Today President Donald Trump signed and executive order that the LGBT community fears could open the door to discrimination—and faith leaders in the Granite State are pushing back.
The executive order pertains to religious freedom, one of the founding values of our country and modern democracy. It’s one thing almost all Americans agree on: Religious freedom should be protected. And it is: In the First Amendment to the Constitution.
But religious freedom should never be used as justification for discrimination. And that’s why today, New Hampshire’s faith community is seizing the opportunity to speak out against discrimination in the name of religion—and in support of the transgender community here at home.
Reverend Emily Heath, who preaches at the United Church of Christ Congregational Church in Exeter, is making the case that religious freedom and freedom from discrimination go hand-in-hand:
“I am a Christian pastor. No one’s religious liberty is being threatened by LGBTQ people being treated as equal. In fact, it is an affront to Christian faith to use the Gospel to deny all of God’s children their rights. That’s why I strongly oppose any efforts to allow discrimination, and I fully support legal protections for transgender and gender non-conforming people in New Hampshire.” –Rev. Emily Health, UCC Exeter
Reverend Mary Westfall, the senior minister at the United Church of Christ Community Church in Durham, reiterated that sanctioning discrimination goes against what it means to be a Christian. All people—and that means transgender people, too—are “created in the image of God” and must have their humanity respected, both by faith and by the law.
“As a religious leader I take seriously the biblical understanding that all people are created in the image of God. The teachings of Jesus are unequivocal – God loves all, we are to “do to others as we would want done to ourselves.” Standing with my LGBTQ persons, particularly right now those who are transgender, I strongly oppose any federal or state laws that would make it permissible to discriminate against any person, as we are all created in the image of God, and instead strongly encourage increasing protections against the ugliness of discrimination.” –Rev. Mary Westfall, UCC Durham
Although today’s order stops short of setting a broad license to discriminate against the LGBT community under the guise of promoting religious freedom, there’s still concern that such an action could materialize in the coming days or weeks.
And it could further fuel an increase in anti-LGBT rhetoric and policies that are on the rise nationwide—and right here in New Hampshire. Earlier this year, Currently, the Candia School District is on the verge of repealing policies that protect transgender students from discrimination, a move that’s being driven largely by opposition to #TransBillNH.
Today’s order underscores how crucial it is that New Hampshire take steps to ensure all Granite Staters are protected from discrimination, including transgender people.