Friday, July 11, 2008

On HuffingtonPost: Putting Faith In All Families

For the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, the mere words 'faith-based' can often cause alarm . . . especially coming from the federal government or elected officials. So many LGBT Americans have suffered rejection, discrimination and opposition from some corners of the faith community that it's understandable when they question or raise concerns about tax-payer funding for religious organizations. So it was no surprise, either, that the issue of faith-based initiatives has recently become a point of considerable debate among the community as we head into the '08 presidential election.

There is, certainly, evidence that faith-based funding has actually helped members of the LGBT community, and their families, before. Open and affirming church congregations have used faith-based dollars to provide assistance to people with HIV/AIDS, and to counsel the families of gay youth, in a positive way, who are coming out. And there's little doubt that soup kitchens, homeless shelters and medical facilities run by welcoming religious groups that received such funding have also ministered - and administered - to the gay community as well.

Concern about such funding, of course, is based on some actions, by some congregations, to push divisive and harmful issues that fly in the face of the reminder to 'love thy neighbor as thyself.' Chief among those actions are 'reparative therapy' - harmful attempts to 'cure' or 'pray away' a person's LGBT identity - and anti-gay proselytizing . The idea of federal funds, from American tax-payers, being used to promote such agendas is alarming to many Americans . . . as it should be. As a recent public demonstration by Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) at a 'reparative therapy' conference in Orlando proves, such programs and beliefs not only malign gay people, but have a very real, psychological impact on LGBT people and their families, and especially young people who are sent to such programs against their will.

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