Some fundamentalist churches are taking the battle against gays to new highs, or perhaps new lows.
The High Point Church in Arlington, Texas canceled last week a memorial service for a Navy veteran 24 hours before it was to start because the deceased was a gay.
Officials at the nondenominational church knew that Cecil Howard Sinclair was gay when they offered to host his service, said his sister, Kathleen Wright. But after his obituary listed his life partner as one of his survivors, she said, it was called off.
"It's a slap in the face. It's like, 'Oh, we're sorry he died, but he's gay so we can't help you,'" she said Friday.
Wright said High Point offered to hold the service for Sinclair because their brother is a janitor there. Sinclair, who served in the first Gulf War, died Monday at age 46 from an infection after surgery to prepare him for a heart transplant.
The church's pastor, the Rev. Gary Simons, said no one knew Sinclair, who was not a church member, was gay until the day before the Thursday service, when staff members putting together his video tribute saw pictures of men "engaging in clear affection, kissing and embracing."
The church says it believes that homosexuality is a sin. The authorities there withdrew their invitation for the service 24 hours before the event as they didn't want to appear to be endorsing "that lifestyle."
The grieving family was left scrambling to find an appropriate venue in which to say goodbye to their loved one, and then contact 100 expected guests about the change of location in their time of sorrow.
Rev. Lea Brown, an openly lesbian pastor, lashed out the High Point priests, saying, "They chose one principle that they believe is true (homosexuality and homosexuals must be rejected), when there are so many principles that they could have chosen instead."
First, there is the principle of compassion, which dictates that we seek to understand the suffering of others, and do what we can through kindness to help in times of need.
Cecil Howard Sinclair didn't really need to have the funeral at High Point Church. But his mentally challenged brother probably did. Mr. Sinclair's brother works as a High Point janitor, cleaning the toilets, dusting the pews, and sweeping the floors that church members soil each week. Perhaps saying goodbye to his brother in a familiar place would have been comforting to him, and would have given him some peace as he returned to work each day in the weeks and months after his brother's passing. Perhaps all of Mr. Sinclair's family, including his partner, might have been comforted by the knowledge that the 5,000-member church actually cared about them at such a difficult time, says Brown.
The church also claimed it acted with compassion when it offered to pay for a community center space for the funeral, and provide food and a video presentation for those attending the service. In fact, we could even say they came dangerously close to violating their principle by these actions. But they didn't offer to find another church space for the funeral.
That would perhaps have implied homosexuals and their loved ones actually deserve to grieve in a sacred place, as if God was actually with them in their pain. And we could probably agree that feeding homosexuals and their families is acceptable, but for heaven's sake - don't pray with them or stand with them at the graveside! Because that would certainly imply endorsement of two people of the same gender being in love with each other, wouldn't it?, Brown adds caustically.
Cecil Howard Sinclair was a veteran of the United States Navy, and he served in the first Gulf War. He was willing to risk his life for our country, and for principles like "freedom of religion" that High Point members enjoy each day. Still the church would not relent.
Meantime in Uganda Christian groups held a protest rally Tuesday against what they called an orchestrated promotion of gays and lesbians in the country.
Gathered on a rugby field outside the east African nation's capital Kampala, the roughly 100 anti-gay activists displayed dozens of placards calling for the arrest of gays and lesbians.
"We are fighting against the fresh campaign for homosexuality and lesbianism in this country," said organiser and pastor Martin Sempa. "Homosexuality and lesbianism break three laws; the laws in the Bible and the Koran, the laws of nature and the laws of the land, the Ugandan Constitution."
Ugandan law punishes sodomy with life imprisonment.
The protest was a response to a call from a gay and lesbian advocacy group, the Sexual Minorities Groups in Uganda (Smug), which for the first time held a news conference demanding recognition a week ago.
US activists note such things are understandable in a backward region like Africa, but not in the supposedly advanced US.
They are particularly angry that the very fundamental principle of Christianity, love your neighbor as yourself has been ignored by the Texas church.
Straight, bisexual, transgender, Baptist, Muslim, lesbian, HIV+, poor, Latino, queer, disabled, Republican, veteran, peace-activist, immigrant, or gay everyone deserves compassionate treatment, they stress.