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.