by Rev. Brendan Curran, Assoc. Minister – February 16, 2017
The following statement was presented by Brendan to the Health, Education and Welfare Committee at the Rhode Island Statehouse on February 15, 2017. Brendan had been invited to testify before the committee in support of House Bill 5277.
I greet you as friends and relatives because I agree with Dr. King who said, “we are all woven into a single garment of destiny,” and also because we gather today, in this common house, hopefully to uphold the rights, the safety, and dignity of our state’s LGBTQ children. I’d like to share my perspective as a proudly gay, gender non-binary person, and more specifically as an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, a church that strives to spread the understanding that, “religion is about opening one’s heart and not closing one’s mind.”
I feel startled as of late to see so many self-professed Christians claiming they have the religious freedom to deny basic human rights to certain groups, or even to perpetuate violence and abuse against people they wrongly profess their faith commands them to hate.
Of course, in our society, preachers of hate have a right to believe however they wish. They are absolutely free to slander the God of Love by preaching hate in God’s name, but when such persons start committing tangible acts of violence and abuse toward groups they disdain, you, my friends, as state leaders, have a sacred duty to uphold the separation of church and state and protect society’s vulnerable citizens from religious extremists. Different groups of people of faith have the right to believe however they want to but no person is entitled by the law to abuse or do violence to any member of our society, especially the most vulnerable, our society’s children. Conversion therapy is violence and should be made illegal in our state.
We know conversion therapy is violence because it constitutes abuse, a form of emotional abuse specifically known as “gas-lighting.” Gas-lighting is defined as, “the act of manipulating someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.” We know that conversion therapy is a form of gas-lighting abuse because it forces LGBTQ children and youth to question their sanity simply for declaring their sexual and/or gender identity as they experience it. The bill rightly mentions, “Contemporary science recognizes that being LGBTQ is part of the natural spectrum of human identity and is not a disease.” To tell a child they are diseased simply for being LGBTQ is therefore to lie to them and manipulate them into doubting their sanity and therefore constitutes abuse.
I strongly urge you to pass act H 5277 and make conversion therapy appropriately illegal in our state. Now that I’ve clarified my legal perspective and asked you to uphold the separation of church and state, I would like to preach my perspective and experience as a gay person of faith.
I came out as gay at a young age and was able to grow naturally into a healthy expression of my identity because I grew up nurtured by the faith I learned from my family, from my church, and from my experiences of God. At its heart, my faith teaches that God is Love. To say that God is love implies that all the ways we experience relationship and connect through mutuality and consent allow us to directly experience God. In my faith Jesus teaches, “the body is the temple of God,” and this implies that all the diverse ways we find intimacy within contexts of love and consent are blessed and holy. Far from being something to be ashamed of, the ways we find intimacy and affection with love and consent actually glorify the divine! ALL persons are made in the image of God, and so the many different gender and sexual identities that exist, far from being abominations as some believe, only further reveal the diversity, and the beautiful intricacy of the divine image! God is not at war with God’s own image, even if some groups of false prophets might be.
As a faith leader I believe we must be on guard against bad religion and ideologies of hate that can only lead us to another Orlando and to more people walking around with damaged, broken hearts and souls. My faith that has empowered me my whole life and I don’t think we can hear the message of the liberating gospel enough.
I currently serve as the Associate pastor of a church. My partner is a man I love deeply. We have both been privileged and blessed to be able to grow into being (what I would consider to be more or less) healthy, contributing members of society because we have been empowered and nurtured by our families and faith communities. We were affirmed and celebrated for living into being the people God is made us to be. Over the years I have met fellow LGBTQ people far less fortunate and less privileged than myself. For those who survived conversion therapy and have not committed suicide, many go through years of trauma, unable to hold jobs and unable to form relationships. Many struggle with addiction as they struggle with the hatred they’ve internalized because of theabuse that was imposed on them by those who have slandered God.
In conclusion, as a citizen, I strongly urge you again to make the abuse called conversion therapy illegal in our state. As a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ I encourage you to place the voices of those who spread a message of homophobia, hatred, and shame in the annals of history along with other hypocritical faith based justifications like those used to uphold slavery, the oppression of women, and countless other man-made sins. God is Love. Love will make us healthy, and Love will set us free as individuals and as a society. God bless you.