How to avoid being called a bigot in Northview church
(AP) For many Americans, being called out as a bigot for expressing an opinion about race, gender, religion or other issues would be a moment of joy.
For others, the moment would be devastating.
But the experience of being called an anti-Muslim bigot in a Northview congregation is just one example of the struggles faced by people in faith-based institutions.
For instance, the American Family Association (AFA) of Minnesota, a group with more than 200 chapters, is one of a handful of organizations with openly anti-LGBTQ policies.
In a recent report, the group said that in the U.S., “LGBTQ persons have a disproportionate share of criminal prosecutions and incarcerated in our society.”
For many years, the AFA has been lobbying lawmakers in Minnesota to make it harder for people of faith to be persecuted.
In 2017, the Minnesota House passed a bill that would have prohibited the state from adopting a bill in 2017 that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or gender expression/expression/non-binary.
The bill failed in the state Senate, but a bill introduced this year in the Minnesota state legislature would make it even harder for a person of faith who is openly LGBT to receive legal protections.
The AFA says the bill would make Northview the third Minnesota congregation in the last three decades to receive such a designation.
“Our mission is to be a voice for God in the world,” said Pastor Mark Paz, executive director of Northview Baptist Church.
“We want to be seen as people who love God and the gospel.”
Paz added that in his congregation, people are not afraid to voice their faith.
“I don’t know how many times people will ask us to go back to church, but I know that we don’t.
And that’s because we love each other,” he said.
The Northview Presbyterian Church was not aware of the anti-discrimination policy, and Paz says that members of his congregation don’t necessarily feel welcome in other churches or organizations.
“It would be easy for them to be ostracized from those organizations,” he added.
AFA Minnesota, the largest American Christian lobby group, is pushing a bill to change the law.
“LGBT persons have been labeled by some as the new KKK,” said Kristina Stokes, executive vice president of AFA of Minnesota.
“And we want to make sure that people in our community are able to exercise their religious freedom without being targeted.”
For now, Paz said that he’s hoping to get the bill passed in the House.
“What’s going to happen is, the bill will be sent to the governor’s desk,” he explained.
“They will have to sign it and then it’ll go to the Governor.”
The Northvember Church in the St. Paul suburb of Minneapolis has a similar anti-bullying policy.
But its leaders say they’re working on getting the legislation passed in other places.
For now they’re focusing on other issues.
“The first priority is our members,” said Rev. Tim Loehle, pastor of the church.
“But as the church gets more and more popular, that’ll change.”
This story has been updated to reflect a comment from the American Christian Lobby, which represents the American Baptist Convention.