Sunday, February 28, 2016

LGBTQ Protesters Make Their Voices Heard at Proclaim 2016 Convention

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.

  • 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.

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


  1. Talk about a conference from hell! I am continually amazed by people who suggest religious and bible influences in the founding of our country when the Founding Fathers strongly believed in the separation of church and state.

    1. Donna -- Their knowledge of Constitutional values is shaky, for sure. I applaud these protesters for bringing some fresh air into the convention.

  2. DMC sez:
    They might want to rethink citing Leviticus as a defense. To make a long argument short, in the absence of the Temple in Jerusalem, NOTHING in Leviticus applies to anyone on the face of the earth since the conclusion of the bar Kokhbah rebellion(70 CE).

    1. RE: DMC that's a good point. Soulforce and Know Your Neighbors project do not operate out of any sort of Biblical literalism and we don't think that arguing in the text is actually going to save our people from being killed by fundamentalist rhetoric. For that action, our theologically trained organizers used the same book that our opposition uses to damn us in hopes that the familiarity of the text will be at least embarrassing and at most awakening. More of a point driver and a conversation starter than an ironclad argument.

  3. Thank you for this thoughtfully-written article! Let us continue to watch the Right. Our silence will not protect us.
    Sending joy to you today and every day, Yaz

    1. Yaz -- Thank you for stopping by. Soulforce is doing so much good in the world, and I applaud you for it.


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