With human rights issues taking center stage around the world, we cannot turn a blind eye to what is taking place within our own backyards.
Across the United States, state lawmakers have either introduced or are preparing to introduce hundreds of pieces of legislation that in some way is targeted toward the restricting of human rights of our LGBTQIA+ siblings. From Florida to Utah to Idaho to South Dakota and beyond, lawmakers are drafting bills attacking education, health care, economics and the fundamental rights of its citizens who either happen to be LGBTQIA+ or who support this community in some way.
In times like these, we are reminded that history tends to repeat itself. We see it in the harmful targeting of people based on race and skin color. It is no secret that bigotry toward those deemed as “the other” is a common thread in our American society. However, as people of faith, we are called to be different and forge a distinctive path.
The 223rd General Assembly (2018) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) stated an affirmation and celebration of the full dignity and humanity of people of all gender identities. At the same Assembly, we said that we would celebrate the gifts of people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities in the life of the church.
We as Presbyterians, by the grace of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit, have come to fully understand that God loves all people, created all people and fully embraces all of us no matter what our orientation or gender expression is. Thus, any rejection of someone solely based on these characteristics is a rejection of God’s Creation.
We have to understand what is really behind the recent actions taking place in our legal systems. It is a calculated attempt at silencing the voices of the people and raising the voice of hate. It is by no coincidence that Bill 613, which was introduced into the Georgia state Senate recently, addresses both critical race theory and LGBTQIA+ issues within schools.
This bill would limit diversity in the educational process and create a monolithic environment for children. This is the direct opposite of what our General Assembly affirms. This bill, like its contemporaries in other states, is a reminder that bigotry has a common evil root. We as believers cannot ignore this sin. To not call out homophobia and transphobia in our country is to ignore the hatred and inhumane treatment experienced by our siblings within the LGBTQIA+ community. We have a moral and faithful obligation to stand with and for all of God’s children.
We do not support racism and a white supremacy culture that violates the civil rights and dignity of our Black and brown siblings. Nor will we tolerate the same injustice in other hate-filled disguises in various bills and laws across the country targeting trans and queer people as well.
Currently, there are over 160 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills pending in state legislatures and more to come. This type of injustice cannot be ignored.
We are called to action! As a denomination, as Christians, as people with a moral compass, we call on Presbyterians everywhere to demand that their state and local officials speak out against legislation that oppresses or silences the freedoms and liberties of all people. As a church, we are no longer afforded the privilege to be on the sidelines of life while those most vulnerable in our communities are pushed even more to the margins. We have to step up to places of controversy in order to stand for justice and truth. People of God, join me as we declare Presbyterians affirm the value of all God’s people.
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)