SFGN’s “Speak OUT” is a weekly feature giving a regular voice to South Florida LGBT leaders.
This week Indiana is under fire for its so-called religious freedom law. What are you thoughts on religious freedom or the current controversy? And how can we strike the right balance between respecting the rights of the religious community, while at the same time respecting the civil rights and liberties of minorities. Below are some of their answers:
The laws respecting religious freedom have evolved in the U.S. There was a time, not that long ago, when religious, racial, and cultural minorities could be legally refused employment, housing, education, and services. Equality was hard fought for and won, and there still are those who are not happy about it. The entire current controversy centers around LGBT access, and especially services for same sex weddings. The current bills would be more accurately named, "Freedom to Discriminate.” We are not talking about religious institutions being forced to change their beliefs ("Even though I'm a Catholic I want an imam to marry me"), or even personal beliefs ("Jews must eat bacon cheeseburgers with milk"). We're talking about a bakery or a photographer or even a pizza joint deciding who they will or will not serve. We've had this discussion before, and if you are in a retail business then you must be prepared to serve the entire population.
— Noah Kitty, Rabbi and Executive Director of Congregation Etz Chaim
It’s time to tell it like it is. Leviticus has many interpretations. If you choose to be hateful then you “use” religious liberty to be hateful. If one believes in God then the primary message is “God created all of us in God’s image.” So, for those interested in interpreting that message, then God is a Homosexual too! And for those still puzzled..read “God vs. Gay” by Jay Michaelson. Our shared religious values favor equality for LGBT people.
— Ruth Berman, LGBT activist
These bills are nonsense reactions to irrational fear. Mostly they come from people claiming to be Christian. I too claim following teachings of Christianity or "love your neighbor.” My fiancé is Muslim and our conversations around faith and responsibility return the same result. We know it's care for, respect others, share goodness not hate those who disagree with us. I really don't like sweat potatoes. He's a health conscious chef. The argument is that sweet potatoes are healthy. To me they're rotten. Neither us would ever think of expecting our views to be held as others or force someone else to do the same. We have two businesses between us and most of our clients are queer. There's no way either one of us would turn away a non gay person with pagan ideals.
— R. J. Hadley, community activist
I think that question makes a false assumption. Why is it that my status as a sexual minority has to have the same consideration as someone’s belief in passages out of a text that was written 2,000 years ago? I am not at all indicating that people don’t have the right to believe in organized religion if that’s their preference. But after watching the Scientology smackdown documentary, “Going Clear,” I was struck by the similarities in suspended disbelief that both Christians and Scientologists must possess. So I am no longer interested in a balance. I am interested in correcting the longstanding legal, financial and societal imbalances suffered by sexual minorities.
— David Jobin, executive director of The Stonewall National Museum & Archives
Don't complain - ACT. The Indiana pizza place has received $846,000 in "we-support-discrimination" donations, and the Washington state florist has surpassed $95,000. To counter, we can all go to GoFundMe.com and donate to Cyndi Lauper's True Colors campaign to support homeless LGBT youth, and/or to the Indiana LGBT Youth Group, both now collecting on GoFundMe.
— Toni Armstrong, Founder/Director of BLAST Women of WPB
I don't think we would be talking in terms of "balance" if we imagined a business barring people from any other group, other than LGBT. What is clearly a violation of an individual's civil rights -- one's right to be treated as equal to all others -- seems to take on fuzzy edges when the individual in question is LGB or T. People of faith have the right to their chosen faith by virtue of the first amendment. LGBT individuals need to have the right to work, conduct business, move about, and lead their lives like everyone else. A person whose faith prevents them from providing a service to any other human being should not be in the business of providing a service. There is no balance; there is only equality and inequality.
— Judy Ireland, Assistant organizer for BLAST Women of WPB
No one is telling self-identified religious people that they can't believe whatever they choose to believe, even if they each inherit a planet when they die, or that forty virgins are awaiting their arrival in the afterlife. But in the workplace, they are not allowed to impose their beliefs, or their personal code of conduct, on others. So-called Religious Liberty Laws are Trojan horses filled with bigotry.
— Brian McNaught, noted columnist, author and LGBT activist
Peter Scholtes knew the definition of sacrifice and service. He had a passion to cross over “social norms” in order to reach the lives of others, others who would normally not be prone to listen to Peter or want his counsel. In one of his many assignments, Peter was serving as a parish priest at St. Brendan's on the South Side of Chicago in the 1960s. At the time, he was leading a youth choir out of the church basement, and was looking for an appropriate song for a series of ecumenical, interracial events. He was not able to find that song, but he did not give up, because he was determined to live out his passion and purpose for life.
As a Christian and Senior Pastor of Church of the Holy SpiritSong, an LGBT welcoming and affirming church here in Wilton Manors, I am deeply saddened by the recent events in Indiana. The so called Religious Freedom Restoration Act does nothing to promote freedom and everything to promote the shackling of marginalized communities within Indiana. There is nothing right, loving, respectful, honorable, nor affirming within this decision.
That’s what Father Peter Scholtes did on one day back in 1968. When he was unable to find a song to bridge the gap into a hurting community, he wrote the now-famous hymn, “They’ll Know We are Christians By Our Love” in a single day. Peter knew that the youth on the South Side of Chicago needed someone who cared. He loved his neighbors. He showed them someone cared. Through unconditional love, he removed the shackles that culture and society had kept there for so long. Indiana would do well to learn this lesson about love.
— Rev. Leslie A. Rutland-Tipton, Senior Pastor, Church of the Holy SpiritSong