In the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, Americans from many religious traditions responded with strong condemnations of the violence that claimed 49 innocent lives. They donated money, donated blood, and prayed at vigils across the country.
But some people of faith pointed out that professing support for the LGBT community while preaching a theology that condemns a core part of their identity looks a whole lot like bigotry.
Indeed, some of the religious leaders who called for love and prayers for the victims of Orlando didn't acknowledge the fact that the victims were targeted specifically because they were queer -- Pope Francis among them. Others who offered support were representatives of denominations that have actively campaigned against LGBT rights.
Conservative commentator Matt Walsh, a self-proclaimed "professional truth sayer," argued that it's not bigotry to cling to religious beliefs that directly conflict with the human rights of queer people. He claimed such beliefs are merely "politically incorrect and inconvenient" and lashed out at people who blamed conservative Christians for what happened in Orlando.
But this is not about pointing blame -- whether it's at conservative Christians or at Muslims. Suffice it to say that all religious traditions are still struggling with homophobia.
It's about pointing out how some religious beliefs (however sincerely held they may be) contribute to a climate where it's still legal to fire people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, where 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT (and where the majority of these young people are homeless because they were rejected by their families), where an alarmingly high number of trans people have attempted suicide.
HuffPost Religion rounded up blogs and comments from faith leaders across the country who have been speaking and proclaiming that it's not just "inconvenient" to suggest that LGBT people don't deserve the same rights. It's downright dangerous.
Listen in as these people of faith boldly tell us why the LGBT community deserves unconditional support.
Wahajat Ali, Writer, Attorney, Consultant
"This is a moment for us straight Muslims to aggressively and sincerely assert our solidarity with the LGBT community, not for sake of politics, talking points and expedient alliances, but around shared values and visions of creating an America where no one is hazed, victimized, brutalized or murdered simply for 'being.'
“This is a moment for us straight Muslims to aggressively and sincerely assert our solidarity with the LGBT community.”
Their struggle for freedoms and equality is our struggle and is the American struggle. Period. We should denounce the draconian and unnecessary anti LGBT legislation that is being introduced in several states around the country just like LGBT members have routinely denounced Trump's anti Muslim bigotry and anti Sharia legislation for years. This is what it means to be American." -- from a Facebook post
Peter Harrison, Organizer for Mormons For Equality
"Now more than ever it's important for faith communities like Mormonism to give LGBTQ people their unconditional love and support. While I'm grateful the LDS church released a statement about the Orlando tragedy I wish they had unequivocally stated the truth; that the attack was a terror attack that targeted the LGBTQ community. I'm disheartened my church wouldn't take a more inclusive stand in light of tragedy, letting the world and its members know the LDS church is there to comfort and mourn the loss of the victims.
It has been painful for me to see only a handful of my several hundred Mormon Facebook friends who posted or even discussed the tragedy. I remember right after the Paris attack and almost every one of my Mormon friends had changed their profile pic to a french flag but now when the target was the LGBTQ community they are silent and that hurts. The pain continues from experiencing many of the LDS Church's recent actions against the LGBTQ community including the Nov. 5th exclusion policy and the recent announcement that they will fight marriage equality in Mexico. So while I'm glad they released a statement many of their actions do not suggest they are softening their tone or even really trying to support the LGBTQ community." -- From a statement to The Huffington Post
Rabbi Dr. Jay Michaelson, Author of God vs. Gay? The Religious Case For Equality
"Most religious Americans support LGBT people, same-sex marriage, and the value of sexual and gender diversity. That's how our country has moved forward on so many issues of LGBT equality. Religious conservatives -- Evangelicals, Southern Baptists, and conservative Catholics -- are in 'backlash' mode, trying to carve out religious exemptions to civil rights laws and continuing to spew ignorant misinformation about our lives (such as the myth of transgender bathroom predators). The consequences range from North Carolina's odious law to increases in violence against LGBT people.
It's not realistic for religious conservatives to suddenly turn into religious liberals and offer love and support to LGBTs. What we need instead is an ethos of 'do no harm.' Conservatives should stop spreading lies about our lives. Stop citing Scripture selectively -- condemning homosexuality, for example, but not divorce (or, in the case of the Old Testament, shrimp cocktails). Stop the neurotic paranoia that Christians are being persecuted in America.
“When it comes to speech, action, and politics, the real-world consequences cannot be ignored.”
And most importantly, stop attacking us. There have been over 100 anti-LGBT bills introduced across the country this year. Most of them have the support of religious conservatives. The heated rhetoric and legalized discrimination they bring about is toxic, and is causing violence.
This isn't loving thy neighbor -- this is causing thy neighbor to be a target of discrimination, self-loathing, and threats. Whatever someone may think about sin or sinners is up to them. But when it comes to speech, action, and politics, the real-world consequences cannot be ignored." -- From a statement to The Huffington Post
Matthew Vines, Author of God and the Gay Christian
"While most Christians would never kill someone because of their sexual orientation, most churches have still caused deep, lasting pain in LGBT people’s lives. It is legitimate to be angry not just at the shooter, but also at all those who have caused you to feel afraid and ashamed of who you are. Unless you’ve long been a vocal advocate for LGBT people, you’ve likely contributed to that suffering—intentionally or not …
“Unless you’ve long been a vocal advocate for LGBT people, you’ve likely contributed to that suffering—intentionally or not.”
What we need to hear is this: God loves lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people unconditionally. You love us and are committed to making the church the sanctuary it always should have been for us. Sadly, I have never heard a pastor who opposes same-sex marriage give a sermon declaring God’s love for LGBT people without including caveats about his or her opposition to same-sex relationships.” -- From a blog for Time
Rev. Al Sharpton, President, National Action Network
"The LGBTQ community has long suffered from attacks, discrimination and injustice in society. Despite progress on marriage equality, the community still faces prejudice and unfairness in housing, employment and elsewhere all throughout the country. In addition, the prevalence of open homophobic statements in our discourse should disturb everyone.
I myself have been in churches, or given lectures, or listened to guests/callers on my national radio show and been disappointed by people who otherwise consider themselves ministers, activists or social justice seekers express such homophobic views. I’ve also been shocked at the vitriolic language used by some clergy members in public and in private. Bigotry against the LGBTQ community lead to the spirit of this man’s horrendous hate crime in Orlando this past weekend. That is why homophobia in any form cannot be tolerated whether it’s overt biased laws that some try to implement, or subtle comments that others feel comfortable making. None of it is okay, ever." -- From a blog for The Huffington Post
Paul Raushenbush, Senior Vice President of Public Engagement, Auburn Seminary
"For too long I have tolerated 'Setting a big tent' and 'Allowing many points of view' and 'Dialogue' when talking about LGBT people as if our lives are up for debate and as if the jury is still out on our humanity, our dignity, or our being made beautifully in God’s image.
Fuck 'love the sinner, hate the sin.' All I hear in these conversations now is death.
Recently, a woman associate pastor who is the lifeline for closeted LGBT people in her congregation told me that the senior pastor insists that their church be 'Welcoming and NOT Affirming.'
Prettified permission to kill others, petrified permission to kill self.
I’m done. Silence = Death." -- From a blog for The Huffington Post
Anantanand Rambachan, Professor of Religion, St. Olaf College
"Ervin Staub, in his seminal study, The Roots of Evil, points out that devaluation and the relegation of people to outgroups, “serve as a basis for scapegoating and a precondition for harming.” Devaluation leads to the perception of people as objects and not as fellow beings who feel and suffer as we do. It provides the conditions for guilt-free violence and mistreatment.
The horrible violence against LGBT people in Orlando is a tragic confirmation of Staub’s analysis and a non-ignorable call to religious communities to own responsibility for the fact that their theological condemnation of LGBT people is one of the factors legitimizing and instigating such violence.
Although Hindus are not free from homophobia, the Hindu tradition offers teachings that enable Hindus and Hindu leaders to offer unconditional love and support for LGBT people. The Hindu tradition is one of the earliest to recognize that human sexual orientation is diverse and not just heterosexual. LGBT people were not regarded or treated as deviant, immoral, or as transgressors of divine law. There is no condemnation of them in Hindu sacred texts for their sexual identities and no evidence of efforts to change their orientation. LGBT people are not regarded as “sinners.” They equally embody the One Being (ekam sat) and can attain Hinduism’s highest goal of liberation (moksha).
These Hindu teachings require that Hindus stand unequivocally with LGBT against every form of violence and identify with them in this time of suffering. We must support their struggle for equality, equal rights and dignity. The hate, denigration and fear of LGBT people have no justification in the Hindu tradition and contravene its most fundamental teachings and values. Hindus have a religious responsibility to stand with and to speak on behalf of LGBT people." -- From a statement to The Huffington Post
Justin Lee, Gay Christian Network
"Making this about the shooter’s religion—as if to absolve Christians of responsibility—doesn’t make the LGBT community feel in any way supported or comforted right now. There’s already a terrible track record of relationship between LGBTs and Christians, so let’s start there. Just a statement of sympathy and solidarity, without any condemnation or finger pointing, is a good first step.
In the end, I’m only one guy. I can’t tell you what to do. But to those Christians out there who have chosen to stay silent, I want to be clear: Your silence says a lot to the LGBT community about what you really think of them. If you cannot show love and support when people are being gunned down, anything you say in the future about 'sharing the truth in love' will ring so hollow that you might as well be Paul’s clanging gongs and clashing cymbals." -- From a blog on "Crumbs From The Communion Table"
John McCane, Co-Founder, Sri Ranga Gopala Puri
"The LGBT community has been alienated for so long by many faith communities that today the vast majority of those of that community have lost faith in these long established organizations and what they represent. With that is a loss to the faith communities of a diversity and greater understanding of the divine’s creation. The LGBT community in turn loses certain coping structures that exist within people who follow different faith backgrounds.
“This is not a game of you versus I but a story where we must realize our connectedness with the whole of creation.”
From the Hindu perspective, our scriptures are generally very open and understanding of the LGBT community; but why then is there such a vast difference at points between the open-mindedness of the scriptures and the lack of acceptance that one finds in our culture? We must embrace each other and reconcile if we are going to come through these recent trials that have been placed before us. We have to bridge the chasm that we, on both sides, have dug between us. Community is why religion as a structured form came into existence and if we aren’t offering that then why exist at all? We must understand that in the end we are all human. This is not a game of you versus I but a story where we must realize our connectedness with the whole of creation." -- From a statement to The Huffington Post
Ani Zonneveld, Founder, Muslims for Progressive Values
"You cannot claim to support the American values of equality under the law if your version of Islam instead works to undermine the basis of one’s individual rights and to nurture hate for another ...
42% of American Muslims agree and strongly agree with the Supreme Court’s decision on Marriage Equality, but yet not a single American Muslim religious leader of [a] conservative stripe [has] stepped forward to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the LGBTQI American Muslims.
MPV will not allow your extremist homophobic teaching to define Islam and we will not allow the 49 lives to die in vain.
Our challenge to Zaytuna Institute, religious schools and imams of every mosques in America — for once and for all: End the teaching of demonizing homosexuality in the name of Islam in your curriculums and your sermons. Teach compassion, mercy, justice and peace. At its core, that is the message of the Qur’an and all its Prophets.
We are watching you." -- From a blog for The Huffington Post
Jen Hatmaker, Author of For The Love
"It is very difficult to accept the Christian lament for LGBTQ folks in their deaths when we've done such a brutal job of honoring them in their lives. It kind of feels like: 'We don't like you, we don't support you, we think you are a mess, we don't agree with you, we don't welcome you, we don't approve of you, we don't listen to you, we don't affirm you. But please accept our comfort and kind words this week.'
“We cannot with any integrity honor in death those we failed to honor in life.”
Anti-LGBTQ sentiment has paved a long runway to hate crimes. When the gay community is denied civil liberties and respect and dignity, when we make gay jokes, when we say 'that's so gay', when we turn our noses up or down, when we qualify every solitary statement of love with a caveat of disapproval, when we consistently disavow everything about the LGBTQ community, we create a culture ripe for hate. We are complicit.
We cannot with any integrity honor in death those we failed to honor in life." -- From a Facebook post
Eliel Cruz, Executive Director, Faith in America
"Christians may not be throwing us off buildings. They may not be shooting us. But their theology is leading us to want to kill ourselves. Their theology encourages us to pray to a god to take our queerness away. It leads to deaths in many other ways.
So not only is religion at the root of the legislative attacks in wanting to deny us protections, deny us equal rights, deny us our humanity in using restrooms, it is also, when preached in our churches and from our pulpits, deadly." -- From an
Ruth Messinger and Robert Bank, American Jewish World Service
"Historically, faith communities have used religious arguments to justify discrimination against LGBT people. In the wake of the Orlando shooting, it is more important than ever for religious leaders to reverse this narrative-from the pulpit, in the media, and in pastoral counseling-by affirming the human dignity of LGBT people everywhere. One of the core tenets of Jewish tradition is B'tzelem Elohim -- the idea that each and every person is made in the Divine image and is of infinite value.
“When religious communities remain silent in the face of unimaginable violence and hatred, that silence becomes an act of complacency.”
Faith communities must publicly declare that B'tzelem Elohim applies to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. LGBT people have positively influenced nearly every aspect of public life, including our religious institutions. When the lives of LGBT people are cut short, our entire society suffers. And when religious communities remain silent in the face of unimaginable violence and hatred, that silence becomes an act of complacency. Recent history has shown that when faith leaders speak of LGBT people as a sacred part of our global community, hearts and minds begin to change; and the value of human dignity takes root." -- From a statement to The Huffington Post
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, United Methodist Church
"When we say that those who are of a homosexual gender identity are living lives that are incompatible with Christian teaching, that they are not to be included in our ordained leadership, and that they are not important enough for us to invest resources of the Church in advocating for their well-being, in essence when we say that our LGBTQI brothers and sisters are not worthy of the fullness of life that Christ offers us all, are we not contributing to the kind of thinking that promotes doing harm to these our brothers and sisters, our children, the sacred children of God? I want you to think and pray with me about this. We cannot just stand-by and allow what happened in Orlando, Florida to go without our deep and prayerful reflection and our repentance and conversion wherever that is necessary in the life of our Church. " -- From a statement on behalf of the California-Pacific Conference of the United Methodist Church