As mentioned in a prior post, the Proclaim 2016 convention took place at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee on February 23-26. Organized by National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), the annual gathering of conservative Christian media professionals and commentators had the following highlights:
- The convention featured appearances by presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Ben Carson, who discussed immigration, Supreme Court nominations, Planned Parenthood, and the economy.
- Kim Davis received the National Religious Broadcasters President's Award, according to the Gospel Herald. In a February 25th press release, Liberty Counsel explained that Davis received the award for "her faithful commitment to Christian values despite political and media opposition".
- A 20,000 square foot exhibit featured antiquities that will be displayed at the Museum of the Bible (due to open in Washington D.C. in 2017).
- Katie Harbat, Facebook's global politics and government outreach director, spoke at the convention despite calls for her to withdraw on account of the organizers' homophobia.
- Rafael Cruz, the controversial father of Sen. Ted Cruz, delivered a speech in which he lionized Israel, sneered at Palestine, and claimed that the Bible inspired American democracy. "We are a constitutional republic not because of Plato; we are a constitutional republic because of Exodus 18:21-22, because those framers were seeking the perfect form of government, and they encountered it in the word of God, because many of the freedoms we have today were enjoyed in that early Jewish state after Abraham came to the promised land," Raphael Cruz said in his talk at Proclaim 16. Cruz seemed to have forgotten that the ancient Israelites did not enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from cruel or unusual punishment, the right to due process, or the right to a trial by jury.
What intrigued me the most about Proclaim 2016 was the presence of LGBTQ rights demonstrators. LGBTQ rights activists made their voices heard at the convention so as to condemn the homophobia of its organizers and speakers.
On February 16th, Yazmeen Nuñez, Director of Programs and Communications at Soulforce, put out a call for action at Proclaim 2016. She reminded readers that American Religious Right outreach to foreign countries has had dire consequences for LGBTQ people in the global south. Nuñez urged supporters to condemn the NRB's homophobic code of ethics, to which NRB global affiliates must agree before they can access Christian resources for their communities.
"Our first action will be targeting the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) as they convene in Nashville, TN, in late February for their annual expo. NRB is an international network of fundamentalist Christian communicators with a great amount of cultural and political influence; their code of ethics explicitly forbids any one of their 1,400+ global affiliates from broadcasting any messaging that affirms the LGBTQI community. In other words, they have a requirement to condemn the lives of LGBTQI people in order to have access. Both here and abroad, theirs are some of the only theological and spiritual resources that small-town faith leaders can access in under-resourced areas.
You can join us in several ways: Come on over! If you will be in the Nashville area, come to our trainings or direct actions! If not, we invite you to engage other ways: start the hard conversations about power and citizenship; watch the Religious Right carefully and look for strategic points for demanding accountability; share these ideas widely with our fellow Church."
Members of Soulforce's Know Your Neighbors project made their presence known at the convention. During Rick Warren's talk, they marched through the room holding banners that read "Lev. 19:16 Stop Killing Us" and "Spiritual Violence Is Killing Us" while singing "I'm in the Lord's Army".
Leviticus 19:16 forbids God's people from spreading slander or endangering the lives of others. The Leviticus 19:16 banner was probably meant to condemn the Religious Right's anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and activism in viciously homophobic countries. It may have also been an indictment of Rick Warren himself, who came under fire for promoting homophobia in Uganda.
"Stop killing us" queer people of faith protesting queerphobia, racism at #Proclaim16 pic.twitter.com/ae1czh6nVr— Eliel Cruz (@elielcruz) February 25, 2016
Woman said:"you're not really praying!" during prayer protest insinuating queer people can't pray. #Proclaim16 pic.twitter.com/DOZxgKAnEO— Eliel Cruz (@elielcruz) February 25, 2016
According to the Advocate, the demonstrators later formed a prayer circle in the conference center lobby, but were escorted off the premises by security personnel. Conference attendees reportedly cried out "They're not really praying" and "Homosexuality is an abomination". Observer Eliel Cruz shared video clips of their prayer in a series of tweets.
"We celebrate the light of God that created darkness and dark bodies and queer bodies and queer desire. We celebrate that God who loves us and our families and our people. We beg, we beg for the mercy and forgiveness of the souls of those who are killing us, and we call them into Christian account ... We will pray without ceasing as is the call of our God that tell us we must, we must, we must hold each other accountable, because we are accountable for the lives of our brothers."I applaud the Know Your Neighbor protesters, not only for condemning the NRB's homophobia, but for refreshing the public's memory about the Religious Right's export of homophobia abroad. The LGBTQ community has not forgotten the Religious Right's sins overseas, and it will continue to demand accountability.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
Media Matters for America: Cruz, Carson To Attend Right-Wing Media Convention Featuring Anti-LGBT, Anti-Muslim Extremists
The New Civil Rights Movement: Facebook Executive To Headline Anti-LGBT Religious Conference