Gay-friendly Christian denomination makes human rights award

By staff writers
1 Jul 2007

Human Rights Watch has been named recipient of the triennial Human Rights Award of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), an international fellowship of Christian churches with a special affirming ministry to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The award will be presented during the international General Conference of Metropolitan Community Churches in Scottsdale, Arizona, on 4 July 2007 (American independence day), says the Rev Elder Nancy L. Wilson, Moderator of the MCC denomination.

More than 1,500 people from around the world will gather in the Phoenix area during 2-6 July 2007 for the church's global conference.

"The 2007 Human Rights Award of Metropolitan Community Churches recognizes Human Rights Watch's groundbreaking work defending LGBT people worldwide from violence, discrimination, and abuse," said Ms Wilson.

Founded in 1968, Metropolitan Community Churches comprise the largest and oldest worldwide Christian denomination with a primary welcoming ministry to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. Metropolitan Community Churches provide local ministry in 28 countries and each year more than 225,000 people attend MCC's programmes and services.

The church group, known across Eastern Europe as "The Human Rights Church" for its commitment to social justice for LGBT people, collaborates with human rights groups in countries such as Jamaica, Romania, Latvia, Moldova, Bulgaria, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Zimbabwe, and South Africa to foster spiritual and social justice and promote human rights.

"Human Rights Watch works to build a world where everyone's rights will be respected, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity," said Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.

Long will accept the award on behalf of Human Rights Watch at ceremonies on 4 July. "The Metropolitan Community Churches are a vital part of this common struggle."

"Faith used as a pretext for hatred often fuels violence against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people," said Long. "For Metropolitan Community Churches, religion means inclusion, and we are proud to work with them in spreading the message that human rights are for everyone," Scott added.

Human Rights Watch's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program - the first of its kind at a major mainstream human rights organization - was formed in 2004. Scott Long is its founding director.

Long has nearly 20 years of experience in fighting abuses based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Long launched his human rights career in Eastern Europe, where his documentation of arrests and torture under Romania's repressive anti-gay measures helped draw global attention to the effects of sodomy laws.

Additional information on Metropolitan Community Church's international General Conference in Scottsdale can be found on-line at: http://www.mccchurch.net/

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