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Tennessee Church Shooting Indicative of a Greater Problem

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Faith In America's hearts and prayers go out to all the members of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and the Knoxville community which suffered great loss and tragedy as a result of hate and violence on Sunday.

According to media reports, the perpetrator stated his hate and condemnation for gays and lesbians as a motivating factor in his crime. We recognize that this act is an example of extreme violence motivated by hate. However, our organization is compelled to help Americans understand that there are acts of violence being perpetrated on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans every day.

In particular, the emotional, psychological and spiritual violence being brought to bear on gay youth is a silent epidemic raging across this nation. Deep-seated hostility and prejudice within majoritarian institutions is the root cause for violence enacted against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans.

It is horribly ironic that this murderous act would be committed at a welcoming church...as it is the non-welcoming church, as a majoritarian religious institution, that has perpetuated insidious violence against gay and lesbian Americans, particular our gay youth, for far too long.

I challenge parents, pastors, politicians and purveyors of public information to look upon this horrendous act and awaken to the fact that an anti-gay religious establishment is complicit in this act of violence and the acts of violence that are committed daily all across America against gay and lesbian youth - be it emotional, psychological, spiritual or physical.

Faith in America sees evidence that there appears to be a marked increase in cases of physical violence, including murders, against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. We believe this violence is a national disgrace and must be addressed by our national
leaders.

It must end today.

I hope you'll join me in this cause. Using religion as a reason to promote hate, intolerance, and violence is unacceptable. We must speak out against it in every instance that it happens.

Mitchell Gold is the founder of Faith in America, a civil rights advocacy organization whose mission is to end legal and spiritual discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people in America and to gain full and equal rights for those citizens. Faith In America is not a religious organization but works to educate Americans about the harm caused by religion-based bigotry against GLBT individuals. Mitchell is also co-founder of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, a highly respected $100+ million manufacturer and retailer of fashionable home furnishings.