The Arkansas Interfaith Alliance, a group of local religious leaders, spoke this morning on the steps of Christ Episcopal Church downtown in support for bullied gay and lesbian teens in the wake of the resignation of Midland School Board member Clint McCance.
The speakers were minister Barbara Jones, Bishop Charles Crutchfield of the United Methodist Church, Ruth Shepherd of Just Communities of Arkansas, Rabbi Gene Levy, pastor Bob Cline of the Universalist Unitarian Church, and former United Methodist Church Bishop Kenneth Hicks. They were backed by other community and religious leaders, including Judge Wendell Griffen and gay and lesbian advocate Randi Romo of the Center for Artistic Revolution.
Read more on the jump. Also today, the Arkansas Education Association finally got around to denouncing McCance's Facebook comments.
Standing in a cold wind, the religious leaders all spoke in turn on the importance of treating all people with respect.
Afterwards, Rabbi Gene Levy said that sexual orientation has nothing to do with religious commitment. "It's amazing how the Bible is full of passages about love and how you treat your neighbor, and there's one reference to homosexuality, and they use that reference," Rabbi Levy said. "I think using the Bible to expand hate is unconscionable."
Referring to the resignation of Midland School board member Clint McCance, Levy said: "He said something that really touched me. He said that he was kind of keeping a low profile because he is concerned for the safety of his family. I would hope that he would think about the families of other people."
Retired minister Kenneth Hicks, who served as Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Arkansas from 1976 to 1984, said that if reports are true that McCance was threatened by those advocating for his resignation, it was inappropriate. Asked what he hopes for McCance going forward from his resignation, Hicks said: "I would hope that someday he would come to appreciate that religion isn't a bunch of fences and walls, but that it's more of a gate through which we proceed in our lives as we learn to live with one another... If you're not experiencing well-being, then my well-being is cut short too. If you're insecure, then my security is incomplete. We're all a part of the outcome for each other, so my heart goes out to him. I hope that he can grow."
FROM AN AEA NEWS RELEASE
AEA President Donna Morey said, “The Arkansas Education Association’s mission is to advocate for education professionals and to unite our members and the state to fulfill the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world. One of the Association’s core values that guides our work and defines our mission is that in a just society, we believe public education is vital to building respect for the worth and dignity of every individual in our diverse society.”
The Arkansas Education Association believes in the equality of all individuals. Discrimination and stereotyping based on such factors as race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identification, disability, ethnicity, immigration status, occupation, and religion must be eliminated.
"Bullying is a major problem in society, from teasing to mental and physical abuse. Public schools are open to all people. Every student, parent, child, adult and employee is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect," stated Morey.