I read your furious response to a recent White House memorandum where you called President Obama’s leadership “silly” for strengthening international protections of LGBT human rights. You also made generalizations that unfairly assume all people of faith in America are homophobic.
It’s unconscionable how out of touch you are with the values of equality, freedom and justice. Not only have you alienated Christians across the United States who unconditionally welcome and affirm the LGBT community; you’ve alienated many across the world who look to the United States as an example for upholding basic human and civil rights for all people. I’d like to introduce you to one of them.
There was a man I wrote about earlier this year named “Hamid” who lived abroad in a religious society. He was the owner of a small coffee shop, a law-abiding citizen, and lived his life in relative harmony. But when local authorities found out he was gay, he was abducted on the street, taken to his home, beaten half to death, had his possessions stolen and then dragged to an encampment where he was raped, tortured and humiliated for hours by a group of police officers.
When he attempted to have his day in court to seek justice for these abuses, his existence as a gay person was viewed by the courts as a crime punishable by death. He tried to press charges against the police for the sexual and physical abuse he endured, but the court refused to follow-up on the case. When he returned to his house, it was completely looted and he was forced to flee the country.
I checked in on Hamid a few weeks ago. The man — who once lived a relatively normal life — is now living in exile, unemployed, poverty-stricken and dealing with physical and psychological damage from the trauma and injustice. Let me be clear: the brutality against Hamid occurred because of a hostile, anti-gay culture legalized by government.
Does this sound “silly” to you?
As the White House has stated, the President is directing agencies abroad to make sure that LGBT human rights are protected. Not all countries are like the United States. Not all countries ensure due process or respect an individual’s basic human dignity. The President is directing an effort to combat this unfortunate reality. He is combating the criminalization of LGBT status or conduct to help people like Hamid who are imprisoned or abducted because of their perceived orientation. And he is pushing for stricter protections of vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers who often endure unspeakable trauma in their home countries and are left floating in an international system with no real place to call home.
We have a right to ensure that our tax dollars promote and protect basic human equality for all people. The President asked our State Department to ensure this.
You called these actions “national security nonsense” and accused President Obama of launching a “war on religion.” Our diverse country and world cannot be lead by a Commander-in-Chief who doesn’t recognize the complexities of human rights abuses faced by LGBT people around the world, nor honors the breadth of religious diversity in our country.
As the leader of one of the nation’s largest LGBT-inclusive Christian networks, I have seen the opinions and theology of people of faith grow towards welcome over time. Our organization spreads love and welcome, to make sure God’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender children are taken care of in our country’s churches, schools and diverse communities. We think about individuals like Hamid, who are voiceless and need help. And we think about people of faith, whom you summarily dismissed, who want to be respected for their belief in LGBT equality. Before you call LGBT human rights silly, or assume all Christians endorse your fabricated “war on religion”, you should think about these things too.
Joseph Ward is the Director of Believe Out Loud, an online network that empowers Christians to work for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, and a writer on religion and LGBT equality issues. Follow him on Twitter @JosephWardIII..
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