John Teel

  • Houston, We Have a Problem!

    Dear City of Houston,

    Pastors have been at the very center of American society since even before our founding as a nation, and they remain an integral part of the lives of untold of millions of Americans today. They cheer us on when we succeed, lift us up when we fall, and pray with us in our darkest times of need. Pastors were leaders in the fight for American independence, pastors made the moral case to abolish slavery, pastors argued for women’s suffrage, pastors advocated for much needed child labor laws, and pastors – including one from Georgia whose life is celebrated by a new monument in Washington, DC – championed the cause of civil rights. During every national moment of crisis, we turn to our pastors for guidance, strength, and wisdom.

    Our First Amendment protects freedom of speech and religion, which has made these significant accomplishments possible. If pastors had been silenced, if they had not been free to speak out on issues in our society, America would not be what it is today. In fact, America would not be.

    We live in a rich, diverse society today. A society with differing viewpoints and beliefs, a society of open discourse in which tolerance makes it possible for us to disagree with respect. We also live in a society that values equality, including the notion that everyone has the right to publicly express deeply held beliefs without fear of persecution or reprisal. People of faith – who are a significant part of America’s rich rainbow of diversity – share the same fundamental rights as other groups.

    Your legal actions against a group of respected clergy members in the city of Houston constitute aggressive bullying, the very offense from which you seek to protect another community in the city. This is unconstitutional, un-American, and the very height of hypocrisy.

    By signing this petition, I stand with these valued faith leaders and demand that you cease and desist all bullying and other offensive actions against them. I also call on the City of Houston, in their quest to provide protection for LGBT citizens, to equally and explicitly acknowledge and ensure the equal rights of people of faith to live and express openly their deeply held religious beliefs. Furthermore, I ask that you apologize to the pastors, the people of Houston, and people of faith across the nation. Nobody should face persecution in America simply for what they believe. 

     

    PS: Looking for more background information on the Houston pastors story? Visit our blog post.

    GOAL: 12,127 signatures
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  • #ExtinguishIntolerance

    GOAL: 10,575 signatures

    Mayor Reed,

    The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and religion for all Americans, regardless of belief, and you have publicly advocated for making Atlanta “a more welcoming city for all of her citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race, and religious beliefs.” In light of this, your decision to terminate Atlanta's distinguished Fire Chief, Kelvin Cochran — a public servant with more than three decades of experience who has served President Obama as U.S. Fire Administrator and was unanimously confirmed as Atlanta’s fire chief —constitutes the absolute height of hypocrisy. 

    Chief Cochran, exercising his legally protected rights, expressed his religious convictions in his recent book. He even cleared its contents with your own Ethics Office Director. Despite this, you chose to fire him simply because you disagree with his religious beliefs. This action is not only un-American, it constitutes intolerance, bigotry, and discrimination.

    We live in a rich, diverse society. A society with differing viewpoints and beliefs, a society of open discourse in which tolerance and inclusion makes it possible for us to disagree with respect. We also live in a society that values equality, including the notion that everyone has the right to publicly express deeply held beliefs without fear of persecution or reprisal. People of faith – who are a significant part of America’s rich rainbow of diversity – share the same fundamental rights as all other groups.

    Chief Cochran and the citizens of Atlanta should all have the right to equal application of equal protections under the law. If one group is protected for its beliefs, all groups must be protected.

    By signing this petition, I join my fellow citizens in a united call for tolerance, fairness, and equality for all.

    I am asking you to: 

    1. Immediately reinstate Chief Cochran.
    2. Apologize for your unjust actions against Chief Cochran.  
    3. Ensure that no person of faith in Atlanta will be singled out by your administration simply due to the expression of their religious convictions.

     

    As we prepare to celebrate Martin Luther King Day, a holiday honoring an Atlanta native who bravely stood for equality and civil rights, I call on you to respect and honor his legacy. As Dr. King famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” 

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