We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ, we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us. ~Identity statement at Disciples.org
Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) laws, which have been around for over twenty years, have sought to ensure that the government must demonstrate a compelling interest before abridging the right to religious freedom. Originally, President Clinton signed the Federal RFRA into law in 1993, prompted by backlash against the Supreme Court’s finding for the state of Oregon against the use of peyote in Native American religious rituals. The federal RFRA law, as well as almost all of the other state RFRA laws, were meant to provide constraints in instances “where the government is forcing a person to do something or not do something.”
Indiana’s version of RFRA, SEA 101, differs from other RFRA laws, however, in that it allows for businesses to use the law against civil-rights suits brought by individuals. In other words, the Indiana law would potentially allow persons (i.e., individuals, organizations, or businesses)—regardless of whether or not the government is a party to the suit as in previous RFRA laws—to deny service to LGBTQ people under the claim that the person’s right to discriminate based on religious beliefs supersedes the individual’s right to remain free of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender expression.
As a people committed to the table of welcome and grace for all, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has demonstrated courageous leadership in deciding to seek a new venue for its 2017 General Assembly in Indianapolis in response to Indiana’s passage of SEA 101, arguing that because of the legislation some of the GA attendees might “be denied services based on a business owner’s religious beliefs.” As the organization within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) whose mission it is to advocate on behalf of LGBTQ people, the GLAD Alliance (Gay, Lesbian, and Affirming Disciples) enthusiastically supports of the decision made by the General Board to take a stand against injustice and to embrace Disciples’ inclusive identity.
Moreover, GLAD proclaims our opposition to any laws which could potentially offer legal cover to those who would discriminate on the basis of religious belief. Because we are convinced that Jesus intentionally reached out to those who existed on the margins as a result of religious and political oppression, we also support attempts to reach out to and advocate on behalf of those who seem all too easily cast aside.
In our role as advocates for justice, GLAD also calls on the federal and state governments to offer explicit protection to LGBTQ people by explicitly naming “sexual orientation” and “gender expression” among the list of enumerated classes against which discrimination is prohibited in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Our faith commitments compel us to affirm that the default posture of the culture in which we live and work ought to be an attitude of welcome and grace to all.
Because of GLAD’s work in pursuit of justice for LGBTQ people, we are aware that other people regularly experience injustice because of race, creed, gender, nationality, and ability. We are also aware that discrimination against those groups has often been been underwritten by appeals to religious belief. For that reason, we call for close monitoring in places where these laws have been enacted, so as to prevent discrimination against any of these groups.
The Apostle Paul has written, that in Christ the walls that divide us have been broken down, so that “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female,” since we are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). Therefore GLAD believes that committed followers of Jesus who seek to be “a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world” must stand against any law that would seek once again to rebuild those walls—especially in the name of religious belief.
Moderator, GLAD Alliance Council
Chairperson, Strategic Action Team