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Church joins interfaith coalition letter supporting LGBTQ rights in Florida


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Latter-day Saint leaders join interfaith coalition letter supporting LGBTQ rights in Florida

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Multiple rabbis, reverends and Latter-day Saint leaders are part of a group of 40 religious, LGBTQ and educational leaders who signed a joint letter calling for legislation in Florida to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people from discrimination.

The letter, published Sunday in the Miami Herald and on Sept. 1 by the Tampa Bay Times under the headline “A call for peace,” specifically asks Floridians to support non-discrimination legislation to protect “all people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, while also protecting important religious rights.”

“No one should be denied these protections based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and likewise religious persons and institutions should be protected in practicing their faith,” the letter writers said.

The letter comes five months after Florida instituted its “Parental Rights in Education” law, which restricts classroom instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in Florida schools.

The letter released Thursday called for peaceful discussion of non-discrimination proposals.

“LGBTQ rights and religious rights do not have to be in conflict,” the letter’s signees wrote. “...Now is the time to set aside political motives, malice and misrepresentations and commit to respectful dialogue and good-faith engagement.”

“As citizens and leaders in the state of Florida, we are extremely concerned that the ongoing conflicts between religious rights and LGBTQ rights are poisoning our civil discourse, eroding the free exercise of religion and preventing diverse people of good will from living together in peace and mutual respect,” they said.

The letter was signed by two area seventies of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elders Victor P. Patrick and Daniel P. Amato. The church’s senior leadership has supported similar “Fairness for All” legislation since 2015, when Utah passed a historic anti-discrimination and religious rights compromise, with the church’s backing, that has been described as  “eye-popping.”

Thursday’s letter comes four months after a similar letter was published by Georgia leaders in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by 54 leaders, including a Latter-day Saint area seventy, and six months after Latter-day Saint leaders announced support for an Arizona bill that also would provide religious freedom and LGBT anti-discrimination protections.

Coalitions across the country are seeking non-discrimination protections at the national, state and local levels. Last year, 16 North Carolina cities adopted municipal ordinances that NBC News called “historic LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also supports the federal Fairness for All Act proposed in Congress.

Here is the full text of the Florida letter:

“As citizens and leaders in the state of Florida, we are extremely concerned that the ongoing conflicts between religious rights and LGBTQ rights are poisoning our civil discourse, eroding the free exercise of religion and preventing diverse people of good will from living together in peace and mutual respect.

“It is time to assert clearly that we believe in the values of freedom, equality, and fairness for all. We join a growing number of faith and community leaders from around the country in support of non-discrimination legislation that protects all people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, while also protecting important religious rights.

“No one should be denied these protections based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and likewise religious persons and institutions should be protected in practicing their faith. Those of us from faith traditions believe that we are all created by a loving God who has commanded us to love each other. We are all also Americans with a long tradition of figuring out how to get along despite deep differences.

“LGBTQ rights and religious rights do not have to be in conflict. In fact, many LGBTQ people are themselves people of deep faith. Now is the time to set aside political motives, malice and misrepresentations and commit to respectful dialogue and good-faith engagement.

“We believe that the state of Florida is uniquely positioned to come together to protect all people, unify our communities and help bring healing to our nation on what for too long has been a divisive issue. That may not be easy in this time of polarization, and it will certainly require goodwill and mutual accommodation, but it can and must be done.

“We respectfully urge all Floridians and leaders at every level of government to join in support of these common values and core principles in a balanced approach to provide protections for LGBTQ persons as well as people and institutions of faith.”

The letter was signed by:

  • Elder Victor P. Patrick, Area Seventy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Nadine Smith, executive director, Equality Florida
  • Barbara Poma, founder, onePULSE Foundation
  • Elder Daniel P. Amato, Area Seventy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • The Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, faith-based president, Parable Foundation
  • The Rev. Alison P. Harrity, rector, St. Richard’s Episcopal Church in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida
  • Josh Bell, executive director, One Orlando Alliance
  • The Rev. Tracie Barrett, University Unitarian Universalist FellowshipBoard of directors, JAM & ALL Interfaith of South Florida
  • Martha Kirby, congregational president, University Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
  • Rabbi Joshua Lobel
  • Rhonda Thomas, executive director, Faith in Florida
  • Kamran Rouhani, Baha’i Garden of Ridvan
  • Rabbi Dan Levin, The Clergy of Temple Beth El of Boca Raton
  • Jasbir Bahtia, Sikh Society of Central Florida
  • Rabbi Jessica Spitalnic Mates, The Clergy of Temple Beth El of Boca Raton
  • The Rev. Jad Denmark, minister of Congregational Life
  • Rabbi Elana Rabinshaw, The Clergy of Temple Beth El of Boca Raton
  • The Rev. Melissa Cooper, Minister of Worship
  • Rabbi Greg Weisman, The Clergy of Temple Beth El of Boca Raton
  • Rev. Jeremy Green, Minister of New Communities
  • Cantor Lori Brock, The Clergy of Temple Beth El of Boca Raton
  • The Rev. Benjamin Collins, Exec. Director, All Saints, District Coordinator, ECD|FLUMC
  • Rabbi Amy Grossblatt Pessah, The Clergy of Temple Beth El of Boca Raton
  • The Rev. Madeline Luzinski, clergy, United Methodist Church — Florida UM Children’s Home
  • Rabbi David Baum, Congregation Shaarei Kodesh Boca Raton
  • Dr. Reuben Romirowsky, CFO, Jack & Lee Rosen Jewish Community Center
  • Cathy Ostroff, Kol Ami Congregation of Boca Raton
  • Addison K. Mitchell, pastor of Park Memorial Missionary Baptist Church — West Cocoa
  • Dr. Barbara Lunde and Rev. Jill Guerra, The Center for Spiritual Living Boca Raton
  • The Rev. Esther Rodriguez, Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church
  • David Jobin, president & CEO, Our Fund Foundation
  • David Kimball, humanist, Cleveland Clinic-Center
  • Robert Kesten, executive director, Stonewall National Museum & Archives
  • The Rev. Andrew C. Jack Diehl III, pastor emeritus
  • Terry Dyer, executive director, World Aids Museum and Educational Center
  • Carol Ludwig, executive director, Center for Spiritual Care
  • Dr. James T. Morris, Presiding Elder, Central Florida District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Imam Askia Muhammad Aquil
  • The Rev. Fr. Charles T. Myers, rector, The Episcopal Church of St. John the Baptist, Orlando
  • The Rev. Terri Steed Pierce, Senior Pastor of Joy Metropolitan Community Church

Very cool.

Thanks,

-Smac

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On 9/13/2022 at 11:14 AM, smac97 said:

Something about the story as written bothers me. It’s the inclusion of this paragraph:

The letter comes five months after Florida instituted its “Parental Rights in Education” law, which restricts classroom instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in Florida schools.

As far as I am aware, leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ have not taken a position on Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Law. The story, perhaps unintentionally, appears to hint that they have. 
 

The issues attending the education law are distinct from the issues the Church and others in the coalition are weighing in on, namely, equal rights in employment, housing and public accommodation balanced with preservation of religious freedom. 
 

Tad Walch is a friend and former colleague of mine. He’s a good reporter, but in this instance, I think he erred in judgment. He should not have included the above-quoted, irrelevant paragraph in the story. When he did, he should have stated explicitly that the Church has not taken a position on the Florida education law. 
 

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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36 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Something about the story as written bothers me. It’s the inclusion of this paragraph:

The letter comes five months after Florida instituted its “Parental Rights in Education” law, which restricts classroom instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in Florida schools.

As far as I am aware, leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ have not taken a position on Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Law. The story, perhaps unintentionally, appears to hint that that they have. 

I didn't read it that way.  I read the above as instead providing context for why religious groups in Florida are presently discussing these issues, as that state has recently seen what the letter describes as "polarization."

36 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

The issues attending the education law are distinct from the issues the Church and others in the coalition are weighing in on, namely, equal rights in employment, housing and public accommodation balanced with preservation of religious freedom. 

I agree, but the education law has, I think, contributed to the "polarization."  It's the big news item.

36 minutes ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Tad Walch is a friend and former colleague of mine. He’s a good reporter, but in this instance, I think he erred in judgment. He should not have included the above-quoted, irrelevant paragraph in the story. When he did, he should have stated explicitly that the Church has not taken a position on the Florida education law. 

Perhaps so.

Thanks,

-Smac

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1 hour ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Something about the story as written bothers me. It’s the inclusion of this paragraph:

The letter comes five months after Florida instituted its “Parental Rights in Education” law, which restricts classroom instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in Florida schools.

As far as I am aware, leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ have not taken a position on Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Law. The story, perhaps unintentionally, appears to hint that that they have. 
 

The issues attending the education law are distinct from the issues the Church and others in the coalition are weighing in on, namely, equal rights in employment, housing and public accommodation balanced with preservation of religious freedom. 
 

Tad Walch is a friend and former colleague of mine. He’s a good reporter, but in this instance, I think he erred in judgment. He should not have included the above-quoted, irrelevant paragraph in the story. When he did, he should have stated explicitly that the Church has not taken a position on the Florida education law. 
 

It looks like it's time to come out of retirement, Scott! :) 

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

I didn't read it that way.  I read the above as instead providing context for why religious groups in Florida are presently discussing these issues, as that state has recently seen what the letter describes as "polarization."

I agree, but the education law has, I think, contributed to the "polarization."  It's the big news item.

Perhaps so.

Thanks,

-Smac

If polarization is an issue at hand, appearing to imply, however unintentionally, that the Church of Jesus Christ opposes a law on which it has in fact remained silent potentially exacerbates said polarization. 
 

It could be argued that the story is not primarily about the coalition but about the Church’s participation in that coalition. Given the context of the piece, if the Florida education law were going to be mentioned at all, the responsible thing would have been to make crystal clear that the Church has not taken a position on that law. 

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1 hour ago, MiserereNobis said:

It looks like it's time to come out of retirement, Scott! :) 

Nah. I’m having too much fun narrating audiobooks and being a state senate reading clerk — and freely speaking out on subjects on which I heretofore might have remained silent. 

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Quote

“We believe that the state of Florida is uniquely positioned to come together to protect all people, unify our communities and help bring healing to our nation on what for too long has been a divisive issue. That may not be easy in this time of polarization, and it will certainly require goodwill and mutual accommodation, but it can and must be done.“

“Your honor, I would like to report an attempted murder. These people are clearly trying to make me laugh myself to death.”

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Why does the church sign these letters?  I seriously want to know.  Honestly it seems so fake, like they are trying to pretend about the LGBT community two weeks after taking all the LGBT pamphlets out of the BYU newspaper. As far as I can tell their excuse came down to an objection of a drag name in a small ad on the very back of a resource piece for LGBT students 

This is the same university/church that freaked out over colored lights on the Y   that simply acknowledged that there are LGBT students at BYU that would like to be visible

 

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16 hours ago, Scott Lloyd said:

Something about the story as written bothers me. It’s the inclusion of this paragraph:

The letter comes five months after Florida instituted its “Parental Rights in Education” law, which restricts classroom instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in Florida schools.

As far as I am aware, leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ have not taken a position on Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Law. The story, perhaps unintentionally, appears to hint that that they have. 
 

The issues attending the education law are distinct from the issues the Church and others in the coalition are weighing in on, namely, equal rights in employment, housing and public accommodation balanced with preservation of religious freedom. 
 

Tad Walch is a friend and former colleague of mine. He’s a good reporter, but in this instance, I think he erred in judgment. He should not have included the above-quoted, irrelevant paragraph in the story. When he did, he should have stated explicitly that the Church has not taken a position on the Florida education law. 
 

Or the article is pointing out recent new laws being passed in Florida that precipitated the church responding to these concerns.

There is a lot more to these laws than just the laws themselves. There is additional ‘directives’ from appointed State agencies (that these laws give power too) that make it even more clear that LGBTQ rights are under attack.

The church has taken a stand on other/similar laws recently in other states on LGBTQ rights.

The church is not making these statements randomly. They are responding to many of these new laws.

Edited by Ragerunner
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On 9/13/2022 at 12:14 PM, smac97 said:

“It is time to assert clearly that we believe in the values of freedom, equality, and fairness for all. We join a growing number of faith and community leaders from around the country in support of non-discrimination legislation that protects all people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, while also protecting important religious rights.

No one should be denied these protections based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, and likewise religious persons and institutions should be protected in practicing their faith,”

Do they really mean what they said?  Or do they still consider some discrimination in hiring against LGBTQ+ an important religious right (ie. religious schools, etc.)?  If they don't fully agree with the letter they signed, then they should clarify their position to avoid misunderstandings.

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2 hours ago, Ragerunner said:

Or the article is pointing out recent new laws being passed in Florida that precipitated the church responding to these concerns.

There is a lot more to these laws than just the laws themselves. There is additional ‘directives’ from appointed State agencies (that these laws give power too) that make it even more clear that LGBTQ rights are under attack.

The church has taken a stand on other/similar laws recently in other states on LGBTQ rights.

The church is not making these statements randomly. They are responding to many of these new laws.

CFR that the Church has taken a position, formal or informal, on Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act. 
 

And CFR that the Parental Rights in Education Act — which prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through the third grade —relates in any meaningful way to the issues on which the Church HAS taken a stand, namely access to employment, fair housing, public accommodation and freedom of religion. 

Edited by Scott Lloyd
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11 hours ago, california boy said:

Why does the church sign these letters?  

Because the Church is acting in good faith.

Because in publicly stating its position on some issues, the reasoned and compassionate efforts of the Church are made manifest.

Because the Church would prefer to speak for itself rather than give its more virulently hostile critics free rein to disparage us, to presume to tell the world what we believe, to cast us and our beliefs and actions in the worst possible light, and so on.

11 hours ago, california boy said:

I seriously want to know.  

The Church wants to speak for itself, to define itself.  

11 hours ago, california boy said:

Honestly it seems so fake, like they are trying to pretend about the LGBT community two weeks after taking all the LGBT pamphlets out of the BYU newspaper.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

The Church speaks for itself because there is no small number of people out there who are really focused on crafting an ugly and denigrating narrative about the Church.  And a big part of that effort involves critics presuming to speak on behalf of the Church, to intercede and explain to third parties what the Church teaches, believes, practices, etc.  

It stands to reason, then, that such critics resent the Church when it speaks for itself, as this harshes the preferred narrative.  Last year we had a discussion in which I quoted some remarks by Elder Holland, which remarks may bear repetition here:

Quote

I certainly can work on disagreeing without being disagreeable, but I also have in mind these remarks by Elder Holland:

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Regarding that faith-filled scholarship of which Elder Maxwell speaks, may I note plainly one thing we expect you to do because it is central to your raison d’être. It is to undergird and inform the pledge Elder Maxwell made when he said of uncontested criticism, “No more slam dunks.”  We ask you as part of a larger game plan to always keep a scholarly hand fully in the face of those who oppose us. As a ne’er-do-well athlete of yesteryear, I was always told you played offense for the crowd, but you played defense for the coach. Your coaches will be very happy to have you play both superbly well.

"No more slam dunks."

Critics and opponents of our faith endlessly and casually slander us and our beliefs.  I think it a relatively small thing to rebut such falsehoods, even if such a rebuttal is as simple as "Hey, that's not what we believe."

I am very happy that the Church is being more overt in speaking on its own behalf.

11 hours ago, california boy said:

As far as I can tell their excuse came down to an objection of a drag name in a small ad on the very back of a resource piece for LGBT students 

"As far as I can tell" being the operative phrase.

You are demonstrating my point.  The Church wants to have a voice in public discussions about it.  The Church wants to speak for itself, to explain its own beliefs, practices, actions, and so on.  And this really gets in the way of those who, as you here, are trying to crafting a narrative that casts the Church is the worst possible light.

11 hours ago, california boy said:

This is the same university/church that freaked out over colored lights on the Y   that simply acknowledged that there are LGBT students at BYU that would like to be visible

This is, in my view, a pretty inaccurate, unfair, and unreasonable characterization.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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13 hours ago, california boy said:

Why does the church sign these letters?  I seriously want to know.  Honestly it seems so fake,

Meanwhile, in other news, across time, all the time:

Quote

Of course the church is anti-[x]!  You can tell, because they don't say anything about [x]!  They couldn't drag themselves to comment publicly on this issue if you held a gun to their head!  Oh sure, local leaders'll say this and that about being inclusive and loving, but can anyone point to a single statement by Salt Lake leadership on the topic?  Of course not!

 

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7 hours ago, Nofear said:

While others answered more in depth, I'll further add that the idea that, perhaps, just perhaps you don't really understand the Church as well as you present yourself as understanding it. /shrug

Oh I agree with you.  Maybe you can tell me why BYU/the Church had such problems with students looking for just some acknowledgment that they are part of BYU/the Church by lightning up the Y with flash lights but somehow that was a line in the sand

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1 hour ago, Nofear said:

I guess the brethren see a difference between saying that we should all treat eachother with civility in society and “Hey, let's celebrate behaviors the Church preaches is not condoned of God on God's Church's property.”

Not a complex line to understand.

So do the brethren only view the rainbow colors as being solely about sex?

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23 hours ago, cacheman said:

Do they really mean what they said?  Or do they still consider some discrimination in hiring against LGBTQ+ an important religious right (ie. religious schools, etc.)?  If they don't fully agree with the letter they signed, then they should clarify their position to avoid misunderstandings.

Can someone help clear this up?  Has the church's position on religious freedom shifted to now supporting legislation that protects all people from employment and housing discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation? Do they now believe that no one should be denied these protections?  If so that's a big deal. 

If not, then they should clarify.  The readership in Florida might not be familiar with the church's positions, and come away with the wrong understanding after reading this.  If they want to retain the ability for religious organizations to discriminate then this letter doesn't make sense.  I can't imagine any legislation that would be able to both protect all from discrimination while also allowing for religious organizations to continue to discriminate.  Is there specific legislation in Florida that they are supporting?

For what it's worth..... I'm happy to see the church supporting legislation that protects LGBTQ+ individuals from housing, employment, and public accommodations.  I also respect the right of religious people and organizations to practice their religion freely.  I have a difficult time respecting efforts to marshal support for legislation using misleading or unclear language.  How hard would it have been to simply say they support non-discrimination legislation that protects all people except those employed or housed by religious organizations?

-cacheman

 

Edited by cacheman
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9 hours ago, california boy said:

So do the brethren only view the rainbow colors as being solely about sex?

/sigh
As one well knows, there are positive meanings associated with the Pride flag. There are also negative meanings with the Pride flag. The Church does not have control over those meanings and does not wish to convey messages that would be misconstrued. But, already well know that. Not sure what game your are trying to play. Maybe,your game is the very same kind of intolerant incivility that the Church is opposing with its support of the Florida bill.

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10 hours ago, california boy said:

So do the brethren only view the rainbow colors as being solely about sex?

I think the university recognizes - rightly, I might add - that displaying a rainbow doesn't only "acknowledg[e] that they are part of BYU/the Church."

The rainbow flag has been a symbol of gay pride and LGBT social movements for decades now. The Church is on board with some, but certainly not all, of the changes sought by LGBT activists, so the Church doesn't want to give the impression that they support more than they actually do (as is their right).

 

Edited by Amulek
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10 hours ago, california boy said:

So do the brethren only view the rainbow colors as being solely about sex?

I have no idea how the brethren view them but that seems to be the viewpoint of many members. I am not convinced it is even sex they are fixated on. It is “normalcy”. Watching an asexual friend (asexuality should be almost banal by gospel standards) trying to navigate the church while open about their sexuality convinced me that sex isn’t the whole story of discomfort.

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