Sense of duty, justice leads faith leaders to Capitol Hill

To judge the tenor of faith leaders based on who appears on cable TV, viewers might believe there’s a monochrome view on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. But the numbers of faith leaders supporting equality are growing, and this week more than 300 clergy leaders are in Washington to urge passage of overdue hate-crimes legislation.

This new religious leadership speaks less about activism and much more about pastoral care. The Rev. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas, decided to participate in the Human Rights Campaign’s Clergy Call for Justice and Equality after years of listening to victims of hate-crime attacks across the country. Rev. Sprinkle brought his Christian pastor’s heart to each interview and wept with hate-crime survivors as they told him their stories. What he heard was not only the horror of one criminal act, but accounts of whole communities silenced by fear caused by brutality inflicted on people simply because they were different.

The Rev. Manish Mishra, a Unitarian Universalist minister who weaves Hindu traditions into his ministry practice, saw firsthand how the firing of a prominent civic leader who transitioned from male to female caused anger, disillusionment and concern in his Florida community. He became a leader on transgender issues — and has come to Washington to lobby Congress — not because he has a political ax to grind, but because he feels he must respond to the pastoral issues raised by blatant, legal discrimination.

Unquestionably, progressive faith leaders are finding their voices in powerful ways around justice issues including questions of war and peace, economic fairness, immigration reform, the environment and healthcare. Religious progressives are making their voices heard on behalf of simple justice for their fellow congregants, including LGBT people of faith. Gone are the days when media could interview anti-LGBT religious leaders and pro-LGBT secular leaders and claim to have shown both sides of a complicated, deeply moral issue.

Much is made these days about the rise of the religious left. Their voices resonate because they speak from lived experience in real faith communities with real problems that government can help solve. These rabbis, pastors, teachers and ministers have come to Washington not to ask Congress to legislate away hate, but to offer minimal protections to LGBT people and, in so doing, signal that America values all its citizens who bear God’s divine image.

More and more faith leaders understand that this bill offers basic protections without any impact on freedom of speech. These faith leaders know that their pews are peppered with LGBT parishioners who face barriers and oppression simply for who they are. And those who view their pastoral responsibilities as ones that encompass every member of their flock are among the strongest supporters of equality.


Blaming GOP for Specter exit

From Elizabeth Curtiss Smith

(Regarding article “Defection reshapes Senate,” April 29, and related coverage.) As a member of the Republican Majority for Choice, a moderate Republican and former Pennsylvanian, I was deeply saddened by Sen. Arlen Specter’s leaving the Republican Party. However, I am mystified by the “Don’t blame us” mantra that the party leaders seem to be taking. I do blame them: I blame them for continuing to exclude everyone who doesn’t strictly adhere to the party’s extremist dogma. I blame them for continuing exclusionary tactics that concentrate on social wedge issues. I blame them for not waking up and hearing the death knells that have come from pundits, analysts and fellow Republicans.

It’s time for our party to smell the proverbial coffee: Losing Sen. Specter was a blow for multiple reasons. Specter was a Republican who could win moderate, independent and Reagan Democrat votes. Specter was someone who could keep Pennsylvania’s Senate seat red. Now, we’ve lost a strong legislator who can win these people, and extremists who can’t win, like former Rep. Pat Toomey, are left to fill the void. If the GOP continues to keep the extremist blinders on, our losses and irrelevancy will continue to mount.

Alexandria, Va.

Obama Cars Inc.

From Wes Pedersen

Congress should summon the new head of Chrysler to answer questions regarding his qualifications for running such a huge commercial enterprise. We hired Barack ObamaBarack ObamaObama in Nevada: 'Heck no' to Trump, Joe Heck Lots of (just) talk about 'draining the swamp' America’s Eastern European mess MORE as CEO of the country, not CEO of Chrysler or GM.

Chevy Chase, Md.