In the wake of four recent teen suicides that have sparked a national conversation about anti-gay bullying, the UCC has released a statement by its five-person Collegium of Officers encouraging people of faith to "recognize the God-given worth and dignity of every person that human judgment cannot set aside" and "work in solidarity to stop the bullying and violence against LGBT people."
Here is the statement by the Rev. Geoffrey A Black, general minister and president; Ms. Edith A. Guffey, associate general minister; the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister of Justice and Witness Ministries; the Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte, executive minister of Wider Church Ministries; and the Rev. Stephen L. Sterner, executive minister of Local Church Ministries:
"The culture of anti-gay bullying that persists in academic and other institutions is an aspect of the broader issues of violence and harassment LGBT people face in the United States and around the world. It is experienced in a variety of ways from the invasion of privacy and taunts in school hallways to being beaten and tied to a fence; from the enactment of laws that criminalize sexual orientation and extra-judicial killing of people believed to be gay to the failure of elected officials to pass legislation that ensures the full equality of every citizen.
"The reality of anti-gay harassment and bullying creates environments of fear and intimidation that not only have tragic consequences for those who are targeted, but also for the communities in which they occur. Even when anti-bullying policies are in place, without effective implementation peers, teachers and other adults can still be intimidated into silence and inaction. Studies continue to tell us that this is more often than not the reality in the vast majority of our schools. Nine out of 10 LGBT youth report being verbally harassed at school; 44 percent say they have been physically harassed; 22 percent report having been assaulted; and 60 percent say that when they report abuse, no one does anything to help or protect them.
"All people of faith must recognize the God-given worth and dignity of every person that human judgment cannot set aside. Together we must work in solidarity to stop the bullying and violence against LGBT people and ensure the safety and protection of all our children. This is a baseline call to action grounded in the commonly held values of the Golden Rule, which every household of faith should be able to embrace."
The UCC has numerous resources to help churches develop a community-wide ethos to eliminate bullying.
The four suicides occurred within a three-week period in September:
Billy Lucas, a 15-year-old from Greensburg, Ind., hung himself Sept. 9 from a barn rafter on his grandmother's farm.
Seth Walsh, 13, of Tehachapi, Calif., was removed from life support 10 days after hanging himself from a tree. He died Sept. 27.
Asher Brown, a 13-year-old from Cypress, Texas, used his stepfather’s gun to shoot himself to death Sept. 17.
Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman, jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge spanning the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey on Sept. 22.
The deaths prompted an impassioned, on-air plea last week from openly gay talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres to "anyone out there who feels different and alone to know that I know how you feel, and there is help out there."
Issuing a wakeup call to quell the "epidemic" of anti-gay teen bullying, DeGeneres says, "One life lost in a senseless way is tragic; four lives lost is a crisis." View the video.