A study has warned about the link between suicide in LGB youth and religious teaching that does not support their identity.
The research published last month in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Preventative Medicine highlighted a significant link between anti-LGBT religious teaching and suicide in LGB youth whose religion is important to them.
One of the study’s co-authors John R. Blosnich told HuffPost that anti-LGBT religious groups could be highly damaging.
He said: “Religious groups who stigmatize LGBT people should be aware of the potential damage they can do to an individual and families, and honestly the damage they do to themselves as an organization.”
The study used data compiled by the University of Texas and surveyed over 21,000 university students.
Traditionally, a strong attachment to a religion is seen to decrease the risk of suicide in the general population, however this study finds that the opposite is true for LGB youth.
2.3 percent of the students surveyed identified as gay or lesbian, 3.3 percent identified as bisexual and 1.1 percent reported that they were questioning their sexuality.
Students were then asked how important their religion or spirituality was to their sense of self.
The study found that lesbian and gay youths whose religion was very important to them had a higher risk of feeling suicidal. There was also a higher risk for a suicide attempt.
Students were asked about whether they had considered or attempted suicide, and whether they had recently experienced suicidal thoughts.
This was then compared with how important the students thought their religious beliefs were to their identities.
3.7 percent of heterosexual students in the study had reported recently considering suicide.
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Rates of suicidal thoughts among LGB students were consistently higher than their heterosexual peers, with 16.4 percent of questioning students experiencing suicidal thoughts.
11.4 percent of bisexual students reported recently thinking about suicide, compared to 6.5 percent of lesbian or gay students.
When the data was compared, the study found that lesbians who said their religion was important or very important to their identities were 52 percent more likely to have recently thought about attempting suicide.
Students who reported that they were questioning their sexuality and thought their religion was important were three times as likely to have recently attempted suicide compared to their heterosexual peers.
This report alleged that homophobia from Church leaders make LGB people more likely to self-harm and even contemplate suicide.
A 2014 American study found that bisexual and lesbian girls were approximately half as likely to have been treated by a medical professional as a result of a suicide attempt.
Much of the research regarding suicide within LGBT youth exclude transgender and non-binary youths, as data is often harder to gather.
In this recent study, 0.2 percent of those surveyed identified as trans, which did not provide a large enough sample for the study, though the survey listed transgender as a completely separate gender identity, which may have affected these numbers.
A synagogue has held the first known gender-neutral “B’nei Mitzvah” in the UK for a non-binary teenager.
The Jewish coming of age ritual is typically gendered, with males attending a Bar Mitzvah and females attending a Bat Mitzvah.
When Esther Thorpe, 14, came out as non-binary last year, their mother, Miriam, worried about how the important ceremony would be held.
Miriam Taylor Thorpe explained that despite the traditional routes of the ceremony, she felt strongly that her child should have something that felt right to them.
Miriam said: “I was quite concerned because if something is important in your coming of age, it should reflect who you are in a person and not squeeze you into the traditional two genders that we happen to have just because of history,”
The mother had previously faced fears of acceptance within their Jewish community as a different child had recently come out as gay.
However, their local synagogue stepped up the game by welcoming the Thorpe family with open arms.
They worked with student rabbi Gabriel Webber at their synagogue in York to adapt the ceremony.
Webber explained that it was “the first” non-binary Mitzvah they have had “on the radar” it was “going to be far from the last one.”
Webber came to the decision to name the gender-neutral ceremony a “B’nei Mitzvah” because “b’nei” is a plural term which could refer to a mixed-gender group of people.
Other options had included “ban”, which combines the Hebrew for boy and girl, as well as “sera”, which means offspring or seed.
Esther explained that it was important for them to get the right terminology “for other non-binary kids in the future”.
“If you have a name that doesn’t give that tie into your family and your history, you are much more isolated, and that compounds isolation that I know Esther still does feel — if you are non-binary or trans and you are the only person in your shul that are already in a different position,” Miriam added.
Esther is now known as Esther chose “Esther mi beit Miriam,” which translates to “Esther from the house of Miriam.”
The gender-neutral service was well accepted by the Jewish community, although some people did purchase typical “bat mitzvah” gifts that would be aimed towards people who identify as a female.
Miriam explained: “It was quite easy to make the service be reflective of [Esther being] non-binary, once you have a rabbi that’s on board with it and you have a congregation that’s prepared to take that through and as soon as you left the service you’re back to it’s either a bar mitzvah or a bat mitzvah and there’s nothing in between.”
“I feel better,” Esther added. “I feel part of a community, accepted and acknowledged.”
The course targeted girls who “think they might be gay, bisexual or transgender”.
The advertisement for the workshop has since been removed from the church website, although it says it is going ahead.
After the church declined to cancel the event, hundreds of people turned out to protest on Thursday night – and send a message to the teens that they are fine just they way they are.
Speaking to BTL, protest organiser Brianna Dee Kingsley said: “Conversion therapy is what it is, and Metro City Church is trying to repackage it as conversation therapy.
“But the basic premise is you are broken and you need to be fixed and that something is wrong, and we stand against that – we are here to show support for the LGBTQIA community.”
Several survivors of gay cure therapy also attended the protest.
One protester said: “I went through conversion therapy at a local church when I was 15.
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“I wanted to come out and basically make sure these kids know that there are people out there outside of your parents’ house and outside of your parents’ religion who will be there for you.
“I want them to know that they don’t have to give in to what their parents say – they can make it through this even though it’s probably hard right now going through all this.”
And Oakland University professor Char Davenport pointed out the lack of legislation banning gay cure therapy across much of the US – despite the discredited practise being condemned by hundreds of medical bodies.
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Davenport said: “This protest, yes it’s about this church, and it’s about these kids – but let me tell you that this is a much bigger issue than this street corner.
“Only nine states and the District of Columbia have banned this practice. We can make a difference here in Michigan, and we’re going to make a difference here in Michigan. So pay attention, and you’re going to be a part of it.”
A second protest is planned for next week.
The church’s pastor Jeremy Schossau defended the workshop in a sermon subsequently posted to YouTube.
He said: “We’ve seen this movement in culture, particularly younger people, where they are just struggling – and our culture is cheering that struggle on.
“For me, I believe it’s in the wrong direction. Unashamedly. We believe God is the creator of men and women, and that God created men to be men and women to be women, and defined their completeness in one another.
“Not man with man, or woman with woman, but with the opposite. That is God’s design. For those of us who want to follow the God of the Bible, that’s what we believe. It is not a hate-filled thing.”
He added: “Some of you are aware that a couple weeks ago we offered a workshop on the idea of sexual identity for young girls.
“It is obvious that so many young people struggle with their sexual identity, and the direction they want to go with their life.
“We see this more and more, and it has not escaped the church – this is a problem even within the church, and I do say the word ‘problem’, because God does not want us to live confused, he wants us to be whole and complete.
“God doesn’t want us to live broken. We are a Bible-believing, traditionally-minded Christian church that wants to engage the world.”
He denied that the practise was hateful because “this church believes in loving sinners”, and went on to claim parents have a “duty” to fix their children’s sexuality.
He said: “I think it is very clear in scripture that God wants men and women to be married in a monogamous, loving thing called marriage. All of this sexual movement comes from brokenness.
“We’ve been told that parents have no right to intervene in the development of their 12-year-old children. I think it’s not only a right, it’s a duty, and a responsibility.”
Catholic Bishops in the US are behind a new campaign encouraging parents to reject their transgender children.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a letter this week that brands transgender people “deeply troubling” and claims that changing gender is a “false idea”.
There is nothing in the Bible about transgender people or changing gender, but the Bishops have called for parents to refuse to allow kids to transition.
Studies have shown that an unaccepting or stifling environment drastically increases the likelihood that transgender youths will attempt suicide.
The letter says: “Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can ‘change’ their sex or, further, given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults.
“Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of ‘first, do no harm’.
“Gender ideology harms individuals and societies by sowing confusion and self-doubt.
“The state itself has a compelling interest, therefore, in maintaining policies that uphold the scientific fact of human biology and supporting the social institutions and norms that surround it. “
The letter adds: “The movement today to enforce the false idea—that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa—is deeply troubling.
“It compels people to either go against reason—that is, to agree with something that is not true—or face ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation.
“We desire the health and happiness of all men, women, and children. Therefore, we call for policies that uphold the truth of a person’s sexual identity as male or female, and the privacy and safety of all.
“We hope for renewed appreciation of the beauty of sexual difference in our culture and for authentic support of those who experience conflict with their God-given sexual identity.”
It also says: “We also believe that God created each person male or female; therefore, sexual difference is not an accident or a flaw—it is a gift from God that helps draw us closer to each other and to God. What God has created is good.
“God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
The advice is particularly harmful to families with transgender children, and represents a giant leap by the USCCB to a position that does not appear to be based on any scripture or pre-existing Catholic teaching.
Rev. James Martin, a highly-respected Jesuit priest, is the author of recently-published book Building a Bridge, which sets out a framework for the Catholic Church to begin to engage with the LGBT community with “respect, compassion and sensitivity”.
In the book, the priest draws on the Christian ideals of “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” as a model for how the Catholic Church should relate to the LGBT community, igniting anger from the anti-LGBT lobby which is dominant within the church.
In the wake of the book’s publication, hardline opponents of LGBT equality within the Church began a campaign targeting Rev. Martin – successfully convincing a string of global Catholic organisations to cancel planned events where he had been due to speak about unrelated subjects.
The Theological College in Washington DC, where the priest was due to give a lecture about the Bible, abruptly cancelled the event last week, after conservatives raised issues with Rev. Martin’s beliefs on LGBT issues.
The Order of the Holy Sepulchre in New York also cancelled a lecture by Rev. Martin, confirming that his invite “was in fact rescinded”.
Rev. Martin had also been set to travel to London to deliver the 2017 lecture for Cafod, the overseas aid agency of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
After the backlash the event was shelved entirely, with Martin confirming that “cancellation of the 2017 Cafod lecture, scheduled for October, was out of fears of the backlash to my book”.
In a statement to PinkNews Cafod claimed that the 2017 lecture was actually just ‘postponed’ until next year for scheduling reasons and that an invitation “still stands” for Rev. Martin to speak in future.
This is somewhat incongruous given Cafod supplied a completely different statement to the Catholic Herald that confirmed it had been “considering” the future of the event due to “strength of feeling [Martin’s book] generated in some quarters”.
In a statement, Rev. Martin said: “I want to say that I bear no ill will whatsoever to Cafod, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre or Theological College. All of them are fine Catholic institutions that serve, in their different ways, the People of God.”
He added: “One of the many sad ironies of this episode has been that in each case the local ordinary was perfectly fine with my speaking – in London, New York and DC.
“Yet those who decided on the cancellations were ultimately influenced more by fear of protests and negative publicity than by the opinions of their ordinaries, in each case a cardinal.
“The situations were so terrifically fraught with fear for these organizations: fear of protests, fear of violence, fear of bad publicity, fear of angry donors, fear of lost donations, fear of offending, and on and on.
“When two of the organizers called me, I could hear the anguish in their voices.”
Addressing the anti-LGBT activists who had waged a campaign against him, he added: “So what do we do?
“Don’t give into them. To me, that’s an important lesson of the past few days. Don’t let them cow you.
“They’re like schoolyard bullies that keep taunting you? Well, you’re not 12 any longer. They can’t hurt you.
“And why let fear run your organization? It’s a sure way to disaster. And the PR from cancelling something is always worse. Don’t let them run things in your organization.”
He added: “If they are angry people, their anger comes from somewhere, which is ultimately sadder for them than for you. If they have a visceral hatred for LGBT people, it probably comes from a discomfort with their own complex sexuality, which is also sadder for them. ‘Hurt people hurt people’, as the saying goes.
“Often these sites or groups or individuals feel that they are being prophetic: i.e.,pointing out your supposed sins, completely contrary to Jesus’s command not to judge.
“Even more often, that prophecy morphs into pure hatred and obvious contempt and endless name calling. It’s called spite. But that doesn’t mean you yourself have to move towards hatred. That would be giving into the Evil Spirit.”
Others have been less forgiving.
Writing in America Magazine, San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy lashed out at those who had sought to censor Rev. Martin.
He wrote: “There has arisen both in Catholic journals and on social media a campaign to vilify Father Martin, to distort his work, to label him heterodox, to assassinate his personal character and to annihilate both the ideas and the dialogue that he has initiated.
“This campaign of distortion must be challenged and exposed for what it is—not primarily for Father Martin’s sake but because this cancer of vilification is seeping into the institutional life of the church.
“Already, several major institutions have canceled Father Martin as a speaker. Faced with intense external pressures, these institutions have bought peace, but in doing so they have acceded to and reinforced a tactic and objectives that are deeply injurious to Catholic culture in the United States and to the church’s pastoral care for members of the L.G.B.T. communities.”
Larsen, herself a Mormon, says she doesn’t have a gay child and doesn’t identify as LGBTQ ― but over the years, she witnessed the church’s fraught relationship with the gay community affect family after family, until she felt she had to do something.
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Studies have shown that LGBTQ youth are at a greater risk of depression, suicide and substance abuse than their heterosexual peers. Kids who are exposed to supportive and accepting communities and families are more likely to thrive, while those who experience rejection and bullying are at greater risk of having problems in school and engaging in risky behavior.
Larsen wants Encircle to bring families of LGBTQ kids closer together and to foster understanding between them and the Mormon community. It’s fitting that Encircle, housed in a historic blue Victorian, is located just down the street from one of Provo’s two Mormon temples, she said.
The Mormon church did not respond to a request for comment for this story. Last year, a representative for the church gave the following statement about Encircle to HuffPost: “It’s good to see this historic property lovingly restored and used to serve people in the LGBT community.”
HuffPost sat down with Larsen to talk about the challenges she faces in her work and how she hopes Encircle will help LGBTQ kids in Provo.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell me about the mission of Encircle. What is its role within the Provo community and the Mormon community?
It’s a safe space for LGBTQ individuals to come and have community, and the whole goal is to keep the youth alive. It’s extremely difficult if their family does not understand, love and respect them for who they are, and it’s even more difficult when they feel like they’re living in a community that doesn’t understand who they are.
We believe that if we can help the family work through when their child comes out as gay, lesbian or transgender, then they can become an affirming family and support this child on their journey. We hope that through the process, we will help change our community. We believe better conversations at Encircle lead to better conversations in the home, churches, schools, neighborhoods.
Our church, the Mormon church, is extremely important in Provo and affects everyone’s life. So instead of pushing against the community, we’re trying to bring the community in and trying to work in their values to help them better understand and love LGBTQ people.
Let’s talk about suicide. Not only are LGBTQ youth at greater risk for suicide, but Utah has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. Do the kids who come to Encircle talk about this?
Most of the youth we work with at Encircle talk about suicide and the struggle they’ve had with it. I think that when you feel like your god doesn’t love you, or there’s that shame involved in who you are, and you can’t change ― I can’t imagine how difficult that would be.
Youth on average realize whether they’re gay by the time they’re 12 years old, but they don’t come out till they’re 22. So there is a 10-year period that these kids are just harboring these feelings within themselves, and no one knows what they’re dealing with. And during that time, they’re hearing what their church thinks of gay people, what their mother thinks, what their aunt thinks, what their neighbor thinks, and they are internalizing that.
What are some of the biggest challenges of your work?
The major challenge is probably communicating with our community in a way of love and respect for their values, while also communicating love and respect for the youth and who they are. Trying to bridge that gap and to create understanding. And not to be seen as an enemy, but to be seen as a true value and resource. We’re not here to protest, we’re here to help the youth.
And I think raising money is one of the hard parts of a venture like this ― you know, you’ve gotta have money to make this thing run. Raising money is a constant distraction from trying to help the youth, but it’s got to get done. You have to do both.
What kind of support have you seen from the church? Have you had a positive response so far?
Yes, we really have. We’ve had bishops come to Encircle, where we get to have hands-on conversations with them, hoping that they will respond well to the youth and families when the youth come out, so the bishops won’t say things that will be damaging and hurtful to the kids.
Do you feel Encircle has made a difference in the short time it’s been opened?
Fifty to 60 kids come to the house every day.
Since we’ve opened, our therapists have seen over 250 new clients. People are coming to therapy, they’re staying, and they’re coming multiple times.
We’ve trained over 400 volunteers who work at Encircle, and I think every time we train a volunteer, they become an ally and more empathetic and understanding of these kids’ lives.
According to the staff page on your website, it appears that the people in leadership roles are mostly white. Does Encircle have plans to hire more people of color in the future?
For sure. It’s very important ― we’re trying to reach out to the Latino community. And to work on that. We reflect our community in our lack of diversity. I love it that you noticed that.
You don’t identify as LGBTQ, but do you have people from that community leading the day-to-day activities of Encircle?
The people who run the house are from the LGBTQ community. Every night we have an event, and the people who run those programs are always LGBTQ. They’re gaining leadership experience, they’re getting to design the program the way they think is most helpful for people with their life experience.
What has surprised you most about this project?
When you walk in this space, it’s always laughter and happiness. People aren’t just talking about how difficult it is to be gay, they’re talking about the good things in life. And I think that’s a really nice part of it ― that they’re just getting to celebrate life and friendship, and just be normal people there.
Anything else you want people to know?
Kids who have the courage to come out in this community ― they’re very brave, and they’re going to change the world. I hope that we can make it easier for gay kids to thrive in America ― that all of us can. I definitely believe they are born this way, and this is not by mistake. They should be honored and loved for who they are.
Trinity Academy, a private Christian high school in Wichita, Kansas, came under fire this week for its policy allowing the school to reserve the right to deny admission or expel students who have an LGBT family member or live in a household that promotes LGBT equality.
The school’s Statement of Understanding and Agreement for Parent and Student, initially made public on the blog Friendly Atheist, lays out some of the school’s foundational principles: the Bible is inerrant, families must be active members of a local church, students will refrain from alcohol, drugs, or premarital sex. It’s the final clause, however, that has garnered attention.
Given the debate and confusion in our society about marriage and human sexuality it is vital that Trinity families agree with and support the school’s traditional, Christian understanding of those issues. Therefore, when the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home is counter to the school’s understanding of a biblical lifestyle, including the practice or promotion of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) lifestyle or alternative gender identity, the school should have the right, in its sole discretion, to deny the admission of an applicant or discontinue enrollment of a current student.
The form requires the signature of the mother, father, and student (nontraditional families need not apply it seems).
Dustin Deckard, a former Trinity student who has since come out as gay, told local news station KSN that upon learning about the policy, “the message I received loud and clear from that is that we don’t want you here.”
Trinity officials did not respond to KSN’s requests for an on-camera interview, but emailed a statement clarifying the school’s position. “Trinity Academy holds biblical views on human sexuality and gay marriage and we want prospective families to understand that,” the statement read. “We feel that this is only fair given the disagreement and discord in our society over such issues.”
The school’s response continued by refuting a very narrow example posed by critics: whether a current or prospective student had a gay sibling. “Trinity would not and has not denied admission to a student simply because they have a sibling who is gay. Neither would we necessarily deny admission to a student with same sex attraction.”
The response doesn’t address other scenarios, such parents who are gay or who merely support LGBT equality in the home. Nor does it completely rule out denying admission or expelling a student who happens to be attracted to the same sex. While Trinity, as a private school, has some latitude to set criteria for admission, the extreme nature of this particular policy surprised even Deckard.
“This is as forward as I’ve seen them take this particular agenda,” he told KSN.
Currently, there are roughly 320 students enrolled at Trinity Academy. Earlier this year, the school announced that it plans to expand its campus, adding a school for kindergarten through eighth grade by the fall of 2017. Tuition is $10,000 a year for high school students.
Elsewhere in the document, he rallies against sex education focussing on safe sex and teaching about condoms.
He wrote: “Frequently, sex education deals primarily with ‘protection’ through the practice of ‘safe sex’
“Such expressions convey a negative attitude towards the natural procreative finality of sexuality, as if an eventual child were an enemy to be protected against.
“This way of thinking promotes narcissism and aggressively in place of acceptance. It is always irresponsible to invite adolescents to toy with their bodies and their desires, as if they possessed the maturity, values, mutual commitment and goals proper to marriage.”
He added that sex education should be focussed on “modesty”. He added that schools must teach “respect and appreciation for differences” – but this doesn’t appear to extend to trans people
He said: “The young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created, for thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation.
“An appreciation of our body as male or female is also necessary for our own self-awareness in an encounter with others different from ourselves. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment.”
He added: “Only by losing the fear of being different, can we be freed of self-centredness and self-absorption.”
“Sex education should help young people to accept their own bodies and to avoid the pretension to cancel out sexual difference because one no longer knows how to deal with it”.
The Catholic leader wrote: “In discussing the dignity and mission of the family, the Synod Fathers observed that, as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.
Growing up in Algeria, Shaira had almost everything a young man could wish for. But he also had a big secret.
In a land where homosexuality is still a crime and a sin, he was forced to live a secret life, hiding that he was gay from everyone — even his closest family.
The 26-year-old Shaira, who asked that his last name not be used to protect himself from attacks, went to study in France four years ago and has never gone back to Algeria. His family still has no idea of his sexuality.
Now a gay imam from Algeria is working with a local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender association to counsel and protect Shaira and other young gay Muslims who make their way to the ancient French port city of Marseille. The Le Refuge group says it has helped 26 gays find shelter and start a new life in Marseille last year. Some eventually go back to their families.
Homosexuality is a criminal offense in much of the Middle East — punishable by imprisonment or, in countries like Saudi Arabia, by death. In Algeria, homosexual acts are punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine.
Islam considers homosexuality a sin. Men having sex with each other should be punished, the Quran says, but it doesn’t say how — and it adds that they should be left alone if they repent. The death penalty verdict instead comes from the Hadith, or accounts of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. The accounts differ on the method of killing, and some accounts give lesser penalties in some circumstances.
The Islamic State group has taken this to an extreme. Videos the group has released show masked militants dangling allegedly gay men over the sides of buildings by their legs and dropping them head-first or tossing them over the edge.
It is believed that at least three dozen men in Syria and Iraq have been killed by IS over accusations of sodomy.
Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed is an imam born in Algeria who now works in Marseille and runs an association of French Muslims and gays. He has known the discrimination faced by the young people who come to Le Refuge for help.
“Personally I have received quite a lot of threats, but I saw more people come to encourage me … saying you are an embodiment of real Islam,” Zahed said.
The local head of Le Refuge in Marseille, Christophe Chausse, says the group tries to counsel young gays about how to cope with the constant conflict between their sexuality and their religion.
“For them, there is a real dilemma between — ‘I am or I feel homosexual, and I have my religion, my faith which prohibits it, so I cannot live this homosexuality,’” Chausse said.
Shaira cries as he talks about this conflict that he battles every day.
“Everybody is telling me — ‘you are gay, you are Muslim and this is not normal,’” Shaira said. “But I feel that I have the same right to have a religion as everybody else. Even if I’m gay.”
Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Mike Huckabee are all scheduled to speak at an Iowa event organized by Pastor Kevin Swanson, who regularlycalls for a return to the “biblical punishment” for homosexuality. Right Wing Watch points us to the press release:
Over 1,600 Christians around the country are gathering for a National Religious Liberties Conference, Freedom 2015, November 6th-7th at the Iowa Events Center. The conference speakers and attendees will celebrate the freedoms God has bestowed on our country, encourage those who have been persecuted or those who may experience persecution in the future and develop strategies for defending religious liberties for Christian business owners, teachers, evangelists, chaplains, employees and churches. The conference is sponsored by over a dozen evangelical organizations including American Family Association, Liberty Institute, Samaritan Ministries and Generations.
Speakers will include presidential candidates Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Mike Huckabee and Governor Bobby Jindal, persecuted Christians David and Jason Benham, Naghmeh Abedini, Richard & Betty Odgaard, SMSgt Phillip Monk, Aaron & Melissa Klein and Randy Pfaff, and religious freedom advocates Kelly Schackelford, Rafael Cruz, James Lansberry, Brigadier General Douglas Lee, USA (ret), Bob Vander Plaats, Bradley Pierce and Chuck Hurley. The conference will address religious liberty in the military, medical care, parenting, education and the workplace. Conference speakers will also highlight the history of religious liberties and religious persecution.
Right Wing Watch has compiled some of Swanson’s more outrageous statements, some of which have appeared here on JMG. People For The American Way, the parent of Right Wing Watch, has issued a formal call for GOP candidates to cancel their speeches:
“We already knew that the Republican Party opposed LGBT rights and women’s equality, but this is taking things to a new level,” said People For the American Way President Michael Keegan. “We can respectfully disagree on matters of public policy, but someone who supports gay people being put to death should have no place in our public discourse, much less be sharing the stage with a major party’s presidential candidates.” “If Cruz, Huckabee and Jindal are serious about wanting to hold the nation’s highest office,” Keegan said, “they should back out of this conference and denounce the extremism of its organizer.”