SFGN’s “Speak OUT” is a weekly feature giving a regular voice to South Florida LGBT leaders.
This week Trump signed an executive order aimed at making it easier for churches to participate in politics. Should this be a concern for the LGBT community, or our democracy and the separation between church and state?
Churches have always had the right (and perhaps even the prophetic responsibility) to call out injustice and advocate for issues compatible with their values (e.g., peace, compassion, caring for those in need, etc.). They should not endorse candidates by name or contribute church funds to political campaigns. There is a difference between critiquing or applauding the actions of a politician and endorsing a politician; if that distinction is not maintained, marginalized groups will almost certainly suffer, and churches will come to be seen as the enemy of justice.
— Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins, Senior Minister of Sunshine Cathedral, Fort Lauderdale
Anytime the boundaries between church and state are weakened, we should all be concerned. Any law or order that opens the door to any form of discrimination is of deep concern to all. Trump's executive order is one of many actions that should have us all joining the resistance, in whatever way we can. Our lives depend on it.
— Judy Ireland, Assistant organizer for BLAST Women of WPB
It does hold interest to our LGBT community. Churches with some exceptions have a track record of being less than welcoming. When the mix of adding politics people will be more excluded. It's usually larger churches with more resources and non welcoming theology that will be able to spread hate freely. This will cause more angst for LGBT people who hold faith as important.
— R. J. Hadley, community activist
Trump’s executive order making it easier for churches to participate in politics, is more symbolic than anything else. In theory, since the Johnson Amendment also restricted non-profits, Trump’s pledge to not enforce it helps LGBT non-profits as much as it helps churches.
— Lee Rubin, Blogger and Community Organizer
Trump’s executive order is unconstitutional. It violates the separation of Church and State. It can, ALSO, hurt ANYONE...including the people who pushed for this order. It can justify any decision or personal dispute. It’s dangerous and illogical.
— Meredith L Ockman, community activist and a director of NOW
If Churches are allowed to endorse candidates, and thus pressure their congregants to vote a certain way, they should pay taxes on their property and income. If Republicans want a theocracy, they need to be prepared to be publicly shamed by churches, synagogues, and mosques for their immoral behavior. Most Churches really aren't interested in endorsing candidates. What the social conservative Churches wants is the right to discriminate without breaking the law. Vice President Pence will lobby for this until he gets it.
— Brian McNaught, noted columnist, author and LGBT activist
Definitely! it should be of great concern to the LGBT Community and our country as a whole. Many times in the past, present and I’m sure the future, the religious right can be judgmental and non-inclusive to anyone who do not follow their doctrine.
— Tiffany Ariegus, Community Activist, Provider, Entertainer and Fundraiser
Trump’s executive order “promoting free speech and religious liberty” on April 27, addresses two issues. First, it instructs the IRS to “not take any adverse tax action against any individual, house of worship, or other religious organization” that endorse or oppose candidates from the pulpit, (which is currently outlawed by a provision typically referred to as the Johnson Amendment). According to Trump, “We are giving churches their voices back.”
The second instructs the Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services to consider amending regulations in the Affordable Care Act that require most employers to cover contraception in employee insurance plans. But for LGBT rights, it becomes an even more treacherous slope towards overt discrimination and the stripping of hard won rights. But don’t expect it to end with that. Many will see this as Pence’s precursor to legalizing discrimination against LGBT people based on individual religious beliefs.
Theoretically, it hands over a legal weapon to racists, homophobes, xenophobes and religious zealots to persecute many classes of human beings who do not share their narrow Christian world view. I fully expect a backlash which will lead to massive court actions. We will have to re-fight and re-litigate legal battles that we fought and won. But fight we will…and re-litigate we will…and, in the end, we will WIN once again.
– Paul Smith, retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel and retired Clinical Social Worker
It is important to understand the context of what the Framers meant when we say "separation of church and state." That phrase in not in the Constitution but a phrase that was coined by Thomas Jefferson. The first amendment to the Constitution states, " Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
I am not the kind of person who defends the Constitution when it suits me and blasts it when it doesn't. I'm a strict Constitutionalist as I've stated on the air many times. The latest Executive Order by President Trump is really more words than action. As the New York Times stated, "President Donald Trump's executive order on "religious liberty," signed at the White House on Thursday, may not be quite as bad as rights groups feared when they mounted an emergency protest in the nation's capitol on Wednesday." The ACLU has even withdrawn its initial suit against the Executive Order.
I also believe we have to respect organizations, like churches and organizations like Sisters of the Poor, who, because of their religious beliefs, disagree with a law and may be forced to comply with a law that is against those beliefs. The Constitution, in the first amendment, was meant to protect religious freedom from government, not government from religious freedom.
The Constitution is one of the most remarkable documents in the history of mankind. I have personally read it dozens of times and it is indeed an inspiring and important piece of American history - something everyone should read.
— Tom Hantzarides, Host and producer of "GET OUT! South Florida,” an LGBT radio show