As a pastor and as a man of deep personal faith, I am called to serve God and all of God’s children. To me, that means walking in the footsteps of Christ in order to do all things in the spirit of love.
It is because of Christ’s love for me that I am able to extend this same acceptance for all people. That’s why my congregation and the work I do fully embrace the LGBTQ community. Whatever their religious journey may be, LGBTQ people are God’s children — and they are treasured members of this community, just like everyone else.
I know that everyone doesn’t share my perspective, but I believe that every religion teaches the same principles of love and acceptance. During the past several months, I have been pleased to meet other local faith leaders who share my commitment to equality for LGBTQ people.
Although I respect that some faith traditions do not accept same-sex marriage or even homosexuality — which is their right, within their place of worship — I am deeply troubled by the ways “religious liberty” is being used as an excuse to discriminate against LGBTQ people in the public sphere.
I fully support religious freedom, as does our state and federal Constitution. But the right to worship without interference does not give any of us the right to discriminate against those of different faiths or those we disagree with or simply don’t understand. Even houses of worship that do not sanction same-sex marriage should not be preaching a gospel of disgust and discrimination.
Especially in Michigan, where there are no statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, we must stand up for those who are negatively impacted the most. Even before the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality the law nationwide, so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) bills were being introduced and passed in Michigan.
Discrimination was enshrined into law by the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder when they allowed faith-based adoption agencies to turn away loving parents looking to give foster children a home, simply based upon whether the home will have two parents of the same gender. It grieves me to know that there are children who will not be placed with a family because of this discriminatory law.
With other RFRA-type legislation pending in Michigan, everyone who believes in LGBTQ equality must offer their full support. I know people of faith are among the LGBTQ community, and we need to have solidarity in this mission because it demonstrates that those who would use religious liberty as an excuse to discriminate are in the minority.
That’s why we are convening clergy and lay leaders from all religious traditions at the Liberating Religious Liberty symposium in Detroit on Thursday. This workshop will help us find the common ground in every religion that compels us to open our hearts and our doors to everyone.
There is no disparity between living our faith and embracing LGBTQ equality. In fact, I believe that observing our religion entails finding compassion for everyone we share this planet with.
That’s part of what the symposium is all about: to learn from others who have been on that journey or have led others on that path and to find the intersection of personal faith and LGBTQ equality.
As people of faith, we are called to make our world a better place for everyone. We have a unique opportunity to stand up for the true meaning of religious liberty — the right to live out our faith without interference — while at the same time standing up for the rights of the LGBTQ community.
The Rev. Roland Stringfellow is senior pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit.