A group of 46 American Christian leaders have released an open letter expressing their opposition to “increased bigotry and hatred” against LGBT Ugandans under their country’s harsh anti-gay laws. “Such treatment,” the letter reads, “degrades the human family, threatens the common good, and defies the teachings of our Lord – wherever it occurs.”
The open letter comes on the heels of a newPolitical Research Associates report that some American Christians, including evangelical leader Pat Robertson, have propped up Ugandan campaigns that push for more restrictive anti-gay laws.
It is signed by influential religious leaders such as former U.S. Ambassador to Uganda and the Vatican Thomas P. Melady, President of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good Rich Cizik, and Soujourners President Jim Wallis.
Consensual same-sex sexual activity is criminalized in 76 countries. In Uganda, a proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill threatens transgressors with the death penalty and criminalizes speech or actions the government considers too LGBT-friendly. After previously being tabled due to international pressure, the legislation was re-introducedearlier this year.
“If they read what I read in the Bible, the Bible says you always obey the law”
Noticing that this statement contradicts a long history of religious activism, Unitarian Universalist minister Rev. Fred L Hammond wrote this response on his blog:
Governor Bentley is in need of some Bible lessons. If his statement is true, then Jesus would not have stopped the stoning of the woman caught in adultery because the law must always be obeyed. If his statement is true, then Jesus would not have healed on the Sabbath because the law must always be obeyed. If his statements are true then the Boston Tea Party in 1773 by the colonists would not have happened because the law must always be obeyed. If his statements are true, then the Declaration of Independence would never have been written or signed because the law must always be obeyed.
If his statements are true then Alabama’s Governor George Wallace’s statement of “Segregation now, Segregation tomorrow, and Segregation forever” would still be the law of Alabama because the law must always be followed. Thank God for people of conscience who recognize an unjust law and deliberately disobey to overturn that law.
If his statement is true then Paul, who authored the text that Governor Bentley is referring, would never have confronted the emperor regarding Christianity because the Christian faith was considered illegal, an act of treason. So even Paul did not believe one must always obey the law.
This statement of Bentley’s reveals that he has no understanding of his own faith tradition of Christianity. His own faith as a Baptist came about because people of conscience disobeyed the law. It was illegal to be of any other faith than Anglican when John Smyth declared his Baptist faith. But if Governor Bentley is correct that the Bible says you always obey the law, then his own faith is illegal, twice over because John Smyth broke the English law decreeing the Church of England as the one faith and the Church of England broke the law when it severed ties with the Roman Catholic Church over the doctrine of divorce–another law that according to Bentley’s argument must be obeyed. Remember that church law and civil law were one and the same in the time of the reformation. There was no separation of church and state.
The context of Romans 13 which Bentley refers also includes Romans 13: 6 and following: “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Love does no harm to a neighbor. No harm. That is the criteria in which to obey the laws of government, the Bible states. Yet, HB 56 does do harm to our neighbors. Our Immigrant neighbors are working hard, paying taxes, building up the community, creating businesses which strengthen the economy. Immigrant neighbors with the same expressed dreams for a better life for their children. This law seeks to rid our communities of people who are doing no harm, who are loving and caring for their community. Governor Bentley noted this in his commemoration speech regarding the anniversary of Tornado recovery efforts in Tuscaloosa when he referred to the status of citizenship of those who were first responders. Governor Bentley loves undocumented people when they are of usefulness to him but otherwise he has disdain for his neighbors who seek to make Tuscaloosa a better place for all to live.
This law has encouraged people to express their bigotry and prejudice against their neighbor. Therefore any law that causes harm to their neighbor, using Bentley’s argument of always following what the Bible says, is not a law that is to be obeyed. Such a law must be disobeyed. It must be broken time and time again because it goes against a higher law, which is the law of Love. I choose to stand on the side of Love.
Reverend Michael Livingston, director of the National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative, went on Fox News Live last week to talk about the Church’s fight to end hunger and poverty in America and how the House GOP budget actively undermines those efforts.
Despite having to deal with the factually challenged bias of anchor Lauren Green, Rev. Livingston did a great job making the case for the need for a strong partnership between churches and government to address these challenges.
One of the most poignant parts was Rev. Livingston’s discussion of how child poverty statistics highlight that the problem has serious structural and economic causes rather than simply being a result of individual moral failure:
LIVINGSTON: It’s about 16 million children living in poverty — most of them are in families with parents who are working. That’s a part of the tragedy of this situation. The parents simply aren’t earning enough in order to be able to support their families. And this will only worsen if the budget that the house just passed — the Ryan budget that the House just passed — is actually enacted. It will make things worse for children and families.
Sponsored by a broad coalition of Christian organizations, nearly 800 people of faith gathered for the 10th annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days this weekend to reflect upon and lobby for “a national budget that break the yokes of injustice, poverty, hunger and unemployment throughout the world.”
The conference’s powerful and timely theme, entitled “Is this the Fast I seek?”, brought preachers, religious leaders and policy experts together to educate participants on everything from the dangers of wealth and income inequality to how to engage with local media on federal budget issues.
The dynamic conference culminated yesterday with participants spreading out across Capitol Hill to educate and lobby lawmakers on the need for a federal budget that protects the safety and dignity of all people and prioritizes programs that protect children and families over tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.
While Religious Right groups like Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition attract a disproportionately large amount of media attention despite poor attendance at their Washington conferences, progressive Christians working for more just budget priorities get almost no attention.
Though news outlets ignored the gathering this weekend, advocacy and media trainings like those at EAD will equip progressive people of faith to continually rebut the Religious Right’s distorted budget priorities and more effectively inform both lawmakers and the media that Religious Right pundits don’t represent the priorities of all people of faith.
As we’ve noted before, the faith community has been working for years to put an end to mountaintop removal coal mining, a destructive practice that wreaks havoc on the environment and public health in the Appalachian region.
In Tennessee, activists have pushed for the passage of the Scenic Vistas Protection Act to restrict mountaintop removal in the state. Although the bill passed Tennessee’s Senate Environment Committee, its language was amended to weaken the implementation of the mountaintop removal ban.
The Rev. Gradye Parsons – currently serving as the highest elected official in the Presbyterian Church (USA) – wrote an impassioned editorial in the Tennessean yesterday, advocating for the Scenic Vistas Protection Act in its original form from the perspective of his Christian faith. As he puts it, opposing mountaintop removal is a matter of deep moral urgency:
“As a son of Tennessee and as a Christian, protecting God’s Creation is not merely environmentalism to me. It is a matter of faith. The book of Genesis teaches us that when God looked out at the created world, God saw that ‘it was very good.’ Furthermore, the psalmist tells us ‘the earth is Lord’s and all that is in it.’ We are called by our faith to care responsibly for the world that our Creator has made, and to do justice for our neighbors. Mountaintop removal, by damaging God’s creation and the well-being of our brothers and sisters, runs contrary to our Christian obligation to each other and to our environment.”
Rev. Parsons points out that the Presbyterian Church (USA) formally condemned mountaintop removal in 2006. At least five other national Christian denominations have also passed resolutions against the practice. It’s encouraging to see the faith community unite on important environmental issues, especially when those issues are articulated in clear moral terms.