May 20, 2008

More LGBT Outreach to Faith Leaders and Groups

This article in the Washington Blade discusses a new and, in my view very positive, trend of LGBT advocacy groups reaching out to faith leaders, churches, and organizations. The best way to change someone's mind is to change their heart, and often the best way to accomplish that is by changing the message they hear from the pulpit in their home church.

One of the greatest hurdles to advancing gay civil rights is overcoming religious, anti-gay rhetoric. From Fred Phelps in Kansas to Focus on the Family in Colorado and the late Jerry Falwell’s church in Lynchburg, Va., religious institutions with deep pockets and vast political power are more than willing to use their resources to demonize gays.

Recently, however, gay groups have started to respond with programming of their own. The Human Rights Campaign has just announced a new venture for 2009 that will focus on clergy members, and several other gay groups have made outreach to faith communities an important part of their work, including the National Black Justice Coalition, Soulforce and Faith in America.

“We’ve had so many years where the far right has dominated the landscape and claimed a set of values that didn’t necessarily resonate with Americans who also [had a] faith tradition, so I think we’re seeing a reaction to that,” says Ineke Mushovic.

Mushovic, who works with the Movement Advocacy Project, a private think tank that analyzes the work of gay groups, says that one of MAP’s studies showed that 85 percent of Americans say religion is very important in their lives.

“America … is a deeply religious nation, much more so than pretty much any of the other industrialized nations,” she says. “You need to meet people where they’re at, and so that means it’s important to be able to connect with their faith perspective.

”For gay groups that are focusing on religious outreach, however, setting and measuring goals can be an intimidating venture. As one member of a religious-based gay group noted, “it’s kind of hard to measure heart change.”

Rest assured, this is not a quick-fix approach, but I believe it has great potential to bring about real, long-lasting change in our society.

Click here to read the read of the Washington Blade article.

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