With the question of repealing the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) headed to a November ballot, pro-discrimination activists on the religious right are portraying the battle as one against the “presence of evil.” Sadly but predictably, those activists seek once again to use faith as a political weapon to divide Houstonians and promote discrimination — particularly against the LGBT community (even though HERO bars discrimination based on many factors, including race, religion and gender as well as sexual orientation and gender identity).
But in a moving opinion column in the Houston Chronicle this past weekend, African-American pastor Rudy Rasmus explains why his Christian faith calls on him to support HERO and oppose discrimination. The column is behind a paywall, but here are a couple of excerpts:
As a Christian, I am taught to love my neighbor as myself. When I search my heart, I believe we are all called to treat others with dignity and respect. Protecting others from discrimination is a way for me to live my faith and lead my congregation to be open and welcoming to all.
I believe that’s what Jesus calls me to do.
He calls me to do it in this wonderfully diverse and open city, with a reputation as a place that treats people with dignity and respect. A repeal of HERO would send a very different message to the people living here and those who might consider moving here or opening a business.
Unfortunately, as the ordinance heads toward the ballot, I anticipate that an argument will develop that pits religion against nondiscrimination. As a pastor and the leader of a faith community, I know how important the freedom of religion and religious expression is. But this is not a battle between gay and transgender people and people of faith, no matter how a few people might portray it.
That’s a false choice and it’s meant to divide us.
Even though we may have different beliefs, I believe we should look for those things that we all share — love of our families, the desire to do good work, wanting to be treated with dignity and respect, and the love that God gives us all as his children.
If the coming ballot fight really does expose a “presence of evil,” such evil doesn’t reside on the side of Pastor Rasmus. He seeks to show how faith can unite communities in support of fairness and equality for all. If HERO opponents are searching for the “presence of evil,” perhaps they should look at their own vile and divisive rhetoric.