Faith leaders across the country and in Texas wrote letters May 3 urging state legislators to reject proposed “bathroom bills” similar to North Carolina’s controversial HB2, a measure partially repealed due to pressure from economic boycotts.
Clergy gathered Wednesday morning at the Texas Capitol to pray, protest and hand deliver a letter opposing HB2899, which forbids cities and counties from adopting ordinances barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and SB6, requiring students in public schools to use the restroom corresponding to the sex designated on their birth certificate if it differs from their “internal sense of gender.”
Griff Martin, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Austin; Larry Bethune, senior pastor of University Baptist Church in Austin; and Valda Jean Combs, associate minister at Brentwood Baptist Church in Houston, were among 209 Texas clergy opposing “discriminatory laws masquerading as ‘religious freedom’ or any other attempts to treat Texas’ LGBT community as second-class citizens.”
“We will continue to speak out against all attempts to use religion to demonize, discriminate against or bring harm to our LGBT sisters and brothers,” the Texas letter said. “And we encourage you, as leaders in our state, to support policies that treat all Texans equally under the law, including the LGBT community.”
Baptists also were among more than 100 national faith leaders issuing a statement May 3 opposing legislation “that seeks to stigmatize and marginalize transgender people in particular, legitimize discrimination against all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people or abuse the notion of religious freedom to deny basic rights and protections to others.”
The clergy said such bills “further false narratives and lead to greater hostility and violence toward transgender and gender non-conforming people” and “threaten the dignity and equal treatment of LGBTQ people in general and violate the very tenets of love and justice that are the backbone of our religious traditions.”
Michael Castle, president of the Alliance of Baptists; Catherine Chapman, executive director of the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists; and LeDayne McLeese Polaski, executive director of Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America/Bautistas por la Paz, are among Baptists signing the national letter.
Others include Miguel De La Torre, professor of social ethics and Latinx studies at Iliff School of Theology; David Gushee, distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University; and Larry Greenfield, executive director of the Parliament of the World’s Religions and former executive director of American Baptist Church of Metro Chicago.
The letters come on the heels of last month’s letter from the Texas Pastor Council voicing concern “about the public narrative” portraying legislation such as HB2899 and SB6 in a negative light.
“It is a duty of the Texas legislature to protect all citizens equally,” said clergy signers including pastors Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Gregg Matte of First Baptist Church in Houston, Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington and former Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Young of Second Baptist Church in Houston.
“Women and children should not be subjected to a biological male, whether clothed or unclothed, entering their restroom, shower or locker room in the great state of Texas,” the conservative clergy said. “Neither should our businesses and churches be threatened with criminal punishment for exercising their long held beliefs and standards of decency.”