Today in my newspaper I saw an article titled, “Religious Group Threatens Lawsuit Over Kentucky Policy Banning Anti-Gay Comments at Juvenile Jails.” I was intrigued, so I clicked on it. Apparently, the Liberty Counsel, which is a nonprofit from Virginia working to “preserve religious liberty and help create and maintain a society in which everyone will have the opportunity to discover the truth that will give true freedom” (i.e., their particular brand of Christianity), wants to sue the state of Kentucky for asking a volunteer minister to stop coming to the Warren Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Kentucky’s reasoning? The minister wouldn’t comply with the state’s anti-discrimination policy requiring “fair and equal treatment without bias” for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex juveniles.”
Or, to put it bluntly, he wouldn’t stop telling queer kids they were going to hell.
There are approximately 31,000 verses in the Bible, Old and New Testament included, and only about six or seven of them reference homosexuality in any way. If people want to believe those verses condemn homosexuality wholesale, fine, let them, but must they reduce the entirety of the Christian religion to condemning homosexuals? Must every sermon be about how the gays are going to hell? Must those six or seven verses be the basis of their entire religion? What of, “Love does no harm to a neighbor? Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law”? What of, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone”? Why not simply read the Bible together and, once you come to the passages about homosexuality, read them too and talk about them? Why do you have to explicitly tell kids they’re going to hell? That they’re wrong? That they’re abnormal? That they need to change who they are and what they think is right for themselves?
I had a high school friend hop on my Facebook tonight and try to tell me that this was a religious freedom matter because, “as specified by the first amendment, this pastor has the right to share his religious view, regardless of if you believe them or not.” Here is the text of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
No where there does it say that you are allowed to share your religious views any way you want, no where does it say you’re allowed to wield your religion as a cudgel against others, and no where does it say that Congress has to respect your religion. You can practice it. Congress cannot prohibit you from practicing it. And Warren Regional Juvenile Detention Center asking Minister David Wells to please stop telling everyone they’re horrible and going to hell for their gender or to please leave is not a prohibition of practice; it is a reminder to be a decent human being. It is a reminder that Christianity is so much more than condemning homosexuals. It is a reminder that you can read and discuss the passages of the Bible that condemn homosexuality but not judge and harass those you’re trying to bring into the fold. It’s a reminder to be kind and to allow everyone, not just the people you think are “normal,” to access what could be redemptive and healing in Christianity. Or, as another, less inflammatory Facebook friend wrote, “The Bible’s hope lies in Jesus’ promise to love everyone, not to tell kids they are going to hell for being gay.” People need to remember that and to remember that if they truly believe in the power of the Christian faith, they should be trying to get people to believe in it and be healed by it and not use it to get people to kill themselves – which is exactly what happens when you use the Bible to discriminate.