The United Church of Christ’s quest for religious freedom is striking a chord with social media users on Facebook. A post on the denomination’s Facebook page has gone viral in less than three weeks, reaching 1.3 million people, with 112,000 likes, comments and shares.
The post is a reference to the UCC’s groundbreaking lawsuit against the state of North Carolina. The lawsuit claims that the state’s marriage laws wrongly criminalize clergy in the state for performing weddings — spiritual or official — without a marriage license, which aren’t available to same-sex couples, and unconstitutionally denies LGBT couples the freedom to marry.
"We take our commitment to being a bold, public voice for Christianity very seriously," said Ann Poston, director of communications for the UCC. "Social media affords us the opportunity to share our message of radical inclusivity from a Stillspeaking God in creative ways — and we’re thrilled that one such post about religious freedom struck such a chord (and is still racking up likes, shares, comments, and views)."
The phrase on the image, showing a graphic of a pair of hands cuffed on a black background, reads, "Freedom of religion DOES NOT mean punishing those who don’t practice yours." (The emphasis on the words "does not" is original.)
The original post of the image on the UCC Facebook page on June 28 has 4,690 likes and 400 comments. But the post has also been shared more than 19,000 times to other Facebook timelines, giving the image a wider audience.
Those 19,000 shares are what has extended the audience and made the post viewed more than 1 million times and counting, explained Marchae Grair, the social media associate for the UCC’s national setting.
"Jesus said to love one another and that means everyone," commented one user, Susan Trone Howes. "Only God can judge someone, which seems to be something a lot of people think they have the right to do. Instead of judging other people, why not try to look at something from someone else's perspective and above all be kind?"
The comments, not surprisingly, have been positive and negative, to which another Facebook user, Dave Slavens, replied, "Lots of gay bashing on this thread and condoning other belief systems. Way to embrace universal love (which was the whole point of this post)."
The lawsuit General Synod of the United Church of Christ v. Cooper was filed on April 28 in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, N.C. The UCC is one of three groups of plaintiffs in the case. Other faith organizations, several North Carolina clergy from Christian, Jewish and Unitarian faiths, along with LGBT couples wishing to marry, are also part of the lawsuit.