To: ESPN

Tell ESPN: Christian Does Not Equal Anti-Gay

"We made one mistake: The mistake was not being more careful with Chris Broussard, and there is a collective responsibility there." – ESPN president John Skipper.

In May, Rev. Debra Haffner delivered the petition to ESPN, telling them that people of faith found it unacceptable when a sportscaster labeled Jason Collins a sinner on the air. We shared the petition directly in a conversation with ESPN's Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion, and Wellness, who agreed that greater sensitivity is needed in handling future stories of athletes coming out. People of faith raising their voices made a difference, and we continue to work until, one day, we will live in a world where every human life is sacred and beautiful, and our sexual and gender diversities are welcome as a blessing.

Tell ESPN: Christian Does Not Equal Anti-Gay

Stop Trying to Score Points By Misrepresenting My Religion!

If ESPN addresses religious issues, it must include leaders from the many religious traditions that affirm sexual and gender diversity as a blessing, or they must cease from commenting on such issues entirely. We strongly support open dialogue, but true dialogue cannot be one sided.

As people of faith, we applaud Jason Collins’ courage in coming out as a gay man and citing his Christian faith as a core reason for being public about his sexuality. However, we are profoundly disappointed with ESPN’s tepid response to sportscaster Chris Broussard’s statement that, "I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don't think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian."

Broussard’s statement ignores the fact that many Christian theologians believe that the Bible does not address modern understandings of sexual orientation, and it disregards the overwhelming witness of scripture for inclusion and welcome of all people.

Why is this important?

When NBA player Jason Collins came out as a gay man, he noted “My parents instilled Christian values in me. They taught Sunday school, and I enjoyed lending a hand. I take the teachings of Jesus seriously, particularly the ones that touch on tolerance and understanding.”

Collins also understands the struggles of LGBTQ youth: “My one small gesture of solidarity was to wear jersey number 98 with the Celtics and then the Wizards. The number has great significance to the gay community. One of the most notorious antigay hate crimes occurred in 1998. Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was kidnapped, tortured and lashed to a prairie fence. He died five days after he was finally found.”

The Religious Institute applauds this courageous public witness, and our network of religious leaders affirms sexual and gender diversity as a blessed part of life. The Religious Institute is a national nonprofit advocating for sexual and reproductive justice, education and health in faith communities and in society. As longtime advocates for full equality of LGBTQ persons in all areas of religious and public life, we know that the vast majority of LGBTQ youth regularly hear negative messages about LGBTQ people, and that they are twice as likely as their peers to report being physically assaulted at school (http://hrc.org/youth/view-statistics)

ESPN provocatively entered into the culture wars and deliberately skewed the Christian perspective by providing a platform for a voice that is known to denigrate sexual and gender diversity. (Update: The petition language has been amended to reflect LZ Granderson's participation in the segment.) ESPN neglected the many religious voices that celebrate sexual and gender diversity as a blessing consistent with their faith tradition. (http://religiousinstitute.org/sites/default/files/open_letters/diversityopenletter_0.pdf)

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Reasons for signing

  • It was NECESSARY for me to come out as a transgender female BEFORE I could really grow in my spiritual journey as a lay monastic.
  • Jesus included all humans ,sinners or not,in his community.How dare we do otherwise?
  • Because I believe we are all created in God's image & no on is rejected because of variations.in his or her sexual orientation. or any other human traits.

Updates

2016-08-22 16:56:45 -0400
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Petition is successful with 4,711 signatures

2013-07-30 11:21:14 -0400
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Petition is successful with 4598 signatures