Adopted by the House of Delegates, North Carolina Council of Churches, April 30, 1992
Violence cannot be ignored by those who stand in the prophetic tradition of justice and peace and in the gospel tradition of Jesus Christ, who came “to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Violence is evil. Intolerance cannot be tolerated. Silence and passivity by the churches allow hostility, and are unfaithful responses to the Christian gospel. Justice, respect, and freedom must be claimed and pursued for all persons in the service of the justice and peace of God’s sovereignty in history.
Over the past four years, North Carolina has led the United States in reported incidents of violence, harassment, and discrimination against gay men and lesbians, and the numbers have increased year after year. In 1989, 1,204 incidents were reported in North Carolina. In 1990, the number reported was 1,530, a 27.1% increase.
These incidents include homicides, assaults, defamations, threats, obscene telephone calls, and “family violence” (i.e., violence against gay men and lesbians by members of their own families). They also include suicides and attempted suicides resulting from involuntary public exposure, and from low self-esteem and depression caused by internalized social condemnation. They include discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations, and police harassment and arrests for breaking the state’s Crimes Against Nature Law.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force estimates that as many as 80% of like incidents go unreported. The Crimes Against Nature Law discourages many gay men and lesbians from reporting acts of hostility against them for fear of being arrested themselves or of losing their families, homes, or jobs through public exposure.
A 1987 Federal Department of Justice study concluded:
Homosexuals are…frequent victims of bias-related attacks. A 1984 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force study found that one in four gay men and one in ten lesbians had been physically assaulted or beaten because of their sexual orientation.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reporting guidelines for the Federal Hate Crimes Statistic Act note:
There are those who are victimized, sometimes subtly, and other times overtly, for no reason other than the color of their skin, the religion they profess, the heritage of their parents, or their sexual orientation. It is most unsettling to the victims because there is nothing they can do to alter the situation, nor is there anything they should be expected to change. Not only is the individual who is personally touched by these offenses victimized, but the entire class of individuals residing in the community is affected.
“Homophobic violence, harassment, and discrimination do not exist in a vacuum: they are a product of the culture and current-events framework in which they occur,” Consequently, this hostility remains socially acceptable, unlike hostility against other minority groups.
Certain religious teachings have labeled gay men and lesbians as persons worthy of contempt and punishment. Gay men and lesbians are perceived by some religious communities as threats to the moral structure of society, and attacks against them are viewed as moral and righteous.
In recent political campaigns in North Carolina and around the nation, gay-baiting has been used in the same manner that race-baiting has been over the years. Gay men and lesbians have been targeted for attacks by candidates who use fearful reactions to gain public support. This phenomenon is evidenced by two sharp increases in the number of reported incidents in North Carolina, corresponding to the 1990 United States Senate primary and general election.
The North Carolina Council of Churches rejects the fear, prejudice and hatred that foster societal and religious attitudes which either encourage, condone, or ignore violence and discrimination against gay men and lesbians.
The council stands with gay men and lesbians in their struggle to achieve equal human and civil rights under the laws of North Carolina and of the United States.
The Council recognizes that this struggle is not only for the freedom and equality of gay men and lesbians, but is also for the emancipation of the whole society from the destructive, emotionally crippling effects of fear and hatred.
To this end, the North Carolina Council of Churches:
- Calls upon its membership and all religious communities in North Carolina, recognizing the wall of alienation existing in many churches, to critically study their teachings and practices which many contribute to the persecution and the exclusion from membership of gay men and lesbians;
- Commits to initiating forums and programs for dialogue and study of issues that concern gay men and lesbians in their struggle for freedom and equality;
- Encourages the legal system of the federal and state governments to document and prosecute vigorously crimes of violence against gay men and lesbians as hate crimes, as crimes of violence based on race, sex, ethnic origin, and religion are prosecuted;
- Urges the State of North Carolina and all its municipalities to add “sexual orientation” to the list of protected classes of person in anti-discrimination ordinances;
- Urges the North Carolina General Assembly to abolish the state’s Crimes Against Nature Law which is unevenly applied, targeting gay men and lesbians and holding them hostage to violence and discrimination by the fear of prosecution; and,
- Confesses the complicity of our churches in the suffering of gay men and lesbians and seeks all appropriate means of dialogue with them and with church bodies such as the Metropolitan Community Churches in North Carolina, believing that understanding and respect come out of sharing in community and being in dialogue.
Like many of the national church bodies, the membership of the Council is struggling with issues related to human sexuality. We are listening to and participating in dialogues about moral behavior, the biblical basis for teachings related to sexual relationships, and the rights and pastoral needs of persons in regard to their sexuality, especially gay men and lesbians.
We acknowledge that the Council has not yet achieved definitive answers and a clear consensus on these issues, and recognize that the power of the Holy Spirit is still at work in the Council to bring about understanding, reconciliation, and justice.
Nonetheless, we unite in affirming that no person or class of persons should be subjected to violence, harassment, and discrimination because of sexual orientation. “The church’s firm support of civil rights for gay persons ought not depend upon agreement concerning the theological and ethical appropriateness of the homosexual orientation or of specific same-sex acts. Civil rights support ought to be considered an expression of Christian concern for basic social justice.”