The Rainbow Connection
People for the American Way Albuquerque: Charity group refuses donation raised at drag show
An Albuquerque faith-based homeless shelter declined a donation, citing a concern about the origin of the funds. RISCLEE, a “group of gays and straights who frequently put on drag shows to raise money for charities,” offered the Joy Junction homeless shelter a $1,200 donation check, the proceeds of a recent fundraiser. The shelter declined the donation, saying the manner in which the funds were raised was in conflict with its principles on homosexuality.
“[T]he mission statement of Joy Junction is not just to take care of the homeless,” the shelter’s executive director explained. “It’s to take care of the homeless in conformity with our basic Christian principles.” He felt that to accept the donation would condone homosexuality.“We made the decision to turn the funds down based upon the fact that, although we love gays, we do not in any way, shape, or form condone their activities, condone their actions, and we do not condone anything for which they stand,” the director said.
The executive director felt that the donors might have been trying to test him on his opposition to homosexuality. The mission’s Web site includes on-line columns supporting anti-gay activists such as Dr. Laura Schlessinger and “ex-gay” John Paulk of Focus on the Family. He further claimed that gay activists were behind a drop in donations to the shelter. Cybercast News Service reported that the shelter had to cut back services and lay off staff after “about 125 to 150 monthly donors quit giving” as a result of the shelter’s returning the RISCLEE donation.
“They just quit giving and encouraged others to do likewise,” the executive director said. A spokesman for RISCLEE denied the claims.
Salvation Army Controversy is Just Tip of ‘Faith-Based Initiative’ Iceberg
Commentary by Michael Adams, Lambda Deputy Legal Director
The recent controversy over the Bush Administration’s alleged promise to help the Salvation Army discriminate against gay employees in return for support for the Administration’s drive to funnel tax dollars to churches and religious organizations vividly illustrates how dangerous the so-called “faith-based initiative” is to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Until the Salvation Army story broke, discussion of this danger had been virtually non-existent outside of the LGBT community and press.
In fact, transferring federally funded social services to churches and religious non-profits will seriously threaten the progress the LGBT community has made on important issues, unless proper safeguards are put in place.
But before getting to that, it’s worth taking a moment to briefly outline what the so-called “faith-based initiative” is all about.
Religious organizations like Lutheran Social Services, United Jewish Communities, and Catholic Charities have received government funding for social services for many years. What makes the Bush Administration’s “faith-based initiative” different is that it seeks to change the rules to allow religious groups that receive government funding to discriminate and proselytize. Historically, religious groups have been required to abide by the same rules as every other government contractor - i.e., in return for public dollars they’ve agreed not to discriminate against their employees and not to use government money to preach.
In a radical shift in federal policy, the Bush Administration now wants to allow churches and religious groups to receive taxpayer dollars without the strings that historically have been attached. The Administration’s theory, unsupported by any hard evidence, is that religious groups do a better job than secular organizations or government at providing social services, and rules against discrimination and proselytizing need to be lifted to encourage religious groups to take over the job.The LGBT community needs to be especially concerned about the Bush “faith-based initiative.”
Our community has made the elimination of employment discrimination against LGBT people a top priority. The federal government and publicly funded positions account for a large share of this country’s labor market, and we have made much progress in winning workplace equality in this area. By contrast, every gay rights bill enacted thus far in this country has included a provision exempting religious groups from coverage. Therefore, organizations like the Salvation Army generally are not covered by these laws. So, if religious groups take over publicly funded positions and are not required to maintain a discrimination-free workplace in return for receiving taxpayer dollars, we will lose much ground in our fight for equal treatment on the job.
The “faith-based initiative” also poses a threat to our struggle to protect and empower LGBT youth. Last month the federal Centers for Disease Control announced that young African-American men who have sex with men, in some cities including Seattle, have an annual HIV infection rate of nearly 15 percent, and that one third of them are already infected with HIV. These numbers rival those found in sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time they were being announced, it became public that the federal Department of Health and Human Services was planning on funneling $4-million of HIV prevention money for minority communities exclusively to religious groups because “these groups have access to the young people we are trying to reach.”
The program is being re-tooled because of political protest, but it is a warning sign of things to come. While churches might indeed be effective at reaching some young people, it seems highly unlikely that many of them can reach LGBT youth, given that many churches still cling to anti-gay beliefs, and even those that don’t are unlikely to be able or willing to provide the frank and open sex education that lgbt youth need to avoid HIV infection.
The LGBT community’s stake in the debate over religion and public dollars is powerfully illustrated by the controversy currently swirling around the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children. KBHC is the largest provider of state-funded services to “at risk” youth in Kentucky, receiving about two-thirds of its budget from the State. Nonetheless, KBHC fired Alicia Pedreira, a youth counselor with an outstanding job record, because she is a lesbian. The agency has publicly announced an across-the-board ban on gay employees because the “homosexual lifestyle” is contrary to Baptist values. While KBHC claims that it does not discriminate against LGBT youth, it also has made public statements supporting reparative therapy and announcing its belief that anybody can be “converted” to heterosexuality with prayer and counseling.
The agency’s HIV education program, to the extent it exists at all, provides no information to lgbt youth on safer sex practices. Lambda has joined an ACLU lawsuit challenging public funding of KBHC. The Bush Administration’s “faith-based initiative,” as presently conceived, is an open invitation to organizations like KBHC to take over government-funded social services, including HIV prevention. It also presents an opportunity for organizations like the Salvation Army to take taxpayer dollars while engaging in employment discrimination against LGBT people.
A recent so-called “compromise” by Congressional Republicans on the employment issue in reality is just a smokescreen that will do nothing to prevent religious groups that receive taxpayer dollars from discriminating. Nor can we find much comfort in the tactical retreat of the Bush Administration in the Salvation Army controversy, which came only after initial statements sympathetic to the Army’s anti-gay agenda by Vice President Cheney and other Administration officials. A forceful response from the LGBT community is critical. Our community must fight to ensure that the concerns of LGBT people are not ignored in the misguided rush to turn over government services to churches and religious organizations.
To be fair to all Americans, including LGBT people, tax dollars must go only to organizations that pledge to treat all employees fairly and to provide all clients with appropriate services, nor religious moralizing. Public Funding of Religious Groups 07/11/2001 http://www.lambdalegal.org/cgi-bin/iowa/documents/record?record=872
The Center for Nonviolence works to end domestic violence and other forms or violence in our community. Nonviolence is choosing courage, love, truth, and equality - a choice that begins with you.
The Advocate’s list of links
Families Like Mine
A web site dedicated to decreasing isolation for people who have parents who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT), and bringing voice to the experiences of these families.
Gay and lesbian alliance against defamation.
"Dedicated to promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation."
Gay, lesbian, and straight education network "Creating safe schools for GLBT people."
Human Rights Campaign.
Working for LGBT equal rights.
Parents, family, and friends of lesbians and gays.
National gay and lesbian task force.
"The national progressive organization working for the civil rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people."
Scouting for All
"Committed to scouting, open to diversity."
Coming Out and Learning About Sexual Orientation
Place to explore sexuality and coming out.
Real life stories of people from all over the world, as well as resources and information.
Provides factual information about sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS.
Contains 2,506 files about a wide range of queer issues from religion to culture.
Sexuality and Ethnicity
Internet resource for news, information, and culture effecting LGBT people of African descent.
Contains books, articles, and information concerning GLBT Asian-Pacific people.
A website for youth of color.
Sexuality and DisAbility
Contains comprehensive and accurate information about the Deaf LGBT community.
An email list for Lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered women with disabilities aged 15-25.
Provides information and support for bisexual men and women.
Place of support for all transgendered people, friends, family, and significant others.
Serves female-to-male transgendered people and transsexual men.
Focuses on gay youth and school issues along with LGBT issues.
A project of GLSEN for youth and by youth working to help network Gay/Straight Alliances.
The online Webzine written by, about, and for queer and questioning youth. http://www.youthresource.com/community/yoc/index.cfm
A website for youth of color.
The National Coalition for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth.
Providing self-identifying GLBTQ youth with a safe space online to be themselves.
A project of Advocates for Youth providing news and community for GLBT.
Provides factual sexuality and sexual health information for GLBT youth.
Other Helpful Resources
Discusses homophobia, the "gay gene" debate, and the life and death of Billy Jack Gaither.
Provides headlines on issues of gay/lesbian rights and a report on anti-gay activity and discrimination.
Provides news, resources, and ways of fighting anti-gay discrimination.
An activist network advocating for LGBT-inclusive curricular policies.
Resources in Queer Culture, Queer Theory, Queer Studies, Gender Studies and related fields.
Happy Anniversary, Del & Phyllis!