Of the estimated 300,000 homeless youth in America, more than 40 percent identify as LGBT. The leading cause of their homelessness is family rejection, often stemming from religious intolerance.
As millions of Christians prepare to celebrate on Sunday the resurrection of a man who preached love and acceptance, Carl Siciliano, Executive Director of New York's Ali Forney Center, appeals to families who have rejected their own children based on so-called Christian immorality:
I think about the 15-year-old boy from rural Delaware whose father, a minister in the Church of the Nazarene, attacked him when told his son was gay, tried to strangle him, and then immediately banished him from their home. Or the 17-year-old girl whose Pentecostal parents drove her out into the back woods of New Jersey and tossed her out of the car. I think of the 16-year-old boy from Connecticut whose Catholic mother, upon learning he was gay, called a priest who made him lay the floor and attempted to "drive the demons out of him."Or the boy from New Hampshire whose Baptist parents told him that God is so disgusted by homosexuals that he "vomits them out."
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.
New York City's largest shelter for LGBT youth, the Ali Forney Center, released a series of videos highlighting the pain and degradation caused by loved ones, ultimately forcing vulnerable yet courageous young people to leave home.