When Oklahoma teen Zach Harrington killed himself last week, he became the seventh young man in recent weeks to commit suicide as a direct result of the relentless bullying he received because he was, or was perceived to be, gay.
Members of the newly formed Westmoreland County LGBTQ Interfaith Network (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) believe these tragedies compel all of us to question what we've done to make the world so dangerous for LGBTQ youth.
The Westmoreland County LGBTQ Interfaith Network is a collaborative of clergy, congregations and laity, of all different faiths and sexual identities, who affirm the spirituality of LGBTQ people and provide pastoral care and education on LGBTQ issues.
We have seen the pain and damage that has been done to the LGBTQ by some of our brothers and sisters in various faith communities, by public officials seeking to win votes using religion against the LGBTQ, and from the unyielding, dogmatic and selective interpretation of our most sacred texts.
The Westmoreland County LGBTQ Interfaith Network wants to help remove that hate from our conversations and offer love in place of fear. Certainly our greatest calling is the imperative to treat our children with the dignity and respect inherent in all living things.
I am joined by 10 ministers serving Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, and Unitarian Universalist pulpits in the area -- as well as congregational members -- to express our concern over these recent deaths and to remind everyone that in God's eyes we are all Zach Harrington, Tyler Clementi, Raymond Chase, Cody Barker, Seth Walsh, Billy Lucas and Asher Brown.
Jeff Liebmann, Consulting Minister
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Smithton
(this letter has been submitted to the Fayette Herald Standard for publication)