I will not be
in church this Sunday, but I will be in a place where my spiritual
self will be fed. I
will be participating in the National Equality March (NEM) this
Sunday, carrying the banner of Faith in America, an organization that
is working to stop bigotry disguised as religious truth.
And no faith community knows
better than the Black Church how religion-based
bigotry shapes prejudicial attitudes in this country. Religious
texts have been interpreted to justify some of this country’s worst
crimes against our community, including slavery, lynching, and the
prohibition of interracial marriage. As African Americans, we have
continually experienced the harm that religion-based bigotry can
cause, but today thousands of our own children live on the streets
because they have been kicked out of their homes and their church
for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
Religion-based bigotry and prejudice
are the biggest obstacles lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and
queer Americans face in obtaining full civil equality and equal
treatment under the law. As an African American ordained Christian
minister and theologian who is also a lesbian, I face religion-based
bigotry and prejudice from within my own faith community – the Black
Church – and feel it is time to end the harm to our African American
“Racial Integrity Act of 1924” was upheld with the opinion, “Almighty
God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and He
placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference
with His arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriages.
The fact that He separated the races shows that he did not intend
for the races to mix.” There is no clearer example of religion-based
bigotry to justify discrimination under law, and it took the landmark
Supreme Court decision in that case – Loving vs. Virginia
– to strike down anti-miscegenation laws in this country.
Sadly, many black ministers
today, some of whom even marched with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
in the 1960’s, use religion-based bigotry to accuse our gay rights
movement of “pimping” the black civil rights movement. Such attitudes
have resulted in the oppression of our African-American LGBTQ community
rights battles in this country have narrowly been understood, reported
on or advocated for within the context of African American struggles
against both individual and systematic racism. Consequently, the
fight to gain equal civil rights by women, gays and lesbians, Native
Americans, and other minorities have been eclipsed, ignored and
even trivialized. For example, in the 1970s, women’s civil rights
were pitted against African American civil rights, which often forced
African American women to choose which was a greater oppression
for them: being black or being female.
Today, a similar debate is occurring
within the Black Church and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender
communities that once again leaves out a population of people who
have the most to lose if queer civil rights are ignored - LGBTQ
people of African descent.
Because of religion-based bigotry
spewing from the pulpits of many black churches, we have a crisis
in the African American community: an epidemic of homelessness among
LGBTQ youth. They are the black community’s throw-away kids, and
they need our help. Our community is ravaged by AIDS and HIV largely
because religion-based bigotry has kept us from addressing the problem,
and now our prejudice is also putting our children on the streets.
Their sexual orientation or gender expression does not make our
LGBTQ youth children of a lesser God, and they deserve better than
to be made homeless.
Discussing this reality publicly
might be viewed by many in the black community as “airing our dirty
laundry” or “putting our business in the street.” But the problem
is already in the street – because that’s where our LGBTQ kids are.
More than 42 percent of the country’s homeless youth identify as
LGBTQ, and approximately 90 percent of that group is African American
and Latino youth from urban enclaves like New
York City, Boston, and Los Angeles. After teaching them that the Black Church is their
family, their home – our churches go on to fail these kids and their
parents in their time of need.
I have faith – and I have faith
in America. That is why I am
marching to support President Obama in his goals of creating a more
perfect union for all of America
- and to support our legislators in passing legislation that will
save all of our children from religion-based bigotry.
Editorial Board member, the Rev. Irene Monroe, is a religion columnist,
theologian, and public speaker. A native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe
is a graduate from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary
at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American
church before coming to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate
as a Ford Fellow. Reverend Monroe is the author of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible
Prayers for Not-So-Everyday Moments. As an African American
feminist theologian, she speaks for a sector of society that is
frequently invisible. Her website is irenemonroe.com. Click here
to contact the Rev. Monroe.
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8 , 2009
published every Thursday
Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Est. April 5, 2002
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