At the Intersection of Religious Liberty and LGBTQ Equality

September 04, 2015

At first glance, some might think that religious liberty and LGBTQ equality are mutually exclusive, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, as advocates for social justice, we believe these two ideals are intertwined. As people of strong but different personal faiths, we share the belief that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and acceptance. This is what our Christian and Muslim faiths teach us, and it’s a central truth of all faiths. That same truth dwells in the hearts of everyone who seeks equality for all, regardless of their spiritual beliefs.

So we’re deeply troubled by the ways “religious liberty” is being used as an excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ people in the public sphere. We fully support religious freedom—a right guaranteed by the Constitution—but the freedom to worship without interference does not give any of us the right to discriminate.

Especially in Michigan, this is a growing concern. A number of so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) bills are being introduced and passed here, including a law that allows taxpayer-funded faith-based adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others based on religious objections.

Sadly, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling making marriage equality the law nationwide will only accelerate attempts to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. This is especially true in Michigan, where we do not have a statewide law prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ people.

That’s why The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry and the ACLU of Michigan—in partnership with other faith and equality organizations—are hosting a rare gathering of clergy and lay leaders from all religious traditions at the “Liberating Religious Liberty” Symposium on September 10 in Detroit.

The goal of the day-long workshop is to address concerns about the ways the concept of religious liberty is being used to justify discrimination against the LGBTQ community and how to counteract those arguments. We’ll learn from experts and exchange ideas about ways to engage people of faith in speaking out in support of LGBTQ rights.

Some of the people of faith who will be participating have always been open-hearted to the LGBTQ community, while others have been on a journey to reach a place of understanding and acceptance. We all start from where we are, but by coming together we can find the common ground that exists across all faiths and social justice organizations—the core truths that encourage us to accept and respect everyone as equals.

The workshop is open only to members of the clergy and lay leaders in all faith traditions, but the public is welcome to attend an evening reception from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The reception will feature a keynote address by Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families. The keynote will be followed by a Q&A, and the reception will conclude with an open discussion about next steps for community organizing.

Like the workshop, the free reception will be held at the Wayne State University McGregor Memorial Conference Center in Detroit, and we hope you will join us.

We firmly believe that people of faith have a unique opportunity to stand up for the true meaning of religious liberty—the right to live out our faith without interference—while at the same time standing up for the rights of the LGBTQ community. We’re proud to work together to help educate people of faith and our entire community on an issue that will bring us one step closer to our ultimate goal of full equality for all, everywhere in this country.

For more information or to RSVP for the free reception visit religiouslibertyforall.org

By Rev. Roland Stringfellow, Senior Pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit, and Rana Elmir, Deputy Director of the ACLU of Michigan.

Related Issues: