Last month we were supposed to be celebrating. We were supposed to be marching in the streets, honoring the Queer, Trans, People of Color at Stonewall who paved the way for us. We were supposed to be dancing. We were supposed to not be scared anymore. But on June 12th, we experienced one of the bloodiest hate crimes in history when 49 LGBTQ people, mostly from the Latinx community, were murdered at a LGBT nightclub that we’ve now come to call the Orlando Massacre. The very next morning, an armed man with explosive-making material was apprehended on his way to the Los Angeles Pride Parade.
This same month, while the tears and wounds are still fresh, California’s Christian college elite have launched a hate-filled fear-mongering campaign to mobilize Christians against Senate Bill 1146. The bill sets out to narrow the loophole that allows private universities to receive federal funding even while discriminating against Queer and Transgender people. Throughout the month of June we’ve seen university president after president post online blogs, publish articles in their local newspapers, and erect landing pages on their websites that all curiously deploy the same exact vague, coded language in opposition to SB 1146. Words like “religious liberty” and “religious convictions” and “faith values” and “moral code” and the worst salt in the wounds: “love and care for LGBT students”...
There are nearly 50 faith-based institutions of higher education in California, the most vocal of which has been Biola University. They are certainly no stranger to our religious exemption work, and recently purchased the domain, OpposeSB1146.com. I’m the first to admit it... I was fiercely inspired by President Barry Corey’s five-minute video, but probably not in the way he might have hoped. The great delusion of opposers of the SB 1146 is summarized by this quote from the video: “We are not asking the LGBT community to change who they are, we are simply asking that they do not force us to change who we are either.”
I could not believe his self-congratulatory monologue for aiding and abetting the spiritual and physical deaths of LGBTQI people, my people. We have already been through so much this month; I couldn’t let it go.
So we created this video (above) in response.
We hope this video, 1) casts out misconceptions about the SB 1146 and 2) connects some real faces of real people who are at the center of this already dehumanizing issue and 3) makes this legislation more accessible for students and others who are detached from the lived human consequences of allowing bad policies to go unchecked.
A simple reading of the bill or call to Senator Lara’s office will assuage any nay sayers that the bill indeed does not threaten “religious liberties.” Christian institutions can keep their faith-based curriculum, religious activities, and even enforce a code of conduct-as long as the policy of religion is equally applied. Meaning, the schools can still live out their religious convictions, as long as those convictions don’t fall unequally on a certain group of people.
I struggle to see this as an attack on religious freedom when Christian institutions have consistently rejected simple requests for things like an LGBT specific resources (that aren’t reparative), a school sanctioned GSA, Queer and Trans affirming curriculum, more sexuality and gender training for students and staff, and the freedom to express our genders or same gender love.
According to the William’s Institute 40% of homeless youth are LGBT.
LGBT people who come out in unaffirming environments at much higher risk for mental health issues compared to those who come out in affirming environments.
Cases of sexual assault towards LGBTQ individuals on campuses are always under reported for fear of being outed, shamed, ignored, or punished by university administration.
LGBTQ People of Color experience even greater disproportionate amounts of violence and mental health issues.
Higher education itself is a privilege, yet we cannot and will not overlook the role that these institutions play in criminalizing Queer and Trans people and creating a hostile environment inside and outside the campus setting. The blood of our dead and wounded is on your hands.
While most Christians are willing to acknowledge the Orlando massacre as an intentional, hateful attack on the LGBT community, they are often unwilling to examine how their own ideologies seed the ground with same toxic rhetoric that claims that LGBTQ people are perverted. How dare they claim to be grieving for us then turn around and fight for the right to maintain the oppressive theologies that lead to our deaths.
So where do we go from here? Well Biola has a great 4-step strategy that we can use also:
SPREAD THE WORD: Get informed (which you are doing right now-good job)! Then inform and educate your friends, family, and community about the bill. Contact Campus@Soulforce.org if you need more information.
SOCIAL MEDIA: Share this video and voice your support for systemic change! The next hearing for SB 1146 will take place in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on August 12 and it’s important to center as many LGBTQ voices at Christian colleges in this issue as possible.
CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATOR: If you are a California resident, or invested in California, send an email or make a phone call to your California assemblymember this week. Click here to find your assemblymember.
PRAY: Pray that the leaders of our faith-based institutions listen to their LGBTQ community members. Pray that their morality will come into alignment with theology of life abundant for all of Creation, and that their ethics will not, once again, be bought by their conservative donor base, or swayed by their board of trustees, or intimidated by their lawyers. Pray that faith based institutions can grow from this experience and finds ways to embrace others into a kin-dom of God that is even bigger and more beautiful than they could have ever imagined.
Being a person of faith and Queer means that I believe our Christian institutions can--and must--do better. So as much as we pray every day for hope and healing, we must at the same time fight urgently and unapologetically for justice! We are the heart and the hands and there is much work to be done! Join us!
If you are a student or recent alumni of a faith-based institution, sign our statement of solidarity to stay updated on news involving our religious exemption work, campus organizing resources, and opportunities for national solidarity.