Friday, February 01, 2013

An Open Letter to Senator Stacey Campfield

Note- Stacey Campfield is a Tennessee state senator from the Knoxville area who has sponsored several controversial bills and made a number of inflammatory statements regarding homosexuality.

Dear Senator Campfield,

I am writing to you today as a fellow citizen of the state of Tennessee and, more importantly, as a fellow disciple of Jesus, to encourage you to take a look at some of your recent public actions and ask yourself if they are the kind of witness you want to put out there.

First and foremost, I want to express my thanks to you for serving our state as a legislator. While you and I disagree on a number of issues, I know that you are advocating positions that are informed by your best understanding of the Christian faith and which you believe to be for the betterment of our society.

However, I have to ask if the legislation you are sponsoring is really the best way to advance the causes you care about so deeply.

Your belief that homosexuality is a sin is quite clear. But is forbidding public school teachers from even acknowledging something that children learn at a very early age- that differing sexual orientations exist- really the best way to further a societal conversation about sexual morality?

Furthermore, I have a difficult time reconciling your assertion that public school teachers should not acknowledge that gay people even exist with your proposal that they inform children’s parents if they suspect that their son or daughter is gay. Do you want the reality of differing sexual orientations recognized or not?

While you are not a parent yourself, I know that you care deeply for the well-being of our children, as you have stated on numerous occasions. Requiring teachers to monitor and report evidence of their students’ sexual orientation will only worsen the culture of fear and suspicion that many children experience on a daily basis in school, whether they are gay or not. Bullying is a major problem in our society, and has resulted in many children taking their own lives, which I know you do not want. 

Lastly, I know that you care deeply about serving your constituents, so I am very surprised at your response to a woman who expressed legitimate concerns about how you are representing her. Flippantly suggesting that she has issues with mental health is very hurtful to those who struggle with mental illness.

I struggle with clinical depression and anxiety, for which I go to therapy and take medication. You are right that doctors “are doing some wonderful things with medication these days”. They help people with very real medical conditions live normal lives. In my case, they help me have the courage to speak out against the type of offensive, hurtful behavior that you are engaging in.

In a few weeks, I will be at the legislature for a Clergy Day on the Hill. While I know you are very busy, I hope that you and I can meet face to face to talk about these issues, share our concerns, and pray together as brothers in Christ.

You and your colleagues in the legislature remain in my prayers for your vital work on behalf of our state.

Grace and Peace,

Rev. Matthew L. Kelley
Lead Pastor
Arlington United Methodist Church
Nashville TN