Also Call for Laws Prohibiting Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
WASHINGTON D.C. - On Wednesday, April 29, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation's largest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, announced that 17 national religious leaders, from California to the nation's capital, added their names to a historic statement calling for an end to 'religious refusal' bills that allow discrimination against LGBT people.
'Today, leaders from different faith traditions - and from across the country - join in condemning legislation that uses religion to divide people into 'us' vs. 'them' - bills that can only lead to discrimination,' said Jeff Krehely, Vice President and Chief Foundation Officer at HRC. 'By speaking in a unified voice, these leaders are setting an example of inclusion, and sounding the alarm on how these discriminatory bills are harmful to all of society, not just those of us in the LGBT community.'
In the letter, the leaders note that religious freedoms are already guaranteed and protected in the U.S. Constitution, and assert that laws should forbid people from using their religious beliefs to discriminate against or deny service to anyone.
The full text of the letter and list of leaders who have signed on is reflected below:
National Faith Letter of Concern
As religious leaders from bountiful and diverse faith communities, we are concerned with the recent flood of state-level religious refusal bills that have potentially harmful and unintended consequences for the people we serve.
As people of faith who have embraced God's free will as a gift to us all, we have great respect for the religious freedom of all Americans.
As faith leaders, we hold sacred the long-established First Amendment right of persons to worship based on their own beliefs and convictions.
This intentional means of living in community with others is how we best demonstrate that we are all God's children. It is part of what makes this country great, and it is this core tenet of our faiths that resists any action that seeks to limit the freedom of others.
We know that there is a difference between worship space and public space. When providing services to the public, our religious freedom does not allow us to pick and choose whom we will serve. Our hands and our hearts must be open to all.
We do not believe it necessary for the state to pass religious refusal bills for the following reasons:
Our freedom of religion is already guaranteed and protected by the United States Constitution.
Legislation that purports to protect people of faith could unleash a wave of costly lawsuits that will add undue burdens on the courts, businesses, and taxpayers who are members of our communities of faith.
State-level religious refusals could cause harm in unintended but practical ways:
a.) a paramedic could refuse to provide life-saving services to a person who self-identifies as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender (LGBT).
b.) a police officer could refuse to protect synagogues and mosques.
c.) a school counselor could refuse to offer guidance to a teenager who is LGBT, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim or Sikh.
d.) a public servant - like a probate judge - could refuse services to interracial, interfaith, divorced and same gender loving couples.
We are a pluralistic nation by choice, one of the most religiously diverse and devout in the world. Every day, we take intentional steps forward on our journey towards 'a more perfect union.' We are called to respect the fundamental dignity and worth of all God's children. While we may have different views on a variety of social and political issues, we unite ourselves in the condemnation of discrimination and in firm support of equal protections as guaranteed by the Constitution.
We the undersigned strongly encourage our elected officials not to support these unnecessary bills that cast wide the net for exclusion and division. Furthermore, we call on all legislatures to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes to their civil rights laws and to explicitly forbid discrimination or denial of services to anyone.
Elected officials have a duty and responsibility to us as citizens to preserve the freedom of religion already afforded to us through the United States Constitution. To do otherwise is, in our view, wrong.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II - Senior Pastor, Greenleaf Christian Church Greensboro, NC
Rabbi Denise Eger - President, Central Conference of American Rabbis, New York, NY
The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson - Bishop of New Hampshire, Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C.
Rev. Ann Pittman - Teaching Elder, Transylvania Presbytery, Lexington, KY
Rev. Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III - Senior Pastor, Friendship West Baptist Church, Dallas, TX
Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman - Senior Pastor, St. Phillip AME Zion Church, Greensboro, NC
Rev. Dr. Brad Braxton - Founding Pastor, The Open Church, Baltimore, MD
Rev. Al Sharpton - President, National Action Network, New York, NY
Dr. Iva Carruthers - General Secretary, Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference, Chicago, IL
Rev. Lynn Ellsworth - Ruling Elder, East Iowa Presbytery, Mount Pleasant, IA
Rev. Dr. Delman Coates - Senior Pastor, Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, Clinton, MD
Imam Daayiee Abdullah - Imam, Light of Reform Mosque, Washington, DC
Bishop Yvette Flunder - Presiding Bishop, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, Oakland, CA
Bishop Tonyia Rawls - Bishop, Sacred Souls Community Church, Charlotte, NC
Rev. Dr. Derrick Harkins - Senior Pastor, The Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, Washington, DC
Rev. Chloe Breyer - Executive Director, The Interfaith, Center of New York, New York, NY
Rev. Dr. Wendell Griffin - Pastor, New Millennium Baptist Church, Little Rock, AR
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all. www.hrc.org
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