As religious radicals like Mike Pence and Brett Kavanaugh come closer and closer to stripping LGBTQ people of rights and dignity, the Tyler Clementi Foundation has launched an effort to end bullying of queer individuals in the name of God.
“In my own life, faith has been a powerful and important refuge in times of bullying. But when faith itself is used to bully, it can become a weapon of terrifying psychological destruction,” explained Justin Lee, a leading Christian advocate for LGBTQ inclusion in places of faith.
Along with the team at the foundation, Lee is launching a True Faith Doesn't Bully Campaign, which seeks to shift the conversation around LGBTQ young people within houses of worship. Their primary goal: ensuring youth are treated with respect and kindness in religious spaces regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity
“For 20 years, I’ve worked within Christian communities to stop faith-based bullying and change harmful messages about LGBTQ people," said Lee, who is the executive director of Nuance Ministries. "As Americans, we may not always agree on matters of faith, but we all deserve an opportunity to live our lives free of the emotional devastation caused by bullying.”
The Tyler Clementi Foundation is an antibullying nonprofit, which was founded by Joseph and Jane Clementi to honor their son, a teen who died by suicide after he was the victim of reprehensible cyberbullying while at Rutgers University.
For the campaign, the foundation is building on its merger with Faith in America, an organization that has fought faith-based discrimination since 2006.
"I was a member of a church that has a history of excluding LGBTQ people and I am the mother of two gay sons. My former church told me that homosexuality was a sin, but I have only acceptance and love for my children," Jane Clementi told The Advocate.
“Faith communities must stop perpetuating the misguided teachings and traditions of bias, dogma, and discrimination that devalue the human spirit and cause so much pain and despair,” Clementi continued. "I believe that love does not harm, and it should not be used to make someone feel broken, less than or separated from God because of who God created them to love, because being gay is not a sin."
The campaign faces some challenges. In order to eradicate bullying in all religious spaces, the team must cater to each faith in a customized fashion.
"Because both Jane and I have Christian backgrounds, we’ll start with creating resources for various Christian denominations," Lee told The Advocate. "TCF’s mission is to end bullying everywhere, and that often requires different strategies in different communities."
The Tyler Clementi Foundation plans to assemble a "faith leader advisory council" where members will offer specialized guidance on how to stop bullying within a variety of faith communities.
"This life-affirming shift forward would have a huge impact on the physical, emotional, and mental health of our LGBTQ+ youth, and I’m excited for this opportunity to collaborate with Justin in this important work," Jane Clementi concluded.