Statement of Religious Institute

June 12, 2016—Our hearts break for the victims of the shooting at “Latin Night” at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on the morning of June 12, 2016, and for their families and friends. We stand in solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community in Orlando and with all who are affected by this horrific act of violence. Sadly, this act is part of a larger culture of hostility toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people whose lives are under attack every day in this country and throughout the world.

Our religious traditions teach us to love one another. It is a testament to the best of humanity that there is already an outpouring of support for the wounded and the dead. It is a testament to the brokenness of humanity that these deaths happened at all. Let us not contribute to that brokenness by scapegoating the religious tradition of Islam.

Our religious traditions also teach us to work for justice. We must not accept violence as an unchangeable fact of life. We must not accept homophobia as an unchangeable fact of life. We must not accept the persecution of LGBTQ people as an unchangeable fact of life. As people of faith, we must continue to work to change our culture of fear and hate to one of love and understanding.

During this month of LGBTQ Pride, let us remember that our movement was forever transformed when transgender, gay, lesbian, and bisexual people at a nightclub chose to resist the violence directed at them. Let us celebrate the resilience and strength of God’s queer children. Let us hold the dead in our hearts and in our prayers. And let us continue to actively work for a world where all people can live authentically in safety.

Reflecting on the shooting, Marie Alford-Harkey, president and CEO of the Religious Institute said, “I still remember what it felt like the first time I went to a “gay” bar. All my life, I had struggled to fit in. After I came out in the mid-90’s, friends took me to Railroad in Detroit, which mostly catered to the lesbian community. The feeling of sanctuary I had walking into that place was nothing short of holy. I felt safe, empowered, and free. The fact that my queer siblings were murdered in just such a place on Sunday makes me weep.

“In this time of tragedy it is imperative for people of faith to assure the LGBTQ community, the Latinx community, and the Muslim community that we stand with them in solidarity. May our faith unite us in care for one another.”

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