Durham News: Community

On Faith: Triangle religious groups call for repeal of House Bill 2

Flo Johnston
Flo Johnston Chris Seward

Faith communities across the Triangle have reacted vigorously to the passage of House Bill 2.

Bishops Hope Morgan Ward of the North Carolina Conference and Larry Goodpaster of the Western North Carolina Conference recently sent a letter to Methodists across North Carolina also signed by six retired bishops, two of whom live in the Triangle area, Will Willimon of Durham and C. P. Minnick of Raleigh.

The letter reminds Methodists to remember the words of church founder John Wesley, who said, “Methodists may not think alike, but we do love alike.”

“We observe the hurried passage of House Bill 2 and its resultant harm to North Carolina – to individuals, to our economy, to our engagements with other states and nations, and to our future. We call for the repeal of HB2 as the legislature returns to Raleigh,” the letter states.

Methodists are urged “to engage in prayer, in study of the issues, in patient listening and persevering conversation with others who hold differing opinion, and in courageous advocacy for what is right, just and good for all people in North Carolina.”

Four bishops of the three Episcopal dioceses in North Carolina have issued a statement as well.

It says: “The practice of discrimination by a state or institution limits, even prohibits, us from respecting the dignity of another human being. It inhibits our very capacity to care for one another and to work for the common good. This affects all people.”

The statement also points out that HB2 was introduced and passed into law in one day with no time to hear from those who would be affected.

“The mounting economic losses for North Carolina show this hasty process did not leave room to consider what impact HB2 would have on our state. We are all paying the price.”

The statement concludes with an appeal for the legislature to repeal HB2.

The practice of discrimination by a state or institution limits, even prohibits, us from respecting the dignity of another human being.

Episcopal bishops’ letter

Individual churches, too, have added voices to the firestorm.

The Vestry at Chapel of the Cross Episcopal Church in Chapel Hill has issued a resolution strongly condemning HB2.

“The Vestry deplores in the strongest possible terms, the new state law HB2 that prevents cities and towns from creating laws to protect members of the LBGT community and others from discrimination,” it says.

Ted Vaden, a member of the Vestry, said: “Chapel of the Cross is in the midst of a nationwide, yearlong search to hire a new rector (senior pastor), and there is concern that HB2 could affect the applicant pool. I’m sure there are other churches, non-profits and for that matter North Carolina-based corporations with the same concern.”

The Session at First Presbyterian Church in Durham has issued a statement of solidarity with anyone who faces discrimination and an affirmation in opposition to HB2.

The statement cites “The Theological Declaration of Barmen,” written by Karl Barth in Germany in 1934 during a time of increasing discrimination and persecution of the Jews.

Barth said the church must speak with one voice in its opposition to such matters. “We may not keep silent, since we believe that we have been given a common message to utter in a time of common need and temptation.”

The Presbyterian statement says, “Because we believe and profess that every person has been created equally in the image of God, and because we stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ members and friends, we, the Session of First Presbyterian Church, Durham, deplore House Bill 2 and the discrimination that it espouses.”

A statement from the Justice Ministry of Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, urges citizens of North Carolina to take action to restore the state and communities to a more responsible American vision that is founded on inclusiveness and respect.

The statement says the new law is not about protecting children, but is “a thinly veiled smokescreen that dismantles civic freedoms and local authority, taking away municipalities’ ability for establishing local minimum-wage agreements, paid vacations and sick leave.” This law, the statement continues, also takes away the ability of North Carolinians to file employment discrimination cases in state courts.

Boards of Trustees at the Jewish Federations of Durham-Chapel Hill, Greensboro and Raleigh-Cary have all called on state legislators to repeal the bill.

The resolution says that until this law is repealed these boards will make efforts to contract with companies and other places of accommodations that support the rights of all North Carolinians, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identities.

At their facilities, the resolution adds, all individuals are and will continue to be able to use the restrooms or locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity and/or expression, regardless of their biological sex.

The resolution states that the law is detrimental for all residents, but “as a Jewish community that is sensitive to discrimination from many years of our own experiences, we believe strongly in the idea of B’tzelem Elohim (that all people are created in G-d's image), and we abhor any legislation that seeks to discriminate against marginalized communities.

“We believe that all individuals, regardless of what gender they identify as or who they love, should have the right to employment and access to public accommodations without fear of discrimination.”

Contact Flo Johnston at fjohnston314@gmail.com or call 910-361-4135.