Category Archives: Religion

SAVE YOUR TEARS: Anti-LGBT Nations Offer FAKE Condolences to #Orlando

In the spirit of GetEQUAL’s dragging of homophobic U.S. congressmembers for their unjustified, useless condolences, let’s look at the countries offering condolences to Orlando which have anti-gay sodomy laws or criminalization of freedom of expression for LGBT people.

Seriously, they range from fines to imprisonment to torture to execution. But yet, they offer condolences and absolutely DO NOT MENTION THAT QUEER FOLKS WERE TARGETED.

Continue reading SAVE YOUR TEARS: Anti-LGBT Nations Offer FAKE Condolences to #Orlando

General Assembly Votes YES on #HB757: How Muscogee’s Delegation Voted

Well, folks. There you have it. The Georgia House has passed the amended version of HB 757 104-65, and the Senate 37-18.

Here’s how Muscogee County’s delegation in the General Assembly voted:

  • Rep. Carolyn Hugley (D-136) voted NO
  • Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-135) voted NO
  • Rep. Debbie Buckner (D-137) voted NO
  • Rep. John Pezold (R-133) voted NO
  • Sen. Ed Harbison (D-15) voted NO
  • Rep. Richard Smith (R-134) voted YES
  • Sen. Josh McKoon (R-29) voted YES

We can at least be glad that the majority of our delegation voted against this bill.

Also, it apparently was not a party-line vote: 10 Republicans in the House and 1 Republican in the Senate voted against the bill, thanks to lobbying from Georgia Republicans for the Future. From Project Q Atlanta:

If there was an upside to the votes on Wednesday, Georgia Republicans for the Future – a coalition that has opposed the “religious freedom” legislation – said it came as 10 House Republicans voted against House Bill 757. The list included Rep. Allen Peake, a Republican from Macon who has a gay brother and has spoken out against legislation that would discriminate against LGBT people.[…]

Other House Republicans that voted against the legislation included Reps. Beth Beskin, Rich Golick, Gerald Greene, Chuck Martin, BJ Pak, John Pezold, Tom Taylor, Joe Wilkinson and Chuck Williams. Rep. Rusty Kidd, an Independent, causes with the GOP and also voted against the bill.

In the Senate, Sen. JaNice VanNess was the only Republican to vote against the bill.

Of note: Most of the Republican NO votes are from the Metro Atlanta area, one with a much-better-organized LGBT community.

  • Rep. Beskin (HD 54 – Atlanta)
  • Rep. Golick (HD 40 – Smyrna)
  • Rep. Martin (HD 49 – Alpharetta)
  • Rep. Pak (HD 108 – Lilburn)
  • Rep. Taylor (HD 79 – Dunwoody)
  • Rep. Wilkinson (HD 52 – Atlanta)
  • Sen. VanNess (SD 43 – Conyers)

Outside of Atlanta metro, the GOP No votes were from isolated pockets of non-Atlanta Georgia: Reps. Pezold (HD 133 – Columbus), Greene (HD 151 – Cuthbert), and Williams (HD 119 – Watkinsville). Rep, Kidd (HD 145), the sole independent in the Assembly, represents Milledgeville and voted NO.

And just to mollify those supporters who say: “Read the bill, you’ll like it!”, here’s the amended version which passed (PDF), which continues to allow discrimination in public accommodations.

Reactions

Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin:

“Governor Deal made clear weeks ago that he wouldn’t sign legislation that allows discrimination–now is the time for him to show Georgia and the nation that he means it. Shockingly, the decision by the legislature today was to make an egregious and discriminatory bill even worse. It’s appalling that anti-equality extremists in the legislature are trying to ignore the will of the people of Georgia, and to empower businesses with the explicit right to discriminate and deny service to LGBT Americans. Corporate leaders in Georgia and across the country have already spoken out against this bill because the First Amendment already protects religious freedom. It’s time for Governor Deal to veto H.B. 757. Anything other than a swift veto is only courting an Indiana-style backlash.”

Lambda Legal southern regional director (and former state representative) Simone Bell:

“We are deeply disappointed that the Georgia House and Senate passed HB 757 and we urge Governor Deal to veto this discriminatory bill. This is still a terrible bill and it is nowhere near a solution. It is equally as divisive and harmful as the bill that is opposed by hundreds of ministers, thousands of employers, and tens of thousands of Georgians.

“We cannot replace a bad bill with another bad bill. And this is a very bad bill. It invites discrimination and encourages lawsuits. It is targeted at the LGBT community but will sweep in others. It purports to excuse anyone from following the law if they claim it burdens their religion.

“This bill encourages government officials to use religion to treat LGBT people, and others, unfairly and to ignore anti-discrimination policies. Freedom of religion does not give any of us the right to discriminate against others. The bill is a toxic recipe for increasing disputes, discord and discrimination across the state. It would allow taxpayer-funded faith-based organizations (like soup kitchens, homeless shelters, etc.) to deny services to LGBT people or others, and to fire and otherwise discriminate against LGB people. It could apply to universities, colleges, schools, businesses and organizations – big and small — that are tangentially-related to, or affiliated with, a church. Most egregiously, this bill could override Non-Discrimination Ordinances in a host of ways.

“Lambda Legal urges the Governor to veto this bill before it causes damage and legal havoc between neighbors, landlord and tenant, employee and employer, and customer and company.

“Do not be fooled — nothing in this bill protects LGBT people from discrimination. It is a shameful and blatant attempt to roll back equality for LGBT people and their families.”

Freedom For All Americans executive director Matt McTighe:

“Governor Deal spoke from the heart just a few weeks ago when he stated his unequivocal opposition to legislation that does exactly what HB 757 portends to do. Nothing in the License to Discriminate legislation has changed for the better since Governor Deal made his original remarks – in fact, the bill is worse. Governor Deal must veto this dangerous legislation. Georgia’s economy and brand are both at stake. This is alarmingly similar to the course of events we saw play out in Indiana, right before religious exemptions legislation in the state cost millions in lost revenue.”

From Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Ada Hatzios:

“We recognize this is a very challenging issue and that there was meaningful effort to address the balance between deeply held views and the interests and rights of others.  We appreciate the efforts made to find common ground by the House and Senate. However, we are opposed to HB 757. This legislation is in conflict with the values of diversity and inclusion that Georgians hold dear and could erode Georgia’s hard-earned status as the No. 1 state for business — and would harm our ability to create and keep jobs that Georgia families depend upon. The bill does not protect local non-discrimination ordinances, which could impact the state’s ability to recruit major revenue-driving sporting events like the Super Bowl, the Final Four and the College Football Championship; it also jeopardizes our convention and tourism businesses. We agree with Governor Deal that allowing discrimination isn’t a proper reflection of who we are and echo his call for unity and inclusion. We deeply appreciate the Governor’s deliberation on this very important issue, and respectfully ask him to maintain this view while considering this legislation.”

From Georgia Equality President Jeff Graham:

“Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen an unprecedented chorus of unexpected allies come together to speak out against HB 757, the License to Discriminate. Conservatives, legal experts, people of faith, businesses and more than 75,000 Georgians expressed their strong opposition to legislation which threatens our state’s economy and reputation, and which very clearly singles out LGBT people and others for harm. It’s shameful that lawmakers in the House ignored this feedback and, rather than taking steps to mitigate any potential fallout, actually made a bad bill worse.

“Make no mistake about it – this is legislation that singles out LGBT Georgians, single mothers, religious minorities and so many others for discrimination. This bill will have immediate and severe consequences for our state.

“Governor Deal spoke in very eloquent terms about his opposition to HB 757 earlier this month, and I hope the governor understands that this amended legislation is worse than the previous version he spoke out about. The HB 757 which passed the House tonight will undoubtedly harm our economy and our state’s reputation. Governor Deal should hold true to his earlier opposition and veto this harmful, discriminatory bill.”

From Colgay Pride President Jeremy Hobbs:

“This is a call to action to everyone to call the Governor and tell him to honor his promise to veto House Bill 757. In his first public comments since the contentious new religious liberty bill swept through the Legislature, Gov. Nathan Deal said he was “pleasantly surprised” lawmakers hashed out a compromise but emphasized that he faces a hard decision ahead whether to sign it. Just two weeks ago, Governor Deal made statements strongly opposing “any” religious exemptions bill that would promote discrimination in the state of Georgia.  We must stand together and Hold Governor Nathan Deal to his word. This bill is bad for business and it’s bad for Georgians all around.

I still cannot believe that in 2016 we are setting forth a legalized Religious Crusades to destroy the foundation of which this country was built.  A country that would founded and built upon and fought for to defend the founding principles of Separation of Church and State.  Why are we trying to say this has anything to do with religion because in my faith, Jesus NEVER turned anyone away?  The only thing these bills foundations are built upon is hatred and division.  Religion does not preach hate or division but instead teaches love thy neighbor and promotes non-judgmental unity.

There is a really tough decision ahead for our Governor.  A decision that could cost Georgia Billions if he does not VETO it.  Tell the Governor to do his job and protect the rights of ALL Georgians. Veto HB 757.”

From Georgia Republicans for the Future spokesperson Allen Fox:

On Wednesday 10 House Republican lawmakers broke rank with leadership in voting down a dangerous proposal that would give broad license to discriminate and erase local power.

Together, these legislators represent the new face of the Republican Party. Together, they honor the limited government tradition of the Republican Party.

Georgia Republicans for the Future commends these legislators for demonstrating uncommon courage in the political arena by standing on the side of individual and economic freedom.

And for the sake of our growing Republican Party and Georgia’s distinction as the “Best Place in the Nation to Do Business,” we urge Governor Deal to uphold his commitment to veto any bill that discriminates.

From Georgia Democrats spokesperson Michael Smith:

“Republican lawmakers should be ashamed of this small-minded piece of legislation. If this bill is signed into law, today will be looked back upon as one of our state’s most disgraceful moments in modern history. Georgia has been down the road of discrimination before, and it did not end well.

“The business community has been consistently clear with their aversion of this legislation. If the GOP’s goal was to draft an economic stimulus for attorneys, then mission accomplished. The resulting litigation from this move will clog our courts, paralyze our economy, and drain our business community dry. HB 757 is a short-sighted move by Republicans that will have consequences for years to come.

“Discrimination and exclusion are not Georgia values, and history has shown that hope and progress always win.”

BREAKING: Gov. Deal Makes About-Face, Denounces Republican Bill #HB757

Nathan_Deal,_official_110th_Congress_photoGov. Nathan Deal may have just put the kibosh on Sen. Greg Kirk’s HB 757 in a historic denunciation of the bill. From the AJC:

Standing in the lobby of a government building after a ribbon-cutting ceremony, he laid out a lengthy condemnation of the measure from a Biblical perspective, first noting that he is a Southern Baptist who took religion courses at Mercer University.

“What the New Testament teaches us is that Jesus reached out to those who were considered the outcasts, the ones that did not conform to the religious societies’ view of the world. We do not have a belief in my way of looking at religion that says we have to discriminate against anybody. If you were to apply those standards to the teaching of Jesus, I don’t think they fit.”

He then turned to a passage from the Gospel of John that showed Jesus reaching out to an outcast.

“What that says is we have a belief in forgiveness and that we do not have to discriminate unduly against anyone on the basis of our own religious beliefs. We are not jeopardized, in my opinion, by those who believe differently from us. We are not, in my opinion, put in jeopardy by virtue of those who might hold different beliefs or who may not even agree with what our Supreme Court said the law of the land is on the issue of same-sex marriage. I do not feel threatened by the fact that people who might choose same-sex marriages pursue that route.”

Significantly, Deal stated that he would veto any bill that “allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith,” and asked those of similar mildly heterosexist views on marriage as himself and his wife of 50 years to slow their roll:

“I hope that we can all just take a deep breath, recognize that the world is changing around us, and recognize that it is important that we protect fundamental religious beliefs,” he said. “But we don’t have to discriminate against other people in order to do that. And that’s the compromise that I’m looking for.”

Deal has said that the bill is not on his agenda for this session.

State House Speaker David Ralston’s office responded to Deal’s statement with the following statement:

“Speaker Ralston appreciates and shares Governor Deal’s sincere commitment to protecting religious liberties while ensuring that Georgia continues to welcome everyone with genuine southern hospitality. Productive conversations continue with the Governor’s staff as well as other members of House leadership regarding HB 757 and the Speaker is confident that we can find a way to move forward together.”

NOTE: Georgia is one of five states (all Southern) which does not have ANY public accommodations protections statewide. Georgia’s Supreme Court decriminalized consensual same-sex relations in 1998’s Powell v. Georgia, twelve years after SCOTUS upheld Georgia’s ban in Bowers v. Hardwick and five years before SCOTUS struck down all remaining bans nationwide in Lawrence v. Texas. Marriage equality became legal in Georgia in 2015 through Obergefell v. Hodges. There exist no statewide protections in employment or housing for sexual orientation or gender identity for Georgians.

Local LGBT-affirming Christian Church Re-opens Under New Name

The second-oldest LGBT-affirming Christian church in Columbus has re-opened under a new name.

New Covenant Church of Columbus, GA, formerly known as Refuge Church of Jesus Christ, has re-opened in Columbus, continuing under the leadership of co-pastors and spouses Colley Williams and Danny Davenport. It is the most recent name change for the Pentecostal-style church since its establishment in February 2000 as the Anchored in Christ Ministries. Other names used by the congregation include:

  • Anchored in Christ Ministries (2000-2004)
  • Lamb Of God Church Of Jesus Christ (2004-2005)
  • Lion Of Judah-House Of Yahweh (2005-2006)
  • Kingdom of Yahweh Assembly (2006-2008)
  • New Life in Messiah Fellowship (2008-2013)
  • Refuge Church of Jesus Christ (2013-2016)

The church, a member congregation (since 2015) of the Covenant Network, remains based at its most recent meeting space at 3818 2nd Ave Columbus, GA 31904. For more information, the church can be contacted at (706) 905-3775, or through the new website at www.newcovenantcolumbusga.com.

Edited for clarification of original name and current affiliation. 

Gay Pentecostal Pastor Leads Largely LGBT Congregation In Brazil

While Brazil’s Pentecostal Christian scene is rife with homophobia and misogyny, one Pentecostal church leader has led his congregation in the opposite direction, welcoming and blessing LGBT people and families. The Huffington Post writes:

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – With his booming voice and high-voltage charisma capable of working crowds of hundreds into a lather, Marcos Gladstone has all the trappings of a successful preacher. But Gladstone has something that most other Pentecostal leaders don’t – a husband.

He and spouse Fabio Inacio are co-founders of the Contemporary Christian Church, one of a handful of Pentecostal denominations in Brazil that welcome gays and lesbians with open arms and was born out of Gladstone’s dream to preach “a gospel of love and acceptance for all people.”

Barely a presence until a few decades ago, Pentecostals now make up one-fifth of the population in Brazil, which is home to more Roman Catholics than any other nation. They’re generally more socially conservative than their Catholic brethren: fiercely opposed to abortion, which is banned except in limited circumstances, and to gay marriage; in recent years, same-sex civil unions were allowed to be convert ed into full marriages. Some Brazilian Pentecostal churches even offer programs that claim to be capable of “curing” gay people.

Not so at Contemporary Christian, which this week celebrated its ninth anniversary and the opening of its ninth branch with a raucous, theatrical service at a converted movie theater in a gritty Rio neighborhood.

“They welcome you, they accept you, because God loves us the way we are,” said Katia Simene, a 48-year-old lesbian who joined about three years ago.

via Gay Pentecostal Pastor Leads Largely LGBT Congregation In Brazil.

Former Head of SBC Admits Current Leaders Are Lying About Same-sex Marriages

You may have seen the quotes from those clerics at the Southern Baptist Convention Conference who are falling over themselves in expressing their political rage at same-sex marriage, from incumbent SBC president Ronnie Floyd to former ERLC president Richard Land to former president Jack Graham.

Well, how about another former president of the SBC, Albert Mohler? The same guy who’s stated that “The embrace of yoga is a symptom of our postmodern spiritual confusion”, “married couples who choose not to have children [are a] form of rebellion against God’s design and order”, and “I believe that the Roman Catholic Church is a false church”, apparently doesn’t follow this current crop of SBC leaders all that close. That last set of quotes from Graham in particular, the one about how “There are many Christians today who are preparing if necessary to go to jail” and “there’s a coming a day, I believe, that many Christians personally and churches corporately will need to practice civil disobedience on this issue” is apparently not even true by Mohler’s standards:

So what does that even say about the SBC’s freakout? Either Mohler is countering the fears with actual facts about the SBC’s declining status, or the SBC’s armageddon scenario is upon every Abrahamic religion in existence in this country.

My money is on Mohler actually getting it straight for once, and the other leaders and ideologues of the Southern Baptist Convention being a bunch of liars for an institution whose churches are declining in membership repeatedly, starving for the money and prestige which their forebears accrued.

(Via: Jeremy Hooper/Good-As-You)

A Marathon of LGBT-related Events in Columbus this Past Week

LGBT events on equality and faith were held in Columbus throughout last week.

Equality Town Hall

11258817_1069114649783644_5213168889898487223_oIn addition to a PFLAG Columbus meeting on Wednesday, the “Equality Town Hall” on Thursday at the Citizens Service Center was a success, with a turnout of 30-40 people from all walks of life in Columbus.

Panelists included:

  • Jeremy Hobbs, representing Colgay Pride
  • Patricia Lassiter, representing the Democratic Party of Georgia LGBT Caucus
  • David Smith, a senior at Columbus High School
  • Rob Woods, senior field organizer for Georgia Equality
  • Rev. Emily Bel, representing Forgiving Heart Church in Columbus

In addition, other organizations were represented, including the Southern Anti-Racism Network, the Democratic Socialists of America, PFLAG Columbus, CV Pride Community Center, NAACP Columbus GA, and yours truly. The event was moderated by Cheryl Renee of WTVM News 9.

Discussions were held on LGBT equality, the current state of affairs in the LGBT community, the relation of faith and spirituality to LGBT issues and the lack of access to socioeconomic stability for the LGBT community in Columbus. Particular attention was paid at times to the RFRA bill put forward by State Senator Josh McKoon of Columbus, which was criticized and protested to a standstill across Georgia in March.

 Faith and Equality Forum

On Saturday morning, a Faith and Equality Town Hall was held at the Columbus Public Library Auditorium to screen “The New Black“, a documentary about the fight for marriage equality and struggle for acceptance in the African-American community of Maryland. The event was co-organized and moderated by Shankeia Pollard of EITA Inc., Rob Woods of Georgia Equality and Chris Smith of Promised Land Films, the studio behind “The New Black”.

Attendees included several leaders of predominately-African American Christian congregations, as well as LGBT organizations in the local region. Following the film, the discussions covered concerns and objections regarding the relationship of African-American LGBT people and their struggle for civil rights to the realm of religion.

Later, at 7pm, a re-showing of the film was held at the Community Building of Grove Park Apartments, this time in front of a predominately African-American young LGBT adult viewership of 15-20 people from around the area, organized by Pollard, Woods and Lassiter. Following the film, a passionate 2-hour discussion was held covering similar ground as what was discussed by the earlier showing, but from a younger perspective.

EVENT April 25 at UUFC: National Weekend of Prayer for the Freedom to Marry

From Patricia Lassiter:

10954492_10153214497667628_4675100886608465034_oThere will be a Freedom to Marry prayer vigil at 2 PM Saturday, April 25th at the Unitarian/Universalist Fellowship of Columbus on 8827 Heiferhorn Way. It is our part of the FTM National Weekend of Prayer (April 24-26) with the intention of praying for the safety (and success) of the plaintiffs whose cases will be heard starting April 28th.

Similar events will be happening all over GA and the rest of the country during those days. The new UU is roomy inside and features safe parking. Individually, the board members have expressed overwhelming enthusiasm but once I have a Board vote, I will be able to do press. Please come by and bring your friends, religious or not. While this is a clear civil right, the presence of clergy taking its rightful place on the side of equality and freedom is so important. We are almost there. #LoveMustWin

For more about the National Weekend of Prayer, go to the Religious Institute’s page to sign up.

(H/t Rev. Duncan Teague, member of the UU Congregation of Atlanta and Georgia Equality’s Faith Outreach Consultant)