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Press Release: Religious Leaders Unite Against Discriminatory Bathroom Legislation

By: 
Executive Director

“Mainstream, Not Extreme”

 

Austin, TX— August 1—A broad coalition of mainstream Texas religious leaders today spoke out against Senate Bill 3 and other so-called “bathrooms bills” that would discriminate against transgender youths and adults. The speakers, who represent millions of mainstream faith community members, included high-level leaders from the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions, and a non-denominational Christian parent of a transgender child.

 

Senate Bill 3 would restrict bathroom use in government buildings and public schools by requiring persons to use the restroom conforming to the sex listed on their birth certificate. The bill passed the Texas Senate one week ago, and is expected to be debated soon in the House of Representatives.

 

The religious leaders spoke out against the legislation at an Interfaith Lobby Day today focusing on “Mainstream, Not Extreme” faith communities. The event was organized by Texas Impact, a statewide, interfaith advocacy network founded in 1973.

 

“We stand together with our transgender neighbors. We stand together to speak against the fear and hate that are fueling the discriminatory bathroom bills being debated in this Capitol,” said Lutheran Bishop Ray Tiemann of Seguin.

 

Retired United Methodist Bishop Joel Martinez of San Antonio, a well-known Texas civil rights leader, said faith communities “always stand on the side of the marginalized.”

 

General Presbyter Sallie Sampsell Watson of Mission Presbytery in San Antonio said, "In his own life, Jesus chose to hang with strangers and sinners, lawmakers and lepers, even women for God's sake. In the eyes of Jesus, everyone is neighbor. And for those of us who claim to follow Jesus and to live in obedience to the Great Commandment, treating and welcoming everyone as neighbor is exactly what we have to do."

 

Lutheran Bishop Erik Gronberg of Fort Worth said, "Faith should not be used a weapon. Instead, it should inspire us to see the humanity in every person, and remind us that we are commanded to love and care for our neighbor. Whether intended or not, the consequence of the proposed bathroom legislation will be to imperil and ostracize some of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters, shining a light on their 'otherness'.”

 

Mufti Mohamed-Umer Esmail of Austin said, "Among the many names of Allah, one is al-Musawwir-the fashioner, the shaper. The Quran states, God is the one who shapes you in the wombs however He pleases. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, 'Indeed God does not look at your faces and bodies, rather he looks at your hearts and deeds.' I call upon the governor of Texas and the legislature: Enough of the transphobia! Y'all means all!"

 

Rabbi Mara Nathan of Temple Beth-El in San Antonio said, "Jews reject hate. Today is Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of the month of Av in the Jewish calendar. In my tradition, Tisha B’Av is a day to remember past tragedies and reflect on the injustices, pain, and suffering we see in the world today. The bathroom bill does nothing to heal our world; it only trades on fear. We must stand up to confront baseless hatred with education, reason, and a sense of history."

 

Rev. Griff Martin of First Austin Baptist Church said, "I am here as a Baptist pastor, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Austin just a few blocks away, the church that Sam Houston started in order to speak truth to power in this state. And I am here to say to our transgender siblings and friends and beloved community - you deserve better and we will stand up for you, because that is what Jesus would say and do - and following Jesus, well that is a very Baptist thing."

 

The news conference was followed by a day of advocacy at the Texas Capitol with hundreds of constituents from across Texas meeting with their elected officials.

 

Rev. Dan DeLeon of Friends Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in College Station said, "Our transgender neighbors who are made in God’s likeness — made in the very image of God — they show us that God is bigger than gender, and that God is bigger than the assignments we give to gender. Transgender Texans remind us by their very lives that our God is an awesome God. They remind us by their daily walk of courage and authenticity that our God is bigger than any of our warrantless fears. They remind us that excluding any of God’s children from basic human dignity in the public square is blasphemy."

 

Rev. Diane McGehee of Bering Memorial United Methodist Church in Houston said, "I grew up in the South in the ‘60s when targeted groups of children and adults were told which bathrooms they could use. Those laws were discriminatory and unfounded, yet here we are again considering the 'bathroom bill.' Today, as then, such state-sponsored discrimination is unjust, unnecessary, and threatens some of our most vulnerable citizens, robbing them of dignity and respect."

 

Kimberly Shappley of Houston is a nondenominational Christian and the parent of a transgender child. She said, "Our nation is filled with people hurting from these attacks by the radical religious politicians. The Bible repeatedly warns us about the Pharisees abusing their power, and here we are. The Pharisees consistently used scripture as a means to control the behavior of those under the law and justify their horrible treatment of others. Rather than argue the scripture, Jesus consistently challenges us to view situations through the lens of love."

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