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Archive for the ‘Global Justice News’ Category

Supreme Court Defends First Amendment Rights Engaged in the Fight Against AIDS For U.S. Organizations

Today, six justices of the Supreme Court of the United States issued the majority  decision in Agency for International Development, et al. –v- Alliance for Open Society International, Inc. et al., finding that federal agencies mandating that organizations receiving government funding for the global fight against AIDS must hold the same opinion as the United States government to qualify for funding.

Responding  to the escalating pandemics of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, the Congress of the United States passed the “United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003,” allocating billions of dollars to fund non-governmental organizations around the globe in multi-faceted efforts to increase access to treatment, offer supportive care, train health care workers, accelerate research and reduce at-risk behaviors.   As part of efforts designed to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS, at that time the fourth highest cause of death in the world,  legislators recognized sex trafficking as a factor in the escalation of the disease.

Congress charged the Department of Health and Human Services {HHS} and the United States Agency for International Development {USAID} with responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the 2003 funding Act.  The agencies then developed protocol that required recipient agencies, in effect, to adopt the United States government’s position opposing prostitution and sex trafficking as a policy statement in order to qualify for funding.   Agencies of the United Nations, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the World Health Organization were exempted from the regulation.

The Alliance for an Open Society and others  challenged that requirement based on the first amendment right in the United States guaranteeing freedom of speech and the right to hold opinions and policies at odds with those favored by the government.

“The Supreme Court decision today,” said The Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches, “represents a victory for all those engaged in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  The issue is not whether any of us who have long worked in this battle are promoting particular behaviors,  but rather our ability to reach those most in need of safe space and compassionate care. “

“The decision today prevents the U.S. government from telling people what they must say in cases where being judgmental may well determine whether individuals most at risk get the help they need in either remaining HIV-negative or managing their health status in a life-affirming way,” added The Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Chair of the Moderator’s Public Policy Team.  “We serve in a movement of faith founded on the teachings of a man who cautioned against judgment,” she added, “and who proclaimed that prostitutes and tax collectors would enter heaven before many others.  Today, at least, they will be free to enter the offices of agencies around the globe who can offer them the information and health care access critical to saving their lives now.”

This statement prepared in conjunction with the Moderator’s Public Policy Team of

Metropolitan Community Churches and the Global Justice Institute.

For more information, contact The Rev. Pat Bumgardner .

Historic LGBT Church Leaders Condemn Russia’s Anti-Gay Law

“Russian tradition needs to meet universal human rights standards”

 

The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson is the moderator of the Metropolitan Community Churches, which has ministries in over 40 countries.  Dr. Wilson was part of the first LGBT faith delegation to meet with a sitting president in 1979.  She is currently a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

 

Metropolitan Community Churches and the Global Justice Institute publicly and firmly condemn the adoption of a federal law in the Russian Parliament that bans so-called “non-traditional sexual relations” and which mandates fines and jail terms for people convicted of sharing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) “propaganda.”

The Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches, said:

“Tradition is not about an idyllic past, but rather an ongoing transmission of values. Non-discrimination is one of these values important for the whole society. LGBT people have always been part of the larger Russian community. The only difference today is visibility. Russian tradition needs to meet universal human rights standards, such as the freedom of expression, a principle that applies to all Russian citizens irrespective of their national origin, ethnicity, age, gender, religion or sexual orientation.”

The Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Executive Director of Global Justice Institute, continued:

“Let me be clear. Tradition is less essential in a democratic society than justice. Stop invoking tradition to perpetuate discrimination at the highest level against our LGBT brothers and sisters from Russia! They will remain proud and visible despite these attempts to silence them, while our solidarity with the Russian civil society fighting for LGBT rights will increase. Censorship shouldn’t be a value that characterizes any nation in the 21st century.

“As a community of faith and a social justice institution, we reject the way the Russian authorities try to legitimize and legalize discrimination against LGBT people. Societal norms and traditions can’t be invoked in good faith when they deliberately harm vulnerable groups, such as LGBT people.“

 

The Global Justice Institute is a collaborative effort of Metropolitan Community Churches and The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, dedicated to fostering theological reconciliation, positive public images and economic development with LGBTI people around the globe.  For more information visit www.globaljusticeinstitute.com or contact Rev. Pat, Executive Director, at 

Moderator of world’s largest LGBT community of faith hails signing of anti-discrimination legislation by Puerto Rico’s Governor

Today, Puerto Rico’s Governor, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, signed two bills into effect, one banning discrimination against the island’s LGBT citizens and another adding LGBT couples to protective provisions already in place in domestic violence statutes.

 

Governor Padilla’s actions followed on the heels of those of the Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital city, when earlier this month she mandated that police in the city provide equal protection and access to support services regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

“While some religious leaders mounted a vigorous campaign to defeat these legislative efforts completely,” said The Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson, Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches, “I want to lift up and celebrate the courage and conviction of Governor Padilla in announcing as he presented the new laws, he felt he had done his duty as a Christian.”

 

“While a coalition of faith leaders was successful in eliminating clauses that would have more fully guaranteed equality in commercial accommodations, rentals and public transportation,” she continued, “I and the members and friends of ICM Cristo Sanador, our MCC congregation in San Juan, believe with all our hearts that there is much rejoicing in heaven today, for the good news that the Creator’s plan of universal human dignity and equality has taken another step forward in our lives.”

 

The Rev. Jorge Delgado Rivas, member of The Moderator’s Public Policy Team and the Global Justice Institute, expressed his gratitude to the members and friends of MCC in Puerto Rico have long witnessed and worked for this day.  “I am sure,” he said, “many of us remember well the days not  that long ago when crimes committed against LGBT people were not even listed as hate crimes in Puerto Rico.  I want to lift up the memory of people like George Steven Lopez Mercado, targeted as a teenage gay rights activist, and brutally slain.  The police investigator in that case told us that ‘people who lead this life style need to be aware that this will happen.’  Today my brother, Steven, your work on behalf of our people has proved fruitful and those of us born LGBT have taken a huge step forward n reclaiming our rightful place among the human family.  I thank you for praying for us, Steven, and I salute the Governor for keeping his word to us.”

 

Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico remains an unincorporated territory of the United States.  While Puerto Ricans elect their own Governor and legislators, many aspects of life in the island nation remain under the auspices of the Congress of the United States.  The first federally funded survey to determine the future of the island as either a state or a commonwealth has been promised.

 

Metropolitan Community Churches applauds the leadership of the Puerto Rican Governor and legislature, as well as the vision of its citizenry, in working for the fundamental equality of all God’s children.

 

This statement prepared in conjunction with the Global Justice Institute,

The Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Chair.

For more information about Metropolitan Community Churches, contact Ann Craig .

 

For more information about MCC’s Public Policy Team or the Global Justice Institute, contact The Rev. Jim Merritt at .

Prepared for change: There have always been gay Boy Scouts

The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared.” This week, gay Boy Scouts are prepared for equality.  At the same time, they are prepared for discrimination.  They know that even if the policy changes to allow gay Boy Scouts, there will still be those who discriminate.  There will be those who are frightened by change and by the full range of human expression of love and family.

read the full article on the washington post website http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/wp/2013/05/22/prepared-for-change-there-have-always-been-gay-boy-scouts

Public Policy Team of Metropolitan Community Churches Calls for Full Inclusion by Boy Scouts of America

23 May 2013 — Today the 1400 member national council of the Boy Scouts of America, meeting in Texas, voted to allow openly gay youth to join the Scouts effective January of 2014, while continuing to ban openly gay Scout leaders.  Council spokespersons said that while people have differing opinions on this policy revision, most agree that youth are better off because of their involvement in Scouting troops and activities.

 

While we applaud the decision to welcome gay scouts, we believe the amended policy sends a mixed message to youth seeking to integrate their sexual orientations and gender identities into their full personhood as they grow and mature.

 

Children are not better off when they are left without strong role models who represent the deepest truest parts of who they are as people of God, a truth sadly reflected in the scores of LGBT youth who suffer greater rates of homelessness and bullying than their non-gay peers.

 

As people of faith we call on the Boy Scouts of America to remedy the confusion youth will experience because of their new policy, and act to include all  youth and adults who seek to participate in Scouting, help other people, and keep themselves mentally awake and on a path of moral integrity.

 

This statement published by the Public Policy Team
of Metropolitan Community Churches.

Senate abandons LGBT couples in U.S. with failure to pass inclusive immigration reform

May 22, 2013 – Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee chose to exclude same-sex bi-national couples from legislation reforming the U.S. immigration system.  Due to lack of support and threatened opposition, Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) withdrew his amendment that would have allowed LGBT American citizens to sponsor their foreign-born legal spouses for citizenship, a benefit long afforded to opposite-sex married couples.  It would have corrected a wrong that needlessly divides American families and tears husbands, wives, and parents away from their loved ones each day.  Rev. Pat Bumgardner, the Executive Director of the Global Justice Institute, issued the following statement:

 

“There, indeed, is room for all.  Whether we were brought here forcefully, of our own free will, or otherwise, we all call this country home.  As people of faith, we see the innate humanity in all immigrants.  We stand with them as members of our human family.  We will not accept any system of power that seeks to divide us from one another, especially our most vulnerable.  For these reasons, we express our grave disappointment in our elected leaders in the U.S. Senate for willfully excluding same-sex bi-national families from immigration reform efforts they have underway.  As a nation, we are always stronger together.  Those who would divide us, those who would leave anyone behind should be ashamed for not living up to the ideals our nation professes.  Senators who promised to undermine attempts to pass truly comprehensive immigration reform and those who bowed to their vows are simply wrong and subject themselves to the wrong set of values.”

 

“We will continue to work with the broad coalition of immigration reform partners, grassroots activists, and our elected officials to ensure that bi-national same-sex couples, along with all other immigrants (regardless of their legal status) are included in the bill as it heads to the full Senate.  We call on all our allies in the Senate to join us.”

 

For more information on the work of the Global Justice Institute and Metropolitan Community Churches and comprehensive immigration reform, see “No Strangers to God:  A Call for Sensible Immigration Reform that Supports and Reunites Families.” http://mccchurch.org/no-strangers-to-god-a-call-for-sensible-immigration-reform-that-supports-and-reunites-families/

 

 

For more information, contact Rev. DeWayne Davis at

 

This statement prepared by Kareem Murphy on behalf of the Public Policy Team,

Metropolitan Community Churches and the Global Justice Institute.

Requiem for an Effeminate Boy

by The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson 

A trial began this month for the death of a boy who, in 2011, was sent to a South African boot camp where boys were supposed to become men—especially effeminate boys or boys who were thought to be gay. Photos of his emaciated body in the hospital bed look like the body of a Nazi death camp victim.

 

Fifteen-year-old Raymond Buys was not the first boy to die at this camp. Two others in earlier episodes died at the hands of the camp leaders who are affiliated with white supremacist groups. Camp leaders attributed the previous deaths to heart attacks but autopsies revealed choking in one victim and dehydration, broken bones, and brain hemorrhaging in the other.

 

Raymond’s roommate from his camp days said that Raymond had been chained to his bed for extended periods and left in his own soil. Tortures included being forced to eat his own feces and camp leaders put a pillowcase over his head and used an electric cattle prod on his fragile body. When he arrived at the hospital he had multiple burns, his bones were broken, and he was starved and dehydrated. He died.

 

It is for such travesties that The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) was created to be observed each year on May 17.

 

We would like to think that Raymond’s death was perpetrated by criminals but it was Raymond’s mother who wanted him to man-up. How many mothers and fathers force or “encourage” their children to change their gender expression through such military boot camps or through so-called “ex-gay” or “reparative therapy” programs where debunked psychology is enmeshed with religious bigotry. How many boys are sent off to be “toughened up” without consideration of the persecution they might endure at the hands of enforcers of hyper-masculinity?

 

Whether pseudo-military, pseudo-psychology, or pseudo-religious, these programs demean, torture and even kill boys and girls—as well as men and women—if they don’t fit gender or heterosexual expectations.

 

“Poster children” in these pseudo-programs in the United States who claim to have been changed, over time, have come out and admitted they did not change their identity or sexual orientation. Michael Bussee, founder of Exodus, recanted years ago and now spends his life working for equality. Alan Chambers took over the leadership of Exodus and announced that Exodus should let go of their slogan, “Change is Possible!” He realizes that sexual orientation cannot be changed; the best you can do is to decide not to be sexual or to force yourself into a heterosexual marriage. Recently, John Paulk, a one-time Focus on the Family star, and who was once featured on the cover of Newsweek as “ex-gay,” said he was gay and expressed regret for the harm his work had done.

 

Paulk was photographed in a gay bar.  Another “ex-gay” activist, Matt Moore, was caught on the pick-up site, Grindr. Paulk seems to just want to get on with his life but Moore is still saying that he was using Grindr to see who was in the neighborhood. After being caught, Moore sold his computer, locked his phone, ended his blog and said more “seasoned believers” should be in the public eye rather than himself.

 

Worse scandals reveal the tragic result of these lies. A few years ago, “Dr. Shock,” Aubrey Levin, was arrested in Canada after a career of torturing gay men with electric shock aversion “therapies” in South Africa and then moving to Canada where he continued to torture and exploit vulnerable men. Finally, he was stopped after one of his court-mandated patients secretly recorded a session where Levin sexually abused him. In another public debacle, a Florida newspaper photographed George Alan Rekers a board member of NARTH (North American Reparative Therapy), returning from a vacation with a “rent boy” in tow. He tried to say he was there to carry his luggage.

 

When secrets, lies and obsessions combine with dogma and vulnerable people, it is a disaster.

Tragically, much of the efforts to convert lesbian and gay people are deeply rooted in misguided religious beliefs. Originally, groups like Exodus and NARTH tried to position themselves as traditional counseling and psychotherapy, but key players like Joseph Nicolosi and Richard A. Cohen were discredited and barred from the highly respected American Counseling Association for ethics violations.

 

In 2007, the American Psychological Association assigned a Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. The Taskforce reviewed more than 80 studies, which were overwhelmingly flawed, and none could prove that sexual orientation could be changed.

 

In 2012, the researcher highly cited by conservatives, Dr. Robert Spitzer, apologized for his own research in which he interviewed people in the so-called “ex-gay” movement and asked them if they had changed their sexual orientation.  Of course, a few claimed to have changed, but there was no proof.

 

With the veil of psychology in shreds, the only remaining smoke screen is religion. Yet, even the biblical texts used to disparage LGBT people are fading as families headed by same-gender couples are front and center in support of the moral and civic institution of marriage. Across the United States, faith leaders are standing shoulder to shoulder in support of equality. Racial divides have been diminished as President Obama and the NAACP continue to speak out for equality.

 

In a better world, this would also be a requiem for misguided conversion therapies. However, in a world that allows Raymond Buys to be tortured to death because he was a soft and delicate boy, the travesties continue. Our young people are in the crosshairs of narrow-minded Evangelical Christians who will treat them as collateral damage if they cannot conform to compulsory heterosexuality and gender roles.

Even though nine countries in Europe, several in Latin America, and South Africa have marriage equality, more than 70 countries throughout the world have laws making same-gender love illegal, and in seven countries, being gay is punishable by execution.

 

What is critical to understand is that conservatives who claim they are acting out of Christian love are exporting these same defamed and debunked conversion “treatments” all around the world as an alternative to prison and execution. These same people are perfectly willing to label gay people as evil and sinful and then are surprised when punitive laws are enforced and people in the street begin to take the law into their own hands and attack and kill people they believe are gay. So-called “ex-gay” programs originating in the United States are the backdrop for much of the expanding international homophobia .

 

Evangelicals from almost 200 countries gathered in South Africa for the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. Leaders of this 2010 conference, the largest evangelical gathering in recent history, included leaders from the Exodus Global Alliance. Exodus presenters claimed there are no more than a few thousand gay people in each African country and these are all products of the West. They intone that being gay is not a greater sin but say no other sin has a movement for acceptance. Another speaker parroted the completely discredited myths about rejection, sexual abuse and distant fathers as “causes” for being gay. She closed with the rejected slogan, “Change Is Possible.”

 

Whether it is in the United States, South Africa, China, Africa, Latin America, or Eastern Europe, homophobia is still at work, and Evangelicals are still trying to position “ex-gay” ministries as the compassionate choice. It is not! Whether it is the death penalty, prison, shock treatment, laws that silence all discussion of LGBT concerns, or conversion therapy, all of it kills. Whether it kills the spirit, promotes suicide or results in the death penalty, carnage lies in its wake.

Raymond Buys, rest in peace. I will not forget you. I will not forget your broken body. I will stand with all those who mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who defend our young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming. Your journey ended, but your story continues.

 

Observe International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17th

MCC Resources

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IDAHO_Logo[1]Hate has no place in the house of God. No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity — or because of their sexual orientation.” -Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Washington Post, March 12, 2010

 

Since 2005, millions of concerned people world-wide have joined together each year for a day of action against anti-gay prejudice and discrimination, highlighting personal stories and direct action to bring equal rights to LGBTI persons in every corner of the world.  Now understood to be the “international LGBT solidarity day,” International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) has inspired more than 100 countries to engage their citizens and institutions in intentional conversations around the rights and quality of life issues for sexual minorities within their borders.  As a result, a global movement for civil and human rights for LGBTI people is fomenting unprecedented momentum for change.  But more needs to be done.

 

On May 17th, join others from all over the world in raising your voice in your church, school, and/or community against homophobia and transphobia.  This is our opportunity to bring a message of equal rights and non-discrimination to regions and countries where civil and human rights have been stifled and to build alliances with those who are willing and able to mobilize for action in a comprehensive campaign for equal rights.  Further, all of our actions against homophobia and transphobia forecast to political leaders and social and religious institutions that the demand for civil and human rights for LGBTI people will not be silenced.

 

The Global Justice Institute and MCC’s Public Policy Team join in solidarity with LGBTI persons and allies in observance of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and urge all members of MCC to raise their voices against anti-gay prejudice and discrimination.

 

There are many ways that you can participate:

  • Change your Facebook profile picture to the logo for IDAHO on May 17th
  • Tweet about the event and your local action using the hash tag #may17IDAHO
  • Publicize IDAHO in your church bulletin
  • Organize an event in your church, school, or community.

The resources below can help you make the most of your observance of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia:

Join Religious Leaders in the Call to Close Guantanamo

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Today at 10 AM EDT, C-SPAN will broadcast an important briefing on the situation at Guantanamo and how the President can move forward with closing the prison there.  We encourage you to watch it.  The briefing is hosted by Rep. Jim Moran and is sponsored by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, The Constitution Project, and the New America Foundation.

The situation at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center continues to deteriorate.  Eleven years after it first opened, and more than 4 years after President Obama mandated its closure, there are still 166 men being held at Guantanamo – 86 of whom have already been cleared for transfer or release.  At the moment 100 of the detainees, responding to a growing sense of hopelessness and despair over their continued detention, in most cases without charge or trial, are engaged in a prolonged hunger strike.

Last week, 38 religious leaders sent a letter to President Obama and to Congress calling for the closing of the detention center.  Please add your name to theirs by also signing the letter.  The letter states, “As people of faith, we oppose torture and indefinite detention without trial because they are contrary to the inherent dignity of the human person. As the nation’s most visible and painful symbol of torture and indefinite detention, Guantanamo Bay is a constant reminder of a deep moral wound that will heal only when it is permanently closed.”

Help us build support for closing Guantanamo within your community.  Here are two ways you can get involved:

Join in the 100th Day Weekend of Action
May 17th will mark the 100th day of the hunger strike. We invite you and your congregation to mark this day with a “100th Day Weekend of Action.”  Please find a time during the weekend of May 17-19 to include mention of Guantanamo in your worship service or prayers.  We also invite you to hold a prayer vigil, fast in solidarity, or organize educational and advocacy activities in your congregation.  To assist you we have prepared a Guantanamo Fact SheetSermon Talking Points and a Bulletin Insert with an Interfaith Prayer.  Go to www.nrcat/closegitmo for more information.

Add your name to the religious leaders letter
You can add your voice to the growing chorus demanding that Guantanamo be closed by signing the religious leaders’ letter.  Also, please download a petition version of the letter and circulate it in your congregation, campus or community.

If we can help you or you wish to let us know of your plans, please contact Paz Artaza-Regan .

Thank you for lifting up the importance of closing Guantanamo.

Sincerely,

Linda Gustitus, President
Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director

A timeline of gay and lesbian history in Rhode Island, and nationally

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The R.I. House of Representatives Thursday approved matching same-sex marriage bills after their unanimous approval by the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday night. Governor Chafee signed them into law shortly afterward.

Take a look back at a timeline of events in gay and lesbian history, here and Rhode Island and across the country:
http://news.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/2013/05/a-timeline-of-gay-and-lesbian-history-in-rhode-island-and-nationally.html