February a busy month for LGBT issues

Mary-Kate Burkert

Controversy dealing with religion and politics in association with the LGBT community has been prevalent throughout February in the state of Iowa.

The Fort Des Moines Church of Christ and the FAMiLY LEADER, a conservative religious group, have been noted in the press this month for actions seemingly opposing the LGBT community. The church’s sign read “Gay is not okay.”

Michael Demastus, senior pastor for the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ, originally agreed to an interview but later refused to comment.

Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of the FAMiLY LEADER, addressed a letter to Gov. Terry Branstad requesting “governor” be omitted from the name of the conference that promotes an end to bullying of LGBT youth.

He said educators need to strive towards the highest of standards, and the highest of standards do not discriminate. Therefore, Vander Plaats said, the government would be participating in discriminatory behavior if the conference was held solely for students who identified with the LGBT community.

“We can smell our way through this and see that it is more about an agenda than an anti-bullying conference,” Vander Plaats said.

He added that although the March 8 conference is promoted as being about anti-bullying, it goes beyond that when condoms and safe sex kits are given out to attendees and the keynote speaker is from the series “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”

These events have posed the question: Do boundaries exist between religion and politics and a person’s right to sexuality?

Warren Blumenfeld, associate professor in curriculum and instruction, is involved with the LGBT community. He promotes the idea all people have a right to freedom of sexuality and neither religion nor politics should hinder that.

“Politicians and religious leaders expressing their beliefs onto an individual or group of individuals is considered oppression,” Blumenfeld said. “By so doing, they are exerting power and control by attempting to define ‘the other.’ They are attempting to deprive us of our agency and our subjectivity.”

He said that with religious rights come responsibilities and with actions come reactions.

“I believe that the prime factor keeping oppression toward LGBT people locked firmly in place and enacted throughout our society is the negative judgments emanating from conservative faith communities,” Blumenfeld said.

Iowa State’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Ally Alliance and LGBT Student Services have used the recent controversies as a source for dialogue among the community.

“We’ve been observers and encourage respectful and civil boundaries to exist when it comes to religion and politics in association with the LGBT community,” said Brad Freihoefer, coordinator for LGBT Student Services.

Freihoefer explained that the impact of words allows students to talk about and understand various perspectives. It is this variety in perspectives that demonstrates blurred boundaries between religion and politics and an individual’s freedom of sexuality, he said.