Hate crimes law
Recent action by Congress and the President to expand federal “Hate Crimes” legislation capped months of controversy among church people. This new expansion will assist local officials in some cases to prosecute criminal physical attacks based on sexual orientation or other conditions.
Evangelical spokespersons have misrepresented the legislation, causing some Christians to fear it. Even LCMS officials have written to our clergy suggesting that we should lobby our legislators, lest we be prosecuted for sermons inciting a hate crime against gays or their families. In fact, the legislation contains clear free speech protections. And I trust it is a fact that no Lutheran preacher would demean or demonize any of their gay members or their families, or responsible gay citizens in their community.
Matthew Shepard’s mother recently said to me with apparent sadness, “I thought the church is to be accepting.” She, among others, has found churches especially unsupportive.
Could our church move beyond the hurtful condemnation that builds shame and secrecy around sexual orientation? Could our Lutheran Church, inheritor of the great Gospel of God’s prodigal grace in Christ, be an example of an accepting, open Christian fellowship including gays and their families? Could the passage of this bill prompt our pastors to demonstrate openness and understanding to the gays among their members and in their community and assist their members to do the same?
If just one percent of our LCMS membership is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered, we have 23,300 GLBT souls ministering and being ministered to in our midst. I, for one, am thankful.
Rev. King Schoenfeld
Posted Dec. 28, 2009