Editorial from the East Valley/Scottsdale Tribune, Mon., Feb. 3, 2003
(Copyright 2003, East Valley Tribune. Permission to post on the Internet granted by the Tribune papers)

Pastors did right thing

A blow dealt to religious intolerance of gay people

It isn't every day that clergy take time out from tending their flocks to take courageous stands for human rights and against intolerance. But a group of pastors from mainstream Valley Protestant and Catholic churches did just that when they gathered last week to "raise a voice against Christian intolerance that promotes condemnation, discrimination and hatred" toward homosexuals.

As Tribune spiritual life editor Lawn Griffiths reported on Tuesday, 86 pastors have endorsed the "No Longer Silent Phoenix Declaration" calling for "an end to all religious and civil discrimination against any person based on sexual orientation."

It's not an easy stand to take, even in today's relatively enlightened social environment. There are still far too many, within and outside the religious community, who beat the drum of anti-gay intolerance. The pastors who signed the declaration likely will face condemnation, too, for allegedly sanctioning immorality.

Often the self-righteous choose to condemn in a backhanded fashion, professing to "love the sinner but hate the sin." Some love. History is filled with the strife and bloodshed perpetrated by the powerful pious who claimed concern for the souls of certain groups while castigating their lifestyles or beliefs. In this case, it's a transparent and tawdry rationale for discriminating with a smile.

Thanks mainly to the courageous decisions of thousands of gay individuals in recent years to "come out of the closet," understanding has grown. When confronted with the reality of gay loved ones, countless families have chosen love and acceptance over condemnation and estrangement. They have learned there is nothing to fear by accepting another for differences that scientific study shows are part of the great diversity that is nature itself. Those families are better and stronger for their tolerance.

So, too, a more tolerant society would be better and stronger. Valley church leaders who signed the "No Longer Silent Phoenix Declaration" are to be commended for standing up for a cause that, while controversial, is right.