What are the Appropriate Boundaries of Religious Liberty?

What are the appropriate and ethical boundaries of religious liberty at a time when religious liberty is being used as an excuse or sanction for discrimination? Groups of Presbyterian leaders across the United States are raising this question and it resulted in a ruling made by the recent 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

We are grateful this ruling On Clarifying the Position of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Regarding Appropriate Boundaries of Religious Liberty was adopted by the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) on June 23, 3018 in St. Louis, Missouri.

On Clarifying the Position of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Regarding Appropriate Boundaries of Religious Liberty


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A Resolution on Religious Freedom Without Discriminaton

There is a dangerous wave of religious liberty being used to sanction or justify discrimination across the United States and around the world. Most of this discrimination is against LGBTQ people and women with regard to health and reproductive rights. Claims of religious liberty to discriminate are a threat to the human dignity for all persons and a threat to the protection of human rights.

It is essential that people of faith recognize the human dignity of all persons and uphold the human rights of all persons and their families irrespective of their personal religious beliefs. Moreover, one would hope that religious beliefs that recognize the sacred creation and worth of all persons regardless of human differences would be the distinctive characteristics of their faith and actions.

We are grateful that the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) adopted this ruling, A Resolution on Religious Freedom Without Discrimination on June 23, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. This resolution was brought to the assembly by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

A Resolution on Religious Freedom Without Discrimination

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Lessons from Nature and the Import of Homophobia

Dr. Yvette Abrahams lives close to the earth, on an organic farm outside of Cape Town, South Africa and she cares deeply about the earth. As a LGBTI activist and an advocate for gender equality, climate change is her current ethical interest.

In nature, Abrahams reminds us that over 450 animal species exhibit homosexual behavior while only one is known to exhibit homophobiathe human species. In her article “Thank You for Making Me Stronger: Sexuality, Gender and Environmental Spirituality,” she locates species diversity in a pan-Africanist discourse which argues that the true cultural import is homophobia.

Thank You For Making Me Strong: Sexuality, Gender and Environmental Spirituality

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Unmasking the Colonial Silence: Sexuality in Africa in the Post-Colonial Context

Few persons are as passionately committed to the human dignity, equality and human rights of sexual and gender minorities in Africa than Rev. Kapya Kaoma. As a Visiting Research at Boston University’s Center for Global Christianity in Mission and an Adjunct Professor at St. John’s University in Zambia, Rev. Kaoma’s research and writing peel away the layers of colonialism, the influence of missionaries, imperialism and globalization to discover the indigenous expressions of gender and sexuality in Africa.

We are grateful to share this new article by Kaoma from the special issue “Sexuality in Africa” of the Journal of Theology for Southern Africa, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. This special issue was published in July, 2016 and had its world premiere at the 21st International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa.

Unmasking the Colonial Silence: Sexuality in Africa in the Post­ Colonial Context

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One Human Family: International Human Rights Day

Today is International Human Rights Day and a celebration of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations on December 10. 1948.

The Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that:
“The recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

The vision of this extraodinary declaration and those who envisoned the United Nations after two world wars that took millions of lives and left many countries devastated is of one human family. Read more

A New Language of Mourning for the Work of Justice

Fanny Ann Eddy was a courageous lesbian activist who lost her life in her pursuit of human dignity for LGBTI people and her vision for her beloved country of Sierra Leone to embrace all its children. Her amazing life and her senseless, brutal death provide the foreground for Dora King’s article, “Secrecy and the Poetics of Witness: Mourning Fanny Ann Eddy,” from Sexuality in Africa: July 2016 Special Issue, Journal of Theology for Southern Africa.

Secrecy and the Poetics of Witness: Mourning Fanny Ann Eddy

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African Faith Voices: A New Conversation about Sexuality in Africa

A new website dedicated to sharing and amplifying African faith voices on gender and sexual diversity across Africa is being launched today. The core source of these African faith voices is the special issue “Sexuality in Africa” of the Journal of Theology for Southern Africa. This journal is published by the School of Religion, Philosophy, and Classics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Gerald West serves as the General Editor and Janet Trisk is the Editor of the Journal of Theology for Southern Africa.

This periodical is indexed in the ATLA Religion Database and correspondence and subscriptions for the journal are available from the School of Religion, Philosophy, and Classics. To purchase copies of the journal, please contact the administrator at jtsa@ukzn.ac.za.

This special issue emerged from a historic consultation about Religion and Human Sexuality in Africa organized by Michael J. Adee, Geronimo Desumala and Kapya Kaoma. This consultation was supported by the Global Faith and Justice Project of the Horizons Foundation; Political Research Associates and the Reference Group on Human Sexuality of the World Council of Churches. It was held August 28 – 31, 2014 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Read more

Love Makes a Family: IDAHOT 2017

May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT). It is a worldwide celebration of sexual and gender diversities. IDAHOT was founded in 2004 to draw attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and media to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people around the world.

This year IDAHOT partners with International Family Equality Day to raise awareness and respect for LGBTI families with the theme “Love Makes a Family.”

The date of May 17 was chosen for IDAHOT because this is the day in 1990 when the World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. We look at sexual orientation and gender identity so differently now and seek to respect their fluid nature rather than the previously understood binary notion. This respect for human diversity with regard to sexuality and gender reflects the core values of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

IDAHOT is celebrated in over 130 countries including 37 countries where same-sex relationships are still illegal. One of the persistent myths that must be addressed is the claim that homosexuality or being LGBTI is a product or an import from the West. An honest analysis of one’s cultural history, an informed understanding of sexuality and gender, and common sense tell us that LGBTI people and their families are a natural part of the cultural fabric and history of every country. Read more

Presbyterian Church (USA) Responds to Global Crisis for LGBT People

This is a story of compassion turning into action. Rev. Janet Edwards, a Presbyterian minister in Pittsburgh, PA has advocated for the human dignity and equality of LGBT people and their families in her church and local community for more than three decades. Upon becoming aware of the challenges faced by LGBT people around the world, particularly the criminalization of homosexuality and the rising violence and persecution of LGBT persons, her concern and advocacy moved beyond the borders of her city and country.

Rev. Edwards was selected by Pittsburgh Presbytery to serve as a Commissioner to the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in June, 2014. She knew she had a unique opportunity to bring a Commissioner’s Resolution for consideration by this assembly in Detroit. She wanted this General Assembly to learn about the global crisis for LGBT people and their families and to call the Presbyterian Church (USA) to faithful, compassionate action. So, she called Bear Ride, a Presbyterian minister and me to work with her on this resolution.

In a historic first for the Presbyterian Church (USA) after three decades of dialogue on ordination and marriage equality for LGBT people, Rev. Edwards’ resolution was unanimously approved by committee and therefore adopted by the assembly. The resolution said: Read more

Imagine a Free & Equal World: International Human Rights Day

Today is International Human Rights Day and a celebration of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations on December 10, 1948.

“Upholding human rights is in the interest of all. Respect for human rights advances well-being for every individual, stability for every society, and harmony for our interconnected world,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

In 2006, in response to well-documented patterns of discrimination and violence against LGBT persons and their families, a distinguished group of international human rights experts met in Yogyakarta, Indonesia to outline a set of international principles relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. The result was the Yogyakarta Principles, a universal guide to human rights which affirm binding international legal standards and moral imperatives with which all States should recognize. Read more