A Christian advocacy group for LGBT inclusion is trying to organize a Twitter storm to force a face-to-face meeting with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg calling on the company to divest from right-wing Christian media.
Soulforce Executive Director Haven Herrin hopes to deliver in person a petition with more than 1,200 names calling on Facebook to stop sending a representative to National Religious Broadcasters meetings.
Soulforce earlier criticized an appearance at this year’s recent NRB gathering by Katie Harbath, Facebook’s global politics and government outreach director, headlining a summit on digital media.
The National Religious Broadcasters describes itself as a “non-partisan, international association of Christian communicators.” Crystal Cheatham, a lead organizer for the Know Your Neighbors campaign — a collaborative project between Soulforce and Political Research Associates — said the NRB is in fact “an international network of fundamentalist Christian communicators with an expansive amount of cultural and political influence.”
“Some of the most notorious American propagators of anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-choice ideologies are on NRB’s roster, including the Alliance Defending Freedom, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family and megachurch pastor Rick Warren,” Cheatham wrote for the New Civil Rights Movement.
Cheatham said the organization is working specifically “to enact legalized discrimination against LGBTQ people through its promotion of a redefined understanding of religious freedom — one that carves out arenas of public life where religious institutions, individuals, and even businesses can exempt themselves from civil rights and labor laws.”
Emphasizing that priority, she said, NRB President and CEO Jerry Johnson is on record declaring that “NRB wants to be for the First Amendment, what NRA is for the Second Amendment.”
This year student protestors from Vanderbilt Divinity School and American Baptist College showed up at the National Religious Broadcasters 2016 annual meeting Feb. 22-26 in Nashville, Tenn.
Warren, a Southern Baptist megachurch pastor and author of the 2002 devotional bestseller The Purpose Driven Life, has been targeted by LGBT activists since 2008, when he endorsed Proposition 8, California’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
Cheatham, who grew up a Seventh-day Adventist before coming out as a lesbian, decided to put the oft-repeated “hate the sin but love the sinner” proposition to the test by holding hands with her female companion as the two strolled through the sprawling indoor Gaylord resort.
According to The Advocate, a bimonthly LGBT-interest magazine, the couple experienced distinctly different receptions throughout the afternoon. They were warmly greeted and accommodated by Marriott staff members, while guests wearing the telltale NRB conference registration lanyards met them with “a range of uncomfortable glances, gaping stares and unapologetic scowls.”
Some NRB-affiliated guests were seen shielding the eyes of their young children, presumably to protect impressionable young minds. At one point Cheatham approached the NRB information desk — still hand-in-hand with her partner — identifying herself as a Christian and asking if there were any ministries present she could take part in.
The man at the desk reportedly shook his head, looked at the couple in disgust and said: “We believe in the traditional Bible. Homosexuality is wrong; so no, there aren’t any ministries for you here.”
As a company strongly supportive of LGBT equality, Soulforce said Facebook has no business at a gathering stocked with content criticized as anti-gay.
“Facebook, you support our gender identities,” says the petition at MoveOn.org. “You advocate for same-sex love. You help us tell our stories, make connections, build communities and embrace each other worldwide. But actions speak louder than words.”