Faith in America and the Human Rights Campaign Deeply Troubled By Rev. Eugene Peterson’s Reversal On Same-Sex Marriage

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

From An Encouraging Statement of Support to Condemnation of LGBT Christian Marriages, Rev. Peterson puts profits and popularity above the health and well-being of LGBT Christians of Good Faith.

Hickory, N.C.—Faith in America and the Human Rights Campaign are disappointed by Rev. Eugene Peterson’s retracted statement of support for same-sex marriages of “Christians of Good Faith.” Since 2014, Rev. Peterson has been more affirming toward LGBT Christians (see his recorded dialogue at Western Theological HERE) and responded “yes” earlier this week when directly asked whether LGBT Christians would be allowed to marry in his church. We believe he had a “Joe Biden ‘Meet the Press’ moment” when he just could no longer deny what was in his heart.

Peterson faced intense backlash from anti-LGBT Christians who continue to ignore the medical research and evidence about the profound public health crisis their antiquated theology underwrites. Of particular note was LifeWays threatening Peterson’s income by the loss of a lucrative selling agreement with him. Immediately following this threat, Rev. Peterson retracted his support for same-sex marriages. Peterson released a statement saying that after “reflection and prayer,” he had changed his mind and would no longer perform a same-sex wedding in his church: “To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything.” In doing so, the Reverend placed personal financial interests above his responsibilities as a leader in the Evangelical community—endangering the LGBT children and adults in his church and far beyond. Words matter.

"Rev. Peterson's initial statement provided hope and affirmation to many LGBTQ Christians searching for inclusive faith communities, a fact that makes his recent reversal that much more disappointing," said Mary Beth Maxwell, HRC's Senior Vice President for Programs, Research and Trainings. "Despite Rev. Peterson's hurtful reversal, we know that a a majority of people of faith do support LGBTQ people and every day more and more Christian leaders and laypeople open their hearts and change their minds in their own faith journeys to more fully embracing the dignity of all God's children.”

“The reality is everyone now knows what’s in Rev. Peterson’s heart. And we also know that he puts his own personal financial gain ahead of the sanctity of LGBTQ people’s lives. So he really put himself in a lose/lose situation. His credibility and integrity will be questioned forever.” Said Mitchell Gold, Co-founder and co-chair of the Faith in America board. “It’s particularly a shame for this to happen in his golden years. He should have followed the golden rule!”

“The Message (Eugene Peterson's famous paraphrase of the Bible) has been an important part of my life and ministry for almost a quarter of a century.” Said Stan Mitchell, Pastor at GracePointe Church and Director of Religious Outreach for Faith in America. “Peterson himself has been a particular inspiration for me at various and pivotal moments through the years. His recent retraction has been a particularly difficult gut-punch for me, 1) Because affirmations like the one Dr. Peterson made are desperately needed as the Christian Church is irrevocably but all too slowly moving toward a complete reversal on the matter of our LGBTQ+ siblings and their full inclusion in the Church and 2) because I personally relate to the excruciating pressure he has now caved to, an unremitting pressure experienced by pastors and ministers everywhere. Frankly, it was this type of powerful familial/vocational/financial pressure that was the last hurdle for me personally to cross on this matter only a few years ago. Since my decision, admittedly the consequences for me have been a mind-numbing mix of punishment and reward. I must say, though, the losses, while severe, have paled in comparison to the gains - not the least of which has been the relieving gift of a clear conscience. Sadly, it appears now that one of my heroes is going to miss out on this same reward.”

Faith in America and the Human Rights Campaign call upon Rev. Eugene Peterson and all non-affirming religious leaders to end the discrimination against LGBT people and once and for all end the teaching that “homosexuality is a sin” as that is the root of all the animus towards the LGBTQ community.

####

Contact: Faith in America—Rich Harrington, rharrington@FaithInAmerica.org, 603.731.9811

Contact: Human Rights Campaign—Sarah McBride, sarah.mcbride@hrc.org 

Faith in America Makes History With Volunteers and Message About Saving Kids at Southern Baptist Convention

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Media Contact: RHarrington@faithinamerica.org, RBrockway@hmapr.com (Phoenix)

Medical Professionals, Clergy, and Volunteers Have Arrived in Phoenix to Ask Southern Baptist Messengers to Save yOur Kids!

Phoenix, AZ -- Today, Faith in America has organized medical professionals, clergy, and a coalition of volunteers in Phoenix in an unprecedented effort to focus the nation’s largest protestant denomination on what they must be doing to not harm and, instead, protect America’s teens and kids who are LGBT.

America’s LGBT teens and kids are in crisis. For example:

  • LGBT kids raised in non-affirming religious families are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than their LGBT peers from accepting homes.
  • Nearly half of America’s homeless youth are LGBT.
  • More than a quarter of LGBT youth say they have been personally bullied or harassed since the 2016 presidential campaign began, compared to 14 percent of non-LGBTQ youth.

Faith in America (FIA), an organization that exists to end religious-based harm to the LGBT community, realizes Americans can no longer sit by while our children and teenagers are being hurt. FIA has launched a 3-year program called “Save yOur Kids!” (SYK). Our SYK project is developed to address religious-based practices that condemn our teens and youth, creating hostile environments both at church and home, places most needed by our youth.

“This is an historic moment and we, at Faith in America, are taking action,” says Mitchell Gold, FIA co-founder. “We ask the media to cover this with the seriousness this deserves. This is not about conflict and division. It is about speaking the truth, and standing up for our kids and teens being hurt. It is also about finding common ground around our children and youth.”

Faith in America is in communication with Southern Baptist Convention leadership and a meeting is pending scheduling.  They are aware of our presence beginning on June 13 at their Phoenix meeting of SBC Messengers. While the SBC has initially articulated their disagreement with FIA regarding homosexuality as a sin, they also offered their desire to meet and find initiatives and ways forward that do not harm our youth. We find the potential progress here and look forward to soon meeting with SBC leadership.

FIA ACTIVITIES AT SOUTHERN BAPTIST PHOENIX CONVENTION:

Medical Professionals will be engaging Southern Baptist Messengers and talking to the media about the health crisis our LGBT teens and kids are living through.

  • Jack Drescher, M.D. – Professor Psychiatry, New York Medical College. Past President of the Group for Advancement of Psychiatry, and a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Dr. Drescher is an expert media spokesperson on issues related to gender and sexuality. He has published and teaches extensively around this subject at New York Medical College and New York University. 
  • Joshua Wolff, Ph.D. – Asst. Professor, Adler University. Dr. Wolff is a professor of psychology with significant published work on the role social stigma on LGBT hostile religious campuses plays in the attendant mental health and substance abuse challenges afflicting the college students.
  • Robert Hoffman - Co-Chair and acting Executive Director for Faith in America. A former Fortune 500 Apparel Executive, Hoffman now works professionally as Managing Partner of Piedmont Counseling and Development Group and is an MPH candidate at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine.

Clergy with Open Affirming Churches will be engaging Southern Baptist Messengers and talking to media about their theologically based decisions to open their doors, affirm all believers, and support who God made them to be.

  • Pastor Stan Mitchell, GracePointe Church, Nashville
  • Pastor Aaron Sprietzel, One Church, Phoenix
  • Pastor T. Anthony Spearman, Greensboro, NC
  • Pastor Lara Forbes, Faith Evangelical Lutheran, Phoenix
  • Pastor James Pennington, First Congregational UCC, Phoenix

Thirteen coalition groups are joining Faith in America to add their direct experience working with and supporting LGBT children who have been forced out of their homes onto the streets and who are at the greatest risk of trafficking and suicide.

  • The Trevor Project
  • Nomad Partnerships
  • Matthew Shepard Foundation
  • Tyler Clementi Foundation
  • Soulforce
  • The Reformation Project  
  • Campus Pride
  • Equality California
  • Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists
  • Auburn Seminary
  • PFLAG
  • Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church, Phoenix
  • First Congregational United Church of Christ, Phoenix

Jane Clementi co-founded the Tyler Clementi Foundation alongside her husband Joe because she wants to make sure that our society learns the consequences of discrimination and bullying, as she learned all too personally through the loss of her son, Tyler. Jane speaks passionately to parents and community leaders about the need to not merely “accept” or “tolerate” children who come out as LGBT, but to embrace them as wondrous creations of God. Jane, a registered nurse, speaks on the need for parents of LGBT children to come out and speak openly of the love they have for their children, and in doing so each one of us can impact the world around us and create accepting environments.

Billboards, static and roving, throughout Phoenix reminding Southern Baptists that all our children matter and we must stop harming them.

Volunteers will have handouts and kind words for the Southern Baptist Messengers and will be on the streets and visible throughout the entire Southern Baptist Convention meeting.

A robust social media campaign incorporating real time updates and videos, facts, and photos will be taking place, as well, throughout the SBC event.

“Science is clear: LGBTQ youth are at risk and need our help. People of faith unhappy about these findings may deny them, and some may even distort them. Unfortunately, denial and distortion of science can expose their LGBTQ children to potentially harmful practices and interventions,” according to Jack Drescher, M.D., of New York Medical College.  “We know parents love their children and want to keep them safe, regardless of religious beliefs. We join FIA in formally calling upon SBC’s leadership to alter its course of religion-based harm to one of religion-based help. Faith communities can be sources of great support to LGBTQ youth if they stop condemning them and begin instead to embrace these children with unconditional love."

WHAT DO WE WANT:

Ultimately, we at FIA believe LGBT people should be removed from the sin list. We know interpretations and new revelations come to light. We believe the Church will one day stop diminishing the lives of those who are LGBT and we strive to help this come to pass. We are optimistic people and see the glass 75% full!  We appreciate and respect how the SBC has changed teachings and interpretations based on new, important information. We applaud how in 1995 the SBC issued a formal apology to People of Color for their role in the inhuman practices of slavery and segregation.

We also have a simpler, direct request: let’s stop hurting yOur kids and teens. We can’t deny the impact condemning religious teachings have had on people’s beliefs toward those who are LGBT. If we deny the Church has had any influence, we would be kidding ourselves. This means negative as well as positive impacts must be claimed.

We know Baptists care about yOur kids and we believe we can start a conversation and find common ground and common purpose. No one wants these LGBT SBC kids to feel they’d be better off dead or on the streets than with their family and community. And, we would like to discuss what we might do to help ensure no child ever has to feel that way.

“The level of depression and anxiety existing in the lives of LGBT teens and kids is sadly outpacing those maladies in other groups,” says Rev. Stan Mitchell. “We use the word “condemning” to describe the churches that are bad players and hurt LGBT teens and kids with harsh messages that alienate, diminish, and stigmatize. This hurts youth and creates animosity within the hearts of parents, siblings, and other kin that, in turn, also serves to abandon our youth, leaving them feeling alone in a cold world. These teachings create bullies.”

“Faith in America believes there is a great work to be done through us,” added Robert Hoffman, FIA Executive Director. “We have made ourselves available to grasp and follow our calling, to go and join in the work where it’s most needed. Along the way, we hope to build new bridges, make new friends, and serve a purpose higher than us all.”

####

Faith in America website:  www.faithinamerica.org

Faith in America on Twitter: @faithinamerica

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

Save yOur Kids website: www.save-yOur-kids.org

Faith In America Billboards Highlighting Impact on Kids from Religious Condemnation Surround Southern Baptist Convention

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Media Contact: RHarrington@faithinamerica.org, RBrockway@hmapr.com (Phoenix)

During SBC, Most Billboards Surrounding the Convention Will Educate on Dramatically Higher Suicide and Homeless Rates Among LGBT Kids in Non-Affirming Families

PHOENIX -- Faith in America unveiled its campaign of digital and truck billboards that will surround the Southern Baptists Convention this week, highlighting the impact of religious condemnation on LGBT Kids.  The two key messages of the billboards center around the fact that LGBT kids in condemning households are 8x more likely to try to kill themselves, and that 40% of all homeless teens are LGBT.

“We have pastors, parents, and counselors from all over America joining Faith In America in Phoenix because of the crisis our children are facing,” said Robert Hoffman, FIA co-chair. “We know the Baptist pastors, parents, and counselors attending the SBC care just as deeply about their kids and hope that a conversation about how to end this harm to children can open new doors for dialogue.”

Along with billboards surrounding the Convention Center, Faith in America’s Save-yOur-Kids campaign will have pastors, doctors and leaders seeking meetings with SBC leadership and volunteers handing out information and opening dialogue with convention attendees. 

To view the billboards, click here.

The Media packet for the SBC event can be found by clicking here.

Faith in America (FIA), an organization that exists to end religious-based harm to our LGBT community, realizes Americans can no longer sit by while our children and teenagers are being hurt. FIA has launched a 3-year program called “Save yOur Kids!” (SYK). Our SYK project is developed to address religious-base practices that condemn our teens and youth, creating hostile environments both at church and home, places most needed by our youth, as well as in schools and society at large.

####

Faith in America website:  www.faithinamerica.org

Save yOur Kids! website:  www.save-yOur-kids.org

Faith in America on Twitter: @faithinamerica

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

Faith In America Announces Coalition Partner Organizations Joining Save-yOur-Kid Campaign at Southern Baptist Meeting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
Media Contact: 
RHarrington@faithinamerica.org, RBrockway@hmapr.com (Phoenix)

Thirteen Key Church and National Organizations Team with Faith In America to Draw Attention to the Harm to LGBT Kids from Non-Affirming Religious Denominations and Seek Solutions

Phoenix -- Today, Faith in America announces the coalition partners joining together to engage non-affirming religious denominations around solutions to the harm religious disapproval cause to LGBT children.  The coalition groups will add their direct experience working with and supporting LGBT children who have been forced out of their homes onto the streets and who are at greatest risk of trafficking and suicide.   

“We are honored to have the support of such compassionate and effective organizations, who bring their direct experiences as child advocates working with these suffering and abandoned children to the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix,” said Mitchell Gold, FIA co-founder. “We believe that refocusing the conversation on the suffering and harm to these innocent, vulnerable kids creates an opportunity for common cause, and are hopeful that we can work toward real solutions with the SBC because we know they care deeply about their children.”

Coalition partners include:

  • The Trevor Project
  • Nomad Partnerships
  • Mathew Shepard Foundation
  • Tyler Clementi Foundation
  • Soulforce
  • The Reformation Project  
  • Campus Pride
  • Equality California
  • Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists
  • Auburn Seminary
  • PFLAG
  • Faith Evangelical Lutheran Phoenix
  • First Congregational United Church of Christ Phoenix

At the foundation of the Save-yOur-Kids campaign is the understanding that religious disapproval harms kids and that we should be able to come together across our differences for the sake of our children.

  • LGBT teens from non-affirming families are 8x more likely to take their lives than those in supportive ones.
  • LGBT youth make up nearly half of America’s homeless teens.
  • LGBT children are 70x more likely to become victims of trafficking than their peers.
  • 50% of trans kids have considered suicide.

Find more details here: www.faithinamerica.org

Faith in America (FIA), an organization that exists to end religious-based harm to our LGBT community, realizes Americans can no longer sit by while our children and teenagers are being hurt. FIA with collaborative partners has launched a 3-year program called “Save yOur Kids!” (SYK). Our SYK project is developed to address religious-base practices that condemn our teens and youth, creating hostile environments both at church and home, places most needed by our youth, as well as in schools and society at large.

####

Faith in America website:  www.faithinamerica.org

Save yOur Kids! website:  www.save-yOur-kids.org

Faith in America on Twitter: @faithinamerica

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

Faith In America Announces Clergy Traveling to Phoenix to Speak for LGBT Youth During Southern Baptist Meeting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: 
BStrider@eleisongroup.com

FIA Organizes Clergy to Offer Their Testimony to Nation About How They Became Accepting, Affirming and Outspoken for People who are LGBT; Prepared to Speak with Southern Baptist Messengers and Media in Phoenix

Washington, D.C. --Today, Faith in America announces details regarding clergy participating in the unprecedented effort to focus the nation’s largest protestant denomination on what they must be doing to not harm and, instead, protect America’s teens and kids who are LGBT. America’s LGBT teens and kids are in crisis. For example:

Condemning families and religious communities have caused enormous harm to LGBT people, especially young, vulnerable teens.

  • LGBT teens from condemning families are 8x more likely to commit suicide than those in supportive ones.
  • LGBT youth make up nearly half of America’s homeless teens.
  • LGBT children are 70x more likely to become victims of trafficking than their peers.
  • 1-in-4 trans teens have attempted suicide.

Find more details here: www.faithinamerica.org/medical

Faith in America (FIA), an organization that exists to end religious-based harm to our LGBT community, realizes Americans can no longer sit by while our children and teenagers are being hurt. FIA has launched a 3-year program called “Save yOur Kids!” (SYK). Our SYK project is developed to address religious-base practices that condemn our teens and youth, creating hostile environments both at church and home, places most needed by our youth, as well as in schools and society at large.

Part of the SYK project is to offer fact- and faith-based information to the media and the public. The Clergy Advisory Committee SYK has created includes some of the leading ministers in the nation who have found in their theology a transformative message to accept and love people who are LGBT instead of condemning and harming.

The Clergy Advisory Committee will serve as media surrogates to speak on behalf of LGBT kids and teens. FIA will inform and encourage media to engage these ministers and provide a voice that is distinctly faith-based and can address the anti-LGBT voices from the religious right and other right wing groups who have preached hate on this topic over the years in the media.

This also includes directly dialoguing with religious organizations and individuals. Five of the pastors on the FIA Clergy Advisory Committee will be part of the FIA delegation of doctors, a country music star, parents, local and national volunteers, bound for the Southern Baptist meeting in Phoenix beginning on June 13.

“Sin is about making wrong choices and actions,” says Pastor Stan Mitchell. “So the more we can get religious people to the realization that sexual orientation is an innate part of a person, a natural part of a human’s being, not a choice, that dramatically undermines the basis for viewing homosexuality as behavior-driven immorality or some perverse proclivity. And it further undermines any justification a person might feel for their condemnation or proactive prejudice.”

The ministers who will be engaging Southern Baptist Messengers and talking to the media about the spiritual crisis our LGBT teens and kids are living through are:

  • Pastor Stan Mitchell, GracePointe Church, Nashville
  • Pastor Aaron Sprietzel, One Church, Phoenix
  • Pastor T. Anthony Spearman, Greensboro, NC
  • Pastor Lara Forbes, Faith Evangelical Lutheran
  • Pastor James Pennington, First Congregational UCC, Phoenix

“This is an historic moment and we, at Faith in America, are pursuing an important course,” says Mitchell Gold, FIA co-founder. “I live and work, and have traveled amongst many people who are incredibly good, well- meaning folks.  But they simply do not know the harm they are causing innocent kids and will never know unless we take the time to share this life saving information.  We ask the media to cover this with the seriousness it deserves. These ministers have been standing up. They have transformed their churches in red states to sanctuaries of acceptance and love, beacons of hope. They are changing America and FIA is delighted to facilitate their efforts.”

We know Baptists care about yOur kids and we believe we can start a conversation and find common ground and common purpose. No one wants these LGBT SBC kids to feel they’d be better off dead or on the streets than with their family and community.

####

Faith in America website:  www.faithinamerica.org

Save yOur Kids! website:  www.save-yOur-kids.org

Faith in America on Twitter: @faithinamerica

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

 

My Story: Rich Harrington

My name is Rich Harrington and I am a Program Manager for Faith in America. If you have a spare moment, I would like to share a bit about my personal journey and the reasons I am so passionate for our work.  

I grew up blessed--and lucky.  I was raised in a progressive form of Catholicism and my grandmother led the way as the matriarch of our family.  Like many young men in New England, I grew up in a large Catholic family of Irish and Canadian-French descent and attended Sunday mass every week. But I knew from a young age that I wasn't like what I thought was every other New England Catholic boy—I was gay. 

My church never taught me that being gay led to condemnation.  I did, however, feel the cold realization that being gay led to be being “immoral”—the true beginning of my journey on the road of “Catholic guilt.”  I was 12 when I started to realize something about me was different. Like many other young, closeted gay teenagers, I thought my life was over. I remember making a pact with God that if I wasn't “changed” by the time I turned 21 years old, I would end my life. 

At the age of 16--one month before I was scheduled to be confirmed in the eyes God, my family, and my community--a teacher brought me into a hallway during the middle of catechism class and said to “stop acting like a faggot.” This phrase was shouted at me by my teacher—a self-described family man responsible for a classroom of young students. Unable to cope with the impossible pressure to remain closeted and still pursue my faith, I left. Luckily, I had a family network that rallied around me and confronted the church and our priest directly—ultimately leading to his dismissal. 

Now 24 years old and happily out, I recently accepted a position with Faith in America, a non-profit working to end religious based-prejudice under the visionary leadership of Mitchell Gold. We are working directly with medical professionals, religious leaders, elected officials, and LGBT and allied organizations to change the narrative around sexual orientation within religion and end the practice of teaching children it's a sin to be gay.  

In three weeks, we are traveling to the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix, Arizona to directly challenge Southern Baptist Church leadership and present them with the hard medical data showing LGBT children who grow up in religiously condemning households are 8 times more likely to try and end their lives. Through an aggressive media and grassroots campaign, we are bringing light to the issues facing some of our community's most vulnerable. 

We need everyone working together to ensure that no child--not a single soul--ends his or her life because religion teaches homosexuality as a sin in the eyes of God.

With Love, 

Rich

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Faith In America Announces Medical Professionals Traveling to Phoenix for Southern Baptist Meeting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: 
BStrider@eleisongroup.com

FIA Organizes Medical Professionals to Offer Fact- and Science-Based Information to Nation Regarding Health Crisis Our LGBT Kids and Teens are Experiencing; Prepared to Speak with Southern Baptist Messengers and Media in Phoenix.

Washington, D.C. -- Today, Faith in America announces details regarding medical professionals participating in the unprecedented effort to focus the nation’s largest protestant denomination on what they must be doing to not harm and, instead, protect America’s teens and kids who are LGBT.

America’s LGBT teens and kids are in crisis. For example:

  • Condemning families and communities have caused enormous harm to LGBT people, especially young, vulnerable teens.
  • LGBT teens from condemning families are 8x more likely to commit suicide than those in supportive ones.
  • LGBT youth make up nearly half of America’s homeless teens.
  • LGBT children are 70x more likely to become victims of trafficking than their peers.
  • 1-in-4 trans teens have attempted suicide.

Find more details here: www.faithinamerica.org/medical

Faith in America (FIA), an organization that exists to end religious-based harm to our LGBT community, realizes Americans can no longer sit by while our children and teenagers are being hurt. FIA has launched a 3-year program called “Save yOur Kids!” (SYK). Our SYK project is developed to address religious-base practices that condemn our teens and youth, creating hostile environments both at church and home, places most needed by our youth, as well as in schools and society at large.

Part of the SYK project is to offer fact- and science-based information to the media and the public. The Medical Advisory Committee SYK has created includes some of the foremost physicians and researchers in the nation who have been directly involved in much of the science around sexual orientation over the past couple of decades.

The Medical Advisory Committee will serve as media surrogates to speak on behalf of LGBT kids and teens. FIA will inform and encourage media to engage these doctors and provide a voice that is distinctly fact and experienced-based and can address the anti-LGBT voices from the religious right and other right wing groups who have misled on this topic over the years in the media.

This also includes directly dialoguing with condemning religious organizations and individuals. Three of the leaders in this field and on the FIA Medical Advisory Committee will be part of the FIA delegation of clergy, a country music star, parents, local and national volunteers, bound for the Southern Baptist meeting in Phoenix beginning on June 13.

“Science is clear: LGBTQ youth are at risk and need our help. People of faith unhappy about these findings may deny them, and some may even distort them. Unfortunately, denial and distortion of science can expose their LGBTQ children to potentially harmful practices and interventions,” according to Jack Drescher, MD, of New York Medical College.  “We know parents love their children and want to keep them safe, regardless of religious beliefs. We join FIA in formally calling upon SBC’s leadership to alter its course of religion-based harm to one of religion-based help. Faith communities can be sources of great support to LGBTQ youth if they stop condemning them and begin instead to embrace these children with unconditional love. “

The three medical professionals who will be engaging Southern Baptist Messengers and talking to the media about the health crisis our LGBT teens and kids are living through are:

  • Jack Drescher, MD – Professor Psychiatry, New York Medical College. Past President of the Group for Advancement of Psychiatry, and a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Dr. Drescher is an expert media spokesperson on issues related to gender and sexuality. He has published and teaches extensively around this subject at New York Medical College and New York University. 
  • Joshua Wolff, PhD – Asst. Professor, Adler University. Dr. Wolff is a professor of psychology with significant published work on the role social stigma on LGBT hostile religious campuses plays in the attendant mental health and substance abuse challenges afflicting the college students.
  • Robert Hoffman - Co-Chair and acting Executive Director for Faith in America. A former Fortune 500 Apparel Executive, Hoffman now works professionally as Managing Partner of Piedmont Counseling and Development Group and is an MPH candidate at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine.

“This is an historic moment and we, at Faith in America, are pursuing an important course,” says Mitchell Gold, FIA co-founder. “I live and  work, and have traveled amongst many people who are incredibly good, well- meaning folks.  But they simply do not know the harm they are causing innocent kids and will never know unless we take the time to share this life saving information.  We ask the media to cover this with the seriousness it deserves. This is not about conflict and division. It is about speaking the truth, and standing up for our kids and teens being hurt. Our doctors are experienced and their fact- and science-based message is essential to ending the harm being caused to innocent lives.”

Studies have shown that if a person believes sexual orientation is a choice, they are 70+% more likely to be against LGBT equal rights (2007 Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs Survey). Conversely, if a person understands sexual orientation is part of how you are created, they are 70+% more likely to be in favor of LGBT equal rights. 

“The choice vs. nature argument is especially significant when engaging persons who view homosexuality as a sin. Sin is about making wrong choices and actions,” adds Pastor Stan Mitchell. “So the more we can get religious people to the realization that sexual orientation is an innate part of a person, a natural part of a human’s being, not a choice, that dramatically undermines the basis for viewing homosexuality as behavior-driven immorality or some perverse proclivity. And it further undermines any justification a person might feel for their condemnation or proactive prejudice.”

We know Baptists care about yOur kids and we believe we can start a conversation and find common ground and common purpose. No one wants these LGBT SBC kids to feel they’d be better off dead or on the streets than with their family and community.

“Faith in America believes there is a great work to be done,” added Robert Hoffman, FIA acting Executive Director. “We have made ourselves available to grasp and follow our calling, to go and enjoin in the work where it’s most needed. Along the way, we hope to build new bridges, make new friends, and serve a purpose higher than us all.”

####

Faith in America website:  www.faithinamerica.org

Save yOur Kids! website:  www.save-yOur-kids.org

Faith in America on Twitter: @faithinamerica

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

Faith in America Releases Plans for Bringing Message of Protecting LGBT Youth to Southern Baptist Convention

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: 
BStrider@eleisongroup.com

FIA Organizes Medical Professionals, Clergy, Country Music Stars, Volunteers to Converge on Phoenix to Ask Southern Baptist Messengers to Save yOur Kids!

Washington, D.C. -- Today, Faith in America announces an unprecedented effort to focus the nation’s largest protestant denomination on what they must be doing to not harm and, instead, protect America’s teens and kids who are LGBT.

America’s LGBT teens and kids are in crisis. For example:

  • LGBT kids raised in condemning religious families are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than their LGBT peers from accepting homes.
  • Nearly half of America’s homeless youth are LGBT.
  • More than a quarter of LGBT youth say they have been personally bullied or harassed since the 2016 presidential campaign began, compared to 14 percent of non-LGBTQ youth.

Faith in America (FIA), an organization that exists to end religious-based harm to our LGBT community, realizes Americans can no longer sit by while our children and teenagers are being hurt. FIA has launched a 3-year program called “Save yOur Kids!” (SYK). Our SYK project is developed to address religious-based practices that condemn our teens and youth, creating hostile environments both at church and home, places most needed by our youth.

"This is an historic moment and we, at Faith in America, are taking action,” says Mitchell Gold, FIA co-founder. “We ask the media to cover this with the seriousness this deserves. This is not about conflict and division. It is about speaking the truth, and standing up for our kids and teens being hurt. It is also about finding common ground around our children and youth.”

Faith in America is in communication with Southern Baptist Convention leadership and a meeting is pending scheduling.  They are aware of our presence beginning on June 13 at their Phoenix meeting of SBC Messengers. While the SBC has initially articulated their disagreement with FIA regarding homosexuality as a sin, they also offered their desire to meet and find initiatives and ways forward that do not harm our youth. We find the potential progress here and look forward to soon meeting with SBC leadership.

FIA ACTIVITIES AT SOUTHERN BAPTIST PHOENIX CONVENTION:

Medical Professionals will be engaging Southern Baptist Messengers and talking to the media about the health crisis our LGBT teens and kids are living through.

  • Jack Drescher, MD – Professor Psychiatry, New York Medical College. Past President of the Group for Advancement of Psychiatry, and a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Dr. Drescher is an expert media spokesperson on issues related to gender and sexuality. He has published and teaches extensively around this subject at New York Medical College and New York University. 
     
  • Joshua Wolff, PhD – Asst. Professor, Adler University. Dr. Wolff is a professor of psychology with significant published work on the role social stigma on LGBT hostile religious campuses plays in the attendant mental health and substance abuse challenges afflicting the college students.
     
  • Robert Hoffman, M.A. - Co-Chair and CEO of Faith in America. Former Fortune 500 Apparel Executive. Hoffman now works professionally as Managing Partner of Piedmont Counseling and Development Group.

Clergy with Open Affirming Churches will be engaging Southern Baptist Messengers and talking to media about their theologically based decisions to open their doors, affirm all believers, and support who God made them to be.

  • Rev. Stan Mitchell
  • Rev. Jeff Clark
  • Rev. T. Anthony Spearman

Country Music Star Ty Herndon, will be engaging Southern Baptist Messengers and talking to media about his decision to come out, how it has impacted his life, and the essential importance of standing up against harm caused to our teens and kids from religious-based sources. Ty will perform in free venues as well.

Jane Clementi co-founded the Tyler Clementi Foundation alongside her husband Joe because she wants to make sure that our society learns the consequences of discrimination and bullying, as she learned all too personally through the loss of her son, Tyler. Jane speaks passionately to parents and community leaders about the need to not merely “accept” or “tolerate” children who come out as LGBT, but to embrace them as wondrous creations of God. Jane, a registered nurse, speaks on the need for parents of LGBT children to come out and speak openly of the love they have for their children, and in doing so each one of us can impact the world around us and create accepting environments.

Billboards, static and roving, throughout Phoenix reminding Southern Baptists that all our children matter and we must stop harming them.

Volunteers will have handouts and kind words for the Southern Baptist Messengers and will be on the streets and visible throughout the entire Southern Baptist Convention meeting.

A robust social media campaign incorporating real time updates and videos, facts, and photos will be taking place, as well, throughout the SBC event.

“Science is clear: LGBTQ youth are at risk and need our help. People of faith unhappy about these findings may deny them, and some may even distort them. Unfortunately, denial and distortion of science can expose their LGBTQ children to potentially harmful practices and interventions,” according to Jack Drescher, MD, of New York Medical College.  “We know parents love their children and want to keep them safe, regardless of religious beliefs. We join FIA in formally calling upon SBC’s leadership to alter its course of religion-based harm to one of religion-based help. Faith communities can be sources of great support to LGBTQ youth if they stop condemning them and begin instead to embrace these children with unconditional love. “

WHAT DO WE WANT:

Ultimately, we at FIA believe LGBT people should be removed from the sin list. We know interpretations and new revelations come to light. We believe the Church will one day stop diminishing the lives of those who are LGBT and we strive to help this come to pass. We are optimistic people and see the glass 75% full!  We appreciate and respect how the SBC has changed teachings and interpretations based on new, important information. We applaud how in 1995 the SBC issued a formal apology to People of Color for their role in the inhuman practices of slavery and segregation.

We also have a simpler, direct request: let’s stop hurting yOur kids and teens. We can’t deny the impact condemning religious teachings have had on people’s beliefs toward those who are LGBT. If we deny the Church has had any influence, we would be kidding ourselves. This means negative as well as positive impacts must be claimed.

We know Baptists care about yOur kids and we believe we can start a conversation and find common ground and common purpose. No one wants these LGBT SBC kids to feel they’d be better off dead or on the streets than with their family and community. And, we would like to discuss what we might do to help ensure no child ever has to feel that way.

“The level of depression and anxiety existing in the lives of LGBT teens and kids is sadly outpacing those maladies in other groups,” says Mitchell Gold. “We use the word “condemning” to describe the churches that are bad players and hurt LGBT teens and kids with harsh messages that alienate, diminish, and stigmatize. This hurts youth and creates animosity within the hearts of parents, siblings, and other kin that, in turn, also serves to abandon our youth, leaving them feeling alone in a cold world. These teachings create bullies.”

“Faith in America believes there is a great work to be done through us,” added Robert Hoffman, FIA CEO. “We have made ourselves available to grasp and follow our calling, to go and join in the work where it’s most needed. Along the way, we hope to build new bridges, make new friends, and serve a purpose higher than us all.”

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Faith in America website:  www.faithinamerica.org

Faith in America on Twitter: @faithinamerica

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

Save yOur Kids website :www.save-yOur-kids.org  

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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.

####

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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