Journey Story

Standing Up Against Discrimination

by Rev . Debra J. Hopkins

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear a case about whether religious beliefs give businesses that are open to the public a right to discriminate. The case is about David Mullins and Charlie Craig, who visited Masterpiece Cakeshop in 2012 to order a cake for their upcoming wedding reception. The bakery owner, Jack Phillips, told them he couldn’t sell them a wedding cake because they were a same-sex couple.

I know how humiliating this must have felt. 

I can completely identify with the injustice experienced by David Mullins and Charlie Craig in Colorado at Masterpiece Cakeshop.

I was falsely accused of a crime I didn’t commit and subsequently arrested. I was subject to the disgusting treatment of the Huntsville, Alabama, police department. I was denied of my dignity and human rights. I was victim to discrimination and constant disrespect from the court system and community.

This experience caused me to leave the church I founded (New Life Christian Fellowship) and move from Alabama to Charlotte, North Carolina, where I have been a “voice for change” ever since. I was here in Charlotte when the City Council passed the ordinance that provided nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. As a Black trans woman, this ordinance gave me protection and the freedom of knowing that I have the right to enter the same spaces and go to the same things as every law abiding citizen in the state of North Carolina.

In response, the state legislature passed HB2—the “bathroom bill” that makes it legal to discriminate against transgender people using public facilities that align with their gender identity. After a long political fight, the Chalotte City Council repealed their nondiscrimination ordinance. Throughout it all, I’ve had to deal with embarrassment, constant ill treatment, violence and degrading treatment imposed upon me.

And daily, I stand up and speak out against the injustices that we in the LGBTQIA community continue to experience.

My journey in faith has taught me that in spite of all the discrimination, hatred and injustice in the world, God is love! Each of us deserves the right to be treated equally, with dignity, respect and—above all—love.

The idea of social justice for all people was central to Christ’s ministry. Jesus respected the inherent value and dignity of all people. Following Christ’s lead, I’ve always supported non-discrimination policies and will continue to do so. I believe with all that’s within me that it is way past time for all Christian denominations to do the same.

In the Masterpiece Cakeshop hearing, we’ll see Christians using their religion to justify harm. Using religion to support discrimination and injustice is harmful and dangerous to our communities, and it must stop.

God’s word teaches that we are to love others, not judge and discriminate. 

Anything less is human judgement rather than Godly love. God asks that we love others as we love ourselves. LGBTQ people are constantly told that we are wrong for living as God made us. Instead of allowing ourselves to be put to shame, it is our responsibility to love and allow ourselves to be loved, freely and full, for “All that God has made is good!”

Jesus was not bound by the expectations of society. Through his ministry, he extended the love of God to many who had been deemed “unworthy.” Through Jesus’ own example and teachings, we are called into action. We are called to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, and visit the imprisoned. We are called to love our neighbor—not discriminate.  To be socially just is to love as Christ loved us.

Grace gives us this freedom and keeps us working to help others live happy and free lives. 

Through our love for all people, we show the world that we are God’s children.

Photo by the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw (Creative Commons)