The Open and Affirming Coalition Tuesday joined the Collegium of the United Church of Christ in a statement opposing Indiana’s law legalizing anti-LGBT discrimination on the basis of “religious freedom.”
“Public businesses should not be allowed to deny service in restaurants, evict tenants from their apartments, or refuse to serve customers simply because of who they are or who they love,” the statement reads.
Last week, the Coalition’s Leadership Team issued a separate statement opposing the misuse of “religious freedom” as a cover for discrimination. “A claim of religious belief cannot exempt any private business owner from responsibility to obey the law,” the Leadership Team said.
“The Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ represents 1,200 Christian congregations with a membership of 250,000. We are deeply disturbed by the law signed Thursday by the governor of Indiana which, in effect, creates a broad religious exemption for private business owners and landlords to any legal protection under state or local law for Indiana’s LGBT citizens. This law is a step backwards, and essentially targets LGBT residents and visitors in Indiana as second-class citizens unworthy of protection under the law.
“As Christians, we strongly believe in religious freedom, and the right of any church or faith community to maintain its own beliefs and practices regarding marriage or human sexuality. But as Christians we also believe in God’s command to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” and as Americans we believe that every citizen deserves equal treatment under the law. A claim of religious belief cannot exempt any private business owner from responsibility to obey the law–including laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation or gender identity. Indiana’s new law is an unacceptable violation of basic American values, and we urge the people of Indiana to demand its repeal.”
The Coalition will propose a resolution at the UCC’s General Synod this summer putting the denomination on record against the rising tide of “religious freedom” laws. The laws, now proposed in more than 30 states, are an attempt to carve out a “religious exemption” for private business owners and, in some cases, public officials opposed to marriage equality. But many of them are also written so broadly that any private business owner or landlord could disregard existing laws protecting LGBT citizens and others from discrimination in employment, housing or services.
The Coalition’s National ONA Gathering in Cleveland June 24-25 (before General Synod) will include workshops on how congregations can oppose these laws.