This piece was written by my friend and colleague Dr. Sylvia Rhue, Director of Religious Affairs National Black Justice Coalition. It is a very passionate and lucid critique of President-elect Obama's unfortunate decision to include Rev. Rick Warren in the inauguration ceremonies. Enjoy!
One of the overriding goals of the Religious Affairs Program of the
National Black Justice Coalition is to change the conversation of homosexuality from being a sickness and a sin, to a genuine understanding of sexuality with inclusion replacing exclusion, and fact replacing fears. This is no small task with the kind of opposition we face on a daily basis. I see first hand the damage that spiritual abuse can do to body and soul.
We work with people of faith and people of good will to accomplish this goal. We are interfaith and ecumenical in reaching out to powerful religious forces that are adamantly allied against equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. We reached out to Bishop Harry Jackson of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and others who do not agree that LGBT people should sit at the table of full equality.
We agree with President-Elect Obama that we should talk to everyone about ideas and beliefs that are different from our own. We believe in dialogue, that is how the conversation about change happens.
But, there is a difference in engaging people in dialogue about poverty and AIDS and elevating Rick Warren, a rigorous opponent of LGBT rights to the position of the nation's pastor in the inaugural prayer. He does not represent change but a status quo of discrimination. He is symbolic of a tone setting circumstance that does not bring us together in spiritual terms.
We are aware that Mr. Obama is dealing with pressures from all sides and that we are in the honeymoon phase of his impending presidency. But this choice has seriously jarred the wedding night of the honeymoon and has given us a wake-up call of deep and righteous concern. We are concerned that the choice of Rick Warren foretells of a potential continuation of the callous disregard for the lives and aspirations of LGBT people in America.
President-Elect Obama, many of us will be at your inauguration. We will dance and party and drink a toast to your success upon which so many hopes are tethered.
But, you have to understand that we are once again coming to Washington DC to cash a check. Yes, like the 1963 March on Washington, organized by a black gay man, Bayard Rustin, we LGBT people have been given the same promissory note that is the heritage and pride of every American. The right to pursue life, liberty and happiness, "the riches of freedom and the security of justice." And this fierce urgency of now has been tainted by the choice of a man who is so deeply flawed that he equates the lifelong love and commitment of a same gender couple to be equivalent to incest and pedophilia.
Thank God we will be able to see and hear the words of an authentic civil rights warrior. The Reverend Joseph Lowery will be there to provide the benediction. Rev. Lowery is a stalwart believer in full and equal rights for LGBT people.
We will be praying that the value system that energized the Obama campaign, a notion of inclusion and respect, will continue.
Many of us will be praying that the words and actions of Rev. Rick Warren will not continue to harm us.
Dr. Sylvia Rhue, Director of Religious Affairs National Black Justice Coalition firstname.lastname@example.org