Given that our buddy Bob Smietana quoted me in the Tennessean (pitting me once again against Murray Davis) it should come as no surprise to anyone that I stand in support of the Non Discrimination Ordinance: BL2011-838, which still faces a third and final reading before the Metro Council. Since the Second Reading is usually the moment of truth, I have confidence that it will pass, but I want to make sure that my remarks of yesterday are clearly understood.
I confess that I am hesitant at times to talk publicly about the sexuality issue. This issue has been debated in the United Methodist Church for years, and I have little confidence that there is much I can say that hasn’t already been hashed over, and will sway anyone to change their core beliefs. While the discernment of our ruling body, the General Conference, is different than my own, I have willingly placed myself under the authority of the church and thus work to uphold the discipline of the church, while also being faithful to God’s call to love all unconditionally.
However while our church is not supportive of full inclusion in the full ministry of the church, the United Methodist Church is very clear that this exclusion is limited to participation in the church, not in civil society. “Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons,” the UM Book of Discipline writes. “We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation. We see a clear issue of simple justice in protecting the rightful claims where people have shared material resources, pensions, guardian relationships, mutual powers of attorney, and other such lawful claims typically attendant to contractual relationships that involve shared contributions, responsibilities, and liabilities, and equal protection before the law.” Elsewhere our church proclaims, “Every person has a right to a job at a living wage…” Supporting the Can Do bill is consistent with these teachings.
Please understand that I am not saying that one has to condone homosexuality. That is ultimately between you and God, based in the witness of scripture illuminated by the Holy Spirit and the traditions of your faith community. However, what we are saying is that if you want to take public tax dollars, paid by all persons in our society, including GLBT persons, there is an expectation that you won’t discriminate in hiring those persons as employees in your workplace. It is an expectation for public service, which is what a private business becomes engaged in when they take public dollars. If, due to religious and/or moral reasons, they don’t want to comply with the public requirements against discrimination, than they don’t have to . . . but it means that they lose their ability to perform services for the public trust (sometimes known as the government).
At this level this is not a religious fight. Certainly religious groups have the grounds for serious discussion related to sexual orientation and practice as it relates to their practice of faith. But this is about how some are discriminated against in the public sphere, and our city leaders are being asked to decide whether discrimination of this type will be supported in Nashville with our tax dollars. In the end it is a question of treating all in a secular society with equity, which I as a pastor, and the denomination that I am a part of, supports.
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