U.S./World: Homophobic academy, Smithers comes out, Catholic guide, Carolinian hired, Spirit Day

Beyond the Carolinas

compiled by Lainey Millen and Chris Tittel

Academy exercises authority to expel five-year-old

Across the street from Mt. Erie Baptist Church in San Diego, Calif., is Mt. Erie Christian Academy, an elementary school whose student population has just decreased by one due to institutionalized homophobia.

The parents of a five-year-old girl were recently notified that their daughter would no longer be able to attend the school, where she’d also gone to preschool and summer camp.

Why? Because this girl has two moms, a fact her parents Lashaune and Sheena say was already known throughout the church community.

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“They told us, ‘oh this is not about your child,’ but it is about my child,” said Sheena, who asked that her last name not be used.

“If we knew from the beginning that this was unacceptable, they didn’t condone or believe in this, if it was such a big deal, we would have never started her off there,” she continued. “I would never put my child’s emotional well-being in an unstable setting like that.”

Just a few days before school was to start, Lashaune and Sheena were called into the school for a meeting with the pastor.

After a prayer, he broke the news.

“It was heartbreaking,” Sheena said. “I didn’t finish the conversation with them when they took us in the room because I just, I didn’t want to look at them any longer. I just couldn’t believe that they did that.”

The school’s non-discrimination policy was revised in June 2015, and now reads:

Mt. Erie Christian Academy is a religious, Bible-believing institution providing education in a distinct Christian environment, and it believes that its biblical role is to work in conjunction with the home to mold students to be Christ-like. On those occasions in which the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home is counter to or in opposition to the biblical lifestyle that the school teaches, the school reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission of an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a student. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, living in, condoning or supporting sexual immorality; practicing homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity; promoting such practices; or otherwise having the inability to support the moral principles of the school (Leviticus 20:13a; Romans 1:21-27; Matthew 19:4-6; I Corinthians 6:9-20).”

Current law gives private religious institutions, including schools, carte blanche to adopt and enforce any policy they claim is in line with their religious beliefs.

Some, like San Diego attorney Eugene Iredale, think that might change in the next five to 10 years if a case like this were to be brought before the Supreme Court.

“Now the question is where do you draw the line?” Iredale said to the area’s local 10 News. “If you have a religion that believed in human sacrifice or amputation of the arm or the hand for theft, would we permit that in the interest of permitting the free practice of one’s religion? I don’t think so, and one could argue that psychologically… this is as devastating to the little five-year-old girl as some of those other vicious practices.”

Meanwhile, Sheena and Lashuane’s daughter just wants her life back.

“I miss my friends. I miss my teachers,” she said.

LGBTQ Nation (lgbtqnation.com), a qnotes media partner

Cowabunga, man! Smithers comes out in March

smithersThe sexual orientation of The Simpsons’ Smithers, acidic assistant to perpetually prickly billionaire Montgomery Burns, has long been an open secret. He’s constantly spotted in Springfield’s gay neighborhood, once vacationed at an all-male resort and is often lost in lusty flights of fantasy involving Mr. Burns. Now, in the show’s 27th season, Smithers will finally be coming out once and for all.

Speaking with TV Line, executive producer Al Jean revealed the coming out party will be covered over a two-episode arc.

“In Springfield now, most people know he’s gay, but obviously Burns doesn’t,” said Jean. “We deal with that in two episodes… We actually do a lot with Smithers this year; he gets fed up with Burns not appreciating him and considers his options.”

While the show’s writers have long defined him “Burns-sexual,” audiences will finally get to know the real story — and the real Smithers.

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The episodes will be airing in March.

LGBTQ Nation (lgbtqnation.com), a qnotes media partner

HRC released guide in wake of papal visit

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Human Rights Campaign released its “Coming Home to Catholicism and to Self” guide for LGBT Catholics seeking a renewed relationship with their faith. This was done in advance of the recent visit by Pope Francis to the U.S.

The guide features personal journeys of Catholics including Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, which works for the full inclusion of the LGBT faithful in the Church; and Hilary Howes, a transgender woman who joined the church when she married, but says her faith developed during her transition. Additionally, the piece also provides advice on finding a “path to engagement with a faith that, in its official teaching, continues to describe ‘homosexual acts’ as ‘intrinsically disordered,’ yet is led by a pontiff whose engagement with LGBT people has been more inclusive and less judgmental,” HRC shared.

At an official White House arrival ceremony, Pope Francis said that, “American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination.” HRC added that at the same time, LGBT Catholics in the U.S. continue to face rejection within the church and there have been numerous instances of LGBT teachers being fired for who they are and who they love.

Polling shows that more acceptance is being realized among U.S. Catholics with regard to LGBT equality and non-discrimination laws.

Similar guides will be released in the upcoming months for those of the Muslim and Jewish faiths.

info: hrc.org.

— Lainey Millen and releases

Ministry hires Carolinian

CHICAGO, Ill. — The Reconciling Ministries Network has hired Joey Lopez as its southeast field organizer.

Lopez previously was a faith organizer with the organization and the Methodist Federation for Social Action. More recently, he completed a year-long Tzedek social justice residency at the Campaign for Southern Equality performing LGBT civil rights activism throughout southeast U.S.

A resident of Asheville, N.C., he is currently employed as a living ways program coordinator at Just Economics and serves as an organizer for More Light Presbyterians.

The network reported that he worked to coordinate the 2015 LGBT* in the South conference convening almost 500 grassroots organizers, attorneys, healthcare providers, educators and other practitioners from across the South. With Executive Director Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, he developed the Southern Equality Fund, a micro-funding initiative for Southern groups and organizers to provide direct services and advocacy for the full lived equality of LGBT* people in the South.

info: rmnetwork.org. joey@rmnetwork.org.

— Lainey Millen

Spirit Day fast approaching

LOS ANGELES — Spirit Day will take place on Oct. 15 and individuals throughout the world will don purple attire in observance of the one-day event that brings attention to efforts to stand up to bullying and to support the LGBT community.

A kit has been designed for those who wish to participate which also includes a pledge to go purple and stand up to bullying. It also includes data on a variety of issues and to encourage community involvement and engagement.

To learn more and to obtain the kit, vist the organization’s website.

info: glaad.org.

— Lainey Millen

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