Tag: LGBT

Under new Texas law, faith-based adoption agencies win protections

Under new Texas law, faith-based adoption agencies win protections

Despite opposition from gay-rights groups, Lone Star lawmakers passed the Freedom to Serve Children Act.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

ABILENE, Texas — At age 17, Jennifer Griffith discovered she was pregnant.

The daughter of a pro-life advocate, Griffith knew she couldn’t abort her baby. Instead, the unmarried teen turned to Christian Homes and Family Services for help.

The 55-year-old ministry — based in this West Texas city where the wind blows hot all day and the sunset explodes with colors each evening — worked with her to find a faithful couple to adopt her baby.

“I wanted my child to have two parents who were married and who were going to raise their child in the Christian faith,” said Griffith, who grew up in the West Freeway Church of Christ in Fort Worth.

A new Lone Star State law — set to take effect Sept. 1 — protects the freedom of faith-based organizations such as Christian Homes and Family Services to adhere to their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Under House Bill 3859 — passed by the Texas Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott — state-licensed nonprofits can require, for example, that prospective parents be active church members who attend worship services weekly.

Moreover, taxpayer-funded charities can decline to place children with same-sex couples. However, in such cases, the ministries must refer the couples to more suitable providers.

The law also will permit agencies to place children in religious schools, decline to refer teens for abortions and refuse to enter into contracts with organizations that don’t share their beliefs.

Religious groups make up roughly a quarter of Texas’ 210 state-licensed child-welfare providers. Texas is home to more than 250,000 members of Churches of Christ — the most of any state.

“We had to create an environment in which the state’s work can coexist with the work of faith-based organizations, and I thought this bill really succeeded in doing that,” said Sherri Statler, president and CEO of Christian Homes and Family Services, which is associated with Churches of Christ.

But House Bill 3859 drew fierce opposition from gay-rights advocates and progressive religious groups. In response to the law, California banned state-sponsored travel to Texas, accusing it of authorizing discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Read the full story.

This story appears in the August 2017 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

One year later, Orlando victim’s mom urges: Show your children ‘all the love you have’

One year later, Orlando victim’s mom urges: Show your children ‘all the love you have’

Bernadette Cruz’s 22-year-old son, Peter “Ommy” Gonzalez-Cruz, died in the June 12, 2016, mass shooting that targeted a gay nightclub.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

ORLANDO, Fla. — She thinks of him every day — her beloved son Peter “Ommy” Gonzalez-Cruz.

Yet even as she grieves, Bernadette Cruz pushes forward, relying on her friends, her family and her faith.

Cruz’s cheerful, affectionate firstborn son was just 22 when he was caught in an ambush of gunfire on June 12, 2016 — one of 49 victims of the Pulse gay nightclub massacre.

At the first anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, Cruz has a message for other parents: “Take advantage of every day with your family because you never know what can happen. Communicate often with your children and show them all the love you have for them. They will reciprocate.”

I checked in to see how Cruz is doing after writing about her son’s death last year.

As Christian Chronicle readers may recall, Gonzalez-Cruz was the nephew of my friends Luis and Tony Cintrón (they are twins). Bernadette Cruz is my friends’ sister. In my 2016 column, I highlighted a special connection that a Church of Christ in New Jersey made with the victim’s family.

On Friday, while in the Orlando area on an unrelated assignment, I took a few minutes to visit the now-closed nightclub site where gunman Omar Mateen, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, opened fire.

Read the full column.

This column appears in the online edition of The Christian Chronicle.

In Orlando, a call for more openness, less fear

In Orlando, a call for more openness, less fear

After gay nightclub massacre, showing love to LGBT community a focus at Christian conference.

Second Place, In-Depth Reporting, Associated Church Press

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

ORLANDO, Fla. — Sally Gary couldn’t come to Orlando and fail to visit the site of the gay nightclub massacre where 49 people died.

The founder of CenterPeace, a Dallas-based ministry that provides support and resources for people who experience same-sex attraction, said she felt compelled to pay her respects.

“I can’t imagine being here and not paying homage to the brothers and sisters who lost their lives there,” said Gary, a member of the Highland Oaks Church of Christ in Dallas.

Months before the Pulse nightclub attack, Gary accepted an invitation to speak at the Equip Conference in Orlando — a biennial event formerly known as the Spiritual Growth Workshop.

The nation’s worst mass shooting — in which 53 people were wounded in addition to those killed — provided “a very in-your-face reminder” of the urgency for churches to become more open and less fearful in discussing LGBT issues, Gary said.

Her message to the standing-room-only crowds that filled her three sessions: The person experiencing same-sex attraction isn’t a guy in a rainbow-colored bikini marching in a gay pride parade.

“It’s me,” said Gary, who grew up in the Tenth and Broad Street Church of Christ in Wichita Falls, Texas, and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Abilene Christian University.

Read the full story.

This is the first of a three-part series in The Christian Chronicle.

A church makes a special connection with an Orlando victim’s family

A church makes a special connection with an Orlando victim’s family

How a New Jersey congregation came to bless a grieving mother who lost her son in the nation’s worst mass shooting.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

ORLANDO, Fla. — “It’s been a while, man,” said my friend Jose Luis Cintrón, who lives in Fort Worth, Texas.

Thirty years, to be exact.

Sadly, I called after all these years because my friend just lost his nephew, Peter “Ommy” Gonzalez-Cruz, in the mass shooting that claimed 49 lives at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Back in 1986 — my senior year at Keller High School, north of Fort Worth — Cintrón and I were part of a tight-knit group of friends that included his twin brother, Tony, and my brother, Scott.

We roamed the same school hallways. We worked together at a McDonald’s restaurant. On our off nights, we hung out — seeing movies like “Top Gun” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” playing co-ed softball and cruising in our super-cool cars, such as the gray 1980 Ford Pinto with manual transmission that Scott and I shared.

“Those were fun days,” Cintrón said as we reminisced before talking about his family’s unfathomable loss.

Read the full column.

This is the third of a three-part series in The Christian Chronicle.

Christian universities put on ‘shame list’

Christian universities put on ‘shame list’

Gay-rights organizations target federal funding and NCAA ties of schools with traditional biblical beliefs.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

Revoke Christian universities’ eligibility for federal student financial aid.

Strip their membership in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

That’s what major gay-rights groups would like to do with higher education schools that espouse traditional biblical beliefs on sexuality and gender identity.

“Some voices are calling for Christian schools to be expelled from the NCAA, and others are calling for Pell Grants to be denied to students who attend our universities,” said Bruce McLarty, president of 6,000-student Harding University in Searcy, Ark. “These attacks seem to be coming from every direction these days.”

At Harding, students received $54 million in federal loans and grants last year — 45 percent of the university’s total budget of $120 million.

It would be a major loss if the government ever took away students’ access to federal funding.

“My hands shake as I write those numbers!” the Harding president said in an email. “The good news is that the largest part of that figure is from loan money, and that can be replaced even if at a higher cost (interest rate) to students.”

Read the full story.

Related story:

•  The challenges facing faith-based universities (reporting from Nashville, Tenn.)

These stories appear in the July 2016 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Christians sing, pray at memorial site after Orlando massacre

Christians sing, pray at memorial site after Orlando massacre

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

After Sunday’s terrorist attack on a gay nightclub claimed the lives of 49 souls, a dozen members of three Orlando, Fla.-area Churches of Christ brought flowers — and prayers — to a memorial site for the victims.

“Together we #prayforOrlando,” said a poster signed by members of one of those congregations, the Concord Street Church of Christ.

Gunman Omar Mateen, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, targeted not just the LGBT community but all of Orlando, said Meghan Hone, who coordinates the Concord Street church’s Sonshine Street children’s ministry.

“It doesn’t matter if this terrorist shot up a nightclub or a Walmart or a gas station,” said Hone, a mother of three. “He could have walked into anywhere. This was an act of terrorism right here in my city.”

Hone, a professional opera singer, said she wanted to show love for the gay community and grieving loved ones.

“Because of my work in local performing arts, I have a lot of friends in the gay community,” she said. “I’m sure some believe that Christians don’t care about them, and we do care about them. A lot of people in the world and sometimes even other Christians have a hard time understanding that you can love and deeply care about someone even if you don’t endorse what they believe in.”

Read the full story.

This story appears in the July 2016 edition of The Christian Chronicle.

In this Bible Belt state, Democrats call hot-button issues a ‘smokescreen’

In this Bible Belt state, Democrats call hot-button issues a ‘smokescreen’

Even some Republicans in GOP-run Oklahoma say that abortion and transgender bills are a distraction.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For The Washington Post

Some public schools are starting summer vacation several days early. Others are contemplating a four-day week to cut costs. And more than 200 teachers in Oklahoma City were handed pink slips in March.

But instead of addressing a burgeoning budget crisis that threatens public education and other critical state services, Oklahoma lawmakers have been busy debating proposals to criminalize abortion, police students’ access to public bathrooms and impeach President Obama.

With more painful cuts to come, Democrats are accusing the GOP-controlled legislature of creating a “smokescreen” to distract the public from an estimated $1.3 billion shortfall caused by declining oil revenue and years of big tax cuts. Even some Republicans have criticized the focus on social issues as frivolous.

“They run this stuff out there because it excites the base,” Keith Gaddie, a political scientist at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, said of the social-issues bills. “But nobody ever banked on the public also looking up and saying: ‘You know, we like schools. We like hospitals. We like roads. We like to have stuff that works.’ ”

Oklahoma is among eight states facing serious budget shortfalls after a two-year drop in oil prices that radically curtailed revenue from the oil industry. Also contributing to Oklahoma’s budget crunch are years of income-tax cuts and corporate tax incentives, especially for oil companies. Last week, Reuters reported that oil industry lobbyists secured one of the lowest tax rates in the country, a tax break that deprived the state of $470 million last year alone.

Read the full story.

This story appears on Page A3 of The Washington Post.