Hundreds of Prominent Faith Leaders Oppose Anti-LGBTQ Measures Advancing in Texas Legislature

Hundreds of Clergy Assert "Bathroom Bills" like HB 2899 and Cluster of Religious Refusal Bills Are Counter to "Backbone of Religious Traditions," Hand Deliver Letters of Opposition to Key Legislative Leaders As Clergy Gather Outside of House Chamber for Prayer Gathering 

Washington, D.C. - May 3, 2017 – Prominent faith leaders from across the country joined forces today in urging Texas legislators to oppose a series of anti-LGBTQ measures advancing rapidly through the state legislature, specifically calling out controversial anti-trans bathroom bills, HB 2899 and SB 6, and several religious refusal bills that provide businesses and government entities a license to discriminate against LGBTQ Texans. Nearly two dozen anti-LGBTQ bills are under consideration in Texas. The call for opposition was made via a letter signed by more than 100 national religious leaders from across the country, and hand-delivered to legislative offices today with another letter signed by more than 200 Texas-based faith leaders. Texas clergy also gathered outside of the House chamber to pray and to take their message opposing discrimination directly to legislators. 

The national letter, which was signed by the heads of seven religious denominations, the president of eight seminaries, and the leaders of more than 40 religious organizations, among scores of other high-level leaders, asserts that the proposed measures "threaten the dignity and equal treatment of LGBTQ people and violate the very tenets of love and justice that are the backbone of our religious traditions." 

"Legislation that allows discrimination against LGBTQ people violates the basic tenets of any faith," said Rev. John Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, who is among the signatories of the national letter. "The ideas of justice and equality in the eyes of God are among the most fundamental elements of faith and are the values our democracy was founded on. We cannot stand silent while politicians seek to marginalize and dehumanize vulnerable members of our community – and especially justify doing so in the name of religion."

Faith leaders were compelled to join forces and speak out as anti-LGBTQ bills are gaining traction in the Texas legislature. The controversial, anti-trans "bathroom bill" known as HB 2899, would ban cities across Texas from passing non-discrimination ordinances to protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination and nullify existing non-discrimination ordinances that currently protect millions of Texans. The bill is similar in scope to legislation enacted in North Carolina that spurred public outrage and backlash, resulting in a boycott of North Carolina by corporations, sports leagues, and celebrities and, according to a recent analysis from the Associated Press, will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years. Unlike North Carolina, Texas has coupled its attack on transgender residents with a broader effort to undermine LGBTQ equality.  The Legislature is considering bills that permit or even require discrimination in almost every facet of life, often under the guise of protecting "religious liberty."

Rev. Fred Davie, Executive Vice President, Union Seminary NYC said: "Our faith traditions call us to seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly. God beseeches us to treat each other with dignity and respect. Our faith does not justify discrimination against LGBTQ people, or anyone else. The idea of religious freedom-which is a core principle of our democracy-has been distorted by those who seek license to treat LGBTQ people as less than human. Wherever human dignity is threatened, our faith requires that we speak out."

In addition to the letter from national religious leaders, which was organized by the Religious Institute, more than 200 faith leaders in Texas also signed a letter to legislators and gathered at the Capitol today to pray and demonstrate their strong opposition to the proposed measures. Texas Believes (, a coalition of interfaith clergy who support equality for LGBTQ people, organized the event, which included delivering both letters in person to legislative offices.

"The outpouring of opposition from faith leaders of all backgrounds should make the moral argument very clear to legislators set to cast votes to legalize discrimination," said Rev. Karen Thompson, senior pastor at Metropolitan Community Church-Austin. "The Golden Rule – treat others as you want to be treated – is a basic tenet of every major faith tradition. Lawmakers can't hide behind religion in passing these discriminatory measures."

Below is the full text of the national letter as well as the list of more than 100 clergy who signed the letter (which you can also access here). The Texas letter can be accessed here.

May 3, 2017

To: All public and elected officials,

As religious leaders and people of faith, we are committed to creating a society that embraces the diversity of God’s creation and affirms the inherent dignity, agency, and worth of people of all gender identities and sexual orientations. We believe all people must be free to express their gender and sexuality, unburdened by discrimination, unequal treatment, or systemic injustice. We come from many places, backgrounds, and religious traditions, but we hold these commitments and beliefs in common.

Our faiths compel us to oppose legislation that seeks to stigmatize and marginalize transgender people in particular, legitimize discrimination against all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, or abuse the notion of religious freedom to deny basic rights and protections to others. In many cases, these bills further false narratives and lead to greater hostility and violence toward transgender and gender non-conforming people. These bills also threaten the dignity and equal treatment of LGBTQ people in general and violate the very tenets of love and justice that are the backbone of our religious traditions.

We will continue to speak out against all attempts to use religion to demonize, discriminate against, or bring harm to LGBTQ people, and transgender people in particular, in the public sphere. We encourage all elected officials to join us in publicly supporting policies that promote the civil and human rights of LGBTQ people, including non-discrimination and access to public accommodations. Together, we must commit to creating communities that embody justice for people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.

Endorsers of the statement:

Imam Daayiee Abdullah
Executive Director, MECCA Institute 

Dr. Michael Adee 
Director, Global Faith & Justice Project

Rev. Dan Adolphson
Moderator, GLAD Alliance 

Rev. Marie Alford-Harkey
President and CEO. Religious Institute

Dr. Ellen T. Armour
Carpenter Professor of Theology, Vanderbilt Divinity School

Rev. Raymond J. Bagnuolo
Chaplain and Minster Director, That All May Freely Serve

Rev. Dr. Lee Barker
President, Meadville Lombard Theological School

Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara
Executive Director, Campaign for Southern Equality

Matt Berryman
Executive Director, Reconciling Ministries Network

Rev. Sofia Betancourt 
Interim Co-President, Unitarian Universalist Association

Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston
Director, Disciples Justice Action Network 

Rabbi Sharon Brous
Senior Rabbi, IKAR

The Rev. Elder Rachelle Brown 
Interim Moderator, Metropolitan Community Churches

Bishop Pat Bumgardner 
Executive Director, Global Justice Institute, Metropolitan Community Churches

Rev Jennifer Butler 
CEO, Faith in Public Life

Rev Dr. Noel Castellanos 
President, CCDA

Rev. Dr. Michael Castle
President, Alliance of Baptists

Ms. Catherine Chapman
Executive Director, Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists

Richard Cizik
President, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

Rev. Ann Craig 
The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries

Mr. Michael Crumpler
LGBTQ and Intercultural Programs Manager, Unitarian Universalist Association

Rev. Fred Davie 
Executive Vice President, Union Seminary NYC 

Rev. Dr. Miguel De La Torre
Professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies, Iliff School of Theology

Ronald Degges 
President, Disciples Home Missions

Deaconess Darlene DiDomineck 
Executive Director, Methodist Federation for Social Action

Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer
General Minister and President, United Church of Christ

Ms. Marianne Duddy-Burke 
Executive Director, DignityUSA

Rev. Eric Eldritch 
Interfaith Coordinator, Center Faith (DC)

Rev. Brian Ellison
Executive Director, Covenant Network of Presbyterians 

Rev. Dr. Marvin M. Ellison
Director of Alumni Relations, Union Theological Seminary 

Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder
Presiding Bishop, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries

Jane Fredricksen
Executive Director, FaithTrust Institute

The Rev Wil Gafney 
Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible, Brite Divinity School

Dr. Bruce Garner 
President, Integrity USA

Rev. Elder Darlene Garner 
Director of Emerging Ministries, Metropolitan Community Churches

Prof. William Graham 
Former Dean, Harvard Divinity School

Rev. Dr. Larry Greenfield 
Executive Director, Parliament of the World's Religions

Dr. Sharon Groves 
Vice President, Partner Engagement, Auburn Seminary

Rev. Dr.  David Gushee 
Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics, Mercer University

Rev. Dr. Debra Haffner 
President Emerita, Religious Institute

Dr. W. Scott Haldeman 
Associate Professor of Worship, Chicago Theological Seminary

Rev. Cedric A Harmon 
Executive Director, Many Voices: A Black Church Movement for Gay & Transgender (LGBTQ) Justice

Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson 
President, Auburn Seminary

Dr. Robyn Henderson-Espinoza 
Public Theologian in Residence, Faith Matters Network

Dr. Mary E. Hunt 
Co-director, Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER)

Zachary Johnson  
Executive Director, Call to Action 

Rev. Dr. Mark Johnston 
Executive Director, Open & Affirming Ministries, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Rev. Dr. Serene Jones 
President, Union Seminary NYC

Rev. Dr. Daniel Kanter 
Sr. Minister, First Unitarian Church of Dallas

Zr. Alex Kapitan 
Co-founder, Transforming Hearts Collective

Nancy K. Kaufman 
Chief Executive Officer, National Council of Jewish Women

Idit Klein  
Executive Director, Keshet

Pastor Steve Knight 
Founder and Board Member, Transform Network

Mr. Bruce Knotts 
Director, United Nations Office Unitarian Universalist Association

Rabbi Debra Kolodny 
Rabbi, Portland's Un Shul

Dr. Joel Kushner
Director, Institute for Judaism, Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity 

Andrew Lang 
Executive Director, Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ

Right Rev. Edward Lee 
Bishop, The Episcopal Church

Rabbi Michael Lerner 
Chair, Network of Spiritual Progressives

The Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis 
Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church

Rev. Barry Lynn 
Executive Director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Rev. Dr. Joretta Marshall 
Executive Vice President and Dean, Brite Divinity School

Rev. Dr. James McDonald 
President, San Francisco Theological Seminary

Dr. Keisha E. McKenzie 
Program Director, Believe Out Loud

Dr. Brian McLaren 
Senior Fellow. Auburn Seminary

Alex McNeill 
Executive Director, More Light Presbyterians

Rabbi Jay Michaelson 
Affiliated Assistant Professor, Chicago Theological Seminary

Dr. Diann Neu
Co-Director, Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual

Jon O'Brien 
President, Catholics for Choice

Rabbi Dr. Aaron Panken 
President, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Ms. Marilyn Paarlberg 
Executive Director, Room for All (RCA)

Rev. Debra Peevey 
Community Activist, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner 
Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Dr. Judith Plaskow 
Professor Emerita, Manhattan College

Rev. LeDayne McLeese Polaski 
Executive Director, BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz

Bishop Tonyia Rawls 
Founder, The Freedom Center for Social Justice

Bishop Gene Robinson 
Retired Bishop of New Hampshire, The Episcopal Church

Rabbi Dennis Ross 
Director, Concerned Clergy for Choice

The Rev. Canon Susan Russell 
Senior Associate, All Saints Episcopal Church

Rev. Frank Schaefer 
Pastor, United Methodist Church

Dr. Bernard Schlager 
Executive Director Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion

Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer 
Executive for Health and Wholeness Advocacy, United Church of Christ

Bishop John Selders 
Co-Founder, Moral Monday CT

William Sinkford 
Interim Co-President, Unitarian Universalist Association

Rev. Mykal Slack 
Co-Director, Freedom Center for Social Justice

Gregory Sterling 
Dean and Professor, Yale Divinity School

Rabbi David Stern
President, Central Conference of American Rabbis

Rev. Kristin Stoneking 
Executive Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation

Rev. Dr. Roland Stringfellow 
Senior Pastor, Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit

Rev. Dr. Justin Tanis 
Managing Director, Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion

Aubrey Thonvold 
Executive Director, ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation 

Bishop Joseph Tolton 
National Minister of Global Justice, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries 

Rev. Dr. Emilie Townes 
Dean, Vanderbilt Divinity School

Rev. Cameron Trimble 
CEO, Center for Progressive Renewal

Rev. Dr. David Vasquez-Levy 
President, Pacific School of Religion

Rev. John Vaughn 
Executive Vice President, Auburn Seminary

Rev. Dr. Rebecca Voelkel 
Director, Center for Sustainable Justice

Minister Naomi Washington-Leapheart 
Faith Work Director, The National LGBTQ Task Force

Rev. Dr.  Sharon Watkins 
General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Rabbi Elyse Wechterman 
Executive Director, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz 
Executive for Program and Strategic Partnerships, Religious Coalition for 
Reproductive Choice

Rev. Dr. Traci West 
Professor of Christian Ethics and African American Studies, Drew Theological School

Rev. angel Kyodo Williams 
Founder and Senior Fellow, Center for Transformative Change

Dr. Newell Williams 
President and Professor of Church History, Brite Divnity School

Rev. Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson 
Former Moderator, Metropolitan Community Churches

Rev. Dr. Karen-Marie Yust 
Rowe Professor of Christian Education, Union Presbyterian Seminary

Ani Zonneveld 
President, Muslims for Progressive Values

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