Fighting For Religious Freedom As Father, Husband, Minister and Gay

By Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush

As we celebrate LGBT History Month and the many strides our community has made over the past decades, we are now confronted with a hostile administration in the White House and an emboldened Religious Right that would undo all of what we have gained.

Religious freedom is the rallying cry of this largely white, Christian political force who recently roared with approval when President Trump claimed evangelicals “are under siege” at the Faith & Family Coalition convention.   Of course, what is really meant by being “under siege” is the fear of being required by law to respect the freedom of others as equal to their own and losing a privileged status that Christians (and white people) have enjoyed for much of our nation’s history.  

To me, LGBT pride is intimately tied into my own understandings of religious liberty as a gay father, husband, and pastor.

Not surprisingly, it starts with Sunday mornings, which are rushed as our two year-old, Walter, is dressed in his chic Sunday best, outshining his schlubby dads as we walk down the street to the ‘children’s service’ at our church. My husband Brad has attended this church for decades and, since leaving my last pulpit, I have been there with him. After twelve years together, the Supreme Court decided our love was worthy of marriage and it was there that Brad and I said “I do” at a religious ceremony. A few years later, our son arrived, and was baptized at the Easter Vigil, alongside other new Christians.

Now we go to church as a family, and although Walter peels off during the boring bits (sermon, prayers, announcements), he’s there for the opening procession and hymns and always back for the Eucharist. We approach the altar as a family, and together we participate in the act of communion. Walter has now learned to say, a bit too loudly, “amen,” and “hallelujah.”

Faith is part of our life, and the freedom to worship openly and without fear is a fundamental promise to the American citizen.

Unfortunately, this freedom — to be as we are, and pray as we wish — is precisely what is so intimidating to others who feel “under siege” now that their  “religious freedom” no longer trumps that of my own family. I’m not sure if leaders promoting this anti-LGBT activism under the guise of religious freedom realize the hurt and the anger their actions provoke and how others will justifiably blame religion for furthering oppression of women and LGBT people.

I will resist their efforts  in the name of protecting my loved ones — both known and unknown — in the LGBT community. I will resist in the name of the victims of the Pulse shooting and the families still experiencing the devastation a year ago this month.  I will resist it in the name of all those who experience degradation and alienation at the hands of religious people with “sincerely held beliefs.” I will also resist it in the name of my faith which calls me to oppose all efforts to discriminate and subordinate others in the name of God.

Religious freedom is a foundational principle of our country and is something we  all can and should hold sacred. It is one of the things that really does makes America great. In the basic DNA of our nation is the right of any person to believe (or not) and worship (or not) anything they want.

While I think they are wrong,  I respect the rights of those religious people who fawned over Trump at the convention and even roared their approval when he talked about leaving the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

They can pray any way they want and to whatever god they worship.

But when one person’s religious beliefs turn into actions that trample on the dignity of another citizen and impede another person’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, ‘freedom of religion’ morphs into deified discrimination. And unfortunately, America has a long history of people using religion to legitimate abhorrent and blasphemous treatment of others.  

Those yelling loudest for this so called “religious freedom” are captives to fear. They fear my family’s religious freedom to be ourselves, and they fear the way it will affect religion itself as they witness more and more Christians coming to realize that supporting women’s reproductive health and LGBT equality (as well as welcoming the refugee and our Muslim neighbors) is part of being faithful in the 21st century. A recent poll shows that, aside from the White Evangelical community, all other Christian groups in America oppose the rights of businesses to refuse service to LGBT people.

What we are witnessing now in America is a deep division within religion itself, and I will stand on the side of love and inclusion.

We  fight for an LGBT freedom that goes hand-in-hand with religious freedom. We fight not only for the future of our country, but to truly be the land of liberty and justice for all. We fight for our faith, that Christianity might be known not for control and restriction, but as a force for justice, for liberation and love.

Most of all, I’m going to fight for my family – for Walter and Brad — so that our son might know that love is love is love is love, and we are not going backwards. Our family will be respected, we will have dignity, and we will be free.

Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush is Senior Vice President at Auburn Seminary and Editor of Voices.

Recommended Posts