Locals waiting for a ruling on Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a religious freedom case currently before the Supreme Court, may be especially interested in joining the 2021 Creating Change Conference, launching on January 28 as an online event accessible to people around the country.
“This is not about religion versus queer people. There are a lot of queer people of faith, a lot of queer people who are Catholic and working toward change within the church,” said Cathy Renna, communications director for the National LGBTQ Task Force, which hosts Creating Change.
More than freedom of religion
The Fulton case involves a 2018 order from the City of Philadelphia barring Catholic Social Services (CSS) from placing children in foster homes because CSS refused to license same-sex couples as foster parents, citing a breach of its religious principles. Does CCS’s policy of refusing foster-parent status to same-sex couples fall under First Amendment protections? The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the case in November 2020.
Renna herself was raised attending and participating in Catholic church services. Discussing Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, she expressed an abiding appreciation for the spiritual principles she learned: love, openness, and inclusion—values that some people can come to only after they combat their religion’s misrepresentations and misperceptions.
“We’re looking at not just freedom of religion, but freedom from religion,” Renna said of the Supreme Court case.
She shared what it’s been like for her to bear witness to halting and imperfect progress toward inclusion: “I remember vividly watching on television when Bishop Gene Robinson was consecrated as the first openly gay bishop [in the Episcopal Church],” Renna said. She called it “super powerful and incredibly meaningful to queer people of all different faiths” to see his elevation. Robinson is a friend, she added, and recalled his story about “wearing a bulletproof vest underneath his vestments because he had received death threats.”
“I’ve always thought that one of the most important ways for people to understand queer people is to know someone in their lives or, second-best scenario, through [the] media,” Renna said of her role with the Task Force. “Media has such an incredible influence over what people know and understand about the world around them.”
Accepted and wanted
The Creating Change Conference has a 33-year history of commitment to freedom, justice, and equity for all LGBTQ people and it is dedicated to bringing those things about through engagement with people of all backgrounds, genders, races, abilities, religions, and more. Renna promotes the conference as a place where all people are not only accepted, but wanted.
For many in the community, it’s personally painful to see organizations like CSS exclude prospective parents on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, but opportunities like the Creating Change Conference can provide healing and foster progress.
Standout educational sessions at this year’s conference include “Indigenous Fortitude & Brilliance,” “The Black Institute: State of the Black LGBTQ Movement,” “Bi Any Means Necessary: Strength in Numbers for the Fight Ahead,” and the sessions that explore queerness and religiosity. Other experiential activities and events will spotlight a screening of the film CURED, a virtual game night, and performances by Big Freedia.
The ruling date on Fulton v. City of Philadelphia is still TBD. In the meantime, the Creating Change Conference will be live January 28 through 31, and it emphasizes that “no-one will be turned away.”
What, When, Where, and Accessibility:
The Creating Change 2021 Virtual Conference will run from Thursday, January 28 through January 31, 2021. Find out more information and register for the event online.
Image Description: Cathy Renna stands outside for a portrait, wearing a black blazer and a blue and white striped button-down top. Cars, passerby, and the Manhattan Bridge populate the backdrop behind her.