Saturday evening I attended the Houston Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Fund gala. It was a pretty typical PAC gala including lots of tuxedos and gowns, a hotel chicken dinner, presentations from the host committee, national HRC staff persons, introductions of local politicians who were attending in support of LBGTQ equality, and a short appearance by an actor (Loretta Devine) etc.
One additional speaker was a mother and active religious participant who introduced herself as a Born Again mother of several children, two of whom came out as Gay in their early twenties. Her story was compelling as she shared her experience of coming to acceptance, first “In the closet” and eventually “coming out” and actively and publicly supporting her sons. She acknowledged the negative impact that the organized religion she participated in had on her family and the basic human unfairness of discriminating against others based on your own personal religious beliefs.
All the messages hit home as heartwarming, funny and appropriate for the audience and I was with her……….. right up until the last moment or two when she asked the room to “bow their heads with her” and then led some of the room in prayer.
Now I know that many won’t be able to imagine anything wrong with this action, and some will immediately react to this blog with rolled eyes and comments of political correctness run amok. Surely she was well intentioned, meant no harm, and how could anyone be critical of her expression of sincere caring and love? What harm was there?
I don’t for a moment think that there was anything behind her actions but the true desire to share her overwhelming acceptance and love for her family and her acceptance of the equal rights of the LGBTQ community. Unfortunately there was also either a naiveté on her part or a lack of appreciation of the type of event and the experiences of some of the audience.
The Human Rights Campaign is a political action committee with an orientation to support equal rights for the LGBTQ community. Some members of this community, not an insignificant number, have experienced discrimination, hate and significant abuse from members of organized religion. Others in the audience do not believe in a God and some did not hold the clear Christian orientation of the speaker. Ignoring this and introducing a public display of a particular religious belief and publicly asking the audience to participate brought religion to a place it did not belong. It was totally unnecessary and I advocate inappropriate.
I’ll put this in context. It was not a horrendous event. No one suffered irreparable harm and few no more than perhaps a moment or two of discomfort as they wondered what to do while most others bowed their heads in silence during the prayer. However, some likely felt considerable discomfort and negative emotions, frustration, hurt and even anger. So, I feel the desire to communicate a strong and clear message to the HRC and to other public groups. It is this.
If you are a member of an organized religion and actively participate I applaud your personal devotion to your belief system. I fully support your right to have religion in your church, in your home, at private events and on the bumper of your car. I do not support a choice to express your religious beliefs at shared public political events or at professional meetings. This is no infringement on your rights; it is simply an indication that that you respect others who either do not share your beliefs as well as those who do but wish not to mix religion with political and professional activities or to publicly display their faith.
I hope the Human Rights Campaign will demonstrate a more sophisticated level of awareness at future events.
The opinions expressed in my blog are personal and neither represent the views of my employer nor any organization.