Evangelical Leaders Aligned with Trump-Pence Launch Vicious Attack on LGBTQ People

More than 150 conservative Evangelical Christian leaders, including prominent members of the Trump-Pence administration’s Evangelical Advisory Board, released a vicious, anti-LGBTQ manifesto Tuesday attacking LGBTQ people as immoral and sinful, asserting their opposition to marriage equality and denying the dignity of transgender people.

The ugly three-page document they called “The Nashville Statement,” was released as hundreds of thousands of people in Texas and beyond continued to grapple with the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, and while the attention of most of the nation’s religious leaders was focused on helping victims of the historic disaster.

That the so-called “Christian manifesto” was issued during a national crisis and in the wake of the Trump-Pence administration’s recent action seeking to ban transgender people from serving in the military enforces its message of intolerance.

Concocted in Nashville last week during the national conference of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the statement elicited widespread condemnation from scores of national religious and political leaders. In fact, the statement runs contrary to beliefs of a majorities of Evangelical millennials and people of faith who support affirming LGBTQ people. The release also sparked swift outrage on social media.

“While the theology espoused in the Nashville Statement is not new, the recommitment to anti-LGBT theology continues these Evangelical leaders’ violence against LGBT people,” said Eliel Cruz, HRC Foundation’s Religion Council member and creator of FaithfullyLGBT. “Christians and non-Christians alike must unequivocally condemn this statement. We cannot stand for this demonization of LGBT people to go unchallenged.”

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry was among those expressing disgust over the statement, tweeting that the “so-called ‘Nashville statement’ is poorly named and does not represent the inclusive values of the city & people of Nashville.”

Among the document’s signatories are members of President Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board, including Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council, a designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center; James Dobson, Founder of Focus on the Family; Ronnie Floyd, Senior Pastor of Cross Church; Richard Land, President of Southern Evangelical Seminary; James MacDonald, Founder and Senior Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel; and James Robison, Founder & President of LIFE Outreach International.

“A predominantly white male coalition of Southern Baptists and Evangelicals have defined human sexuality in the binary that secures their power, with a selective tortured reading of the Bible texts on human sexuality from a time when a woman was her husband’s property,” said Bishop Yvette Flunder, HRC Foundation’s Religion Council member and Presiding Bishop of The Fellowship.

“This is the same group that advocated for the ban on transgender people from the military.”

The New York Times has previously reported that Perkins, a signatory and president of the Family Research Council, had for months lobbied Donald Trump and Mike Pence to ban transgender people from the military.

“‘The Southern Baptist Convention is the same denomination that once used the Bible to condemn inter-racial relationships and to defend the “Godliness” of chattel slavery, and had to repent. They will need to repent again,” Bishop Flunder said.

In 1987, the same group denounced “secular” feminism and equality in marriages in a manifesto it called “The Danvers Statement.” 

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HRC Arizona Donates Emergency Aid to LGBTQ Center Burned Down in Phoenix

Post submitted by Brandie Reiner, Co-Chair and Board of Governors, Arizona Human Rights Campaign

HRC Arizona was saddened to hear of the devastating fire at one•n•ten, an LGBTQ youth center, on July 12. We are pleased to donate $10,000 in emergency aid to assist with building costs for their new youth facility. With recent rallies, protests and counter protests influenced by the Trump Administration’s attacks on full diversity in our community, HRC Arizona is committed to advancing our work with youth and empowering them to advocate for LGBTQ equality statewide. 

The funds will assist one•n•ten in providing emergency operating costs to recreate a home for the youth and young adults ages 14-24 years old who utilized the center. One•n•ten is a Phoenix-based non-profit that works to enhance the lives of LGBTQ youth by providing empowering programs focused on promoting self-expression, self-acceptance, leadership development and healthy life choices. Additionally, they provide essential services and resources to homeless LGBTQ youth. 

“As a One•n•ten youth leader and HRC youth Ambassador, I’m always so thrilled when organizations can work together to make a change,” said Justin Jones (pictured above, front row, first on the right). “After the fire, [at one•n•ten] I was devastated. I felt that I lost my home and my place of comfort. But we are strong and resilient. We have a new center opening soon thanks to organizations like HRC, we can continue to help LGBTQ youth with the services they need to thrive.”

Many of the youth that utilize resources from one•n•ten have been kicked out of their homes because they’re LGBTQ. In far too many areas across the country, LGBTQ youth lack access to food, shelter, health services that are imperative to their sexual health and well-being. 

It is important, now more than ever, that we take a stand to combat these continued attacks on our most basic fundamental values. HRC launched HRC Rising, the largest grassroots expansion in its history that will include significant investments in Arizona ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Join the movement at hrc.org/resist and ensure your voice is heard.

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Trump, Pence Force Their Hate and Discrimination onto the Military with Transgender Ban

Today, HRC strongly condemned a White House directive that interferes in Department of Defense personnel policy by pushing forward President Trump’s and Vice President Pence’s transgender military ban. HRC called on Secretary of Defense James Mattis to protect transgender service members from the vicious political assault.

The new directive bans at least some medically necessary transition-related health care and extends the ban on transgender people enlisting or commissioning into the military. The long term issue of currently serving transgender troops’ continued service remains unresolved.

“Donald Trump and Mike Pence are forcing their hate, bigotry, and discrimination onto the military with this transgender ban,” said Stephen Peters, HRC National Press Secretary and Marine veteran. “Secretary Mattis has a solemn responsibility to protect transgender troops from this vile political attack. We have a responsibility to treat every service member with the honor, respect, and benefits they have earned. And no qualified and talented American should be turned away from the military just because of their gender identity. Donald Trump’s attack on currently serving troops and his refusal to treat every service member equally proves once again he is unfit to be commander in chief.”

More than a year ago, the Pentagon lifted the archaic ban on transgender people serving openly in the U.S. military, joining eighteen other countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Israel, which allow transgender people to serve openly in their militaries. The Pentagon made the change after a year-long intensive working group that studied the implications of transgender military service.  A study sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of RAND’s National Defense Research Institute found that there would be minimal health care costs and negligible readiness implications associated with allowing transgender people to serve in the military — contrary to the rhetoric and unfounded claims from anti-LGBTQ activists.

Estimates show there are thousands of actively serving transgender members of the U.S. military, making the Department of Defense (DoD) the largest employer of transgender people in America.  Thousands of transgender Americans have served with honor and distinction in our military, including the more than 134,000 transgender veterans who are alive today.  

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On Chechnya, Silence is Complicity

This post originally appeared in The Advocate and was submitted by Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global.

On July 31, nearly four months after the news first broke about the atrocities being committed against LGBTQ people in the Russian republic of Chechnya, the Russian LGBT Network published a gruesome report illustrating the horrific persecution of gay and bisexual men there. The network has been working closely with survivors of Chechnya’s antigay purge and has shared some of their stories of torture and beatings at the hands of the Chechen authorities.

From “A.B.”:

My friend … offered to come over. When he arrived … I saw him with other people and immediately realized that it was a set-up. The people who were with him were wearing camouflage uniforms. They said that they were taking me away. They started beating me up and saying humiliating things. They said that I’m not a man, just some creature, that I am nothing. That I should rather be a terrorist than a faggot. That a dirty piece of cloth was worth more than me.

Another, from “I.J.”:

They threw me to the floor and beat me. They beat my chest and my face with their feet, and they hit my head against the floor. One of them said: “Do not beat him until the shock stage, at that point he will stop feeling pain. We don’t need that.” They addressed me with female pronouns and demanded that I tell them the names of other gay people I knew. They threatened to kill me if I didn’t.

And another, from “E.F.”:

Every day, I was transported to the premises for torture. It was situated underground. I was beaten there every day. <…> It was impossible to sleep there; you could be captured anytime and thrown into another place. There were no windows, nothing. It was always as dark as night. <…> They put plastic bags on my head, and when I was running out of oxygen, they tore the bag away and hit my legs at the same time. <…> We had no water inside. The only water we could drink was when we were going out of the cells.

Since this past winter, the Chechen government has launched a sustained, widespread, and vicious attack on its LGBTQ citizens. Some leaders there promised to erase Chechen gay people before Ramadan while others denied it was happening, even denying the very existence of LGBTQ people there. Lesbians have also come under attack from their families and, unlike gay men, they have no legal avenue for fleeing Chechnya without a husband or written permission from their families.

The Trump-Pence White House has remained unconscionably silent about all this despite reports of this mounting human rights crisis. While a few administration officials have spoken up and the House of Representatives voted to condemn the Chechen atrocities, neither the president, the vice president. nor the secretary of State has issued even a single statement mentioning it, nor is there any reason to believe they have raised it in any bilateral meetings.

The one brief glimmer of hope had been the possibility of a serious Russian investigation into the purge. In late May, Russian authorities announced that Igor Sobol would lead an investigation. He was described as “meticulous,” “fearless,” and “reputable,” and there were even reports emerging that the Chechen government had “crossed a red line” in its relationship with Moscow. One report stated that Chechen officials were in “panic mode” over the investigation and that several had expressed “newfound tolerance” for the LGBTQ community there, with one police chief even suggesting he’d permit a gay pride parade in Grozny.

Sadly, that ember was quickly extinguished in early July, when Novaya Gazeta, which had been the first to break the story, reported that Sobol had been removed from the case. And in its new report, the Russian LGBT Network concluded that “the investigative actions were just a formality.” In fact, it alleged that Chechen authorities “receive assistance from Russian law enforcement agencies in various regions” to help them drag victims back to Chechnya for more abuse.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson admitted before Congress that he hadn’t raised the issue with his Russian counterparts and that it was still on a “pending list.” This, of course, is no surprise, since Tillerson has already said human rights are an “obstacle” to U.S. interests and has ordered his department to write a new mission statement, which removes any reference to democracy promotion abroad.

After four months, the White House’s silence on Chechnya is nothing less than complicity. The whole world is watching as it fails this early test of human rights and dignity. This administration will apparently turn a blind eye while autocrats and dictators torture and kill LGBTQ people, ethnic minorities, and other vulnerable groups, just as long as they don’t harm a narrowly defined set of U.S. interests. For shame.

It’s crucial that we continue to hold the Trump administration accountable for its failure to speak out. The eyes of the world are watching, and our president and his administration must begin to lead by speaking out against these human rights abuses.

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