HRC Condemns Call For Discrimination By Southern Baptist Convention Leadership

On June 18th, The Human Rights Campaign strongly condemned the
leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention, who announced an
initiative yesterday to "liberate" gay and lesbian Americans from their
sexual orientation through religious conversion.

"This is yet another attempt by the leadership of the Southern Baptist
Convention to distort and manipulate their congregation's faith to
attack gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people," said HRC
Communications Director and Senior Strategist David M. Smith. "This
kind of anti-gay prejudice flies in the face of scientific evidence,
common sense and basic decency, and it fuels discrimination that can
lead to violence against GLBT Americans. This is also particularly
hurtful to GLBT people from many faith traditions who, like most
Americans, value their spirituality."

The American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological
Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical
Association and others have all debunked ministries and initiatives by
groups aimed at "converting" or "altering" people's sexual orientation
through "ministries," which are tantamount to aversion therapy.

In a written statement, the American Psychological Association reported:
"For nearly three decades, it has been known that homosexuality is not a
mental illness. Medical and mental health professionals also now know
that sexual orientation is not a choice and cannot be altered. Groups
who try to change the sexual orientation of people through so-called
conversion therapy' are misguided and run the risk of causing a great
deal of psychological harm to those they say they are trying to help."

In the past, the Southern Baptist Convention has boycotted the Walt
Disney Company for hosting "Gay Days" at Walt Disney World. The boycott
had no effect, as Disney stock continued to gain in value. The group
has also issued resolutions urging wives to submit to their husbands and
ordering their members to try and convert Jewish people to Christianity.

"The leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention is not only out of
step with most Americans on GLBT equality, they're even out of step on
things like religious equality and women's suffrage," said Smith.
"Obviously, discrimination and prejudice within some religious
institutions is still a significant problem. But we also see more and
more leaders from churches across the globe opening their doors and
their hearts to gay and lesbian members of their congregation."

Last year, 1,567 congregations nationwide listed themselves as
gay-welcoming, compared with only 291 congregations listed a decade
earlier, according to "Open Hands," and ecumenical quarterly publication
from a Chicago-based group that supports diversity and tolerance for
GLBT people in religions institutions.

"Attacks like this from the leadership of the Southern Baptist
Convention are hurtful to GLBT people and their families, friends, and
loved ones who belong to many traditions of faith," said Smith. "It is
a sad irony that this country was founded by people who sought to escape
religious persecution – and now religion is all too often used as a
rationale for discriminating against GLBT Americans."

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