by Don Schlosser
At a Wednesday press conference hosted by the Human Rights Campaign, Barbara Menard, Deputy Director for the HRC Foundation, called for a dialog between the GLBT community and the largest protestant denomination in America, the Southern Baptist Convention.
The press conference was held in response to a resolution to be voted on by the denomination¹s members at their annual convention being held in Nashville, June 21-22. The resolution, in its original form, encouraged parents to withdraw their children from public schools that teach diversity training and tolerance, which were alleged to be code words for endorsing homosexuality.
According to Brad Bullock, local pediatrician, the resolution also connected homosexuality with higher incidence of cancer and venereal disease, and said same-sex sexual activity was "more dangerous than smoking."
Addressing the assembled media, Bullock noted that no research has indicated any connection between homosexuality and such risks, but countered by saying that "marginalizing and bullying GLBT students has been proven to lead to high-risk behavior and self-abuse."
Retired Southern Baptist missionary and pastor, Charles Warford of Nashville told the crowd that the resolution had been "significantly watered down. It¹s not as egregious and it will probably pass." The toned-down version of the resolution simply called for parents to be more involved in the education of their children.
In a prepared statement, Menard quoted from the Bible to support her view that intolerance of GLBT persons is not consistent with Christian teaching.
"It is immoral to foster pain. There is no place for hate and divisiveness," she said. According to Menard, the softening of the rhetoric in the resolution, and the repeal of the ineffective eight-year boycott of Disney, "are steps in the right direction."
While acknowledging that such public actions are promising, Warford cautioned, "We must not ignore the homophobia which is widespread among Southern Baptists, stoked by resolutions, sermons, and articles printed in their publications. They are wrong. They are contrary to Jesus."
Warford added, "To say that homosexuality is a threat to marriage is ludicrous. If Southern Baptists really want to protect marriages, why don’t they spend more time preventing divorce among heterosexuals."
Menard noted that the HRC would be extending an official call for dialog with the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention. The HRC has recently launched a Religion Project whose first task, according to Menard, is to discover "the message and the messengers to speak for fairness in all houses of worship."