“As millions celebrate Easter,” writes Carl Siciliano, “I need to ask my fellow Christians to wake up to the terrible fact that far too many LGBT youth are being abused and rejected in Christian homes.” Siciliano, a former Catholic Worker, serves as the Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center, an organization serving homeless and runaway youth in New York City.
There are upward of 1.6 million homeless and runaway youth according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Between 20 and 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, a disproportionate number relative to the percentage of LGBTQ people in the United States.
A recent study by the Family Acceptance Project on the impact of family rejection of LGBT youth found that parents who identify as “strongly religious” were significantly more likely to reject their children. According to research by the Center for American Progress, there are an estimated 300,000 homeless LGBT youth in our country, and the leading cause of their homelessness is family rejection.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Jesus Christ never spoke a word of condemnation against homosexuals. Churches don’t have any need to condemn LGBT people, or fight against our equal treatment in our country. A growing number of church communities have chosen to be affirming and supportive of LGBT people. I have the joy of experiencing this directly in the numerous church groups who send volunteers to cook in our shelters and collect clothing and even Christmas gifts for our young people.
A healthy society prioritizes the safety of children. Decent people do not stand by in silence when children are being abused. We need to recognize that the condemnation of LGBT people in churches leads to the abuse and rejection of LGBT children in far too many Christian homes. As Christians, commanded to love one another, we need to demand that this climate of rejection stops. We need to educate our communities and our religious leaders about the terrible harm being done to LGBT youth in the name of God.
I ask you to pray for the hundreds of thousands of LGBT youths suffering the terror and degradation of homelessness on the streets of our nation. And I ask you to pray for the even greater number of LGBT teens battling despair and hopelessness as they suffer abuse and rejection in their homes.
Homeless LGBTQ youth on religion and family rejection. Excerpts from the four stories.