Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reverend Pat Bumgardner's Remarks at the Sheridan Square Rally

We all know the facts of this case --- why, at least in terms of false arrest and trumped up charges, we are here. We know the stories of gay men in their 40s or older being targeted for arrest, as a back door way of closing establishments/places of business the city cannot legally --- or, in my opinion, morally, shut down.

We especially know the story of Robert Pinter and his courage in rethinking an original decision to go quietly to the slaughter, and instead to not only stand up for himself, but form a coalition to stand up for all of us --- because this is about ALL of us --- not just gay men over a certain age. It is about all of us --- every gay man, every lesbian, every person who has ever had sex, every person who has never had sex --- it’s not just about people who shop in video stores or who buy magazines with people in suggestive poses.

It is about our right --- what Robert and those of us standing here today with him are saying is: we have a right --- all of us --- to freedom of speech and assembly --- and even viewing pleasure. That is what the Constitution we supposedly espouse says: the right to life, liberty and happiness --- viewing pleasure is part of our happiness. Our exercise of that right should not be used as coinage in a Ponzi scheme by the state, to build false collateral in cases that have no merit.

Who’s conduct is disordered here, if not that of police officers lying about who solicited and entrapped whom? Whose health, both physically with a person quote “undercover” who offers to act WITHOUT benefit of condom, and morally with lying, is really at stake?

A lot of things are passing for freedom of speech these days --- racist depictions of a President; hateful messages designed to do one thing onloy: inspire violence against other human beings. --- I’m not a lawyer. I don’t know where the law will ultimately come down on the freedom of speech we gather to protect today. But I am a person of faith who knows the Scripture records the story of two men in the bushes one day, Jonathan and David, kissing each other until David “exceeded” himself {I Sam. 20:40-42}.

Biblical scholars may profess not to know what that means --- but I am
Guessing that everybody here today, religious or not, has a pretty good
Idea what it means. --- “Jonathan, O Jonathan, your love has been won-
derful to me” {II Samuel 1:26}. David will mandate all of his fellow
citizens memorize those words/write them on their hearts, because the
truth is sex in the Bible, just like sex in the city, isn’t a bad thing ---
and whether you pay for it or it’s free, doesn’t determine its morality.

The issue here is the criminalization of our sexual lives. What is happening here is the same thing that is happening in Senegal with the imprisonment of eight men trying to do nothing more than teach people how to practice safer sex. It has to stop!

Being open and honest about human, adult needs and meeting those needs in responsible and honest ways --- not lying about who we are or what we’re up to; not using each other to make a case that has nothing to do with that relational moment --- is what determines morality, and should, I think, determine legality.

And so I’m here today mostly to laud Robert’s courage and conviction --- and to encourage all of us to stand up for the elimination of the policing of sexual activity between consenting adults --- to encourage us not to let things like potential embarrassment or imposed shame rob us of the dignity of who we are.

God speaks the language of the flesh --- that’s the heart of the faith
I profess --- that God became a human being.

Be human, for God’s sake. There’s nothing wrong with that.

- Rev. Pat Bumgardner

Pastor, Metropolitan Community Church of New York

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