CA Religious Organizing: For the Faithfully Secular
June 26, 2009
Ed. note: Special Projects Manager Ché Ruddell-Tabisola brings us another in a series about our work with California Faith for Equality, an organization that educates and mobilizes religious communities. The partnership joins Faith for Equality with HRC’s Religion and Faith Program and National Field Department to broaden and diversify religious support for marriage equality in the Golden State. The movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality has been slow to adopt a religious strategy. As opposed to the moral imperative, the reason for our equality has been one of civil rights; an important truth, but a strategy that like all strategies knows limits. The taxonomy of the No on Proposition 8 campaign centered on fairness and nondiscrimination. But on Election Day just 48 percent of voters felt those egalitarian ideas should apply to lesbian and gay couples, and California became the 29th state to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage. Can the LGBT-rights movement embrace an approach that allows the case for equality to be one of more than just rights? In Same Sex, Different Politics, Gary Mucciaroni argues the movement must: “LGBT advocates should stop ceding discourse over the moral aspects of homosexuality and gay rights to their opponents and make their own explicit moral arguments. The LGBT movement’s ‘secular liberal identity’ makes it difficult for spokespersons to enter into conversations about morality and religious teaching.” Historically, religious attitudes have been a significant source of discrimination. In 1954, Gordon W. Allport dedicated a chapter of The Nature of Prejudice to the role religion plays:
“The chief reason why religion becomes the focus of prejudice is that it usually stands for more than faith – it is the pivot of the cultural tradition of a group … Christianity is so locked with western civilization that it is hard to keep in mind its original core … The clergy of a church may and often do become defenders of a culture … finding in the absolutes of their faith justification for the secular practices of their in-group.”
Considering that The Nature of Prejudice was written more than half a century ago, the partnership between HRC and California Faith for Equality is at the same time overdue and groundbreaking. The pairing of the nation’s largest LGBT-rights organization and a robust faith-based group not afraid to claim a moral authority potentially could deliver something as simple as 3 percentage points in an election or as significant as a transformation in the national conversation between religion and the LGBT rights movement. A promise even the most secular LGBT advocates should find hope in.