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Challenges faced by gays, lesbians & bisexuals

Attacks on LGBT churches, and
churches sympathetic to LGBT concerns

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"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals.

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Background:

Most faith groups with a predominately LGBT membership are believed to be affiliated with the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, (UFMCC). They are the world's largest faith group with a special ministry to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals.

More than 20 UFMCC churches were been bombed or set on fire by arsonists during the 29 years from 1968 to 1997. This is an unusually high number for a denomination of only 300 churches.

US President Bill Clinton announced a conference on hate crimes in 1997-JUN during an address to the nation. He called for all Americans to "use the full talents of all of our people, regardless of race or religious faith, national origin or sexual orientation, gender or disability." The White House Conference on Hate Crimes was held on 1997-NOV-10. The conference explored both federal and community-based remedies for addressing hate crimes.

The Rev. Troy D. Perry, moderator and founder of the UFMCC, participated in the conference. He wrote:

"UFMCC members and congregations have suffered a two-fold victimization by hate crimes:

  • Crimes against our worship facilities because of our faith and

  • Crimes against our predominantly gay and lesbian members because of their sexual orientation."
"Since its founding in 1968, more than 20 UFMCC churches have been bombed or arsoned, while many others have been vandalized, desecrated or threatened. Proportionally, no other institution in America has been the recipient of as much arson, bombing, vandalism and desecration motivated by hate crimes as have the churches of UFMCC. An astounding and shocking seven percent of our congregations have been targets of bombing or arson." 11

He joined with vice moderator the Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson to send a letter to President Clinton that expanded on his previous thoughts. 10 They noted that:

"First, an astounding 7% of UFMCC congregations have been targets of arson or fire-bombing over the last three decades. Based upon our internal research, we believe this to be a higher figure than for any other institution – religious, political or civic – in American society."

"Second, the overwhelming majority of these hate crimes directed at the UFMCC have 'flown beneath the radar' of public perception, failing to come to the attention of the American public. We believe the fact that this ongoing wave of hate crimes against our churches and people has been virtually ignored by the printed press, the electronic and broadcast media and the civil authorities reflects a systemic, societal view which devalues America's gay and lesbian citizens."

"Third, and finally, UFMCC is unique within American society for attacks based on twin hate crimes motivations: hate crimes motivated against our spiritual beliefs and hate crimes motivated against our members' predominant sexual orientation."

"The stain of hate crimes motivated against sexual orientation has left a blot upon the fabric of America's commitment to 'liberty and justice for all'."

"In 1977, I attended the first-ever White House meeting with representatives of the gay and lesbian communities. In meetings with members of the White House staff and in conversations with President Jimmy Carter, I pleaded for the use of presidential leadership to protect and affirm the equality of America's gay and lesbian citizens."

"I am saddened that today, twenty years later, our members still lose their jobs solely because of their sexual orientation... our worship services are still threatened... our churches are still victimized by the hate crimes of vandalism, intimidation and desecration. Our nation is better than this. Our people deserve better than this."

At the time of the conference, there was a federal hate crime law on the books, but it only applied to crimes committed in certain situations and locations. It only protected people from crimes motivated by hatred of the victim's race, religion, color, or national origin.

Two years later, a battle began to augment the original hate-crimes law so that it would also protect people who were physically attacked because of their actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, or disability. It took ten years, from 1999 to 2009, before Congress passed a bill and President Obama signed it into law. The 2009 version added or gender identity as an eighth protected class.

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Partial, representative list of attacks prior to 1997:

bullet Sacramento, CA: A church building was arsoned; $600,000 in damages
bullet New Orleans, LA: a fire killed more than 30 persons, including the church's pastor. According to the GLBTW encyclopedia: it was at "... the Upstairs Lounge, a gay bar that had been used for services by the New Orleans MCC congregation. This deadliest fire in the city's history took the lives of 32 people, including the MCC's pastor and assistant pastor along with about half of the congregation. The tragedy was compounded when most of the churches in the city denied [Moderator Troy] Perry's request to use their buildings for memorial services for the victims, some of whose families refused to claim the bodies." 4
bullet Los Angeles CA: UFMCC's "Mother Church" in Los Angeles was arsoned in 1973-JAN; $90,000 damages.
bullet San Francisco CA: A worship facility was arsoned in 1973-JUL; $100,000 in damages. Threats to the pastor's life were scrawled on the church door.
bullet Texas: A UFMCC congregation in Texas was victimized by a hate campaign of threats by the KKK.
bullet St.Petersburg, FL: church facility arsoned; $34,000 in damages.
bullet Santa Monica CA: Received a hate-filled telephone threat. It was followed up with a fire; $20,000 in damages
bullet Richmond VA: A church's stained glass windows were smashed by vandals.
bullet Bradenton, FL: A church was repeatedly desecrated by spray-painted swastikas.

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The attacks against gay-positive churches have continued:

Arson attacks:

  • 1993: CA: The Dolores Street Baptist Church in San Francisco, severed ties with the Southern Baptist Convention in 1992 to protest the denomination's anti-gay stance. In 1993, an arsonist destroyed their historic sanctuary, causing $2 million damage. It is believed to have been a hate crime directed at the church's gay and lesbian members. 7

  • 2005-JUL-09: VA: A week after the United Church of Christ endorsed same-sex marriage, a small fire and anti-gay graffiti were found at a St. John’s Reformed United Church of Christ in Middlebrook VA. The graffiti said that United Church of Christ members were sinners. 5

  • 2010-APR-09: TX: A fire destroyed a gay-friendly Community of the Servant Savior Presbyterian Church in south-east Houston, TX. 6

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Insurance company denies coverage to church:

In 1917, a group of evangelical Mennonites formed a mutual-aid organization called Brotherhood Mutual. It grew to become the largest insurer of churches in the U.S. In the summer of 2007, they denied a request for church insurance received from the West Adrian United Church of Christ in Adrian, MI. Marci J. Fretz, a regional underwriter for Brotherhood Mutual wrote:

"Based on national media reports, controversial stances such as those indicated in your application responses have resulted in property damage and the potential for increased litigation among churches that have chosen to publicly endorse these positions."

Apparently, the insurance company's concern involves same-sex marriage that the United Church of Christ denomination has endorsed. The Adrian church has not specifically endorsed SSM.

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References:

  1. Additional information on UFMCC's participation in the White House Conference on Hate Crimes is available by e-mail from info@ufmcchq.com.
  2. Additional information can be obtained from James N. Birkitt, Jr., UFMCC Director of Communications, Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, 8704 Santa Monica Boulevard, 2nd Floor, West Hollywood, CA 90069. Phone: (310) 360-8640. Fax: (310) 360-8680.
  3. "A Partial, Representative Listing of Hate Crimes Committed Against the Congregations of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches During Its 30 Year History" UFMCC Press Release issued 1997-OCT
  4. "Metropolitan Community Church," Page 2, GLBTQ encyclopedia, at: http://www.glbtq.com/
  5. Fire, anti-gay graffiti found at UCC church," Associatied Press, 2005-JUL-09, at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/
  6. "HOUSTON: Arson destroys gay church," JoeMyGod.blogspot.com, 2010-APR, at: http://joemygod.blogspot.com/
  7. "Four ABC churches ousted over gay issue..." CBS Business network, 1996-FEB-21, at: http://findarticles.com/
  8. M.P. McQueen, "Insurer Judges a Church's stance as too risky: Denomination's Support for Gay Marriage Leads to Denial of Property Coverage," Wall Street Journal, 2008-JAN-08, at: http://online.wsj.com/
  9. Rob Moll, "Brotherhood Mutual denies insurance to pro-gay church: Company says stance is too risky," Christianity Today, 2008-JAN-08, at: http://blog.christianitytoday.com/
  10. T.D. Perry & Nancy Wilson, "Report to the President for the White House Conference on hate crimes," Metropolitan Community Churches, 1997-NOV-01, at: http://en.wikisource.org/
  11. "UFMCC's Perry Receives Invitation To White House Conference On Hate Crimes," Ambushmag, Volume 15/Issue 21, at: http://www.ambushmag.com/

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Copyright © 2000 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2000-JUN-29
Latest update: 2010-JUN-16
Author: B.A. Robinson

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