I’ve got your pastors right here, Senator McCain

In his latest email to supporters, Tony Perkins cited his “frequent conversations over the last several months” with Senator John McCain about DADT repeal and related this exchange:

Senator McCain…asked me several times: “Where are all the religious leaders, where are the pastors?”.

Tony Perkins heads up the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council.

Senator McCain, I’ve got your pastors right here.  Back in September over 500 ordained clergy signed the Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Sexual and Gender Diversity and delivered a copy to every member of Congress, including Senator McCain.

The letter and the endorsements were sent to remind members of the Congress that millions of people of faith support the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in society, including the right to serve in the military, marriage equality and banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Presidents and deans of leading seminaries and key officials at national denominations are among the Open Letter’s endorsers.

We ask the Senate to vote repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this week, and pray that this Congress will repeal DOMA and pass ENDA before the end of the fall,” said Rev. Debra W. Haffner, the Executive Director of the Religious Institute. “As religious leaders, we believe we have an obligation to create a world that embraces the diversity and dignity of God’s creation. Members of Congress, can assure full inclusion.”

What’s more, over 3,500 clergy and other religious leaders from more than 50 faith traditions have signed the Religious Declaration on Sexaul Morality, Justice, and Healing which states:

Sexuality is God’s life-giving and life-fulfilling gift.  We come from diverse religious communities to recognize sexuality as central to our humanity and as integral to our spirituality.  We are speaking out against the pain, brokenness, oppression and loss of meaning that many experience about their sexuality. [snip]

God hears the cries of those who suffer from the failure of religious communities to address sexuality.  We are called today to see, hear and respond to the suffering caused by sexual abuse and violence against women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons, the HIV pandemic, unsustainable population growth and over-consumption, and the commercial exploitation of sexuality.

The Declaration calls for “Religious leadership in movements to end sexual and social injustice.”

According to Harry Knox, a member of The President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and director of Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith program:

“[Progressive] faith communities care about justice for everyone.” Therefore, “thousands of faith leaders are using social networking, their teaching and preaching opportunities, and their voices as prophetic leaders in the public square to amplify God’s call to remove the barriers to service for lesbian and gay people,” he continued.

“[F]aith leaders have been making their own congregants aware of how DADT harms gay and lesbian service members and also harms our country at a time when skilled members of the military are needed more than ever,” Knox said. However, advocacy on behalf of lesbian and gay servicemembers is not limited to the pulpit, he noted, adding that faith leaders: ‘also have been advocating with members of Congress about the need for repeal through events like the Human Rights Campaign’s Clergy Call lobby event and through clergy sign-on letters and letters to the editor. Retired chaplains have been speaking out to tell the truth about DADT and to tell their own powerful stories of pastoral ministry to lesbian and gay service members who were denied the freedom to serve their country simply because of who they are.”

If the Senator is interested in what the laity thinks, he is directed to the poll “Most Continue to Favor Gays Serving Openly in Military” released on November 29th by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
The poll found that almost every religious group surveyed supports repeal of DADT.  Only white evangelicals, a group making up about 23% of the American population, approached a majority opposing repeal (48%).  White mainline Protestants (62%), Black Protestants (52%) and Catholics (63%) all favor repeal of the ban on military service by open gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

Among those who attend church weekly, an even 40% both supported and opposed repeal of DADT.  At least 66% of less-frequent churchgoers support repeal.

Overall, a paltry 27% of Americans oppose the repeal of DADT.
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