Stop Supporting Religious Prejudice

I hope by the time this appears, everyone in the LGBT community will have taken deep, cleansing breaths and realized that the blame for the success of California’s Proposition 8 does not belong to the African American community.

I hope they’ve paid attention to the Black leaders who continue fighting to end all discrimination against LGBT people, such as Rev. Kenneth Samuel, Chair of the People for the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership League, or Rev. Gerald Johnson, the Individual Rights and Advocacy Vice Chair of California’s NAACP.

I hope they realize that criticism of a community that’s also been discriminated against is an easy fallback on prejudice that scapegoats a whole community while empowering right-wing enemies of LGBT people. More white people and Republicans actually voted for Prop 8 than African Americans.

It also impedes, if not reverses, the ongoing, difficult work of those leaders within that community who support LGBT people.

It reinforces the standard argument used in every community by scared, prejudiced people – that homosexuality is an outsiders’ problem being forced on us. Even among white people, white privilege gives LGBT people outside status by saying grandly that homosexuality is non- or anti-American.

I hope they’ve realized that escaping to some ghetto only cut them off from the real world. If they thought that living only with people like them would result in support from people who don’t know them, I hope they realize they need to change their lifestyles and get to know people who aren’t white and LGBT.

If they thought that living in California, as opposed to Kansas, Indiana or Alabama, would mean they’d get their way, I hope they now see that our country outside the ghettos isn’t ready to vote marriage equality in place. California is no exception. Neither was Oregon.

We’re getting closer to changing our society, but as I’ve said before, we’re not there yet. A generation of scared and confused baby boomers, frankly, is probably going to have to die off first.

The courts that approved marriage equality in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California have done what courts did with other marriage equality issues in the past against popular opinion. The Bill of Rights tells us that human rights of minorities should not be up to popular vote. This is what happens when they are – the tyranny of the majority.

So, let’s turn our attention back to the real force behind anti-LGBT prejudice – addictive, right-wing, institutional religion. Our own issues with religion will make this harder to fight. So it’s easy to look elsewhere for blame.

We know that the leadership and funding of Prop 8 was in the hands of white people and their regressive churches. The top funders included the Mormon Church and the Catholic Knights of Columbus. White, right-wing leaders even strategized to target communities of color, once again using them for white, right-wing purposes.

Let’s stop treating religious institutions, beliefs, and attitudes that promote peoples’ prejudices as if they are sacred and beyond protest. Let’s stop letting people wield crosses, books, and other religious symbols to silence our voices.

Let’s stop letting them use religious language to intimidate us. Let’s stop letting them bully us by protective masks of righteousness that are meant to stifle criticism of their beliefs and actions.

They know how to play the game – to intimidate you by saying you’re discriminating against them if you object to their dogmas, while the people who suffer are LGBT people whose rights the right-wing would prefer to whittle down to nothing. And they’re scheming and planning obsessively every day to do all they can to take away as many as possible.

Let’s stop being in denial about this. Their words and actions are mean, cruel, and viscously self-serving.

They portray LGBT people as less than fully human. And they’ve worked very hard to defend their bigotry with devilish smiles.

They try to use “compassionate” language to woo others and even seduce LGBT people and their sympathizers, but they haven’t changed a word about homosexuality being an “objective disorder” or a pernicious, anti-family choice.

These are the people who believe LGBT people deserve eternal, unspeakable, torture. And they’re willing to participate in making that hell begin even before we’re dead, if we let them.

So, let’s reevaluate our participation. Let’s examine the ways we’re enablers of the religious addiction that covers prejudice in every community no matter what the skin color of its believers, including the hues we call white.

Let’s make sure we’re not the ones giving them the power they have by the choices we make. Even if we reject religion, are our arguments exactly what they want us to get caught in?

If we are a member and financial contributor to these institutions, it’s time to examine whether we’re part of the problem. As we speak of working inside an institution to change it, are we actually slowing down the progress of the country by continuing an allegiance to institutions that promote anti-LGBT initiatives?

Will we have to face the fact that we might have to say goodbye to the religion of our youth, our family, and our past hopes to let them know that our money and time will not be invested in abusive religion?

Soulforce founder Mel White is clear: “Love demands that we refuse to participate in church studies and debates any longer. To play along with this game of studying, debating, and discussing if we are worthy of our civil rights is to help postpone justice and support the structures of religion-based bigotry.” (Religion Gone Bad, 2006)

Just as we need to support leaders in communities of people of color who are working against all odds to fight for LGBT rights, religious LGBT people and their supporters need to throw their allegiance behind those religious institutions that are taking the heat from religious addicts because they’re standing up for LGBT spirituality.