In Washington DC the homeless and the ill are being pitted against gay and lesbian people. In Salt Lake City an anti-discrimination bill protecting the LGBT community passed unanimously. In DC the threats are coming from the Roman Catholic Church. In Salt Lake City the new bill was blessed by the Mormon Church. They were both kissing cousins in uniting against Proposition 8 in California. Have their California dating days come to an end? An olive branch offered in Utah; hostage taking and threats in DC. Is this a case of religious schizophrenia? Are some spiritual fundamentals at stake?
Most LGBT people have experienced threats made against them. Many have learned to navigate the shoals, to protect themselves. The Salt Lake City bill bestows on LGBT people the freedom enjoyed by others; freedom from discrimination in employment and housing. The bill’s provisions are unremarkable. Salt Lake City joins a long list of American cities with similar laws. Salt Lake City is to the Mormons what the Vatican is to Roman Catholics. What is remarkable about the bill is that it was publicly blessed by the Mormons on their sacred turf.
The Mormon benediction came a year after Mormon financial support and door to door canvassing was widely credited in overturning same-sex marriage in California. Some degree of protection from threats and hostile actions directed to LGBT people are now no longer permissible in Salt Lake City.
Is this an Olive Branch? Or is this an expression of a spirituality of justice found in most spiritual traditions? Most spiritual traditions not only invite, but expect spirituality to include working against injustice, against harm to people. The Dalia Lama likes to remind us that we are all inter-connected, that there is no independence. We all part of the one bundle of humanity. The attention given to the Mormon support of Salt Lake City’s legislation is an expression of that.
Most spiritual traditions expect tangible care for the outcasts, the fragile, and the vulnerable. In DC, Catholic Charities – known for generous and laudable work throughout the country – has threatened to withdraw from the city contracts that it manages which provide care to 68,000 people in the District of Columbia. These include the homeless, adoption services and health care for the poor. The threat is intended to persuade the DC Council to withhold their expected approval to a same-sex marriage law.
Opposition to same-sex marriage is a perspective that may be held freely. It seems unfathomable to me that the homeless, the sick and children are offered as hostages in support of that opposition. Pitting people against one another is an odd expression of any Golden Rule or spirituality.
In Utah a gay rights group backed the Common Ground Initiative to seek commonalities and build support for equal protection under the law in both the Utah State Legislature and the Salt Lake City Council. Might the organizers of Common Ground consult with religious institutions to help them lead the way in building up, rather than setting people against one another?
Too often some use religion to divide, separate and sow discontent or worse. The Common Ground Initiative is a secular reminder of the spiritual practices of compassion, of oneness, love and the dignity of every human life.
Divisiveness may play well for politicians. Surely the spiritual moral and ethical high ground is in honoring each life and seeking common good? Imagine the results of religious and spiritual energy directed to towards that!
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Watch Robert V Taylor discussing Exclusion in the Name of God and how spirituality invites inclusion on YouTube