Tuesday, January 24, 2006

LGBT Rights

Friends and members of the Cornerstone chapter of Amnesty International:

I am writing this in attempt to address what I see as perhaps a lack of good judgment in terms of the particular “causes” that the Cornerstone chapter of Amnesty International has chosen to adopt or acknowledge as important and deserving of the group’s attention. Specifically, I wish to challenge the decision that has been made to ignore or downplay Amnesty’s position on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights. As a member of the Cornerstone chapter of Amnesty, I, too, approved this decision, so please don’t feel that I’m trying to be too critical of or “talk down” to the other members of Amnesty. I am simply one among others who feel that this is a point worth discussion and reconsideration, and I happened to be the most verbal in my questioning.
LGBT rights is a controversial topic – there is no doubt about that, especially within Christian circles. However, it seems to me that there are few issues more pressing in our part of the world today than the injustice that is done on a daily basis to people who identify themselves as LGBT.
One of the problems we have often faced in social justice groups that I have been involved with in Cornerstone has been the fact that we are often so removed from the injustice that occurs throughout the world that it is difficult for us to know how to work for justice. We can watch videos of children starving in Africa or child prostitution rings in India, but the simple fact of our geographical remove from these problems makes it difficult for us to do anything positive. We, after all, live and love in Grand Rapids, where child prostitution and starvation is at least unseen if not non-existent. LGBT issues, on the other hand, are prevalent in our own city – a simple search of the news from the past few years (particularly an incident in Wyoming where a gay high school band director was fired for his orientation) would be sufficient to persuade anyone of the relevance of this topic and the potential difference we can make in striving for justice in our own backyard.
So, why do we leave LGBT rights off the list of the “causes” that Amnesty works for? I think that, first of all, it is due to a certain amount of ignorance of many people toward the reality of the problem. In our often insulated environment, we neither encounter people who identify themselves as LGBT nor hear their stories about the injustices they have experienced and continue to experience. Secondly, as Christians we are often afraid that supporting LGBT rights means supporting a lifestyle that we are hesitant to endorse due to our religious convictions and beliefs about sexuality.
The first problem, ignorance, is easy to remedy. Being aware of the injustice that fills our world means educating ourselves and opening our eyes to all injustice – not just those particular types of injustice we feel are least “controversial.” Amnesty International has sufficient resources to educate anyone on LGBT injustice, and there are other resources out there (e.g. a documentary, “Tying the Knot” which deals with some of these issues) that we can utilize as a group or as individuals to make ourselves aware of the reality of this problem.
The second problem, obviously, gets more complicated. However, I believe that proper awareness of what LGBT rights actually pertain to make this concern dissipate. For an imperfect comparison, take religious rights as an example. No one would be against making it a law that no one can be fired for the sole reason that they are Muslim, even though we may disagree with their beliefs and “lifestyle”. And yet, many seem hesitant to accord this same right to those who identify themselves as LGBT. It is a common and unfortunate misconception that LGBT rights amount to “special” rights. These are merely rights that all people ought to enjoy. Amnesty International understands this fact and the importance of this issue in our world, and has thus chosen to actively fight for LGBT rights.
It is my contention that we have a responsibility to, at the very least, give this topic more thought and discussion and educate ourselves better on the reality of the problem. Perhaps we will decide that we need to change our position on LGBT rights, or perhaps we will decide to retain our previous posture toward the issue. Either way, we leave more educated and aware of the injustice that surrounds us, which is certainly a primary goal of our group and is healthy practice for us as Christians.

Thank you for reading this.

Andrew Hatcher

Friday, December 16, 2005

Welcome

Welcome to the blog for Amnesty International: Cornerstone University Chapter.
We hope this resource will assist us in communication, discussion, and research to promote the cause of international justice. Our chapter’s mission statement is:
Amnesty International's vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards.
In pursuit of this vision, AI's mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights.
Cornerstone University’s chapter will work with and through Amnesty International to further the Kingdom of God upon this earth in fulfillment of the command given in Micah 6:8, “He has showed you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” (NASB)

Anyone with constructive comments is welcome to comment. When commenting, please identify yourself, so others can respond directly to your comment. Anyone wishing to become a contributor should contact a chapter officer.
Thank you.