Citing passages from the Bible to make their case, Charlotte ministers representing a national coalition of more than 400 clergy called Thursday for repeal of North Carolina’s House Bill 2.
The Rev. Martha Dixon Kearse of St. John’s Baptist Church said the group felt called to follow Jesus’ plea to love “the least of these” – Jesus’ description of society’s most vulnerable people.
“We stand for people who are transgendered,” she said at a news conference in uptown Charlotte. “We stand for not just tolerance, but also for kindness, for welcome and for protection from bullying … from discrimination … from hurt.”
HB2 and the Obama administration’s response to it have deeply divided the faith community in North Carolina and around the country.
This week, Charlotte Catholic Bishop Peter Jugis said in a statement that it was “deeply disturbing” that the administration sent a letter to every public school district last week telling them to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity.
“The guidance (from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice) fails to address a number of important concerns,” Jugis said in a statement that echoed one released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “And (it) contradicts a basic understanding of human formation so well expressed by Pope Francis: that ‘the young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created.’ ”
Conservative Christians have held rallies and vigils supporting HB2, saying it protects the privacy and safety of women and girls from potential predators. Many in this group have also resisted the legitimacy of any claim of gender identity that differs from a person’s biological sex – or the way God created them at birth, as they might put it.
But liberal clergy have also spoken up, calling HB2 a gross violation of Jesus’ command to love, not judge, others. Many in this group consider their opposition to the law akin to what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other clergy did during the heyday of the civil rights movement in opposing racist laws targeting African-Americans.
Both sides in the current debate over HB2 quote the Bible.
The Presbytery of Charlotte, the local branch of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), voted this week to call for repeal of the law. In its resolution, a copy of which was sent to members of the N.C. legislature, the church leaders said: “As a Presbytery, we cannot support legislation which takes away the inalienable rights of anyone to protect one’s own freedom and justice. In accordance with Isaiah 1:17, we are seekers of justice and we defend the oppressed. We affirm this as our duty as disciples of Christ.”
On Thursday, the Rev. Joslyn Schaefer of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, which hosted the clergy coalition’s anti-HB2 news conference, said there’s not just one interpretation of what the Bible counsels on such laws.
“I think it’s important for multiple Christian voices to be heard on this issue,” she said.