RELIGION KEEPS RAISING ITS UGLY HEAD often turning back the clock on centuries of progress and enlightenment. As reported last week a barbaric law that makes gay sex punishable by caning has taken effect in the conservative Indonesian province of Aceh. Starting on Oct. 23, 2015 anyone caught having homosexual sex, Muslim or otherwise, faces up to 100 lashes, a fine of 2 lb. in gold and 8 years in jail. Adulterers also face 100 lashes but without fine or imprisonment.

Aceh is considered more devout than other areas of the mainly Muslim country.

National law does not regulate homosexuality and the central government cannot overrule provincial laws. On the positive side we continue to be galvanized by courageous members of all denominations, here are some inspiring LGBT Religious Leaders:

Dr. Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajaje is Provost of Starr King School for the Ministry, Professor of Cultural Studies and Islamic Studies, and Sufi. Taught the first divinity school class in the US on African-American faith communities and HIV prevention.

Reverend Ouyang Wen Feng, Malaysia's first openly gay pastor, founded a gay-friendly church outside Kuala Lumpur and is thought to be the country's only openly gay pastor. Although he now lives in the U.S., he frequently returns to Malaysia to call for gay rights, despite the country outlawing homosexuality.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum serves as the spiritual leader of Congregation Beit Simshat Torah, the largest LGBT synagogue in the world. She was installed as CBST's first rabbi in 1992, arriving at the height of the AIDS crisis when the synagogue was in desperate need of pastoral care and spiritual leadership.

Rabbi Steven Greenberg, the first openly gay Orthodox rabbi, is Director of Orthodox Programs for Nehirim the organization for GLBT Jewish culture and spirituality.

He publicly disclosed he was gay in an article in the Israeli newspaper Maariv in 1999 and participated in a 2001 documentary film about homosexual men and women raised in the Orthodox Jewish world.

Archbishop Carl Bean founded the Unity Fellowship Church Movement, a primarily African American and LGBT denomination. A liberal protestant denomination that is particularly welcoming of lesbian, gay and bisexual African Americans. Before founding the first church of the denomination, Los Angeles, in 1975, Bean was a Motown and disco singer, noted particularly for his version of the early gay liberation song "I Was Born This Way." In 1982 Bean became an activist, working on behalf of people with AIDS. Bean's autobiography, “I Was Born This Way,” came out in 2010.

William R. Johnson - First Openly Gay person ordained in a mainline denomination (United Church of Christ) and founder of the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns at the Riverside Church, NYC.

Jimmy Creech was defrocked by the United Methodist Church and lost his ordination for performing same-sex commitment ceremonies. He is the author of “Adam's Gift: A Memoir of a Pastor's Calling to Defy The Church's Persecution of Lesbians and Gays.” A lifelong pioneer in LGBT equality issues, co-author of the Dallas Principles, he was a participant in the Marriage Equality Express, and is the current Board Chairman of the North Carolina Social Justice Project, a progressive policy and advocacy organization dedicated to eliminating inequality in North Carolina.

Bayard Rustin (1912 –1987) was the Quaker activist who not only mentored Dr. King in the principles of non-violent, non-cooperation, but also helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Rustin was the chief organizer of the '63 March on Washington, as well as of the first Freedom Rides in 1947. Because Rustin was openly gay, he had to remain behind the scenes in the Civil Rights movement, as his sexuality was the target of attacks by anti Civil Rights antagonists.

He was born and raised in Pennsylvania, where his family was involved in civil rights work. In 1936, he moved to Harlem, New York City, where he earned a living as a nightclub and stage singer. He continued activism for civil rights throughout his life.


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