Current church & societal discrimination
based on race, gender & sexual orientation
Matthew Fox, Episcopalian priest and theologian: "Evil is the
shadow of angel. Just as there are angels of light, support, guidance, healing
and defense, so we have experiences of shadow angels. And we have names for
them: racism, sexism, homophobia are all demons - but they're not out there."
The level of oppression and discrimination today:
With very few exceptions, Christian denominations have
totally abandoned their original beliefs about race, human slavery and racial
segregation. Most have abandoned or at least slightly modified their initial beliefs about the
role of women. Some have abandoned their original beliefs about the nature of
homosexuality and the status of homosexuals in the church and the rest of
The history of the United States and Canada contains many
instances of groups who were originally oppressed, who organized and demanded
equal rights, and who finally achieved at least equality in law. This included:
African Americans, Roman Catholics, various waves of immigrants from Ireland,
Europe, Asia, etc. Various forms of prejudice still exist at the personal level
and in private organizations like the Boy Scouts of America's, discrimination against non-theists, gays,
and bisexuals. However at least they are not supported by laws and the government.
Women seem to have followed the same path. They have not
yet attained full equal rights, For example, they are currently refused
consideration for positions of power and authority in many religious
denominations, and in certain roles in the military. However, they seem well on
the way towards equality. For example, as the first draft of this essay was
being written in 2006-JUN, the Episcopal Church elected
Right Reverend Katharine Jefferts
Schori to be its Presiding Bishop, and the first female Primate of the Anglican
Communion -- much to the anger of many of the other primates whose provinces don't even allow women to be consecrated as bishops.
Gays and lesbians were nearly universally considered as
sexual perverts and mentally ill until sexual orientation was first seriously
studied in the 1950s. Within about one generation afterwards:
||The Stonewall Inn riot in Greenwich Village, New
York, NY (1969) had triggered the start of the gay liberation movement
||Canada removed homosexual behavior from its criminal
code, thus fulfilling the belief of Prime Minister Trudeau that "There's no
place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation." (1969)
The American Unitarian
Association had become the first organized religion to promote an end to
homophobia within their denomination and in
society generally. (1970)
The American Psychiatric
Association had removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.
Within about one more generation:
Laws criminalizing same-sex behavior have been eliminated in the U.S. (2003).
Same-sex couples can marry in the District of Columbia, in a handful of states, throughout Canada, and in some other countries. The current status of same-sex
marriage in California is before the state Supreme Court.
More religious denominations allow the ordination of
gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in loving, committed same-sex relationships.
Most notable among these are the United Church of
Canada, United Church of Christ,
Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.), and the
Episcopal Church, USA.
Public opinion surveys
show that American youths and young adults are far more accepting of equal
rights for gays and lesbians than older generations.
It is likely that this trend will continue until sexual minorities
achieve equal rights. Religious and social
conservatives are investing great effort in passing federal and state
constitutional amendments to restrict marriage to one man and one woman -- thus
temporarily preventing same-sex couples from marrying. However, support for marriage equality has been steadily increasing.
ordination of homosexuals and the recognition of their relationships is causing
great stress in some mainline denominations and may yet cause major schisms. However,
equal rights for homosexuals and bisexuals have greatly advanced over two
generations. If past history is any indication, then the U.S. and Canada will
continue to stumble in the direction of their often repeated goal of "liberty
and justice for all."
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Copyright © 2006 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2006-JUN-25
Latest update and review: 2011-JUN-02
Author: B.A. Robinson