Praying For Uganda, Praying Against Hate


Earnest Simpkins, a health educator with Pilsbury United Communities. (Photo: James Sanna)
Protesting the role of last week’s National Prayer Breakfast’s sponsors in pushing the Ugandan “Kill Gays” bill, queer and allied religious leaders gathered in a Minneapolis church on Thursday morning for a prayer breakfast of their own, joining similar gatherings in 18 other cities for an event called the “American Prayer Hour.”

The Ugandan MP behind the notorious piece of legislation that would execute or imprison any Ugandan for life if they were convicted of being gay, David Bahati, has been identified as a “rising star” in the secretive evangelical organization best known as “The Family” that organizes the yearly National Prayer Breakfast.

“It’s a terrifying thing that a religious organization can justify the silencing or annihilation of anyone just because of who they are,” organizer Rev. Laurie Crelly told TheColu.mn on Thursday, following the breakfast at Plymouth Congregational Church. “We’re defending a Christianity and a faith tradition that would be totally opposed to what’s going on” in the US and Uganda, she said.

Only 30 or so attended Thursday’s service, planned “at the last minute” by Crelly and local two-spirit activist Richard LaFortune. However, many in the room, including Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, were members of a growing network of queer and allied religious leaders across the state who are pushing for an end to religious-based persecution of LGBTQ people.

Rev. Laurie Crelly (Photo: James Sanna)
Crelly acknowledged that the movement was nowhere near as large as the conservative evangelical movement, but defended the strides made so far. “10 years ago,” she said, “hardly any congregations had language like that, that identified them as open and affirming [of LGBT people].”

Pointing to Thursday’s audience, co-organizer Rev. Latisha Richardson said the most encouraging thing was that “only one-third of the audience was LGBT. The rest were straight allies.”

“We in the LGBT community can’t do it by ourselves,” said Crelly.

“It can no longer be said you cannot be Christian and gay, or that because you’re a Christian, you have to hate gay people,” she said.

Reaching out LGBT people of faith with that message, Crelly and Richardson said, lies at the heart of much of their ministry. “It’s terrible to see how peoples’ faith is stripped from them when people who love and care for them turn around and denounce them,” said Crelly, citing her own experience at Minneapolis’ fundamentalist North Central University. “Their spirit is murdered.”

Rev. Latisha Richardson and Dr. Cheryl Maloney (Photo: James Sanna)
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