

In a 2008 article posted at the socially conservative web site, RenewAmerica, Rev. Mark Creech said that putting gay civil rights on the same plane as religious liberty would be like giving fecal matter the same importance as food.

"To contend homosexuality or other sexually alternative practices are as worthy of special protections as religion is like saying feculence is as important to one's person or the culture as food."

 "Rev. Mark Creech is a very familiar face in the halls of the North Carolina Legislature and the Christian Action League is one of the primary supporters of North Carolina's proposed anti-gay RFRA measure," said Brent Childers, executive director of the pro-gay Faith In America organization.

"Based on Creech's other anti-gay tirades, I believe Rev. Creech was saying what he really believes – gay people are about as worthy of nondiscrimination laws as shit.

"One thing we didn't see in Indiana and Arkansas over the previous weeks was a good, honest look at the groups behind these incredible expressions of religion-based bigotry that we are seeing in these so-called 'religious conscience' or 'religious liberty' bills.

"I hope the Christian Action League, which is an affiliate of the notoriously anti-gay American Family Association, doesn't escape that scrutiny as we expose this measure in North Carolina for what it is.

"The animus toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in North Carolina's legislative environment is palpable.

Childers said North Carolinians, its businesses and society at large should be repulsed at such overt and abominable expressions of hostility toward a minority segment of its citizenry.

 

Childers said Rev. Creech in an article at the RenewAmerica website just this week compared anti-gay legislation to the "beautiful head" of Christ.

"Yet the leftist mob of gay activists and their cohorts and the media shouted in one loud and concerted voice, 'Crucify it! Crucify it!' They placed a crown of damnable thorny lies around its beautiful head and scourged it with every dreaded accusation of homophobia until it was hardly recognizable any more."

GLAAD has several more quotes from the Creech: 

"In fact, let me go on record with Tim Mertes in saying I also believe homosexuality is 'impure,' 'dirty,' and 'disgusting.'"

"Few sins have done more of late to wreak havoc among God's people as homosexuality." 

Childers said there should be a greater outcry for decency and fairness in North Carolina than seen in Arkansas and Indiana combined.