Two incidents of reported gay bashing in Portland have the city's LGBT community on edge. Thankfully, last year saw the passage of the bi-partisan Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act. Stiffer penalties are now in effect for hate crimes. The United Church of Christ pushed for such legislation starting in 1989. Christians have a special responsibility for speaking out against such bias crimes. Holy Scripture has been misused to dehumanize gay and lesbian people and that sinful behavior has helped to create a climate where violence against one who is "other" is acceptable. Even today those in the far Religious Right - in groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council - promote active discrimination against the LGBT community nationwide by fighting for the reversal of federal hate crimes laws and other civil rights protections using language that is comparable to language the Nazi Party used to dehumanize Jews. The Oregon Family Council - a conservative Christian political group - further helped to divide Oregonians with their anti-gay Measure 36 in 2004 (one of a series of anti-gay measures placed on the ballot here in Oregon since 1988). These different groups share responsibility for the increase in hate crimes over the years. Jesus said: "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are my family, you did it to me (Matthew 25:40 NRSV)." Those who help or hurt another do it not just to the one rescued or victimized but to God. These recent incidents in Portland must be condemned by people of faith in the strongest possible terms. As a minister in the United Church of Christ, I add my voice to those praying for justice and healing.
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