Originally published: April 22, 2010, 8:46 p.m.
Updated: May 1, 2010, 5:14 p.m.
HICKORY, N.C. — A former campaign staffer for President Barack Obama has been hired by Faith in America, a group founded by North Carolina furniture maker and philanthropist Mitchell Gold.
Steve Hildebrand, who served as deputy campaign manager for the Obama campaign, joins the organization as an advisor and strategist. He will assist the organization in broadening its outreach and impact.
“Steve’s talent and experience — his record of success — in organizational development and strategic planning are tremendous assets as we position the organization to exert leadership within the movement for equality,” Gold said in a release. “We are very fortunate Steve has decided to assist us in meeting that goal.”
In the same release, Hildebrand said he hopes to engage more Americans on the issues of religion-based bigotry and its impact on LGBT people, especially youth.
“This work is what is going to have an impact,” Hildebrand said. “That is where I want to put significant energy to achieve equality. This organization is doing the best work with changing the hearts and minds of Americans.”
Brent Childers, Faith in America executive director, told qnotes via phone he expects Hildebrand’s talent will allow the organization “to reach an exponentially higher number of Americans with our message and create a much more visible role within the movement for our work.”
Gold’s Faith in America works to raise awareness on issues of religion, homosexuality, bigotry, prejudice and oppression. Gold has spoken at events, workshops and seminars across the country and routinely reaches out to religious and spiritual leaders. In 2008, he edited “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay In America,” with stories from the likes of Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese and Congressmembers Tammy Baldwin and Barney Frank.
[Ed. Note — This writer contributed a chapter to Gold’s book.]
Hildebrand on his new position
LGBT journalist Karen Ocamb spoke with Steve Hildebrand via email shortly after it was announced he’d be joining Faith in America. At her blog, lgbtpov.com, Ocamb shared Hildebrand’s thoughts about joining the group, his upbringing and the reasons why he thinks Faith in America work is important. His remarks are below:
In the research I’ve seen and the experiences I’ve had in politics, I believe we will win more battles if we can beat back those who use religion as an excuse to keep us from achieving full equality. Politicians use religion to mask their support or opposition to key legislation. Voters use religion to say it’s okay to deny marriage and adoption rights to gay people. And some religious leaders and conservative pundits use religion to attack LGBT folks as immoral. I believe we can reduce religion-based bigotry by taking this conversation of hate and discrimination directly to them, letting them know of the tremendous harm they are causing people, especially our youth.
Every time we try to get a voter who opposes marriage to switch their support our way, most use their religion or their fear that gay marriage will be taught to their children in schools. The opposition to teaching children in schools is most often based on their religious views. That has led me to believe that reducing religion-based bigotry towards gay people will help us win these important battles. Until we get beyond religion, we will continue to struggle.
The programs and dialogue developed by Faith in America are compelling. We will not change every mind. This is a war we have to win before we can win each of the battles.
I grew up the youngest of nine in a very Catholic family, attending Catholic schools and never missing Sunday mass. I had a great upbringing in a church that didn’t preach hatred against gay people. But the Catholic Church has changed dramatically and is one of the worst abusers in their bigotry and discrimination towards gay people.
I don’t belong to the church anymore — not because of who I am, but because of who they are. I don’t feel guilty. I feel right. I know that God is on my side and on the side of all people, no matter who they are. Because people are born with their sexuality, I firmly believe they are born in God’s eyes with God’s blessing for a good life. That is one of the things we need to convince more people of. And it’s a big reason I joined Mitchell Gold at Faith in America. : :
— Interview by Karen Ocamb. Originally published at lgbtpov.com on April 22. Reprinted with permission. For more, visit lgbtpov.com.