Image via REUTERS / Adrees Latif / RNS

Tragedies like the June 12 Orlando shooting seem to happen like clockwork, with the U.S. now averaging one mass shooting every day. And in cases where the shooter has a Muslim-sounding name, terms like “terrorist,” “extremist,” “radical,” joined with “Islam” quickly appear.

President Obama took a swipe at the use of such terms earlier this week. In response to Donald Trump’s accusation that he has an ulterior motive in avoiding the term “radical Islam,” the president said the term was “a political distraction.”

Image via REUTERS/Mark Blinch/RNS

As one of a tiny number of openly gay imams in the world, Daayiee Abdullah has felt the sting of rebuke from fellow Muslims. No good Muslim can be gay, they say. And traditional schools of Islamic law consider homosexuality a grave sin.

But Abdullah, a Washington, D.C. lawyer who studied Islam in the Middle East, says that mainstream Islamic teaching on gays must change.

Joel Hunter at an Easter prayer breakfast at the White House. Image via REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/RNS

In the aftermath of the shooting at an Orlando, Fla., gay club, diverse leaders in the city have reached out to the LGBT community. One surprising photo emerged: evangelical megachurch pastor Joel Hunter shaking hands with Equality Florida’s Carlos Smith. It was a simple gesture, captured by a local newspaper reporter, but one with deep symbolic meaning.

Image via Fredrick Nzwili / RNS

An Anglican priest has joined two gay men and two lesbians in a suit against the state over discriminatory laws that they see as encroaching on the rights and freedoms of sexual minorities in the East African country.

The Rev. Mark Odhiambo and the other plaintiffs charge that gays and lesbians in Kenya are routinely attacked, raped, evicted from their homes, and arbitrarily arrested. Odhiambo is a curate, or assistant to the parish priest, in Maseno South, a diocese on the shores of Lake Victoria.

Asma Uddin 06-13-2016

Image via REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/RNS

On June 3, the United States celebrated the passing of Muhammad Ali, an American Muslim who stood for America’s highest ideals. On June 12, it condemned a savage gunman as an Islamist radical before his motivations had been confirmed.

Omar Mateen opened fire in a crowded gay nightclub in Orlando shortly after 2 a.m. June 12. With 50 people dead and 53 wounded, it is the largest shooting rampage in modern America.

Mark I. Pinsky 06-13-2016

A woman prays in Seoul, South Korea. Image via REUTERS / Kim Hong-Ji / RNS

We may be at the center of a metropolitan area 2 million strong, but this is still a small town. So the shooting deaths of 50 people early June 12 at a dance club is sending shock waves well beyond Central Florida’s gay community.

My friend, Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland, the area’s largest evangelical church, was one of the first from the religious community to react to the shootings.

Bishop Elaine Stanovksy (left) receives Communion from activists Sue Laurie (right) and Julie Bruno. Image via Mike DuBose / UMNS / RNS

Delegates to the United Methodist Church General Conference shot down a strategy that would have allowed them to discuss contentious legislation in small groups.

Cindy Brandt 04-06-2016

I think there is a very real need for us to grapple with an idolatry of justice. As technology affords us both an instantaneous and relentless awareness of myriad justice causes, and the often-illusory perception of our capability to effect change, it becomes very easy to puff up our justice egos and enlarge our savior complex. Pragmatism and good ol’ work ethic drives us to advance our movements by documenting success, hitting program goals, and mining visible storytelling of dramatic life changes of the people we rescue.

the Web Editors 04-05-2016

Gov. Phil Bryant. Image via U.S. Department of Agriculture / Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Phil Bryant signed HB 1523 — the so-called “religious freedom” bill — on April 5, reports WREG Memphis.

The new law prevents legal action being taken against individuals and organizations that deny service based on their religious beliefs.

the Web Editors 03-29-2016

North Carolina state house. Image via  / Shutterstock.com

Attorney General Roy Cooper said March 29 that he will not defend the new state law that prohibits local governments from approving LGBT protections, reports The New York Times. Lambda Legal and the North Carolina ACLU have filed suit against the state.

St. Michael and St. George Cathedral in Grahamstown, South Africa. Image via /Shutterstock.com

South Africa’s Anglican bishops have taken an initial step toward including LGBT people as full members of their congregations with the passage of a resolution at a meeting in the Grahamstown Diocese. The resolution now goes to the Provincial Synod, the church’s top decision-making body, which meets later this year, said Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town.

Most Americans oppose religious exemptions to LGBT non-discrimination laws, according to a new survey. The report comes as a raft of bills before state legislatures would allow people to refuse service or accommodations to gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender people based on their religious beliefs.

Hlubi George. Image via Brian Pellot / RNS

Sipping ginger beer at an outdoor restaurant in Gugulethu, one of South Africa’s murder hubs, Prince January said he feels safe.

Across the train tracks at their shared home in Manenberg, Hlubi George said she can finally sleep through the night.

January, who is gay, and George, who is lesbian, are both temporary residents at Inclusive and Affirming Ministries’ iThemba Lam LGBTI safe house on the outskirts of Cape Town. The two-bedroom center provides refuge and counseling for at-risk sexual minorities from across the continent and a safe space for residents to integrate “God’s gift of faith with God’s gift of sexuality.”

Image via Rene Bach / Flickr / RNS

In the fight over gay rights, conservative Christians have a new enemy. No, it isn’t a politician or activist or organization. It isn’t a noun at all, but rather a verb: normalize.

In Albert Mohler’s forthcoming book, “We Cannot Be Silent : Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, & the Very Meaning of Right & Wrong,” the president of the flagship Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., discusses the normalization of same-sex relationships a whopping 39 times.

“The normalization of homosexual relationships and the legalization of same-sex marriage” is, in Mohler’s words, “the debate of greatest intensity of our time.”

Gay Clark Jennings 01-27-2014

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings. Photo: Courtesy of Mort Tucker Photography/RNS

In the last month, many Westerners watched in horror as Uganda, and then Nigeria, enacted laws that are brutally repressive to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

The fate of a bill passed by the Ugandan parliament remains uncertain after President Yoweri Museveni refused to sign it, but news reports from Nigeria indicate that there have been mass arrests of gay men following President Goodluck Jonathan’s signing of the National Assembly’s anti-gay bill.

World leaders, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, have expressed their dismay. Many Christian leaders around the world, regrettably, have been largely unwilling to criticize Christian leaders in Africa who cheered the passage of these punitive laws.

Suzanne Ross 11-22-2013
Photo courtesy of TMZ

Alec Baldwin chases down a photographer. Photo courtesy of TMZ

Alec Baldwin was caught on video venting his rage against a photographer and using a homophobic slur. I actually don’t follow Alec on Twitter or keep up with celebrity news on TMZ, but apparently he’s put similar slurs in writing. In this case, however, he denies using a homophobic slur, saying he is being misquoted. And as proof that he is not homophobic, in fact just the opposite, he points to his work on behalf of marriage equality with GLAAD. In defense of his actions in the video, he insists he was only defending his family’s privacy — in the video we can clearly hear him shouting at the photographer to stay away from his wife and his baby. Here’s a brief excerpt from his blog post in which Baldwin expresses his desire to protect his family and neighbors from media harassment:

I am concerned for my family. In Bloomberg's New York, forty or fifty paparazzi are allowed to block streets, inconvenience homeowners, workers and shoppers, and make life miserable for my neighbors. Photographers have tripped and fallen on babies in strollers on my block. They have nearly struck my wife in the face with microphones. They provoke me, daily, by getting dangerously close to me with their cameras as weapons, hoping I will react. When I do, the weapon doubles as a device to record my reaction. And then, apparently, I lose every time. 

And here’s what the prominent blogger Andrew Sullivan had to say. He is among many who called for accountability from Baldwin, GLAAD and his current employer MSNBC. (At this writing MSNBC has suspended Baldwin’s show for two weeks.) Here’s what Sullivan said:

Look: Baldwin’s anger… was thoroughly merited. But he continually resorts to this kind of homophobic poison when he’s angry. Just as Mel Gibson revealed his true feelings about Jews in his drunken rant, so Baldwin keeps revealing his own anti-gay bigotry. These outbursts reveal who he actually is. (Emphasis in original)

So which is it? Is Baldwin a raging (literally) homophobe or is he a decent guy protecting his family and neighbors? Whenever I encounter an either/ or choice like this, I know I am in the presence of a possible scapegoating incident for three reasons.

Gareth Higgins 05-11-2013

From "God Loves Uganda"

The beginning of wisdom proposed in the best documentaries is simply this: telling the truth, to ourselves and others, as best as we can.

So, I kicked the hornets' nest with my recent piece in The Atlantic, "In Defense of Eating at Chick-fil-A." The comments were brutal, with most excoriating the chicken chain and rejecting my argument that boycotts such as this are a waste of time. I've received many emails about this, and a few issues have been raised that need addressing. 

First, is the matter of Chick-fil-A's funding. Critics claim that they have donated millions of dollars to "hate groups." A report by Equality Matters serves as the basis, but a deeper look at the actual numbers tells a different story.

Yes, Chick-fil-A donated money to "pro-family" groups, but most of them — with the exception, perhaps, of the Family Research Council, which received a paltry $1,000 from the fast-food company in the year cited — don't deserve the derisive title.

Included in the list are organizations such as Fellowship of Christian Athletes. If you know anything about FCA, you'll agree that labeling them "anti-gay" is flat out dishonest. Regardless of your stance on gay marriage, I encourage you to investigate EM's report and do your homework on what the groups on this list actually stand for and work toward. You be the judge. 

Underlying the question of funding is a fundamental distinction that too few Americans fail to recognize. Our society must begin to recognize that being "anti-gay marriage" is not the same as being "anti-gay." Chick-fil-A's top executives and perhaps the corporation as a whole might be classified under the first label but not the second.

Andrew Simpson 05-23-2012

This week is one of those weeks where everyone seems to be talking, tweeting and blogging about the same video. I received it from several concerned friends with commentary like, “More bad news from North Carolina,” or “How can a loving God hate so much?” The video, which has quickly gone viral in the past 24 hours, is a clip from a recent sermon by Pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, North Carolina.

Following President Obamas endorsement of same-sex marriage, pastor Worley took to the pulpit to rage against the issue of “queers and homosexuals”. However, it is his proposed “solution” to the “problem” (eerily reminiscent of Hitler’s “Final Solution”) that has the blogosphere abuzz (read: up in arms).

Worley proudly pronounces that he has found a way to get rid of all of the “lesbians and queers”: lock them all inside a fenced-off area and simply wait for them to die out on account of their inability to reproduce. In the video, his pronouncement garnered several hearty “Amens” from the congregation.

Unfortunately, this explosive video is just the most recent in a long stream of gay-marriage-related stories making headlines from my home state of North Carolina. After all, mine is the state that just passed the draconian amendment to its constitution, commonly known as “Amendment One”, banning same-sex marriage and all domestic and civil unions (never mind the fact that same-sex marriage is already illegal in our state). It seems that a day does not go by where I don’t hear a quote or read an article where another pastor has taken to the pulpit to remind his congregation that “homosexuality is wrong and against the Bible!”

This breaks my heart.