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Texas High School Responds To Gay Vlogger's Viral Video Saying He Was Threatened With Expulsion for Being Out

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Earlier this week, Towleroad's Kyler Geoffroy broke the story about gay teen vlogger Austin Wallis, who posted an emotional video recounting how he was forced to leave his high school because of his sexual orientation. 

Since then, Wallis' video has been viewed more than 170,000 times. Today, we learn that the school that threatened Wallis with expulsion if he didn't go back in the closet is Houston's Lutheran High North, a small, private, religious school with 162 students.  

The Texas Observer reports: 

Dallas Lusk, head of school at LHN, sent the Observer a statement from Wayne Kramer, executive director of the Lutheran Education Association of Houston. The association covers three schools, including LHN, which has an enrollment of 162.

“Lutheran High North welcomes all students and their families to the LHN community,” Kramer said in the statement. “We profess and proclaim our Christian beliefs with the foundations and authority taught in the Bible, all within the teachings of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. We respectfully require students to adhere to these accepted values and moral beliefs. Sometimes, as in this case, students have to make choices and decide whether their beliefs align with our community and we respect their choices. We also respect student privacy and do not comment on any individual student or their actions.”

The Observer reports that Lutheran High North also has a Morals Clause in its student handbook which states: 

“Lutheran High North reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant and/or to discontinue enrollment of a current student participating in, promoting, supporting or condoning: pornography, sexual immorality, homosexual activity or bisexual activity; or displaying an inability or resistance to support the qualities and characteristics required of a Biblically based and Christ-like lifestyle,” the clause states.

In addition, the Observer reports that the school is part of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, which takes this position on homosexuality: 

“The Missouri Synod believes the Bible teaches homosexual behavior is contrary to God’s Word and will, and the LCMS seeks to minister to those who are struggling with homosexual inclinations,” the denomination’s website states.

Ken Upton, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, told the Observer that although he believes the school's actions qualify as abuse, Wallis has little recourse:

“The short answer is that if it’s not a government school, if it’s a strictly private school, the First Amendment doesn’t apply to them,” Upton said. “If they’re a private school, then I think it’s game over. They’re entitled to discriminate.”

Watch Wallis' video if you haven't already, AFTER THE JUMP ...  

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Thousands Resign From Finland's Lutheran Church After Archbishop's Pro-Gay Marriage Comments

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 5.06.53 PMAlmost 7,800 Finnish citizens resigned from the Lutheran church after the government voted to legalize same sex marriage and Archbishop Kari Mäkinen immediately lent his vocal support for the vote reports The Independent. In the short amount of time between the vote passing on Friday Nov. 28 and midnight, Saturday Nov. 29, 7,800 church members completely resigned from the church primarily through a website aimed at fast tracking the process reports YLE Uutiset. A large number of commenters wrote on the site that it was Archbishop Mäkinen's comments that caused them to resign. 

The mass resignations could significantly affect the Church's revenue, as members who resign no longer have to pay taxes to the church-its main source of income. Immediately following the Friday vote that legalized same-sex marriage in Finland, which will also allow gay couples to adopt children and share the same surname, Makinen issued positive commentary about the new legislation and attempted to calm church members fears.

Said Mäkinen:

"I know how much this day means for rainbow people, their loved ones and many others. I rejoice with my whole heart for them and with them...I would like to warmly thank the proponents of the law, and all those who have taken part in the debates, regardless of position.

"There are many who are now disappointed and feel concern. This is understandable. Their experience will be respected, and the Church will listen to their fears in the future, as well as in society as a whole."

Mäkinen assured church members that their marriages are not cheapened because of the passage, and that neither the Church's faith nor human dignity will suffer. However, Finland's Christian Democrat leader Paivi Rasanin vowed that she intends on fighting against the legislation. Should the measure stand, the first gay marriages in Finland are set to occur in 2017. 


Anti-gay Evangelicals File Brief Asking Supreme Court to Uphold Utah's Same-Sex Marriage Ban

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The group of five prominent, anti-gay religious organizations have joined together in a friend-of-the-court brief asking the Supreme Court to take up Utah's same-sex marriage case and uphold a state's right to deny gay couples the freedom to marry. 

The five organizations are:

  • U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • National Association of Evangelicals
  • The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
  • The Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod

The brief states, in part:

Marriage between a man and a woman is for us an article of faith and a profound social good. Our understanding of God’s law, fortified by experience, confirms the centrality of marriage between aman and a woman as a foundational institution for protecting children and sustaining the American scheme of ordered liberty. And our understanding of the limits of judicial authority under the Fourteenth Amendment leads us to conclude that laws reaffirming that ancient yet vibrant understanding are constitutional. [...]

And because marriage is not just a legal status but also a proxy for social and legal legitimacy, corollary issues are arising with increasing intensity. Will sexual orientation be recognized as the basis for a new suspect class akin to race, thus providing government with purportedly compelling reasons to override long-standing religious freedoms? If so, what statutory protections and exemptions should religious organizations seek to ensure their independence from State control and guard against retaliation? What exactly are the rights of organizations and individuals with sincerely-held religious objections to participating in, facilitating, or recognizing same-sex marriage?

Check out the brief in full AFTER THE JUMP to see all the other bigoted reasons for denying LGBT people equal treatment under the law...

Continue reading "Anti-gay Evangelicals File Brief Asking Supreme Court to Uphold Utah's Same-Sex Marriage Ban" »


Archbishop Of Finland Apologizes For 'Cruel Treatment' Of Gays

Kari Mäkinen

The Archbishop of Finland’s Evangelical Lutheran Church has apologized for the cruel treatment of gay people and other sexual minorities, reports YLE Uutiset.

Speaking at the public forum SuomiAreena, Kari Mäkinen said:

“When I think of the outside pressure and treatment that we have been guilty of displaying towards sexual minorities as a church and as a society for decades and how it still continues, I think it’s time for an apology.”

Mäkinen said he hoped his apology would encourage others to follow suit.

In June, Finland’s Parliament rejected a measure that would have legalized “gender-neutral marriage”, making it possible for same-sex couples to marry.


Rush Limbaugh: 'If You Believe In God, You Can't Believe In Global Warming'

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During a recent speech which announced the creation of the State Department's Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives, John Kerry described "global climate change" as "a challenge to our responsibilities as the guardians--safe guarders of God's creation." Those comments apparently didn't sit well with the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who spoke out against Kerry's remarks on his soon-to-be-dropped radio show earlier this week:

"See, in my humble opinion, folks, if you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in manmade global warming … You must be either agnostic or atheistic to believe that man controls something that he can’t create."

Thankfully, ThinkProgress presented overwhelming evidence to the contrary in their report, stating that:

"In reality, millions of church-goers in the United States already recognize that the evidence for climate change is undeniable. A December 2012 survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute found that strong majorities of most American faith traditions agreed that the recent string of natural disasters were the result of climate change, especially among mainline protestants (65 percent) and Catholics (60 percent)."

Of course, those attempting to support Limbaugh's assertion may argue that popular opinion does not necessarily dictate the rules and teachings of any particular church. Luckily, ThinkProgress goes on:

"What’s more, scores of religious institutions have responded to our shifting environment in ways that fully acknowledge humanity’s role in creating the crisis. The United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have all issued statements or launched initiatives aimed at acting on global warming, and the United States Council of Catholic Bishops has an entire section of their website dedicated to combating climate change and its disproportionate impact on the world’s poor." 

Praying-in-churchApparently, Pope Francis even recognizes the existance of the phenomenon, and made it apparent as part of a prayer earler this year:

"Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of good will: let us be ‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment."

Unfortunately, according to ThinkProgress, Limbaugh isn't alone in expressing this erroneous sentiment, and chronicled similar statements made by members of Congress:

"On Tuesday, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) told constituents that 'It wasn’t just a few years ago, what was the problem that existed? It wasn’t global warming, we were gonna all be an ice cube. We’re not ice cubes. Our climate will continue to change because of the way God formed the earth.' North Carolina Republican Virginia Foxx lamented that some environmentalists 'think that we, human beings, have more impact on the climate and the world than God does.' Representative John Shimkus (R-IL) told a congressional hearing: 'The earth will end only when God declares it is time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood.'"

Perhaps all of these public figures should consult those sitting next to them on Sunday before speaking on behalf of their entire congregations (or religion). 

 


Lutheran Church Elects First Openly Gay Bishop

Rev. Dr. R. Guy ErwinThe Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has elected the Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin to a six-year term as bishop of Southwest California Synod, which covers the greater Los Angeles area. It is the first time the church has elected an openly gay bishop. 

GLAAD reports

This is a significant step for the ELCA, who, until 2009, had banned clergy in same-gender relationships. Prior to 2009, hundreds of gay and lesbian clergy were forced out of congregations or served under secrecy. Hundreds of seminary students were not granted ordination, simply for being gay. Many left the denomination to more welcoming denominations or to join a roster of Lutheran pastors who refused to comply with the policy.

Dr. Erwin is a native of Oklahoma and an active member of the Osage Tribe of Indians. Dr. Erwin also sits on the board of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, which expands ministry opportunities for publicly-identified LGBTQ people called to leadership in the Lutheran church as ordained pastors and rostered lay leaders.

"I know that many will see my election as a significant milestone for both LGBT people and Native Americans, and I pray that I can be a positive representation for both communities," said Erwin about his election. "There was a time when I believed that I would not be able to serve as a pastor in the ELCA. Our church has now recognized the God-given gifts and abilities that LGBT people can bring to the denomination."

In 2009 the ELCA voted to allow gay people living in committed relationships to work for the church. Prior to this they had been banned. 


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