Mr. President, Discrimination by Any Other Name…

Mr. President, Discrimination by Any Other Name… July 4, 2014
Copyright: maigi / 123RF Stock Photo

July 4, 2014

Dear President Obama,

I certainly don’t have the kind of influence and power as the ministers who recently wrote you about their concerns over not being allowed to discriminate against LGBT folk, but since I am a citizen, I do believe my voice matters as much as theirs. I thank you for taking the time to listen to it and to consider my words.

Like many of them, I am an ordained minister (Presbyterian Church, USA), but I am not in agreement with them. In their letter to you they say, “We must find a way to respect diversity of opinion.” I disagree with them, because I have cause to believe that extending equality to all people is not something about which we get to have an opinion — or at least not an opinion that should affect policy. That which gives me “cause to believe” is the Constitution.

As it turns out, my religious holy texts also encourage me to see all people as being created equally in the image of God.

And while I do not support the setting of policy based on one religion’s beliefs, I do find it comforting to see the Constitution reiterating this basic humanitarian perspective: We all deserve to be treated equally under the law.

The authors of the letter also said, “Americans have always disagreed on important issues, but our ability to live with our diversity is part of what makes this country great, and it continues to be essential even in this 21st-century.”

Yes, we have always disagreed on important issues — like slavery and women’s rights, just to name a few. I, for one, do not believe we should allow those kinds of “disagreements” to dictate access to equality for anyone. We’ve seen how that works before, and we’ve seen the lingering, generational effects of laws that accommodate those “disagreements.” (And it’s not pretty.)

It also turns out that my religious texts encourage me to stand up for justice by speaking out for those whose access to equality is being limited, but they have very little interest in the question of same-sex relationships. On the other hand, the Christian scriptures practically get pedantic in talking about extending love, justice and grace to all people.

It’s difficult to trust the judgment and the intent of those who wrote you when they say, “We have great appreciation for your commitment to human dignity and justice, and we share those values with you,” while, in the same breath, saying it is essential that they be given an exemption from extending human dignity and justice to a specific group.

As one of my personal heroes, the Rev. Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

This is one of those shifting lines in the sands of equality. The recent Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby case has already began to blur that line in a way that has the potential to pull this nation backwards in its movement towards improved equality— back to a time when access to power entailed being white, male, straight, rich and Christian. I implore you, Mr. President, do not let the line be further blurred.

I applaud you for your intent to take a clear stand on all forms of discrimination. Congress had an opportunity to do the same and chose to allow discrimination to continue in the hiring practices of federal contractors. The exception that Rev. Rick Warren and his co-signers are asking for quite simply allows one group to actively discriminate against another. It really is not as complicated an issue as they would like others to believe. It would be yet another step backward in American history, back to a time when discrimination and injustice were thought permissible by means of divine judgment.

Back to a time when you could not have been President. Maybe that is what they want.

This is not a question of religion, nor should it be. This is a question of basic human dignity and basic human rights. This is a question of continuing to become a nation of true freedom and true justice, the principles that we celebrate on the Fourth of July.

This is a question of continuing to bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice. It does not bend easily. It does not bend un-aided, but it does bend and we must be its guide and protector in the face of such needless, relentless opposition.


Rev. Mark Sandlin

(Edit: You can now “co-sign” this letter by signing this petition —


Facebook continues to make it increasingly difficult for me to let you know about new blog posts like this. Please consider signing up for my mailing list where we can insure you are notified.  Just click here!

Help create a market for Progressive Christianity. Not through big publishers or big denominations, but through the grassroots. Consider supporting Mark’s blogging. We need to encourage the growth of progressive Christian voices in the marketplace. Even a dollar will help.

Mark is a co-founder of The Christian Left. Come and join the conversation!


"wow. you almost managed to slip some positive words in, probably by mistake. sickened, I ..."

Following Jesus in the Age of ..."
"In your comment here you are giving an example of someone who believes In Fear ..."

Following Jesus in the Age of ..."
"Fair enough, but now we are speaking of what is good policy. What I have ..."

10 Things You Can’t Vote For ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Ray Shawn McKinnon

    As always, good job, Mark! I appreciate your voice!

    • Mark Sandlin

      Many thanks Ray!

  • Mark Sandlin

    A special THANK YOU to Christopher Wickersham who was an early supporter of my work. Many thanks man!

  • Mark Sandlin

    Who has the coolest sister-in-law ever? This guy. Thanks to Alissa Quick for jumping in and supporting my blogging efforts!

  • JoeNCA

    My point is simple: federal contractors are paid with taxpayer dollars. You cannot take taxpayer dollars and discriminate against taxpayers.

    Or as one civil rights activist put it when racists wanted to take taxpayer funds and still use it discriminate against blacks, “When you dip you hand in the public till, don’t be surprised if a little democracy rubs off on you!”

  • mardabo

    I agree that discriminatory hiring practices towards homosexuals is not a demonstration of Christian love and very sad commentary on the church’s willingness to fall short of it’s commission to spread the Gospel of Jesus.

    Concerning homosexuals and the issues which are confronting society today, a good question to ask is, what would Jesus do? As it was with the woman caught in adultery, the religious authorities of Jesus’ day condemned her, but Jesus intervened on her behalf and saved her saying, “Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone”.

    Convicted by their own sin they left and Jesus asked her, “Does anyone accuse you?”
    And she said, “no man, Lord”. And Jesus said unto her, “neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”

    Notice that she didn’t say, “Lord I’m promiscuous and I have sexual yearnings. So since the Lord created me this way why shouldn’t I indulge them?”

    • Anthony John Woo

      What does that particular excerpt have to do with treating all humans with dignity and respect (which is the topic of the post)?
      As a side note (also unrelated to the topic), I find it interesting that the religous authorities only brought the woman to Jesus–especially as it requires two people to commit adultery.

      • confettifoot

        It’s that love the sin and not the sinner thing, an old trick that permits Christians to judge and oppress others with a fawning, saccharine smile. Sneaky. Equates homosexuality with promiscuity, a weirdness.

  • annafeehly

    you have shown me that not all Christians have become raving lunatics. Thank you.

    • Mark Sandlin

      Thank YOU for giving it a read and for leaving you feedback. MUCH appreciated.

    • Cynthia Brown Christ

      It is only the fundamentalist christians who are the lunatics. There are plenty of progressives who have not and never will.

  • Randy Creath

    Great Job, Mark!

  • Cynthia Brown Christ

    Thank you for writing thi sletter. I would hope you would have the opportunity to encourage other progressive church leaders to do the same.

    Mr. Warren is so completely going against the life of Christ, and the way we are to live, if we are Christians. Why isn’t he being called out by other Christian leaders personally on this? That is what Evangelicals believe is the most important job as christians – telling others they are sinners, or that they are wrong.

    While I don’t agree with that, Mr. Warren does, so it should be done to him.

    I’d love to hear him and another more Jesus based, biblical scholar debate about the biblical basis for his stance on this issue.

    It saddens me so greatly when people in leadership positions, who have influence over so many people – spread this kind of anti-Jesus theology to so many people, who in turn keep spreading it, thereby denying most of them the opportunity to truly be transformed – the way Christ told them the would be – if they truly believed.

  • LuckyCharmWA

    I was going to share this until I saw that you are a co-founder of The Christian Left. I used to subscribe to their FB page, but once, during a donation drive, I dared to ask what the money would be used for. I was considering donating, but I still like to know that my money would be put to good purpose. The person who responded to me was very evasive, and when I asked for more specific answers, they blocked me from the page. I have been suspicious of the organization ever since.

  • $105158253

    There is no love nor justice in supporting sinful behavior.

  • Lindsay Brown Turpen

    Mark, has the fact that there’s now a petition on for co-signing this letter been shared through The Christian Left’s community? Seems to me like we should have way more than 800+ signatures by now.