Houston has been heralded as the most diverse city in America. The spotlight is on us in the media nationally and internationally to see how we, as a city, navigate the challenges of difference while growing economically, culturally, and in quality of life.
So it was at great cost that fear traveled to the polls on Tuesday. The failure to uphold the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance at the polls was the result a strategy that pitted minorities against one another and which used vicious religious and political fear-mongering tactics. The debate devolved into a discussion of bathrooms, rather than a conversation about the best means to protect fundamental rights. This does a great disservice to our city. It is an embarrassment.
At a greater cost, and of great concern to us as clergy, this fear was stirred up by religious voices in our beloved city of Houston. To mingle the Christian voice with injustice and inequality is contrary to this way of Jesus, who calls us to be not afraid.
We are ashamed of colleagues who engaged in evil to promote what they thought was good by using reprehensible tactics. We are ashamed of our religious leaders who failed to take risks for the promotion of the common good; who failed to teach their congregations why the protection of civil rights for one oppressed group is important for the protection of all others.
Our community of faith strives for full inclusion of all people, as modeled by Jesus. We continue to be informed by how he embraced the marginalized and faced oppression head on. Our hope today is that we will lean into this moment and act to uphold our commitment to the dignity of every human being, and to demand that the Golden Rule—treating others as we would want to be treated—informs our life as citizens of Houston.