Why faith communities are mobilizing against hate during Pride Month

(RNS) — With Pride Month approaching in June, this is a time of year to celebrate the incredible richness, strength and diversity of the LGBTQ+ community across the country. Yet even amid the celebrations, there is wariness and concern over the surge in extremist groups targeting LGBTQ+ communities, events and parades with hate, harassment and violence. 

According to a joint report released by GLAAD and the Anti-Defamation League, June 2023’s Pride celebrations were subject to at least 145 incidents of anti-LGBTQ+ hate and extremism nationwide — more than three times as many as in the previous year. These incidents included the targeting of drag events and performers, of elected officials and LGBTQ+ symbols. They also included the targeting of LGBTQ+ affirming religious institutions. 

Why have these religious institutions been targeted? Because nothing enrages and threatens hate groups quite like faith communities proudly demonstrating support for and solidarity with people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. While these extremists rely on hateful tropes and conspiracies to dehumanize their targets, faith communities have a pivotal role to play in validating, uplifting and celebrating the humanity and uniqueness of LGBTQ+ people — and their absolute right to thrive as fully equal, fully valued members of our shared society. 

As a gay man myself and an ordained Baptist minister, I know this to be true on a deeply personal level. I have spent much of my life working to ensure LGBTQ+ people can feel truly welcomed, included and uplifted within different faith traditions — and working to make clear that most Americans of diverse faith and beliefs do not subscribe to the hateful, prejudiced worldview of Christian nationalists and other anti-gay ideologues. 

The organization I now have the honor of leading, Interfaith Alliance, is about to celebrate its 30th anniversary — and has been mobilizing communities of faith to stand up for LGBTQ+ rights for decades. Our first president, the late great Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, was a Southern Baptist pastor from Louisiana who boldly stepped forward to support LGBTQ+ rights early on, both from his pulpit and as the president of Interfaith Alliance for 17 years. In 2022, we were proud to play a major role in securing the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, a historic step forward to provide legal stability for all married couples and their families.

Two years ago, in partnership with the Faith for Equality coalition, Interfaith Alliance helped launch an initiative called “Faith for Pride,” an annual monthlong effort to organize faith communities against anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and discrimination. This year, with the partnership of groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center, Keshet, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Parity, Faith for Pride will put a new emphasis on training congregations and faith leaders in de-escalation and reporting of violent extremism — allowing them to play a positive and protective role at Pride events nationwide, not only next month but in the critical months to come. 

While 2023 witnessed a frightening surge in hate, we know 2024 sadly has the potential to be even more alarming. Given the fever-pitch intensity of the election year, the mainstreaming of Christian nationalist movements and politicians and the rise in hate speech and extremist organizing online, we have no choice but to take threats of harassment, violence and intimidation seriously — and to do everything we can to confront them safely, peacefully and responsibly.

Those across the country who volunteer their time to this critical and sacred work are not outliers — they’re representative of most Americans of diverse faiths and beliefs. Polling from the Public Religion Research Institute has found that 69% of people of faith favor or strongly favor passing LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections — including majorities of every religious group polled and in every state. Those who traffic in hate and harassment want us to believe their views are popular — but in truth they’re on the fringe, using intimidation to attempt to appear more powerful than they are. 

The Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush. (Photo courtesy Interfaith Alliance)

The Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush. (Photo courtesy of Interfaith Alliance)

That’s why it’s so critical that all Americans, and especially those who identify with particular faith traditions, mobilize their communities to provide support, solidarity and a de-escalatory presence at Pride events this June and beyond. Even if you’ve never before been to a Pride event, this is a time when all of us are needed to rise to the occasion, to confront hatred and discrimination and to show what kind of country we truly are and want to be — for LGBTQ+ people and for all people. 

(The Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush is the president and CEO of Interfaith Alliance. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Religion News Service.)

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button