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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Jeffrey L. Falick

WHEN THOSE WE STAND UP FOR DON'T STAND UP FOR US

Entering the homestretch of Pride Month, there have been some wonderful expressions of support for the LGBTQ community to celebrate. (Major League Baseball rainbow pride logos? A wonderful reminder that LGBTQ people like baseball, too!)


There has also been a collection of disappointments. 


Locally, the Hamtramck City Council’s unanimous decision to ban the pride flag on government property has been among the most hurtful. Once again “religious freedom” was invoked to remind LGBTQ people that they are unwelcome.


Hamtramck is a fast-growing city that owes its recent popularity to a mini-explosion of immigrant settlement. Over the past several years humanists and other LGBTQ allies have played a significant role in defending the rights of immigrants and refugees. I don’t think I need to run down the number of actions that our own congregants have taken in pursuit of the human rights of newcomers. While white Christian nationalists were battling to ban and / or deport asylum-seeking refugees from Muslim and other countries, our community linked arms with those who stood in the breach.


This is why it’s so very disappointing to see what government and community leaders in Hamtramck (and earlier in Dearborn over the issue of banning books) are now doing. The ban on the pride flag—which adding insult to injury was included with a ban on racist group flags—was described by Mayor Pro Tem Mohammed Hassan as “what the majority of the people like.” He has obviously misunderstood the importance of protecting minorities from the tyranny of the majority.


It's a majority whose leaders have said, “You guys are welcome. ... (but) why do you have to have the flag shown on government property to be represented? You're already represented. We already know who you are.” And: “None of the religions support them. Allah created us man and woman, which is natural.” And: “Pride month, don't put it down our throats. You can be gay by yourself.”


I’m sure you get the picture.


Okay, so this is happening and, frankly, we should not be surprised. Even as we have marched for immigrants and refugees, we have been well-informed enough to know that many arriving Muslims hold conservative religious views, just like many Catholic refugees from Central and South America. 


So what do we do?


We do two things and they are related. The first is to stand up for our principles and to oppose bigotry in the guise of “religious freedom.” The second thing we do is continue to stand up for our principles by supporting the human rights of those who seek refuge among us. 


To some this seems self-defeating. I’ve already heard LGBTQ activists and allies say that “they’re through” with that cause, at least for those from conservative religious backgrounds. “Why do we need more of those attitudes in our country?” they ask.


I get it. I really do. But I also believe that our values are not real—that our humanistic principles are not as “deeply held” as we claim they are—if we can abandon them over our disappointment that the people we help don’t support causes we care about. This is because our values are not for sale or negotiable. When we say that we want our nation to be a sanctuary for the oppressed, it cannot be just for those oppressed people who agree with us.


Personally, it's because I believe very, very strongly in our values that I also believe that without our good example our values will never prevail. And we need our values to carry the day or our nation—our world—is doomed. Living by our values, even in the face of great disappointment, keeps the torch of our commitment to universal human rights aflame. And if some of those who came here of late don’t see it, perhaps if we are steadfast then their children and grandchildren will.


Humanism is not a costume we put on to show how cool we are living without supernaturalism and gods. Humanism is a deeply-held value system which, at its very core, requires us to work for the dignity of all people.


Even those people who are unready or unwilling to do the same for us.


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Last Friday night we celebrated Pride Shabbat for only the third time in our congregation’s history. Almost eighty people joined us in person (and many others online) to hear MSU Prof. Tim Retzloff recount the history of “gay liberation” in Michigan, including Rabbi Wine’s contributions. Unfortunately, some of the audio was not working so I promised to upload those clips and make them available in the newsletter. Please CLICK HERE to view or download the files. As a bonus, you will also find a PDF of Prof. Retzloff’s detailed article on the topic for PrideSource.

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