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D.C. church backs ‘shaming’ of LGBT people 

Baptist constitution links homosexuality to bestiality, incest

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Capital View Baptist Church, gay news, Washington Blade

Capital View Baptist Church adopted a constitution last year that says ‘shaming and shunning are acceptable Christian responses’ to homosexuality. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro Jr.)

Capital View Baptist Church, which has been operating in the same Northeast Washington neighborhood since 1927, adopted a revised church constitution last year that says, “shaming and shunning are acceptable Christian responses” to homosexuality, bisexuality, attempts to change one’s sex, and any other form of “ungodly behavior.”

In a development that has raised eyebrows among some in the city’s faith community, the church submitted a copy of its recently revised constitution to the D.C. Superior Court as part of its response to separate lawsuits filed against the church by 15 former members and by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine.

The lawsuit filed by the former members accuses the church of illegally revoking their membership in the church in an internal church dispute. Racine’s lawsuit called on the court to order the church to obey a subpoena the Attorney General’s Office served on the church last year requesting a series of financial documents and information related to its status as a nonprofit corporation under D.C. law.

A Superior Court judge on Tuesday ordered the church to turn over the documents that Racine said were needed for an investigation by his office into a complaint by a citizen that the church was violating the District’s Nonprofit Corporation Act by allegedly engaging in financial improprieties.

An attorney representing the church stated in a letter to Racine’s office in February that the complaint appeared to have been made by one of the “disgruntled former members” whom the church legally and properly expelled and whose allegations about financial improprieties are baseless.

The Washington Blade obtained a copy of the church’s constitution from the public court records after someone who saw it alerted the Blade to its provision on “shaming and shunning.”

That provision is part of one of 10 “articles” of the constitution that address a wide range of issues, including the church’s governing structure, by-laws, membership rules, and its spiritual beliefs and rites.

The language supporting “shaming and shunning” falls under the constitution’s Article VII, which consists of the church’s Christian Code of Conduct.

“Every Member, Attendee and Participant at Church Events should be afforded compassion, love, kindness, respect, and dignity while on church premises,” the article states. “Hateful, harassing, intimidating, mocking behavior or attitudes directed toward any individual or group of individuals at Church Events is to be repudiated and is not considered in accord with Scripture nor the Doctrines of the Church,” the article says.

“Yet, Shaming and Shunning are acceptable Christian responses to the outward practice of any form of ungodly behavior such as sexual immorality (adultery, fornication, homosexuality, bisexuality, bestiality, incest, transgender, or any attempt to change one’s sex, or disagreement with one’s biological sex, and/or engagement in any other such) described in the Bible as sinful, and are considered offensive to God and man,” the constitution’s article states.

It adds, “All persons employed by the Church and serving the Church in any capacity, as Members, Volunteers, Interns, Apprentices, etc., should agree with the Christian Code of Conduct and conduct themselves accordingly.”

The article concludes by declaring that the church believes “marriage to be a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a human being (homo sapien), husband or wife.”

It says marriages “outside these parameters” will not be performed by a minister affiliated with the church or on church property and any person who “knowingly participates in such a rite shall be dismissed forthwith.”

Rev. Dr. John T. Fowler, Capital View Baptist Church’s pastor since 2003, did not respond to a phone message and email from the Blade seeking comment on the church’s policies on shaming LGBT people.

Attempts to reach the attorney representing the church in its defense against the two lawsuits were unsuccessful.

However, that attorney, H. Robert Showers, argued in a letter in February to the D.C. Attorney General’s Office that the church is exempt from the jurisdiction of the court in both the Attorney General’s case and the lawsuit by the former members. He said the exemption stems from the U.S. Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, which protects religious institutions on matters involving internal church affairs.

“We respectfully submit that the Office of the Attorney General should recognize that the government does not have the legal authority to take up the fight of the church’s former members,” Showers stated in his letter. “The Free Exercise Clause of the Frist Amendment prohibits it.”

Racine’s office disputed that assessment in its court filings, saying the Constitution’s religious freedom provisions don’t cover a church’s obligations on civil matters such as its status as a non-profit corporation.

Rev. Abena McCray-Peters, pastor of D.C.’s Unity Fellowship Church, which has a mostly LGBT membership; and Rev. Elder Dwayne Johnson, senior pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, which also has a largely LGBT congregation, didn’t respond to a Blade request for comment on Capital View Baptist Church’s shaming policy.

Veteran D.C. transgender activist Earline Budd, who has described herself as a person of faith, said she was deeply troubled upon learning of Capital View Baptist Church’s endorsement of the practice of shaming.

“I mean to know that they, meaning their incorporators, agreed that it would be alright to shame someone who is a part of the transgender or gay community is sad,” Budd said.

Noting that she realizes that pastors often speak out about homosexuality, Budd added, “But I never in my dark dreams thought that someone would incorporate this type of hatred into their articles and have a church practicing under these criteria – sad, sad, sad.”

Earl Fowlkes, executive director of the D.C.-based national LGBT group Center for Black Equity, said he too was troubled over the church’s shaming policy.

“I am not the least bit surprised that a church would institutionalize their homophobia, bigotry and intolerance within the framework of their constitution,” Fowlkes said. “This is a classic case of inhospitality towards members of the LGBT community,” he said.

“Prayerfully, I hope there are no LGBTQ men and women who attend Capital View Baptist Church therefore avoiding this spiritually and emotionally damaging form of ‘Christianity,’” he said.

On its website, Capital View Baptist Church, located at 5201 Ames Street, N.E., one block off of East Capitol Street, describes itself as a ministry founded on biblical principles.

“We serve in the spirit of excellence with integrity and compassion for our community, our nation and our world,” a message on its website says. “We have established a reputation for reaching the lost and broken and to minister and serve them with the upmost level of dignity and respect.”

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100th anniversary celebration of Dupont Circle fountain set for May 17

GWU student creates tribute video

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Dupont Circle Fountain, Russian news agency, gay news, Washington Blade
The iconic Dupont Circle fountain turns 100 this month. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LGBTQ residents and longtime visitors to D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood are expected to be among the participants in the 100th anniversary celebration of the installation of the Dupont Circle fountain scheduled to be held at the circle on Monday, May 17.

Aaron DeNu, president of Dupont Festival, a nonprofit arts and cultural programming group that’s organizing the celebration, says it will take place from noon to at least sunset inside Dupont Circle.

The celebration will take place one week after the May 10 release of a YouTube video, “How Dupont Circle Evolved as a Hub for LGBTQ+ Life in the District,” produced by George Washington University student Dante Schulz. Schulz is the video editor for the G.W. student newspaper The Hatchet.

Among those appearing in the documentary video are veteran LGBTQ rights activists Deacon Maccubbin and his husband Jim Bennett, who owned and operated the Dupont Circle LGBTQ bookstore Lambda Rising beginning in the 1970s, which is credited with contributing to Dupont Circle’s reputation as the epicenter of D.C.’s LGBTQ community for many years.

Also appearing in the video is longtime D.C. gay activist and Dupont Circle area resident Craig Howell, a former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.

“At this point in time due to COVID restrictions we’re not going to be doing any particular formal gathering of folks,” DeNu told the Washington Blade in describing the May 17 celebration. “But we’ll have a soundtrack that’s playing throughout the day from that original ceremony – the same songs they used in the original dedication a hundred years ago,” he said.

DeNu said the event will also feature “historic imagery” related to Dupont Circle and the people who have gathered there over the years.

“So, we’re really just inviting people to come and have lunch, stop by the park after work, and just stop and reflect on 100 years of Dupont Circle fountain, take a look at the imagery and see some old friends and hopefully stop by and see the Dupont businesses that are around the area,” DeNu said.

The LGBTQ video produced by Dante Schultz can be accessed here.

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Trans woman sues D.C. Jail for placing her in men’s unit

Lawsuit charges city with exposing inmates to ‘risk of sexual violence’

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Sunday Hinton (Photo courtesy of the American Civil Liberties Union of D.C.)

The American Civil Liberties Union of D.C. and the D.C. Public Defender Service filed a class action lawsuit on May 11 on behalf of a transgender woman being held in the D.C. Jail on grounds that the city violated its own Human Rights Act and the woman’s constitutional rights by placing her in the men’s housing facility at the jail.

The lawsuit charges that D.C. Department of Corrections officials violated local and federal law by placing D.C. resident Sunday Hinton in the men’s unit at the D.C. Jail against her wishes without following a longstanding DOC policy of bringing the decision of where she should be placed before the DOC’s Transgender Housing Committee.

The committee, which includes members of the public, including transgender members, makes recommendations on whether a transgender inmate should be placed in either the men’s or the women’s housing unit based on their gender identity along with other considerations, including whether a trans inmate’s safety could be at risk. Under the policy, DOC officials must give strong consideration to the recommendations of the committee.

The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, says the committee has not met or acted on any trans-related jail housing matter since January 2020.

It says Hinton was taken to the D.C. Jail on April 26 after a judge ordered her held following an arrest for an alleged unarmed burglary in which she attempted to take $20.

It notes that the Department of Corrections has a “default” policy of placing transgender inmates in either the male or female housing unit at the D.C. Jail and other city detention holding facilities based on the inmate’s “anatomy.” If a female transgender inmate is anatomically male, the inmate – barring other mitigating circumstances – is placed in the male housing facility under the default policy. Similarly, a male transgender inmate who is anatomically female is placed by default in the women’s housing unit under the DOC policy.

“DOC’s policy of focusing on anatomy rather than gender identity is both discriminatory and dangerous,” the ACLU says in a statement released on the day it filed the lawsuit on Hinton’s behalf. “It forces trans individuals, particularly trans women, to choose between a heightened risk of sexual violence and a near-certain mental health crisis,” ACLU attorney Megan Yan said in the statement.

Yan was referring to yet another DOC policy that sometimes gives a transgender inmate placed in a housing unit contrary to their gender identity the option of being placed in “protective custody,” which the lawsuit calls another name for solitary confinement. The ACLU and the Public Defender Service have said solitary confinement in prisons is known to result in serious psychological harm to inmates placed in such confinement.

“Because DOC’s unconstitutional policy exposes every transgender individual in its custody to discrimination, degradation, and risk of sexual violence, Ms. Hinton seeks, on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals, a court order that strikes down DOC’s unlawful focus on anatomy as the touchstone for its housing decisions regarding transgender individuals,” the lawsuit states.

It further calls on the DOC to use “gender identity, not anatomy, as the default basis for housing assignments” for transgender inmates and to provide all trans individuals a prompt hearing by the DOC Transgender Housing Committee.

It calls for the DOC to be required to implement the recommendations of the Housing Committee “so that each person is housed as safely as possible and without discrimination.”

In addition to the lawsuit, Hinton’s attorneys filed an application for a temporary restraining order to immediately require the DOC to transfer Hinton to the D.C. Jail’s women’s housing facility. The attorneys also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the DOC from using a transgender person’s anatomy as the default or sole criteria in making housing assignments at the jail.

In response to a request from the Washington Blade, DOC spokesperson Dr. Keena Blackmon sent the Blade a DOC statement responding to the lawsuit.

“The Department of Corrections is dedicated to the safety and security of all residents in its care and custody,” the statement says. “DOC is committed to following its policies and procedures relating to housing transgender residents,” it says. “Ms. Hinton recently arrived in DOC custody and, per the agency’s COVID-19 protocols, was placed into single-occupancy quarantine for 14 days.”

The statement adds, “Once that quarantine ends, Ms. Hinton will go before the Transgender Housing Committee to determine her housing based on safety needs, housing availability, and gender identity. D.C. DOC is sensitive to Ms. Hinton’s concerns and will continue to ensure that its residents’ needs are met.”

DOC spokesperson Blackmon didn’t immediately respond to a follow-up question from the Blade asking why the Transgender Housing Committee has not met for over a year, which the ACLU has said resulted in all transgender female inmates being placed in the male housing facility.

Blackmon also couldn’t immediately be reached for a second follow-up question asking for DOC’s response to the lawsuit’s claim that DOC officials told Hinton’s lawyers that she was being placed in the men’s housing facility because she was anatomically male.

The lawsuit says the DOC default policy of placing Hinton in the jail’s male housing unit violates the D.C. Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on gender identity. The act has been interpreted to mean private businesses or the city government cannot prevent a transgender person from using facilities such as bathrooms or locker rooms that are in accordance with their gender identity.

D.C. Superior Court records show that Hinton has been arrested a total of 24 times in D.C. between 2006 and 2018. All except three of those arrests are listed as misdemeanor offenses, with just three listed as alleged felony offenses. One of the arrests is listed as a traffic offense.

In nearly all of the prior arrests, the court records identify Hinton by her birth first name, with her last name of Hinton used in all of the arrest records.

The burglary offense for which Hinton was charged on April 26 of this year and for which she is currently being held the D.C. Jail would  normally not result in a defendant being held in jail while awaiting trial. The fact that Hinton is being held rather than released pending trial suggests her prior arrest record may have prompted a judge to order her incarceration.

ACLU attorney Yan, who is among the attorneys representing Hinton in the lawsuit, said Hinton’s prior arrest record should not be a factor in the lawsuit.

“We don’t think any of the underlying things are relevant to her claim in this lawsuit, which is based on her identity and the fact that her constitutional and statutory rights to be free from discrimination are being violated,” Yan said. “At the end of the day, Sunday is a transgender woman and she’s a woman and she deserves to be held according to her gender identity as she desires.”

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Gay Iranian man murdered in so-called honor killing

State Department describes Ali Fazeli Monfared’s death as ‘appalling’

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Ali Fazeli Monfared (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

Reports indicate an Iranian man’s relatives killed him after they discovered he was gay.

The Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network wrote on its website that Ali Fazeli Monfared, 20, was kidnapped in Ahvaz, a city in Iran’s Khuzestan’s province on May 4.

The advocacy group said Monfared, who was known as Alireza, was beheaded. His body was reportedly found on May 5, the day after he was kidnapped.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps had exempted Monfared from military service because he is gay, even though consensual same-sex sexual acts remain punishable by death in the country. An activist who has known Monfared since late 2019 told the Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network his half-brother discovered he was gay when he opened an envelope from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps that contained his military exemption card.

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist and activist, reported Monfared at the time of his murder was planning to flee Iran and live with his boyfriend, who previously sought refuge in Turkey. Alinejad said Monfared’s half-brother and cousins killed him “as part of an honor killing.”

The Iranian Lesbian and Transgender Network says authorities have arrested Monfared’s half-brother and cousins and charged them with first-degree murder. A State Department spokesperson on Tuesday in a statement to the Washington Blade described the Fazeli Monfared’s murder as “appalling.”

“The United States firmly opposes abuses against LGBTQI+ persons. The struggle to end violence, discrimination, criminalization and stigma against LGBTQI+ persons is a global challenge, and one that remains central to our commitment to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all individuals,” said the spokesperson.

“Iran must do more to ensure the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons are protected,” added the spokesperson. “We extend our deepest sympathies to Mr. Monfared’s loved ones.”

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