UU-UNO Director invited to the White House to discuss Global LGBT Human Rights
UU-UNO Director invited to the White House to discuss Global LGBT Human Rights

  I received the following invitation last week: You are invited to a White House Forum on Global LGBT Human Rights, to be held on Tuesday, June 24th, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. EST. We are pleased to announce that Ambassador Susan Rice, National Security Advisor, will deliver keynote remarks. Participants will engage with senior Obama Administration officials on the Administration’s ongoing efforts to protect and promote the human rights of LGBT individuals internationally.  The forum will also provide an opportunity to discuss how the faith community, private sector, philanthropic organizations, HIV and health advocates, and the broader human rights community can partner with the Administration in this important work.

Forum on Global LGBT Human Rights

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

1:00 – 5:00 p.m. EST

The White House

Important Note: On the evening of Tuesday, June 24th, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Biden will host a reception celebrating the international LGBT human rights community. You will receive a separate invitation to that event and we request that you RSVP to that event as directed on the invitation.   UU-UNO Advising the American Government   I have been invited to join a large group of faith-based advisors to provide input to the U.S. Department of State and the White House.  As many of you know, I spent 25 years as an American Diplomat.  During that quarter century, I witnessed the Solidarity Movement in Poland and the rise of fundamentalist Islam.  During all these and similar events, I felt the Department of State needed a bureau of religious affairs.  Of course, I support our government’s strong stand in support of the separation of “church and state.”  However, I also felt that we did not sufficiently understand the religious motivations of profound movements, such as the Solidarity Movement in Poland and the rise of fundamentalist Islam.  We can understand the politics, the economics and even the climate related factors which cause such events, such as the Syrian civil war.  However, in the midst of the politics, economics and environmental causes, there is also a religious dimension. Secretary of State John Kerry, saw this from the beginning of his tenure as America’s Foreign Policy chief advisor to the U.S. President.  Secretary Kerry has appointed Shaun A. Casey as his Special Advisor on Faith-Based Community Initiatives.  He is currently on leave of absence from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, where he is Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the National Capital Semester for Seminarians (NCSS). Mr. Casey served as senior advisor for religious affairs for the 2008 Obama campaign and was National Evangelical Coordinator in the 2008 presidential campaign. His research interests include ethics and international affairs, the public implications of religious belief, and the intersection of religion and politics.  He has written on the ethics of the war in Iraq as well the role of religion in American presidential politics.  Shaun Casey has been at the Department of State for less than a year.  He is forging something brand new: progressive foreign policy as informed by progressive and even less progressive faith leaders.   The initiative started with three subcommittees on peace, development and conflict resolution.  Then a forth was added on social justice, with a focus on global LGBTI Human Rights.  That’s when I was invited to join.  I am also gratified to see that many of the faith leaders that we brought into the work of global LGBT human rights are also part of this social justice subcommittee.  In 2009-10, the UU-UNO hosted three meetings which brought together both faith and secular leaders to focus attention on Uganda and other global LGBTI hotspots.  Many of these leaders had distinguished themselves in domestic marriage equality campaigns, but the UU-UNO convinced them to focus global sexual orientation/gender identity issues. It was Human Rights Watch that prompted the UU-UNO to begin this work in 2009.  They told us that right-wing religious clerics and politicians were provoking violent homophobic bigotry in Uganda and elsewhere and that there needed to be a progressive faith-based response.  We invited over 100 faith and secular leaders from around the world, including Ugandans such as Frank Mugisha, Bishop Christopher Ssenyonjo and Rev. Mark Kiyimba.  Together, we have opposed the view that faith must equal hate.  We have, instead, stood firmly on the side of love and invited many others to join us. It is mostly this group that we formed in 2009 that is now advising the U.S. Government and that will be at the White House on June 24th, 2014. However, our advice to the U.S. Government is not at all restricted to sexual orientation/gender identity issues.  We are advising the U.S. Government on issues related to peace, development and conflict resolution.  We understand that all these issues are related.  There can be no equality, if there is no peace, sustainable development and unless conflicts are resolved.  We are in the process of talking, not only about violence against people due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, but about violence and military adventurism in general.  None of us can be free, unless all of us are free.  We all need peace and a world that can sustain life and provide justice to all, while maintaining the interdependent web of life.  Our advice is not narrow, but broad and wide.  The news, however, is that we are being listened to at the highest levels of the American and Canadian governments and at the highest levels of the UN. In order to continue this work, we need your support. Your generosity allows the UU-UNO’s important work to continue. Yours Sincerely,

Bruce Knotts


Bknotts [at] uua [dot] org

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