Coalition of 250+ faith leaders and faith-based organizations, mobilized by American Jewish World Service, urges faith communities to support LGBTI communities under attack
NEW YORK – In response to hateful anti-LGBTI attacks by American “faith leaders” at the recent World Congress of Families in Kenya, American Jewish World Service (AJWS), 250+ faith leaders and dozens of faith-based organizations condemn American extremists who export hatred of LGBTI people to developing countries. To punish LGBTI people for who they are and whom they love, intolerant American “faith leaders” travel to developing countries to advocate for punitive anti-LGBT laws, including the death penalty.
The coalition of 250+ faith leaders and faith-based organizations condemns three Americans at the conference in Kenya: Don Feder, Michael Hichborn and Sharon Slater, who spread lies about LGBTI people, claiming that they recruit children and cause natural disasters such as earthquakes and epidemics.
“We condemn the bigotry of American hate activists who travel to Africa to vilify and persecute LGBTI communities. As Jews, we understand all too well the consequences of hateful and false accusations justified by religious teachings, and we reject such accusations against LGBTI people today,” said Robert Bank, President and CEO of AJWS. “For centuries, Jews were falsely accused by religious leaders of horrific acts, including poisoning water wells, drinking the blood of children and spreading the Plague, which led to mob violence against Jews and discriminatory edicts and laws. Tragically, there are religious leaders making similarly harmful and false accusations against LGBTI communities around the world today, setting the groundwork for violence and state-sanctioned hate,” Bank added.
American anti-LGBTI activists have recently encouraged African countries to criminalize and punish same-sex relationships and behavior. Specifically, the preaching of Massachusetts Pastor Scott Lively has been linked to the drafting and initial passage of Uganda’s odious 2010 Anti-Homosexuality Act. In a 2009 trip to Uganda, Lively met with Uganda’s parliament and cabinet, stating that LGBTI people were trying to “unravel Uganda’s social fabric by spreading the disease of homosexuality to children.”
And in response to what they describe as “pressure from the West to legalize same-sex unions,” the Kenyan Ministry of Labor hosted the conference of the World Congress of Families (WCF) in Nairobi, which is classified as a hate group by the respected Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit organization that combats hate, intolerance and discrimination through education and litigation.
Speakers at the WCF conference included: Don Feder, a right-wing activist who has promoted the idea that homosexuality contributes to a “demographic winter” that has led to a “crater-scarred landscape strewn with casualties”; Sharon Slater, president of an Arizona-based anti-LGBTI group who advocates that young LGBTI people undergo discredited “conversion therapy” and falsely links homosexuality to pedophilia; and Michael Hichborn, an anti-choice activist in Virginia who has referred to homosexuality as a “disordered condition” and recently launched a campaign to slander a gay employee of Catholic Relief Services.
“These hateful anti-LGBTI activists travel the world to spread a modern “blood libel” against LGBTI people based on who they are and whom they love, which is antithetical to the shared value of respect for the essential dignity of every person,” Bank added. “We abhor and denounce this hateful libel, and call on others to do the same.”
AJWS helped organize the coalition of 250 faith leaders and dozens of faith-based organizations to launch a petition of solidarity that advocates for faith leaders across the country to stand in solidarity with LGBTI people in the developing world. The multi-faith coalition petition states that “the use of faith and religious teachings to provoke and bolster violence and hatred represents a perversion of our traditions at their deepest levels …. we envision a world in which people can live free of violence, regardless of who they are, whom they love, how they present, or what the characteristics of their body are.” The petition below was signed by Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations and faith leaders from across the United States.
AJWS’s LGBTI Grantmaking
Since 2005, AJWS has granted $5.6 million to social change organizations promoting the human rights of LGBTI people in the developing world. In 2016, AJWS granted $1.2 million to support the critical work of 51 organizations promoting the human rights of LGBTI people in 14 countries and in regional movements for change. With this support, AJWS’s grantees are supporting LGBTI people to come out, speak out, collaborate and pursue recognition, inclusion, security and equality. In Kenya specifically, AJWS is proud to support seven organizations fighting for equality for LGBTI people through community organizing and advocacy.
AJWS’s LGBTI Advocacy
AJWS supports groups who are in litigation in the criminal case against Scott Lively, an anti-LGBTI activist from Massachusetts being sued for “crimes against humanity” for preaching hate speech and violence against LGBTI Ugandans. Additionally, AJWS is working to cultivate a constituency of U.S. faith leaders supportive of LGBTI rights worldwide through its co-leadership of the U.S. State Department’s Faith and Social Justice Working Group.
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David L. Marcus