At the core of his faith, The Reverend Doctor Larry Bethune is guided by the strong belief that “God loves all people and loves all people equally.”
That’s why Rev. Bethune of the American Baptist Church is joining a growing chorus of faith leaders in Texas who are speaking out against discrimination—and in favor of protecting gay and transgender people under the law.
“I believe God created LGBT as well as heterosexual persons… all people should be welcomed and it’s a violation of my core faith values to discriminate in God’s name.” He continues, “Using God’s name in the wrong way is offensive to God, for us to attach God to discrimination is a direct violation of scripture.”
Rev. Bethune, who grew up in Pearland, a small city outside of Houston, is now the Senior Pastor of the University Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. He lives with his wife Gina, also an ordained Baptist clergyperson, and they just celebrated their 20th anniversary together.
As a lifelong Texan, Rev. Bethune grew up immersed in a culture where faith and hard work were valued above all else. Both his family and his faith community taught him the importance of treating others as he wishes to be treated..
Bethune describes further how his faith has led him to believe that discrimination in any form is wrong—and that all Texans should have the opportunity to work hard and make a living.
“I grew up in a conservative Baptist church and they taught me that God loves everybody and calls everyone to life and community… so those values are deep within me.”
That’s why Rev. Bethune is particularly incensed with attempts to treat gay and transgender Texans unfairly.
“It’s disappointing and frustrating… I don’t understand the lack of humility it takes to exclude anybody, and that includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people, or people of other faiths, or other races.”
“Creating a space to let others live among us as equals, live out of the core of their identity may be uncomfortable for some us and a change we may not have expected and may not even welcome. But it puts our true beliefs to the test: that God created everyone equal and that everyone should be treated equally under the law. Texans don’t discriminate against people because of their race, gender, or sexual orientation.”
That some people in Texas would justify discrimination doesn’t just offend Rev. Bethune from a religious standpoint, it offends him as a proud Texan as well.
“I’m particularly surprised and disappointed that in Texas, where we have a strong tradition of recognizing individual rights, we would even consider not recognizing basic freedom and the rights of an individual because they are gay or transgender.”
Rev. Bethune adds, “Not only is this un-Christian and un-American, but it’s also un-Texan.”
He contends the mere fact that LGBT Texans experience high levels of discrimination underscores the urgent need to ensure that no Texan is discriminated against.
“Everyone should have the same rights and responsibilities.”